Brouwer’s Buffalo Stew

Okay, this place is growing on me — Brouwer’s Cafe, a Belgian-styled pub in Seattle’s Fremont district. Not being much of a drinker these days, I don’t frequent too many watering holes unless they are serving some mighty tasty chow. Brouwer’s, it turns out, is one such watering hole.

Most often, I have found myself at Brouwer’s for a Seattle Chefs Collaborative meeting of some sort… and frites. (Mind you, it annoys the bejeezes out of me how everyone and their mother is calling fries “frites” these days, but for Brouwer’s it is acceptable. It is, after all, a Belgian joint.) The frites are might fine, and come with your choice of a variety of dipping sauces, as they should. I have also helped a friend finish off her Lamb Burger, a tremendous sandwich that, word to the wise, you should order with the chipotle mayo on the side.

On a recent visit lunch, however, I finally got a chance to try Brouwer’s Stooflvees, their Buffalo Carbonade┬áserved over a big plate of frites. Buffalo Carbonade is Brouwer’s delicious buffalo stew. It is a fairly simple dish of wonderfully seasoned, fork tender Nevada bison meat cooked for a long time, than ladled over those aforementioned frites, which soak up all the tasty sauce of the stew while adding a little texture, salt and complexity to the dish. I loved it. I’ve been thinking about it since I ate it. It is true comfort food. I can imagine it going great with a hearty Belgian or Northwest ale. Maybe next time.

Restaurant Mailing Lists

You ever wonder about whether to fill out one of those cards on the front counter, or included with your bill, at a restaurant and give them your vital information? Well, in this economy, between our thin wallets and restaurants’ sparsely populated dining rooms, filling out one of these cards at your favorite restaurant (and even a few you’d like to try but couldn’t afford) is not a bad idea.

Usually, these cards ask for your name, mailing address, email address, birthday and anniversary. Give it to them. And if you are not married, like me, make up an anniversary. I use my mom’s birthday at one place and my friends’ anniversary at another. Why? Because these places often send you a gift certificate in honor of your special day. You don’t have to use it that day — they usually give you a month — so you can still enjoy where you want on your special day and then go to one of these other places later. And while they can check your ID to see if April is in fact your birth month, there is no ID that lists your date of marriage, or even that you are married. Heck, some married people don’t even wear rings, so that’s what you can say, too. Thus, when it comes to declaring an anniversary date, give a different one to each restaurant, and you’ll get gift certificates all year round!

You’re thinking, how good can these gift certificates be, aren’t you? Well, I received $125 worth of them for my birthday this year. And they are true gift certificates. They may restrict from which menu you must order, or a time of day, but you can often order off the bar menu, and none of the ones I received required any kind of 2-for-1 type deal. It was just worth $25, or $50, towards a good meal.

Let me give you an example.

Last Sunday, I took a buddy of mine out to El Gaucho, one of Seattle’s swankier eateries, with a $50 birthday certificate. It simply said it had to be used for dinner. While I hear future certificates may restrict diners to ordering off of the dinner menu, this one did not, so we were able to order off the bar menu. If that wasn’t good enough, the bar menu is half-off all night on Sundays. So we ordered $90 worth of food, and when our server factored in the tax, our bill still came out to $0! Free food!!! We ordered a Caprese salad (g00d), crab cakes (very good), diver scallops (good), ahi tuni tartare (excellent), wicked prawns linguini (very good) and baby back ribs (over-cooked).

Oddly enough, in this famous house of meat, it was the meat dish that fell short, and they make a big deal about it being their original recipe since 1953 on the menu. Then again, I suppose I can’t complain too much. It was free. And they didn’t even require us to buy a drink (something you should always ask when availing yourself of a happy hour menu, as you can eat cheap with just water at many places).

So, the next time you are in your favorite joint (or just walking past it, or one you find interesting), fill out one of those mailing list cards. Heck, most places now only want your email address anyway, to save the cost of paper. For the cost of a little extra email, you could get $25-$50 worth of free food.

Pizza Hut makes it “Natural”

Speaking of Pizza Hut treating us like we’re stupid, what’s up with “The Natural”? I guess they figure none of us are quite smart enough to ask the question, “if this stuff is natural, what were they serving us before?” Why on Earth would anyone seeking a natural diet eat somewhere that is treating the concept as some sort of revelation? Instead, maybe try a local pizzeria that has always used natural ingredients.

To Pizza Hut, “natural” is about marketing trends, not lifestyles.