Tucked away in the heart of Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood, you'll find hot spots Serafina Osteria & Enoteca and Cicchetti Kitchen & Bar. What these sister restaurants have in common is their charming shared courtyard (perfect for warm weather dining and imbibing) and outstanding approach to Mediterranean cuisine.
Both restaurants, owned by Susan Kaufman, have long been on the restaurant seen (Serafina since 1991, Cicchetti since 2004), and there are some exciting changes that recently occurred at the helm of both kitchens. Serafina, a regional Italian restaurant featuring an extensive food and wine list, hired Christian Chandler (their former sous chef from 2006-2011) as their new Executive Chef; and Cicchetti, a Mediterranean small plates restaurant known for their unique cocktails, hired former Chef de Cuisine Nate Simmons as their new Executive Chef.
Foodista celebrated the arrival of spring and these two new chefs with a tasting tour that began at Serafina. To whet our appetite, we started with a mix of imported Italian and Greek olives topped with citrus, rosemary and toasted Arbol chiles, along with a selection of artisan cheeses and salumi served with buttery and crisp house-made crackers. As we nibbled, we sipped on samples of original and classic cocktails. My favorite, the Moimisette, was a refreshing creation of Serafina's Infusion Director, MacGregor Boswell (you don't get any better than Boswell's name or title!).
¾ oz house pastis (or a store brand like Ricard if you don’t have the time to make your own infusion)
½ oz lime juice
¼ oz orgeat syrup
¼ oz simple syrup
Shake and pour over ice into a glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with a lime peel.
Check out Serafina's cocktail tastings, an afternoon of cocktails paired with delicious foods and an insight into the world of craft mixology. Don't forget to ask about their "Cocktail Masters Program," where cocktail enthusiasts will receive a "cocktail passport" to record tastings.
We then crossed the quaint courtyard to Cicchetti where our mouths were soon to experience a taste explosion. Chef Simmons and sous chef, Tarik Mubarik - the master of spice mixing - created a tasting of their spring menu that featured the delicious and expansive flavors of the Mediterranean and beyond, along with unique wine pairings that included some exceptional Greek varietals.
First up was a selection of cicchetti (which roughly translates to "little bits"): a springtime salad of shaved raw artichoke, radish, parsley and lemon; a worth-fighting-over dish of squid ink risotto-stuffed calamari; crispy zucchini fritters with mint and feta; and delectable house-made chorizo empanadas. Then came a lovely stack of tender yellow beets, dill labne (a creamy yogurt cheese, shown above) and crisp English cucumber, served along with tasty little salt cod fritters with agrodolce pepper relish, and a tomato eggplant jam.
We moved on to features from their Small Plates menu beginning with another springtime salad of arugula, raw kohlrabi (that unique looking vegetable you never knew what to do with - well, now you do!), mint, grapefruit, watermelon radish, and a dressing of mixed Middle Eastern spices (allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, dried rose petals, cloves, to name a few) known as Boharat.
To commemorate the Catalonian spring onion festival we enjoyed tender and sweet oven-charred calçots (wild spring onions) with almond salvitxada (pronounced sal vee chada), a Catalan sauce similar to romesco. Along with the onions were house-made falafel with yogurt, mint and baby romaine finished with a Ras el Hanout (a North African spice blend) vinaigrette, and an ever so deliciously tender coriander-braised octopus with beets, orange suprêmes, capers, Castelvetrano olives atop a corona bean puree. You will want a second helping of this dish.
Next was the succulent lamb kefta served with a house-made tomato jam, feta, red onions, yogurt, mint and crispy yet soft fried chickpeas. The cut-it-with-a-fork tender roasted Kobe steak with house-made fries and red wine reduction was a carnivores delight and cooked to the perfect temperature.
We finished our culinary tour with a tasting of their sensuous desserts such as (clockwise from top left) crisp, petite biscotti; a pistachio cake with rosewater buttercream and caramel-poached currants; a Spanish-style chocolate mousse with olive oil, sea salt, and crostini; and Urfa Biber (a smoky, sweet Turkish pepper)-spiced blondies with golden raisins & almonds.
It truly was an unforgettable meal!
Editorial disclosure: Foodista was invited by the restaurants to preview their spring menu. We received no compensation for this post.