Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Il Bistro, Seattle, WA

Il Bistro holds a very special place in my heart.  Having worked and played in downtown Seattle for decades, I've often found myself strolling the streets of Pike's Place Market late night after dinner.  I've more than once stumbled into this hidden gem located on Post Alley.  The ambiance is just perfectly lit by candles, the staff is always warm and friendly, and the food is spectacular.  I had little doubt in my mind when I ate there this Saturday that they'd be able to make a wonderful Spanish Coffee, and I was not disappointed!

As the bartender made the drink, I keenly watched him from my small table in the corner.  Not only was I impressed with his choice of ingredients (I believe he used Tia Maria and Grand Marnier, one of my favorite combinations of coffee and orange liqueurs), but the bartender took considerable time lighting it on fire, caramelizing the rim (maybe a little TOO much, if I'm trying to find a flaw), and even did the "sparkle, sparkle" with some shakes of cinnamon and nutmeg, one of my favorite bar tricks.  The cream was fresh made, and perfect.  Finally, he served it up in a Montrachet (I think) wine glass, the perfect glass for the perfect drink. 

As always, I sent my compliments to the bar, and will definitely be ordering one of these again the next time I go.  Hopefully my buddy Dan will be bartending next time, and I'll be sure to take a video of him doing his best Flaming Spanish Coffee!

Il Bistro
93A Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101
Google Map

Sunday, November 26, 2017

CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Vancouver, B.C.

CinCin Ristorante + Bar

On my recent visit to Vancouver, B.C. this November, we had dinner at CinCin, a highly recommended Italian restaurant in the popular Robson Street.  In my experience, Italian restaurants know how to make the best Spanish coffees.  I learned how to make when when working as a bar manager for an Italian restaurant in Bellevue, WA, and I learned it from another popular Italian restaurateur in the area.

And CinCin did not disappoint!  In fact, they served our Spanish Coffees in thermal glasses, which was a great spin on the typical coffee glassware I usually see.  Not only did it keep our coffees nice and warm, but allowed them to caramelize the rims without creating a glass that's too hot to hold, which is a common downfall of the flaming rum.

The whip cream was right, the sugared rim was right, and this was definitely one of the finest Spanish Coffees I've ever had.  Great job, CinCin! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Palace Kitchen

The Palace Kitchen is one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle.  One of Tom Douglas' signature Seattle restaurants, it sits right next to Jazz Alley just east of Belltown, and has some of the best food around.  I ate dinner there on Saturday night with a friend of mine, and they didn't disappoint.  I'm a stickler for the details, and the Palace Kitchen does a phenomenal job of paying attention to the details.   One of my litmus tests (other than how a restaurant makes their Spanish Coffees of course) is how they make their Manhattans.  This is another drink I get wherever I go, and they differ at almost every location.  From the type of glass used, to the amount of vermouth, and type of bitters, and especially the quality of the cherry!  One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is when they use a store bought, bright red maraschino cherry.  Don't they realize it's literally soaked in red dye?  The Palace Kitchen though made a wonderful Manhattan just the way I like it, including two beautiful dark cherries to garnish.  What a treat!

I ordered the Double R Ranch NY Stiploin, and enjoyed it immensely!  It was so juicy, and the fresh salsa verde butter was a wonderful compliment to the dish.

I capped off the night with a Spanish Coffee order, knowing full well that any Tom Douglas restaurant will make it right!  I saw from my table 25 ft from the bar a tall flame coming out of the Irish Coffee glass the bartender was holding as he rotated it slowly to caramelize the sugar on the rim.  When I received it, I was delighted with the result.  The presentation was near perfect, with a thick layer of cream floating on top (although, I'm not sure it was freshly made cream, since it had the sweetness of whipped cream from a can), and nicely caramelized rim.    The flavor was well balanced, but it wasn't as strong as I prefer.  Maybe they went light on the 151, or triple sec.  Regardless, I would give this a solid 7/10.

Thanks for the wonderful meal and drinks, Palace Kitchen!  I will return in short order!



Palace Kitchen

(206) 448-2001

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sonya's Bar and Grill

If you want to know where the Seattle locals go, and servers and bartenders from other downtown restaurants unwind when they're done with their shift, Sonya's Bar and Grill is the place to go.  Located on 1st Avenue just north of Pike's Place Market, Sonya is the "Cheers" of Seattle. 

While their cocktails are generally pretty good, I'm disappointed to say that when I ordered my Spanish Coffee on Saturday night. . . . they couldn't make it, because they don't brew any coffee!  Maybe they should remember that they are in the coffee capitol of the world, and that at 11pm there are lots of people who would love a good coffee drink.  Oh, well.  Sonya's gets a 0/10 for not even making coffee.  Get it together guys!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Suncadia Resort - Fifty6 Degrees Review

I recently went on a marriage retreat to Suncadia Resort with my wife.  I was totally blown away by the resort in general.  It has everything you need, from golf, wineries, rivers, beautiful scenery, and great food!  I had some amazing food at Swiftwater Cellars, the winery on the property.  I highly recommend the Kung Pao Calamari for an appetizer, one of the best calamaris I've ever had in my life.  The Beef Tenderloin was absolutely perfectly cooked. . . .

(Not a picture of my drink. . . .but was my reaction!
But this isn't about their food.  We walked into the bar at the Lodge, Fifty6 Degrees, for a nightcap after dinner.  I ordered a Spanish Coffee, and they basically had no idea how to make it.  They pulled  together a coffee drink in a short coffee cup, with no sugared rim, some alcohol added (tasted like Whiskey) and topped it off with canned whip cream.  That was quite an expensive $12 coffee.

I do plan on going back to Suncadia, because it is certainly a world class resort!  But next time, I'm going to go teach them how to make a real Spanish Coffee, because I can't drink whatever they gave me again.  Once I do that, I'll update this post. For now, this gets a rating of 2/10

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How to make a perfect Spanish Coffee

If you search the internet you'll find a huge variation in Spanish Coffee recipes.  Some are better than others, but this is the one which I learned and which got such rave reviews for many years.  I hope you enjoy!

Spanish Coffee Ingredients
  • 1oz 151 Rum
  • 1.5oz Kahlua
  • 1/2oz of Grand Marnier
  • Freshly Whipped Cream
  • Nutmeg and Cinnamon (in shaker) for garnishing
  • Coffee 
  • Lime/Lemon wedge
  • Granulated sugar
  1. Rub the rim of a wine glass (or snifter) with the lime/lemon wedge and dip the rim into a plate of granulated sugar.
  2. Add the 151 Rum and swirl around the inside of the glass
  3. Light the 151 Rum on fire with a match or lighter, and rotate the glass to caramelize the sugar
  4. As the fire is going, sprinkle the fire with the Nutmeg and Cinnamon for a great sparkle effect!  (This is a real crowd-pleaser if you're a bartender!)
  5. After the sugar is carmelized, add the Kalua, Grand Marnier, and coffee in that order, leaving about an inch of space from the top of the glass.
  6. Top with a layer of freshly whipped cream, and garnish with a little more Cinnamon and Nutmeg.
A couple things to note:
  • One of the keys to this drink is the whipped cream!  It's very important to not use commercial whipped cream from the can, but spend some time to pre-make some whipped cream ahead of time and keep it in the fridge.  When you add it to the drink, DO NOT MIX IT IN.  This drink is meant to be sipped through the cream, so a high quality, thick whipped cream is very important.  
  • You can substitute Tia Maria for the Kahlua (or any coffee liqueur), or Triple Sec for the Grand Marnier (or any orange liqueur)
Awesome video of how they make at Hubers in Portland

Here's a quick recipe for homemade whipped cream you can use:
1/2 pt. whipping cream
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Whip cream with mixer. Be careful not to overbeat or else will get too thick like butter. When it begins to thicken, add sugar and vanilla; stir. Refrigerate.