Tag Archives: BalMar

Dishcrawl review, part II – pros and cons

As the first post was really long – and without pretty pictures – here are the overall impressions that I took away from my evening with Dishcrawl.

The benefits of Dishcrawl:

  • Attending forced me to – gasp – go out to Ballard and actually try places I’ve talked about. Truly, an achievement.
  • Overall, the food was good, and the service and staff at each place were friendly and helpful.
  • At $30, attending a Dishcrawl is a fairly cheap outing, even if it doesn’t include drinks. You could do far, far worse at that price.
  • I got to test out Uber with a nice discount specifically for the event, which was especially awesome as my bus wasn’t running.

Overall cons:

  • I wanted to photograph things with my DSLR, but every place we went to had mood lighting. Some people were willing to use the flash on their cell phones, but that made me uncomfortable.
  • It became unclear how long we were staying at each place, as things got slightly behind schedule and we only had five minute warnings. I don’t mind relaxing, but I found myself wondering how to pace myself for each mini-meal.
  • It was hard to hear what the chefs and staff had to say at many of the locations, which was something I was excited for.
  • I had a great, great desire for better meal coordination. Carbs/cheese + carbs/meat + fried things = mild nausea. And the stuff at La Isla looked pretty interesting, I just couldn’t handle it.
  • Following from the previous point, smaller servings would have actually been nice.

Overall, I was impressed. Dishcrawl managed to drag me out of Capitol Hill – on a weeknight, no less – and introduced me to places I’d never been to. I do have some quibbles, but I think they’re just getting started in Seattle, and will hit their stride soon enough.

(Full disclaimer: I won two tickets through @kristinpotpie/http://kristinpotpie.wordpress.com/. Chris bought a ticket to join in, but later called in sick.)

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Dishcrawl review, part I – the food

So on Tuesday, Anne and I trekked out to Ballard to join the group of Dishcrawl for a night of culinary awesomeness. The concept is simple: four restaurants, four different bites, all within a few blocks of each other. It’s a great excuse to try out some of the better spots in a neighborhood. I’m going to review three of the places – BalMar, Volterra, and La Isla – as I had to leave early and missed out on killer gelato.

BalMar does a great job at setting the mood for small talk. A lovely, darkly stained bar is hidden behind small tables, and candles are everywhere. There’s an area upstairs – where Dishcrawl smartly had us sign in – for parties and events with plush leather seats and stools.After we went downstairs to start the evening, one of the co-owners came out and introduced herself. She then talked about how most people come to the 6-year-old Ballard institution for the alcohol, and she was visibly excited to show us what they could do.The first course of the evening was macaroni and (Tillamook) cheese with fried onions and three petite spanikopita. The macaroni sauce was mild and creamy base with a hint of spice, and was topped by a sharp cheddar crust. The fried onions and crust were the best part of the dish, savory and spiced just right. They served the dish in a ramekin; I think it would have been even more glorious in a shallower dish to let that crust take center stage.

The spanikopita were lovely – and, frustratingly, the only item that focused on leafy vegetables the entire evening. (I find myself lately wanting more kale and less beef in my dinner options.) But they were great little bites, with the phyllo shattering nicely and contrasting with the spinach and occasional morsel of cheese.

Volterra has ambience, but in a different way than BalMar, all pale tiled floors and dark wood. The room we ate in was their main dining room, with larger tables so we could socialize with other members of the group.

The chef came by to introduce the meal: polenta with a bolognese sauce and shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese. The polenta was a creamy, well-executed bowl of winter comfort food, with a rich sauce that worked amazingly well, especially with the provided bread. But there was a lot of it, so I mainly ate slowly and talked to my tablemates.

La Isla
By the time we got to La Isla, we had just had a very large quantity of carbohydrates, so I was a bit nervous – my stomach was already threatening to explode.

There was no assigned seating area here; instead, we sat along the bar, which, combined with the music loud enough to drown out quiet chatter, made group socialization difficult. (Anne and I ended up by ourselves in one section opposite the rest of the group.) The servers brought out chicarrones de pollo, small bites of fried chicken, and carne frita, a mini pork rib with shredded onions.

I admit, I tried only one bite of the chicken, which was mainly grease. I am not going to judge La Isla’s food based on this, and feel it deserves a second chance.

After the food arrived, I realized it was nearly ten, so I called it a night and took a cab home. Next time I’m in Ballard, I need to return to D’Ambrosio Gelato, the scheduled fourth stop on the tour.
(Full disclaimer: I won two tickets through KristinPotPie. Chris bought a ticket to join in, but later called in sick.)
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