Boat St. Cafe, Seattle, WA

If you follow me on Twitter (or read my tweets in the sidebar here,) you know that I was in Seattle last weekend for the International Food Blogger Conference. It's hard to believe, but after this trip, I feel more nostalgic than ever for the years I lived there.

I moved straight from college in Pennsylvania and immediately took to the rainy Pacific Northwest in flannel and Doc Martins. I didn't know anything about food, other than what I needed to be a restaurant server. After a summer in Alaska slinging overpriced crab legs at cruise ship seniors in a hotel dining room, a friend told me about a job in a small restaurant at the south end of the University District. It was Boat St. Cafe and it was a food revelation. During my brief stint there, I learned that simple, quality ingredients could be surprisingly elegant and satisfying. During lulls in service, I would help the cook make cream-baked chicken breasts for sandwiches, our summery onion, tomato and fennel soup or the decadent blackberry cobbler. I discovered smoked mozzarella. I whipped up batches of mayo flavored with lemon and basil or cayenne and red pepper flakes. My favorite snack on the weekend brunch shift was our simple oven-roasted baby red potatoes split and topped with creamy house-made hollandaise sauce and scallions. I gained a few pounds.

I had heard that the owner during my time had sold the business and that they had relocated closer to downtown. There had been a lot of buzz about a new young chef and a sexy new dinner menu. Several of my friends reported that they had gone and loved it. So when I walked in for lunch last week, I was surprised to find so many familiar touches. The interior is bright and white everywhere. Not in a modern plastic way, but whitewashed and cool with wood and stone and slate. I saw one of the old lunch standbys being delivered to a table: melted cheese over baguette halves, topped with tomato and fresh basil.

On the menu were variations of the dishes I had learned to cook - first at the restaurant and then for myself at home. Even though there were plenty of new additions, the voice of the former Boat Street was clearly still the same. I asked the server and learned that the new chef was running the dinner kitchen, but the original owner was still there running the lunch kitchen. "And she is still crazy," our server added. I remember that part, of course, but mostly I remember the food.

Boat Street Cafe
3131 Western Ave
(between Bay St & Denny Way)
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 632-4602

Macaroni & Cheese - simplified. This was pasta & melted cheese. Nothing creamy about it, but the flavor was still delicious.

Betsy waits patiently for me to take a photo of our artichoke sandwich. I'm pretty sure the artichokes were canned - strange, because they are in season and there was a whole raw one in a glass on our table for decoration. Still - great flavor, very creamy and on a ciabatta roll that was not too dense or chewy.

Lovely, seasonal rhubarb sauce over vanilla ice cream. Sigh.

Not pictured: The signature Amaretto Bread Pudding with rum butter cream and golden raisins. Topped with heavy cream. Not for the faint of heart.

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