Sunday, November 16, 2014

Do ice cream and cold weather go together?

The last week in Seattle has been unusually (I am told) cold weather for this time of year, but this cold has brought the sun with it as well, so I've been a happy camper. This, of course, brings up the perennial winter question: is it still appropriate to eat ice cream when the weather outside matches the temperature of your dessert? To which I reply, what kind of question is that?

I ran nine miles yesterday (I'm scaling up my mileage for marathon training), so I felt justified in taking myself out for an ice cream adventure this afternoon (now that my legs are working again). A few weeks ago Sirena Gelato caught my eye, so I stopped by their Fremont shop to try their gelato. The shop is cozy, with dark wood panels and seating along the front window. On this cold Sunday afternoon, the store was nearly empty, although the woman working the counter assured me that there had been a steady stream of groups through the afternoon.

Sirena Gelato is a small, local chain with three stores in Bellingham, Kirkland and Fremont. Their gelato is made fresh in Bellingham using traditional Italian techniques, using local ingredients whenever possible. The gelato is made according to tradition, using whole milk rather than heavy cream, and is stored at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream, resulting in a denser texture. This technique was very apparent in the gelato I tasted; they were all exquisitely creamy and smooth, without a hint of the graininess that can be found in some ice creams.

The selection of flavors was moderately limited, but encompassed an appealing spectrum of fruit and chocolate/vanilla flavors. I tasted their salted caramel, black cocoa and stracciatella. I found the salted caramel to be average (and unlike most other salted caramel interpretations I've had in Seattle, not too salty), but pleasant. The stracciatella was rich and creamy, but plain. However, the black cocoa gelato was fabulous. It was everything gelato should be; it had a rich, complex flavor, complemented by incredibly smooth, silky texture and somehow managed to be amazingly rich without being too heavy. All of the gelato at Sirena is technically excellent, but the black cocoa flavor was out of this world delicious.

Overall, I can strongly recommend Sirena Gelato. The gelato is fabulously well made and all of their gelato is worth a taste for the texture alone. However, the black cocoa was a standout flavor that is definitely in contention among the best ice cream in Seattle.

Here are my overall scores:

Texture - 10
Flavors - 7
Cone - n/a
Execution - 9
Taste - 9
Ambiance/service/etc - 8
Total: 43/50

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

We try the burritos at Pecado Bueno in Fremont

We've had a busy few of weeks, so the blog's been on hiatus. We were in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, which was awesome- we got to catch up with lots of friends, and made it to lots of favorite old haunts, including Bi-Rite ice cream (obligatory salted caramel ice cream eating- frankly, it was even better than I remembered) and Papito's, a Mexican-French fusion restaurant which I think is criminally underrated (it seems to have a polarizing effect- people either love it or hate, but I'm firmly in the love it category). Inspired by our trip back to the land of America's best burrito, this weekend we decided we'd sample a new burrito establishment.

We did our burrito sampling on a Sunday afternoon, in the middle of errands- we used Yelp reviews to choose Pecado Bueno, in north Fremont (at 43rd and Fremont Ave.). It was a rainy day, so the outdoor seating area wasn't appealing, but it looked like a great happy hour spot in the summer. The Seahawks game was on inside, and there were a few fans watching from the bar. The restaurant has a homey feel and it seemed like lots of regulars were there on the day we visited. I think the owner was working while we were there and when a mom came in with her baby, he went out of his way to get some squash for the little boy as a snack. Overall, it seemed like a great, friendly neighborhood restaurant. Forrest and I both ordered burritos, which come with seasoned rice and black beans; I tried pork and Forrest had a carne asada burrito. We decided that since it was barely noon, we'd skip the margaritas, but I would definitely have one if I was there for dinner!

The best feature of Pecado Bueno is definitely their salsa bar. They have about 6 kinds of salsa to try; Forrest and I sampled liberally. The standout was the pineapple mango salsa, which went well with both of our burrito fillings. Our burritos arrived quickly, and we dove in. The burrito is pretty basic; rice, beans, cheese and meat filling. All of the ingredients were fairly average; the seasoning of the rice didn't add to the flavor profile, and the beans and tortilla also lacked any distinctive flavors. The pork was salty, but not spectacular, and Forrest's carne asada was more like steak than classic carne asada. The salsas added nice flavors and were fun to sample, but I would have almost preferred to have had them mixed into the burrito for more even distribution of the flavors given the blandness of the rest of the burrito.

Overall, the burritos at Pecado Bueno were good, but didn't rise to a level of greatness I would go out of my way for. They were lacking any standout ingredient, and although the salsas were good, they didn't elevate the rest of the burrito. If I was in the neighborhood, I would definitely go again, but probably wouldn't make a special trip. The search continues for the best burrito in Seattle!