Saturday, January 26, 2013

Eating Bugs if Finally Fancy!

Our dear friend Tricia - who was an actress in plays we produced, has shared many a meal with us at our place, her place, at Anna & Jason's, and at restaurants and was the inspiration for and recipient of my first attempt at a croquembouche - is leaving Seattle in a couple weeks. She's returning to Georgia to begin studying make-up with a goal of doing the type of awesome make-up effects work I love, like the stuff on Face Off. I'm a little jealous, but very excited to hear about her experience.

Tonight, to pack in seeing as many friends as possible before she leaves town, she invited folks to St. John's on Capitol Hill for drinks, conversation, and goodbyes.

Dan & I headed to the hill early to grab some dinner. First we popped into Quinn's to have a drink and snack (for me) at the bar... the Scotch egg I've been craving for nearly 15 years.

We weighed options, but ended up deciding to eat at Poquitos, just across the street.

It took us a little looking to find a free spot in the atrium (one of three dining rooms in this place!), sitting at a fire pit table. But as soon as we sat down our server popped by to welcome us and brought over water. I quickly spotted a habanero tequila & passion fruit puree cocktail - La Fiona - and had to try it. I tried using the fire to light my shot, but you can see it was a little too variable. One thing I noticed as we walked up Pike St is that Seattle restaurants are DARK. The cocktail was tasty though - good heat from the pepper, but balanced with a sugared rim and the tart passion fruit.

The next thing I spotted on the menu was Chapulines, which I had to order. I've been a fan of entomophagy (eating insects) since studying entomology back in college, snacking on termites (blech), ants (lemony!) and crickets on several occasions. But I'd never been to a restaurant where they serve insects. Apparently, their time has come. These roasted grasshoppers are flown in from Oaxaca for Poquitos, apparently, and have a spicy, salty, nutty, sour taste thanks to the lime juice and seasonings. Dan & I both enjoyed them, though some of the legs (traditionally removed, I thought) stuck in my teeth.

I figured out a trick using Dan's phone to take photos and my phone's Flashlight app to light them (held in Dan's hand), that worked better for this and the rest of the shots, thankfully. I didn't want to miss getting a clear shot of those grasshoppers!

For dinner, we opted to share some appetizers - the best being a Queso Fundido (cheese fondue) with mushrooms and kale. I never would've thought to put kale in this dish, but it worked wonderfully, pairing with the savory, umami tastes of the mushrooms really well. It was served with small corn tortillas, and we were told to just ask if we needed some more (which we would've, had we been able to eat it all).

We also went for one of the specials - an albacore ceviche, served in large cubes (very much like Hawaiian poke) and with crispy little corn tortillas. It was bright and fresh tasting, but didn't stand out as unique like everything I'd tasted thus far.

And finally, we had a chicken quesadilla, which was straightforward, though stuffed with a generous amount of meat and cheese compared to other's I've had. We both enjoyed the food, drink and atmosphere at Poquitos - commenting it felt a bit like being on vacation. Dan said we're like Bridge & Tunnel folks in Manhattan for the night. Capitol Hill has definitely transformed since we left it 5 years ago. As we were leaving, entire blocks were being torn down, condos were on the rise, but the failing economy created a lot of empty spaces. Now, all those condos that people reeled against for destroying quaint little neighborhood places now have more space for shops and restaurants.

I could see some folks thinking Poquitos, and perhaps others of its ilk that have popped up all over Capitol Hill, are too much like chain restaurants - too big, too fancy, too whatever. I got over any disdain for chain restaurants a long time ago, and appreciate the quality of service, the consistency of the food, and the effort put into creating a good dining experience. I don't know that I'd call Poquitos a chain restaurant exactly, but it did feel like we were in Vegas, not Seattle. Or maybe we just spend too much time close to home in S. Seattle.

Poquitos on Urbanspoon

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