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West Seattle Outing

Bakery Nouveau

We don’t get over to West Seattle* much. It’s not all that far; it just feels that way. But from SeaTac airport to the south, it’s pretty accessible, and therefore we have developed a little tradition, when we drop someone off at the airport on a weekend morning, of stopping in West Seattle on the way home. Joel’s return to North Carolina yesterday gave us our first such opportunity since August 2010, when we saw our friend Kenny off to his Glasgow home.

*West Seattle is the part of the city that lies west of the Duwamish River. It’s basically the whole southwest portion, taking in several distinct neighborhoods and commercial centers. Puget Sound borders it on the west, Elliott Bay to the north and east, with dramatic views across Elliott Bay to downtown.

We arrived in West Seattle as their huge Bank of America branch on Alaska opened, allowing us the opportunity to take care of some business. Then it was off to the intersection of Alaska and California, site of Easy Street Records and Easy Street Cafe. (History here.) Breakfast at the cafe is always the centerpiece of our West Seattle visits. They had a 20-minute wait for a table, which we spent in the adjacent record space. CD space actually. If there are records there, I haven’t seen them.

Easy Street occupies what appears to have once been a fire station. The cafe side has two large garage doors, the entire space has high ceilings and a partial upper floor. A coffee bar counter divides the space in two, with stool seating on the CD side. We wandered around as various parties ahead of us were called for their tables. At exactly the 20-minute mark, our turn came. We got to sit right in front, at a two-top by one of the old fire station doors with a view out to the street. And we had the same waitress as we did two Augusts ago, a pretty lively woman.

I ordered the Horton Heat Hash: “Our fresh cooked hash with corned beef, bacon, onions, peppers, hash browns and secret spices. Served with 3 eggs any style and toast. Can you handle the Heat!?” Gail had the Billy Breakfast Burrito: “2 eggs scrambled with black bean salsa and cheddar, wrapped in a Spinach tortilla. Served with hash browns and sour cream and salsa on the side.” Mine was great. I can’t believe I hadn’t ordered it before. We have many fine restaurants within a mile of our home, but no classic breakfast place. We sure could use one. Easy Street is so good I don’t know why we don’t make a point of driving over there.

We were all set to head home when I remembered that we were intending to try the French bakery our architect Todd had told us about last year. In the meantime, two French bakeries have opened in our neck of the woods — the wonderful Inès Pâtisserie and Belle Epicurean — making it less pressing to get over to West Seattle to try it. But we were there. It would be silly not to visit now.

We couldn’t think of the name, so I had to search for West Seattle French bakeries on my iPhone. Bakery Nouveau popped up instantly, and it was just a half-block south of Easy Street, except that we were now a block north at our car. We doubled back and found it to be much larger than we had imagined, with a long counter (pictured above) on the left and table seating running the length of the bakery on the right. A line of people ran from the far end of the counter right to the door. We got on and took turns inspecting the goods. The offerings were far more diversified than I imagined: croissants, sandwiches, little pizzas, chocolates, jellies, pies and tarts, cakes, cookies. (Menu here.)

Had we not just eaten a late breakfast, we could have had quite a charming early lunch. Instead, we ordered a selection to bring home: Two twice-baked almond croissants. (Our classic croissant soaked in simple syrup and filled with delicious almond cream. It is topped with sliced almonds and additional almond cream.) One cherry almond pear tart. (Cherry and pear fruit layered over frangipan over a thin layer of raspberry jam in a pate sucre crust. It is finished with an apricot glaze and toasted almond slivers.) One strawberry macaroon with caramel filling. And two mango pâtes de fruit.

The croissants were warm. When I got home, I ate mine. Gail found hers to be somewhat on the heavy side. She’s probably right, but when she ate, hers was at room temperature. I loved mine. I ate the tart today. Good, perhaps not great. The pâtes were excellent. I never tried the macaroon.

One more stop awaited. Just a couple of weeks ago, our friend Russ had asked Gail where to find local smoked ham. For an answer, Gail turned to one of her former instructors at Seattle Culinary Academy, who directed her to The Swinery in West Seattle. On leaving Bakery Nouveau, we looked it up and found that it was up California a ways. Not in the neighborhood. We would have to drive about a mile north. We drove that and more, not realizing that The Swinery has the smallest storefront imaginable. We were more careful on the way back south.

There’s a big workspace below and behind, but the retail area is small, with two display cases and a freezer with pre-prepared items. We were third in line for the one woman running the shop, giving us plenty of time to review the offerings. Some are marked as coming from Zoe’s Meats, a San Francisco purveyor that has a branch here.

When our time came, Gail ordered a four lamb chops (the woman threw in the fifth and last for free), two spicy Italian sausage links, Zoe’s sopressata, and some goat cheese. Gail had the cheese today, said it’s wonderful, but the meats are still awaiting trial.

That was enough. We headed home, pleased with all the good food and hoping our next West Seattle expedition comes soon.

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