Morsel

“You never know until you get it in your mouth.”  This was on Morsel’s wall as I walked into the small biscuit and latte shop on University Ave. or, “the Ave” as people call it.  I was greeted by a white plastic cat waving hello and three totally cool workers.  I was meeting with Gerald, the chef/manager/go-to man for an interview.  I was blown away by how much he knew about his business and how much energy he added to Morsel.  If Morsel could be embodied by a person, it would be Gerald.  He seems very down-to-earth and laid-back, yet he has a go-getter personality.  Within about 30 seconds I could tell that running Morsel and cooking were great passions of his.

He told me that the thing that sets Morsel apart from any other location is the staff.  They are creative, friendly, and care about what they do.  Each week, they get to make input into what the shop serves for the next week.  They have complete freedom to express themselves, and this is something that I wish other businesses would embrace.  The vibe inside Morsel was something that is hard to put a finger on, yet one that is very welcoming and come-as-you-are.  Kanye West was playing on the speakers, tattoos were everywhere, and for some reason, I felt like I was on an island- a good one like Fiji.  There were succulents dangling from the ceiling over the booths and really great views of The Ave.

Gerald goes to the Farmer’s Market each weekend and shops for produce to use in the next week’s menu.  He gets the freshest ingredients and pairs them to his imagination.  He also does crazy things such as not putting any alcohol in syrups, and uses natural ingredients instead.  There are many vegan-friendly options of flavoring their lattes and butters.  I had no idea biscuits were so popular, and then I had one with honey butter.  I literally never want another donut again!  Morsel has gained a lot of respect and attention around town, and last year they opened a location in Ballard.  They are planning on expanding into a bigger building or opening a totally new location in the near future.

The best part is that Morsel shares their ever-changing menu on Instagram and Facebook so that their customers can stay up-to-date on what is happening.  These locations are so popular, that you will see lines forming around the block on the weekends.  Gerald and I both believe it is because the idea behind the restaurant is excellent, the staff seems happy, and the menu is newsworthy.  Gerald adds a special panache all his own.  He has experience working at Steelhead Diner at Pike’s Place and he was a sous-chef at Canlis.  Between the staff’s energy, the local and fresh produce used, and the idea of eating biscuits- this place is a home run!

a super delicious biscake this weekend! Pina Colada lemon curd, fresh bluberries, and a Kraken Rum / cocunut reduction drizzle, all on our dope biscuits!

a super delicious biscake this weekend! Pina Colada lemon curd, fresh bluberries, and a Kraken Rum / cocunut reduction drizzle, all on our dope biscuits!

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Pel Meni Dumpling Tzar

Pel Meni means “ear bread” in Russian, and is a staple in Russian culture.  Almost every restaurant and home makes Pel Meni to eat, although each uses a different recipe.  This dish is said to have arrived to Russia from China because it was originally served with black pepper. It is made for the working poor, and people all over the country rely on it for many of their calories.  Washington has a few dumpling joints, but none can hold a candle to the cult-like appeal of Pel Meni Dumpling Tzar in Fremont.  It has been named one of the top five best dumpling restaurants in Seattle.  This is for good reason. Pel Meni is constantly updating their menu to include new potato and beef dumplings, toppings, and now dessert dumplings.  This year, they were at the Northwest Folklife Festival at Seattle Center and unveiled their dessert dumpling with or without ice cream!   There are even gluten-free dumplings for you to enjoy!

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Each dumpling is made by taking the special dough and putting into a cookiecutter-like contraption.  The fillings are placed on top of the cut holes, and then another layer of dough is placed on top, and the whole thing is pushed through the cutter-making the dumpling.  Then they are boiled over a stove, and ta-da!  You get dumpling goodness.

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Pel Meni is opening up a new location and a food truck, so you can find these guys everywhere!  Their current location is filled with Russian art and is hidden behind Lenin Square, making for a truly cult-like feel.  The staff is friendly and the patio is very welcoming.

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Bad Albert’s Tap and Grill

If you have not traveled to the end of Ballard Street by the docks to check out Bad Albert’s Tap and Grill, then I feel sorry for you.  Bad Albert’s is a family-owned (by twins) tap and grill.  They just celebrated their 20th anniversary, and the young professional crowd loves them!  Not only do they have a neighborhood atmosphere, they also have 12 TVs and a full bar with award-winning food.  The door is open, and an inviting staff welcomes you in.  The air is fresh, the tables are clean, and people are happy.  There are events during the week to keep you engaged and entertained.

The staff goes above and beyond here to make sure that you have just what you want.  If you are looking for something gluten-free, do not be shy.  Ask for what you are in the mood for, and the chef will prepare something special just for you!  If you come back enough times, they will remember what you like!  They are open late on the weekends, and cater to an older crowd during this time.

The coolest part, if you are not familiar with Bad Albert’s, is that they have a trivia night every Tuesday.  Bring your co-workers after work for some bonding over a fast-paced game of trivia.  If you have the munchies, feel free to come and get specials on their scrumptious appetizers and wash it down with a nice ale. Come on a Thursday and catch live music by Bill Chism and Annie Eastwood.  Relax to the tunes with a $6 glass of wine and enjoy yourself!

Some menu items that are a must try are the Famous Dock Street Burger, the Bacon Gorgonzola Benedict, and the Tenderloin Steak Dinner which goes on sale during Happy Hour.  This will soon be your favorite event spot on Tuesdays and Thursdays with ample parking and a full crowd.  This could be the place where “everybody knows your name”.

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Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

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Check out Eltana

So have any of you folks tried a wood-fired bagel before?  I haven’t until yesterday, and it is a taste I will never forget.  I had mine with a Za’atar and Scallion Spread accompanied by a chicken and pistachio soup. The spread had a nice zing to it and the bagel was not doughy at all, but had a nice toast to it thanks to the wood oven it was baked in. The oven was custom made in Bellingham and apple wood from a Washington orchard is used to flavor the bagels.  It was the perfect late lunch after a great walk around Green Lake.  The owner, Daniel, is very laid back and casual, which made me feel right at home.  He spent a month in Montreal learning from a bagel master baker on how to create the best bagel-eating experience. The vibe I got whilst eating on the patio with Doug was one of a hip spot in town to get away for an hour or two and work while enjoying a great bite.

Pricing is reasonable and with wifi, you will find many patrons working away and drinking a dry soda.  If you have never had one, I suggest hoping on your bike and trying one out for yourself.  The orange is my favorite.  Daniel’s place is very clean and is environmentally friendly.  His glasses come from GreenwareUSA.com which are 100% made from plants!

The quality of food is top-notch with the coffee beans coming from Biowilly’s Beans.  These coffee beans offer a full flavor and come directly from a micro-roaster here in Seattle and they are “Damn Tasty.” These beans are all organic, too!  The bagels have flour made from Sheperd’s Grain which is a company based in Washington. Eltana buys their eggs from Roy Washington, too!

Check out what Eltana’s website has to say about what makes their bagels special!

Eltana does differently than most artisan bagel makers:

1. We hand roll our bagels using a dense dough which yields a product with a scrumptious chew.

2. We boil our bagels in a honeyed water to impart a touch of sweetness to the surface.

3. We seed our bagels top and bottom (and sides) because we don’t want the kids to fight. And because the honey helps the seeds stick and our stone floored oven allows the seeded bagel to slide out intact.

4. We wood-fire our bagels to impart a smokiness and hints of char.

I was taken aback by all of the locally sourced products here, and I was proud to spend my money at an establishment that was not only environmentally friendly but socially responsible to boot!  The food was a joy to eat, and I cannot wait to go back!

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Hale’s Ales Brewery and Pub

Wow!  So I was able to tour Hale’s Ales Brewery and Pub last week, and I feel like it is a tour everyone should go one at least once!  They have such a rich Fremont history and really had me hoppin’ by the end of the tour.  Not only does Hale’s have a restaurant with a forward-thinking menu, they also have onsite bottling and brewing of award-winning beers like the Mongoose. Add a great event center that can be rented out for parties and community events and you have a small oasis of goodness.

“The original vision, in 1983, for Hale’s Ales was to produce world-class ales, by the use of traditional English methods, using locally sourced natural ingredients, and to deliver the finished ales to local beer lovers as absolutely fresh as possible. That vision and mission remains unchanged today. When the Brewery and Pub on Leary Way was opened in 1995, that same commitment to quality was applied to our food service: use fresh local ingredients to create tasty pub food, offered at good value in a relaxed, family-friendly environment.” This is what the website says, and when I went, I found it to be totally true.  Hale’s is a great place and a nice atmosphere for relaxing and enjoy a great beer and burger.

I started the tour by watching the bottling and brewing process. Barley malt is poured into the “mash turn” where it is sprayed with water and then heated to a specific temperature.  This ends up creating a sugary barley-water called “sweet-wort” which is used to create the beer. The “sweet-wort” is transferred to the brew kettle where it is boiled. Hops are added at this time to bring a certain amount of bitterness to the sweetness.

They have foamy-frothy mixtures going on all of the time, and the rest of the information you can get on the tour about brewing.  They have the most amazing pub where you can order all of your favorite foods, including a lot of gluten-free items.  You can also buy their beer here as well as get specials on the “keg of the day.” We tried their Diablo Burger and Walnut Brownie.  Both were satisfying and really fit in with the theme of the pub.  We are planning on going back as they have a grass-fed beef burger on their happy hour menu.

Hale’s has a great venue for events and community gatherings.  Anything that you want to plan from a meeting to a wedding can be done here at a reasonable price.  Their menu includes buffets that even the pickiest of eater can appreciate.  I have posted their menu so take a look under “restaurant partners” to see all of their offerings!  Don’t be shy either, as Hale’s has designed a menu where you can pick and choose what you want easily that will fit into even the most rigid diet.

In short, Hale’s uses more hops for better flavor and they make their beer English-Style.  They have superb beers like their IPA and Mongoose, so you must try these.  They carry wine and ciders for those with special dietary needs and they are the oldest microbrewery in Washington that has not been sold to a larger brewer.  Definitely worth the money!

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Theo Chocolate Tour

Fremonsters!  If you have never been on the Theo Chocolate tour, you need to go as soon as possible!  Theo Chocolate is proud to be the first Organic, IMO Fair Trade Fair for Life and NON-GMO certified bean-to-bar chocolate maker in North America! I will take you on a virtual-esque tour, however, on a free weekend day it is worth the hour or so of your time.  You can get tour information and chocolate at: http://www.theochocolate.com

The tour begins by getting hairnets that you can take pictures in and get acquainted with the people who are going to be on the tour with you.  Then, you go and sit down where a lot of chocolate education takes place.

Getting ready to start our Tour!

Getting ready to start our Tour!

Paul has his hair nicely tucked in!

Paul has his hair nicely tucked in!

Camera ready!

Camera ready!

Our tour guides name was Raissa and she began to walk us through what bean-to-bar actually means.  Cacao is a fruit that grows on trees around the equator.  This part of the world is known as the chocolate belt, and is where almost all chocolate is from.  Mainly chocolate is imported from Peru, Panama, and the Congo.  Theo Chocolate has gone to great lengths to ensure that the cacao that is shipped in is sourced from areas where no slavery is taking place.  The workers are paid fairly for a fair days work.  Theo also goes to the extreme to raise money through some of their partner chocolate bars to give to communities that have been damaged by unfair labor practices mainly in the Congo.  Theo chocolate is a socially responsible company that takes the extra step to make sure their cacao is being sourced properly.

This is the stage in the tour where you get to try the chocolate they make (my favorite what the coconut chocolate)!  The flavor wheel helps you to taste the flavors.  They can fall into categories such as: nutty, earthy, sweet, roasted, floral, spicy, bitter, or fruity.  As we were trying the chocolates, we learned about the history of cacao and how it is harvested.  Theo is Latin for “God.” The tree, Theobroma, is where cacao comes from and it has been known as “food of the gods.”  It is known to be the next healthiest thing for our bodies besides water.  The Aztec leader Montezuma was known for taken cacao beans from conquered people and he would drink goblet after goblet of hot chocolate everyday in a display of strength and power! The fruit has blossoms and then grow at different rates on the side of the trunk of the Theobroma tree.  It is then taken off and is opened up.  Inside, there is a white meaty part known as the mucilage.  It is scooped out and inside are cacao beans.  These beans then go through the process of becoming chocolate.

Theobroma Tree

Theobroma Tree

Ok, so it is probably pretty obvious that after eating five different types of chocolate, I was pretty happy.  We were taught how the cacao was pulled from the mucilage, then fermented for 3-5 days, then dried, then packaged in a burlap sack.  That is when it gets put on a ship and sent to Seattle.  Once it gets to Theo Chocolate, it is then turned into chocolate.  Theo has a drink blend made for them at Cafe Vita, so you need to check that out.  They also make dark chocolate bars which have 70% plus values of cacao in each bar, making them healthy and full of antioxidants.  Their milk chocolate bars have about 45% cacao.  It was interesting to note that for something to be labeled “chocolate” and not “chocolate flavored” it must have at least 10% cacao in it.  The bars you get at Theo’s are not only tasty, but ultra-rich in cacao.  The chocolate bars here are also soy-free.  The cacao butter is utilized to keep the bars together instead of a filler such as soy lecithin.  It really made me wonder where my Reece’s were being sourced from.

We then started our factory tour. The first thing I noticed was the smell of chocolate wafting in the air and how clean the facility was for being used every single day.  We were shown the process of testing the quality of the beans, roasting the beans, shelling them to get nibs (which we were able to taste test), and milling. Nibs are the part of the bean after the shell is removed.  It is sold here too, and is great for making your own trail mix or other treat with. There are 16 total steps the beans go through. I learned about each one happily, as the theobromine was beginning to set in.   Theo Chocolate moved into the old Trolly station building which turned into a brewery which was then moved.  They started producing chocolate in 2006 after purchasing the building in 2005.   They have two roasters and each day they roast for a different flavor.

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After this process is done, the chocolate is taken into the kitchen where the inclusions like sugar are added.  They are then molded and made into sculptures or candies!  This part of the tour was amazing because we got to try a ganache and a caramel.  These are delicacies that only last for two weeks, so I felt very special to get to try one freshly made.  The sculptures are available to purchase during the holidays.  They also make only one white chocolate bar, the Full Moon Bar.  You can only get this one during Halloween.

Santa Sculpture with tempered chocolate.

Santa Sculpture with tempered chocolate.

Fremont Rocket made from chocolate.

Fremont Rocket made from chocolate.

Honey Saffron caramel, Vanilla Salted caramel made with Pink Himalayan sale, Burnt Sugar ganache, Lime Coriander ganache made with lime juice and lime puree (extra zesty)!

Honey Saffron caramel, Vanilla Salted caramel made with Pink Himalayan sale, Burnt Sugar ganache, Lime Coriander ganache made with lime juice and lime puree (extra zesty)!

The tour then ended in the store front.  We were each given a full sized chocolate bar and they were there to answer any questions.  The store is full of chocolates, books, recipes books, sculptures, and everything Theo!  For a truly Fremont experience, I would recommend this to anyone coming in from out of town or for anyone who loves chocolate as much as I do!  Each season there are new flavors to try, and Theo does specialty chocolates for weddings and events.  The prices are very reasonable.  You can treat your kids to a Kid’s Crunch that is natural, healthy, and good for them for the same price as you would buy something over-processed from the store.  Plus, you are helping keep people out of slavery and business in Fremont.  What more could you want from a company?

In the store!

In the store!