Daily Archives: December 11, 2009

Columbia City’s La Madusa featured in The Seattle Times.

| December 11, 2009
Seattle Times was spot on when they mentioned “La Medusa offers well-prepared Sicilian favorites”.

The Following was also said for the great restaurant in Columbia City….
For a dozen years La Medusa’s Sicilian siren song has lured those hooked on baccala fritters, anchovy-laced “Grandma’s greens,” eggplant caponata and sardine-rich pasta con le sarde to Columbia City.

The restaurant’s founding mothers, Sherri Serino and Lisa Becklund, were among the new urban pioneers who tilled the soil along a stretch of Rainier Avenue South once nicknamed “Garlic Gulch,” nurturing a food renaissance that has yielded a richly diverse crop of restaurants, bakeries and markets.

Julie Andres has worked at La Medusa almost from the beginning, a budding chef mentored by Serino. In 2003, she and her husband, Evan (a gifted baker who eventually opened Columbia City Bakery), bought the restaurant.

If you haven’t been to La Medusa in years, you must return, not only for those Sicilian favorites but to savor a dining experience that, while still homespun, has become the finely woven product of well-practiced artisans.

Andres, a smiling sylph with the bearing of a ballerina, roams the front of the house with a watchful eye. Veteran servers, wrapped in waist-to-ankle aprons, are smoothly efficient, however, willing and able to recite every detail of every dish, even the frequently changing specials.

The food has never been better. Top-notch chefs — for a while it was Joe Hook (formerly of Café Juanita); currently it is Gordon Wishard (Lark, Licorous, Vios) and Zach Millican (Artemis and Spinasse) — take their vows of fresh, local, seasonal and house-made seriously.

Look to the printed menu for La Medusa stalwarts such as caponata and pasta con le sarde. The former, a chunky relish blending eggplant, red pepper, olives, capers, raisins and pine nuts, pals happily with panelle, spears of fried chickpea dough so thickly cut that the middles are almost creamy under their golden sheaths.

I can’t imagine you’d get a better version of pasta con le sarde in Palermo itself. Sturdy perciatelli noodles, thick spaghettilike strands with a hollow core, are well suited to wear the heavy mantle of sauce, a gritty, saffron-kissed mash of sardines and breadcrumbs, fennel and pine nuts, olives and raisins.

Consult the chalkboard for more ephemeral fare. Lately, whole chanterelles nestled among beautiful, nearly translucent house-made fettuccine coated with olive oil, garlic and a bit of Parmigiano. Crumbled house-made sausage, sautéed with garlic, fennel and a drop of cream, transformed sturdy rigatoni into a dish of surprising elegance.

Grilled slices of green tomato, steeped in “Snapping Red” Controne peppers and other spices, were served atop paper-thin mats of spicy sopressata. Bitter met sweet in a balsamic-kissed winter salad of Treviso endive and sliced fennel sparked with orange and grapefruit, red onion and apple.

Grilled Lido Farm lamb chops were as carefully cooked as oven-roasted walleye pike. Vivid coral ribbons of musky persimmon coiled among the smoky, cumin-spiced chickpeas and charred rapini that accompanied the meat. The fish, in briny broth lightly flavored with fennel, tomato and saffron, flaunted skin that crackled like cellophane with each bite.

Clove, bay, smoked cherry pepper and lemon mingle in the broth bathing soft shards of milk-braised pork, flavors as flattering to the meat as to the pale Controne beans and astonishingly vibrant Stony Plains celery with it.

La Medusa’s pizzas still achieve a crackerlike fragility. Naturally, the bread basket is full of Columbia City Bakery’s wares, making it well worth the $2.50 surcharge.

Among other upgrades: La Medusa serves cocktails and will soon have a retail wine license. There’s even a wine director, Julia Bandy, who knows just the Marsala you should sip with the don’t-miss dessert: thumb-size pistachio-covered cannoli made fresh daily.

La Medusa’s modest storefront still resembles a Sicilian grandma’s kitchen, with colorful folk art on the walls and tabletops stained glossy malachite green. A velvet curtain shrouding the door contains the chill breeze and conceals the knot of people almost always waiting for a table. There are some cracks in the ceramic floor Serino and Becklund installed themselves a dozen years ago, but nothing else about La Medusa is showing its age.


| December 11, 2009

Wonderful coffees on the table today from Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru and Flores. Definitely a nice change of pace from Wednesdays coffee and chicory experiment!

Here are the tasting notes from todays cupping-

ETHIOPIA- Aromas of sun dried blueberry, sun scorched earth and enticing spice notes. A medium bodied coffee with moderate acidity displaying profound blueberry flavors upfront- tapering into subtle citrus notes balanced with layers of earth, spice and dark chocolate throughout.

MEXICO- Subtle aromas of tangerine, caramel and dark chocolate. Mellow and subdued in the cup, showing subtle smokiness up front with harmonious layers of dark chocolate, baking spice and nougat balanced with mild acidity and a lush, velvety body. A sweet, smokey finish beckons another taste.

PERU- Warm, alluring aromas of dark berry, creme brulee and milk chocolate. Prominent dark berry flavors up front tapering in to dark chocolate and citrus tones finishing with subtle honey and herbaceous accents. A moderately full bodied coffee with well balanced acidity and a sweet, lasting finish.

FLORES- Heavy, robust aromas of earth, spice and smoke. Deep, rich flavors of dark chocolate, earth and subtle smokiness throughout the cup with low acidity and a full body. Nice dark chocolate nuances in the dissipating, smokey finish.

A great cupping today displaying the complexity, depth and diversity of world class coffees from Africa, Central/South America and Indonesia. Thanks to all those who participated today and a friendly reminder to visit CAFFE VITA-Capitol Hill- 1005 E PIKE ST- EVERY WEDNESDAY and FRIDAY @ 10 AM for our FREE coffee cupping!

CAFFE VITA teams up with The Dandy Warhols to bring you an Italian Holiday Celebration

| December 11, 2009

This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Caffe Vita is joining forces with renowned Portland rock band the Dandy Warhol’s to celebrate a Fellini inspired Italian Holiday fete. Vita will be providing free espresso and *gelato affogato at the three (nearly) sold out shows.

Grab Tickets here:

December 11th at Neumo’s in Seattle (21+)
December 12th at The Wonder Ballroom in Portland (21+)
December 13th at The Wonder Ballroom in Portland (All ages)

A Word From The Dandy Warhol’s

As Dandy Warhols, we like to take a different approach to Christmas: a little more Old World and a lot more jaunty. We are on a mission to convince Christendom that Italy does it best. But these things take time; Rome wasn’t bilked in a day. Easing into the task we commence this year with our annual Christmas shows with the introduction of a sliver of sunny Italy to the Northwest’s dreary environs. Just a taste, a Fellini twist on the usual Dandys holiday performance.

All three of these shows will be celebrated in the spirit of Italian Christmas, complete with themed drinks at the bar, hand picked by each band member…plus, keeping with our Italian theme: Limoncello! Fancy Italian Coffees! Gelato! Oh my!