Island Soul Restaurant

Island Soul Restaurant has been on my list of places to try in Columbia City ever since I visited Geraldine’s Counter.  They are practically across the street from each other.  I recently found out also that they used to have another Caribbean cuisine restaurant, Casuelita’s, in Belltown which has now closed.  I ate there a few times and loved it so I was pretty excited about Island Soul as well.  I met up with a friend of mine and we decided to share a few appetizer/small plates.  I personally thought the appetizer dishes screamed out to me more than the main a la carte dishes.  I’m glad we went the “sharing” route (love friends who loves to share!).  Again, it’s a great opportunity to try a bit of everything.

On one side bright and cheery.

On the other side charming bricks.

First dish was the Island Soul Wings with a sweet sticky mango sauce.  It was very flavorful and the wings were great (aka juicy).  I wish we had added the habanero sauce option.

The second dish were the sweet plantains.  My friend had never had them.  I think these are the best sweet plantains I’ve had.  They were sweet and perfectly caramelized. It paired really well as a side to all the other dishes we ordered.

The third dish to come out was the Island Soul BBQ Pork Spare Ribs.  The meat was soft and tender and fell easily off the bone.  That was perfect because I didn’t have to pick it up with my fingers to scrape all the meat off with my teeth :) .  The BBQ sauce was nothing spectacular though.

Finally, the last plate we ordered was the Habanero Pepper Prawns.  It tasted as good as it looks.  The habaneros gave us a good kick, but taking a bite of the sweet plantain in between made it more bearable.

Since we were on a time crunch I decided to order the Coconut Layer Cake to go.  It looks delectable, but I would say skip it.  The frosting was way too sweet and tasted like cake from the grocery store bakery.  The only thing that saved it were the coconut flakes.

We also took to go the infamous Coconut Corn Muffins.  They are so good when served warm!  I say try this over the Coconut Layer Cake.

Island Soul on Urbanspoon

The Whale Wins

The Whale Wins – I was so excited to come here for dinner that I was almost afraid that I might be disappointed from the anticipation and expectations I had.  Well, the whale totally won.  I LOVE THIS PLACE!   The plus was  being in great company of a couple of my girlfriends as well.  We showed up around 6:30pm on a Wednesday and the wait was ONLY an hour.  Not bad.  The girlfriends and I shared our dinner family-style.  That is the way to go here so that you can try out more dishes.

Loved the ambiance, but it was kind of strange knowing that right over the wall is an outdoor gear/apparel store.  Note the open space of the warehouse.  I’m wondering how the smell of the food affect the apparels.

Ha!  This hung right over us.  We got a good laugh from it.  See the pull away shot above to see what the lights spell out.

We started with the Columbia City Bakery Bread & Butter.

Roasted Local Roots Carrots & Fennel served with harissa and yogurt.  The peppers were a surprise.  Simple things but yet so good!

This was one of the special dishes not listed on the menu that night.  It’s beef crepinette w/chick peas and was very tasty.

Roasted Yakima River Trout with roasted lemons and walnut sauce.  The fish was cooked perfectly and of course delicious.  I love seeing the local area mentioned in the name of the dish.

Painted Hills Marrow Bones with sea salt and homemade  pickled chanterelle salad.  I love home cooked bone marrow in soups or broths, but have never enjoyed bone marrow at restaurants because it seems to be all fat.  These marrows weren’t all fat so these marrows made me happy.  Also, I don’t like mushrooms but “pickled” chanterelle?  Never had it and ended up liking it a lot.

Last of our main courses was the Roasted Mad Hatcher  Half Chicken with cauliflower, butter and chervil.  The skin (my favorite part) was nicely roasted and the chicken was moist.  Look closer and you see orange zest on the chicken.  I loved the hint of citrus flavor.  I’m considering added orange zest to some of my chicken dishes now.

Now onto desserts… I’m so glad my girlfriends are also sweet tooth’s.  We went family style on dessert as well =)

Everyone’s favorite, the Butter Roasted Zucchini Bread sitting on creme fraiche.  That is sea salt sprinkled on top.  It brought out both the sweet and savory flavors.  BTW, this was our first time having zucchini bread… we loved it!

Nutmeg Custard and Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies.  It was delicious and is a great pair.

Wild Huckleberry Eton Mess.  This was a last minute choice and it was a ggrat choice.  We needed the fruity tart of the huckleberry and the airy lightness of the meringue cookies (at least that’s what I think they were) to balance against the rich zucchini bread and custard.  Perfect!

I will come back here any chance I get especially knowing the menu may change due to availability of local ingredients.  Really happy with our food and experience here.

The Whale Wins on Urbanspoon

Brunching @ Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky

I volunteered to host brunch and a white elephant gift exchange last Sunday with a close group of friends from high school.  A week before the event I realized I might be in over my head due to lack of planning and time.  I threw out some ideas of brunch places we could go to instead, but as usual everyone had the “I’m fine going wherever” attitude.  Well, then!  That made my job much easier.  The first time I ever ate at Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky I went for their famed fried chicken.  It was hard to spend almost $40 on a whole fried chicken, but it was totally worth it for some good fried chicken (once in awhile).  It was the best I’ve ever had… seriously.  The batter was seasoned and flavorful and the chicken itself juicy (I only eat dark meat chicken though).  Anyway, aside from the friend chicken, the brunch menu is supposedly really good as well.  Since we’re scattered from Federal Way to Everett, Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky felt like a good middle ground in West Seattle.

So brunch…. it was oohhh so good!  Can I pat myself on the back for a great pick?

The Bloody Mary.  I should mention they offer bottomless mimosa during brunch.

A darn good cup of coffee.

So our friends wanted to try the famed fried chicken.  They normally don’t serve this during brunch, but the kitchen went ahead and brought it out for us.  Unfortunately, all the hype around it ended up disappointing our friends.  I have to admit I didn’t think they were as good as the first time I had it, but I think that may be because of the negativity surrounding me and I got swayed.  I wouldn’t say this would be the last time I would be ordering it though.  I’d go back for it again.

The fried chicken came with a side of kimchee (nice touch) and two different dipping sauces.

Spam Musubi.. taste like they should.

This is the reason why I picked this place.. the French Toast!  I chose the fried chicken nugget with sausage gravy topping.  I LOVED IT!

The french toast was so moist and creamy inside.  It would’ve been perfect if the outside/edges were as crunchy as Geraldine’s. Note: this entree also comes with maple syrup.  I had the toast with the syrup and not the gravy.

Wood Grilled Kalbi Short-Ribs

Portuguese Sausages

Saimin Noodles – looks amazing and savory but was a bit on the salty side.

Loco Moco – I didn’t get to try this, but it got positive feedback from my friend.

Our brunch spread.  Can you say stuffed?!

Ma'ono Fried Chicken & Whisky on Urbanspoon

Red Velvet Cupcakes!

I think I finally found my favorite Red Velvet recipe from scratch.  I tried it this week and to be safe I tried it again this weekend.  I like that it’s soft and moist and of course for the flavor!  This is my personal preference.  Others may prefer a more dense cake.  If soft is what you’re looking for then this is your recipe:

Red Velvet Cupcakes (adapted from Annie Eats)

Ingredients for the cake:

2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. cocoa powder (the original calls for 1 tbsp but I like the more chocolaty flavor)
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with liners.

2. In a medidum bowl, sift together the cake flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Beat on medium speed until well blended.

4. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

5. Scoop into cupcake papers, about 2/3 of the way full (it came out perfect height for me).  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through to ensure even baking (I didn’t do this and mine were fine).

6. Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

The Frosting:

Note:  I tried Annie’s frosting the first time but it still came out runnier than I would’ve liked although it tasted really good.  The runny consistency made it very hard to pipe.  I’ve made cream cheese frosting before but I  haven’t found something I consistently liked.  This worked out well for me in both flavor and consistency:


1/2 cup butter soften (1 stick)
8 oz cream cheese soften
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 cups of powdered sugar (I used only 2 1/2 cups)


1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl o ensure even mixing.

2. Add the vanilla extracts and mix.  I used 1 tsp good pure vanilla extract and 2 tsp of clear imitation vanilla.  The clear vanilla will give a brighter white color to the frosting if you prefer that.

3. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time.  Continually taste to get the desired sweetness.  Wait until cupcakes are cool before piping on frosting.

I found these Christmas tree toppers at Joann.  They are mini edible wafer sheets.  It adds a nice holiday touch to the cupcakes and are totally too cute!  I wish there are other shapes.

Geraldine’s Counter

I don’t know how many times I’ve repeated myself when I say French Toast is my favorite breakfast/brunch food.  Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a slice of delicious cake for breakfast either.  Yesterday,  I finally made my way over to Geraldine’s Counter in Columbia City, said to be Seattle’s most culturally and financially diversified neighborhood (and possibly in the nation).  Technically, this is my second time there but the first time I tried going there it was a big fail because I went on a Monday and they’re closed on Mondays.  It was a sad day that day.  Geraldine’s Counter is known to serve breakfast all day (woohoo!) and known even more in Seattle for their french toasts.  Word around is that they soak their bread overnight in a secret concoction and then fry in a lot of butter!!  Read further for the verdict:

I love establishments that think of our four legged fur babies.

Fresh apple and orange juice.

The verdict?  The french toasts were amazing!  It was very crunchy around the edges, but it wasn’t as soft and moist towards the center like I’ve heard of others experiences.  That would’ve made it even better, but  they were still one of the best I’ve had.

I decided to get the Slammin’ dish which came with eggs and either sausage or bacon.  Then you have the choice of pancakes or french toasts (half order).  While I love my french toasts I love it more with my sides of eggs and meat.

Alright, so I had very high expectations for the french toasts but the spotlight for this visit turned out to be these pancakes.  I’m not so much a pancake person, but these pancakes aren’t just any pancakes.  It was their honey and orange pancakes of the day.  Oh my goodness… they were divine and so delicious!  I can’t even describe the flavors.  Orange pancakes?  Who knew it could taste so good?!  Their pancakes of the day is different everyday, so if you want to try the honey and orange special I would suggest calling them in advance to find out when they’ll be serving it.

Geraldine's Counter on Urbanspoon

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