Casa Patron: Flavorful Mild Mexican Food

From the outside, Casa Patron looks like any other business in the Ravenna neighborhood – plain, strip-mallish, uninspired. But walk in the door and you are transported to a Mexican Hacienda complete with Zorro inspired chandeliers and cowboy hats hanging over the large downstairs bar.

The dining area of Casa Patron consists of an open area with high ceilings on the lower level, and a smaller, more intimate area of booths and tables in a loft like space. The booths next to the loft balcony let you enjoy the intimacy of the upper area while keeping an eye on the action below and a service bar upstairs means you’ll never have to wait long for your drink.

The menu features traditional Mexican fare but mixes things up with Latin-American dishes like Camarones a la Diabla (large shrimp sautéed in garlic butter with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers in a hot spicy sauce). 

The meal begins with the expected crispy, salty, just right complimentary chips and two-kinds of salsa; a medium deep red traditional salsa and a pico de gallo variety with a hint of heat.

The cocktail list features a long-list of tequila based drinks and a well-rounded selection of Mexican beers, like Negro Modelo and Dos Equis Amber, on tap.

The Taquitos Patron with chicken ($8.50) is an appetizer fit for four. The taquitos are nicely crisped without the greasiness so often found. The chicken is moist and the guacamole served with the dish is fresh and creamy. If you like your food mild, this is an excellent starter. If you like your Latin on the spicy side, you’ll likely find this dish a bit bland. Dipping in the spicier pico de gallo served with the chips and requesting hot sauce helps spice things up.

Like the Taquitos, the quesadilla appetizer ($8.00) is easily sharable by four or more. Flour tortillas stuffed with cheese or add steak or chicken for an extra $1.00. The cheese is the star here and is so plentiful the steak or chicken flavor gets slightly smothered. 

The Casa Patron Plato Favorito entrée ($18) lets you sample some of the best Casa Patron has to offer. It includes tender steak marinated in a spicy sauce, fresh, meaty and succulent shrimp, and chicken, spiced and pounded thin, and sautéed mushrooms surrounded by super-sized portions of rice and worthy refried beans. The steak was the star of this dish and indicates that any of the dishes on the menu featuring the beef marinated in spicy sauce will be winners. The shrimp was a very close and very satisfying second.

The Fajitas de Pollo ($13) were served in the traditional sizzling manner with a bevy of bright red and green bell peppers and onions and rice, refried beans and flour tortillas on the side. The chicken was well-seasoned but again, not very spicy.

The Enchiladas de Congrejo ($12.95) features enchiladas stuffed with Dungeness crab and topped with salsa verde and Monterey jack cheese.  The salsa verde is just as it should be but a bit overwhelming for the light flavor of the Dungeness crab. The shrimp variation may stand up better to the verde.

Dinner is not complete without a serving of the Coconut Flan; a dish that will convert even the most devout flan-hater. Creamy instead of spongy, with a texture between crème brulee and cheesecake it is infused with a deep, rich coconut flavor. The coconut flan alone is reason to keep coming back to Casa Patron.

Casa Patron delivers good, fresh Mexican and Latin cuisine in a relaxed and friendly ambience. Dishes like the Coconut Flan and the Casa Patron Plato Favorito elevate the cuisine above the typical Seattle Mexican restaurant and the friendly and attentive, but not invasive, service will make Casa Patron a neighborhood favorite.  But, as with most Mexican restaurants in Seattle, it would benefit from turning up the heat.

Casa Patron is located at 805 NE 65th St (at the corner of 65th NE and 8th NE) and is open Monday – Thursday from 11:00am – 12:00am, Friday – Sunday between 8:00am – 2:00am and hosts a daily Happy Hour from 3:00pm – 6:00pm.   Reservations can be made by phoning 206.923.7680.

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Seattle Beerfest is this Weekend (July 1-3)

Image by digitalart

If you’re going to be in Seattle this weekend and have a fondness for the hoppy beverage check out my latest article on Examiner.com for all the details on the Seattle Beerfest, July 1-3.

My First Time . . .

The Little Mini That Could


. . . driving in snow.

Growing up a Southern California girl, snow was what happened when you went skiing. Ideally, the snow fairies would come at night while you slept and you would wake up to sun and fresh powder.

There were no snow days – although there were several smog days that kept the recess hour inside – snow was not something you had to walk in for ten miles to get to school and it was not something I learned to drive in – ever.

The first year I moved to Seattle there were a few hours of snow. I remember standing at the window mystified thinking “It’s snowing and I’m not even skiing.” Yes, sometimes the not-real blonde invades my otherwise functioning mind.

I was working at home at the time so I just didn’t leave the house. During the two-week snowstorm of 2008, I was in 80 degree India. From then til this past Thanksgiving we were snow free. And then yesterday, there was a weather advisory. “Weather advisory in effect from 4pm to 4am . . .” snow, followed by freezing rain, followed by rain. 1-2 inches of snow expected to start during the commute hours. The message was clear –GO HOME NOW.

Normally, I would heed this advice. I’m always up for an excuse to call it a day early, but last night was the first night of the second quarter of my non-fiction writing class. I checked the UW hotline. “The UW campus is operating on a normal schedule.” I checked it every 10 minutes for two hours. Nothing.

At 4 pm snow did not start falling from the sky. Nor did it at 5 pm. UW persisted in sticking to a “normal schedule.” I weighed my options – skip class or risk getting stuck in the snow. I drive a Mini, with bad tires. There is no four-wheel or all-wheel drive in my arsenal. No chains in the boot. So getting stuck was highly probable.

Naturally, I did the intelligent thing – I risked it. I drove to class, I parked – at the top of a hill – and I went to class. As we hit the 1 hour 45 minute mark of my 3-hour class the snow began. “Don’t worry, it won’t stick” my classmate Steve told me. It stuck. And it didn’t stop snowing. By the time we left class at 9 pm, snow was steadily falling and over an inch was at our feet. I called Jim.

“Can my car do this?” I asked. “Where are you?” he responded. “Well, you see, I’m in the Padelford lot at the top of a hill. If I make it past there I can exit the back way and then it’s pretty much flat all the way home.” Pause. Jim sighed, “If you can get to 25th you should be ok, but you’re not going to get up our hill, you’re going to have to walk.” “Ok” I said, resolve steeling me while I tried to push images of driving off a cliff out of my mind. “Go slow. Pump your brakes. If you start to slide go with the slide, head toward the curb. Call me when you get to the bottom of the hill!” Jim rattled off instructions.

While I was talking to Jim, Steve negotiated the hill. He walked all the way back up to give me a pep talk and recommendations. As I rolled down the window to talk to him, I let the window go all the way down. The accumulated snow on my window fell into my car and on me. Lovely.

With Steve and Jim’s advice in hand I was off. Off like a turtle. I crept down the hill, in first gear, clutch mostly in, brake foot at the ready, hand on the e-brake (which would have been useless, but we’ve established that logic was not with me). I made it down the hill. Success! A gentle incline greeted me and then it was smooth flat-land sailing.

My wheels started spinning and spinning. The car started turning – not, in the direction I wanted. With zero traction I wasn’t going anywhere. Naturally, I stubbornly kept guiding the wheel in the direction I wanted and upped the gas. After what seemed like ten minutes but was probably less than one, my stubborness paid off and with a jolt I was moving up the incline. I made it to the top, took a deep breath and headed home. I drove slow. I eventually made it into second gear but my speed never exceeded 22 miles per hour. A few SUVs and Subarus passed me. I just thought, “Hey, going slow is impeding your path a lot less than me wiping out and blocking the road.”

I finally made it to the bottom of our hill and decided to try to go a bit of the ways up to minimize the walk. As I started to turn the car off, the car began to slide. I pulled on the e-brake – nada. I quickly turned the wheels into the curb. That, worked. I sat in the car for a few minutes to assess whether the car would continue to slide and then I grabbed my purse and my briefcase and started the walk up the hill . . . in these:

Snow Shoes?

Perhaps, I need to invest in more practical footwear . . . and chains.

An Evening at Emmer & Rye

On Friday night, Jim and I met up with some friends and headed out to dinner at newly opened Emmer & Rye.  Emmer & Rye is Chef Seth Caswell’s latest venture.  Formerly the chef at Stumbling Goat Bistro in Greenwood, Chef Caswell opened Emmer & Rye mid-April in a 100+ year old Victorian house at the top of Queen Anne.  I chose it for our dinner outing for two reasons (1) a menu that is both interesting yet accessible even to my picky husband; and (2) the ingenious option Emmer & Rye gives you of being able to order appetizers in a “taste” or true “appetizer” size and entrees in 1/2 or full portions.

We started off the meal with a bottle of Mourvedre by McCrea Cellars and all three of the offered starters: the artisanal cheese plate, 5 cheeses ranging from a Mount Townsend creamy truffle enhanced goat to a dry cheddar to a blue served with delectable apricot-walnut bread and apple cherry conserves – shocking that I ordered cheese, I know 😉 – the special of the day, salmon tartare served with toast points and an arugula, radish salad; and the will be famous any day if they are not already Farro fries with a sage-yoghurt sauce (there were five substantial fries, but we dove in before I remembered to whip out the iPhone):

A Farro Fry at Emmer & Rye

A Farro Fry at Emmer & Rye

Starters were followed by appetizers.  I opted for a “taste” of the shucked oysters, which means I received three fresh-from-the-sea oysters topped with bacon and a smoked porter mignonette – seriously, this is how oysters should be always.  Our friends opted to share an appetizer portion of the seared tuna with beets and sunchokes and declared it a winner.   Jim went for the grilled sausage, rapini, crostini and salsa verde.  While Jim opted to deconstruct his appetizer, I really liked the way the flavors played off each other when eaten open sandwich style.

Grilled Sausage, Rapini, Crostini

Grilled Sausage, Rapini, Crostini

For our entrees, I opted for a 1/2 portion of the scallops with rapini and shrimp and pork farro cake.  The scallops were perfectly seared, the broccolini was crispy and the faro cake was spicy, satisfying all of my taste desires.  It also was a perfectly proportioned plate per my nutritionist’s standards – something I never thought would happen at a restaurant with a non-vegetarian entree.

Scallops, Farro Cake and Rapini

Scallops, Farro Cake and Rapini

Jim opted for the grass-fed beef bolognese and all I can after sampling a bite (or 2) is oh my, yum!

Bolognese

Bolognese

We ended the meal with unpictured Rhubarb semifredo and cheesecake with huckleberry sauce.  The semifredo was unfortunately frozen and the rhubarb was a bit too subtle for my taste but the cheesecake was incredible and I am not a cheesecake fan.  It was more savory than traditional cheesecake, lighter, more sour creamy, delicious.  I will definitely be ordering that cheesecake again.

Overall, we rate Emmer & Rye a find and will definitely be going back again, and again, and again.  With a good wine list, interesting and delicious food and the option to eat “light” what’s not to like?
emmer&rye on Urbanspoon

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5 Great Things About Seattle

With it being overcast and grey and threatening to rain yet again today, I’m reminding myself of the things I like about Seattle.   The weather is not one of them.  In no particular order, here are my top 5:

Marionberry Shortcake, Steelhead Diner Style

Marionberry Shortcake, Steelhead Diner Style

1.  The Restaurants: Palace Kitchen, Steelhead Diner, Bastille, Zoe, Matt’s in the Market, Eva, the list of small, innovative, and consistently just downright good restaurants makes Seattle a mecca for anyone who loves food.  If you like sustainable, local food, we have many restaurants that cater to that too.  Vegan?  Yep.  We even have our own vegan Donut shop (Mighty O).Pike Place Market 

Pike Place Market 

2. Pike Place Market: Fresh from the farm or the sea 7 days a week?  That’s what I call a farmers’ market. 

 3.  The Space Needle: Touristy, obvious, I know, but I have an attraction to large buildings designed for World’s Fairs.  And really, is there anyone who doesn’t secretly love a restaurant that spins?

Seattle Space Needle 

4.  The water.  Looking out at the ferries on the Puget Sound, boating in the summer (when we can find a friend to take us out),  having a glass of wine on a deck overlooking the water – beautiful, peaceful, so relaxing – especially with the wine 😉

Puget Sound

5.  The Cultural Scene:  Theater, Opera, Ballet, Symphony, Film Festivals, Architectural Tours, Museums: Seattle has them all, giving you a lot options beyond dinner and a movie. 

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Apparently Season 2 – 9 Months of Rain – Has Begun

It started pouring today – probably an hour ago – two hours before I drive to West Seattle for dinner at Spring Hill.  Even though I should know better, the Southern California girl in me hears the rain, shrugs, and thinks it will be sunny tomorrow.   And then. . .  I talk to my husband.  The conversation generally goes something like this:

Me:  “It’s pouring outside, I’m going to have to rethink my shoe selection.”

Him: “Yeah, I should probably take the window fans out tonight.”

Me:  “Why, it’ll be sunny tomorrow, right?”

Him: “Honey.  It’s over.  We’ve officially entered Season 2 – 9 months of rain and gray.”

And then I cry. 

Ok, not really, well, maybe just a little bit on the inside.  So, goodbye strappy sandals and flip flops, goodbye short sleeve tops and dresses, goodbye sun.  Hello boots, sweaters and Vitamin D supplements. 

Alaska Air get ready for some serious mileage accrual, I’ll be seeking out the sun soon!

Crepes and Gas Works – Just a Typical Seattle Outing

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park

My lil sis, Kate, is in town visiting before heading home to start UCLA in the fall.  When she visits I get to play tourist and visit lots of eating spots I’ve been meaning to try out.  Today we did both.

After a preparatory work out, we headed to Anita’s Crepes for a very late breakfast.  I had heard great things about Anita’s Crepes, but had been foiled in my previous attempt to validate the raves because Anita’s is closed on Tuesdays, which of course was the day I picked for my crepe outing. 

By the time we arrived at Anita’s Crepes, we were ravenous and the extensive menu gave us plenty of options to extinguish our hunger.  In addition to a wide selection of sweet and savory crepes, there were also more traditional offerings such as French toast, French onion soup, salads and even traditional bangers and mash. 

Kate and I, who are devoted cheese junkies, opted to start with the cheese and fruit plate.  We were not disappointed.  The beauty of the fruit and cheese plate is that it is simplicity itself – a generous wedge of brie surrounded by fresh, thinly sliced pears, strawberries and blueberries and accompanied by a thick slice of crusty artisanal bread.

For our main courses we chose the apple confit sweet crepe and Anita’s breakfast: two eggs (we had them scrambled), your choice of ham, bacon, or sausage (we chose bacon) and a cinnamon sugar or raspberry jam crepe (we went with the cinnamon).  I am generally very reluctant to order plain scrambled eggs at a restaurant because they almost always turn out too cooked and flat for my taste.  I will never hesitate to order eggs at Anita’s.  The eggs were fluffy, soft, and cooked just the way I like them.  The bacon was nice and crisp.   The crepes?  All I can say is YUM.  The apple confit crepe consisted of a large thin sweet crepe wrapped around sautéed and spiced apples and topped with Chantilly crème.  The cinnamon crepe was that same style thin sweet crepe spread with a cinnamon sugar mixture that tasted like the one my Mom made for toast when I was a kid.  This was also topped with crème and cinnamon.  While enjoying our crepes, we also ogled other people’s crepes, especially the nutella and banana.  Anita’s was almost completely full while we were there and everyone seemed to be relishing their meals.  We will definitely be back to try some savory crepes and I have my eye on a fresh lemon and brulee sugar crepe as well.

After brunch, Kate and I drove past Troll Ave and the Troll under the bridge immortalized in 10 Things I Hate About You and then stopped off at Gas Works Park.  I went because I had heard about some guerilla art (artists in Seattle have a habit of putting up art installations late at night in public places without permits) that had been installed in the park and Kate, being a Heath Ledger devotee, wanted to see one of the other filming spots of 10 Things I Hate About You (Gasworks Park is the setting for the paintball scene – which does not exist at the park FYI).  Unfortunately, the guerilla art installation was long gone, but Kate got to see the filming spot and we got to take in an amazing view of Seattle while working off some small portion of those crepes.  Just a typical Seattle outing!

Anita's Crêpes on Urbanspoon