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Nothing says “summer” like a sun filled day in wine country. And I’m not referring to Napa, people. Washington State is proud to have two wonderful regions inside the state lines that are destinations for wine tasting. Since I live in Seattle, a trip to Woodinville was much easier than Walla Walla, and so off I went (with a trusting, handsome partner in crime) for an afternoon of wine tasting followed by an incredible dinner at The Commons.

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

Now, I can’t be trusted to do wine tastings and take pictures, it’s too confusing for me, and to be honest, I feel like a success if I manage to (a) not spill red wine on myself (in front of said handsome partner in crime) and (b) remember what even 1 of the wines was called by the end of the night! Needless to say, I saved all the picture taking for the main event – DINNER! (Seriously, you know me…I love to photograph food, even if it comes at the expense of other people having to wait a few more minutes to ensure I “got the shot.”)

If you haven’t heard of The Commons before, don’t be alarmed – it’s *new,* like really new. The thing I love the most about a new restaurant is the whole staff seems to unknowingly emit this sense of “first day of school” excitement while they work. Everyone has their crisp aprons on, the music is good, the service is prompt and the kitchen is moving at top speed while they all get used to the new setting.  When they say “all hands on deck,” this is truly what they mean.

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

So, after a full day of wine tasting, what sounds good to drink? BEER! That’s right, beer. And The Commons has some interesting local ones that we couldn’t resist trying – the “Evolutionary IPA” from 2 Beers Brewing Co, and the “‘425’ Pale Ale” from Bellevue Brewing Co. Both were good enough for a 2nd pint, and I love when I am exposed to something new from my own backyard!

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

Get ready for the gratuitous food porn because I couldn’t stop myself from taking multiple shots of each dish, and even when I was editing them, I really couldn’t choose just one image of any dish. This was honestly one of the BEST meals I have had all year, and it’s really no surprise, seeing as the geniuses behind it are the ever evolving Heavy Restaurant Group (that’s right, the same brilliant minds behind Purple, BARRIO and Lot No 3).

First up on our list was the Heirloom Tomatoes & Mozzarella with lemon vinaigrette, balsamic gastrique, torn basil and grilled bread. Holy heirlooms, kids! There was something really wonderfully smoky about the grilled bread combined with the sweetness of the tiny summer tomatoes against the depth of the balsamic gastrique…. I wish I had ordered two servings as an entrée (pocketing that thought for next time).

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

Then it was on to dinner – and since there’s nothing I love more than steak frites (except maybe breakfast for dinner) we got both – steak frites and breakfast for dinner. WHAT?! I can’t help myself!

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

The Steak & Frites is a perfectly grilled hanger steak with fries that were so good I ate every single one (including the crumbs and broken ones I usually leave behind, so I look lady-like…sorry dad), herb butter, sautéed spinach and mushrooms. Not sure what the secret behind the mushrooms are (besides butter, duh) but I would have exchanged numerous personal belongings for enough room in my stomach to eat that whole dish twice. This is a dish you think about while you’re eating it, “Oh my GOD, this is SO good,” a dish you think about after you ate it, “Man, dinner tonight was SO good,” and a dish you think about a week later, “Uh, we should really go back and have that steak & frites again…” I eat this dish everywhere I see it – kind of like judging a Thai place by the Phad Thai, you know?

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

The other dish we had was breakfast for dinner, and I can say without a doubt, this dish transcends the clock, it is good for any meal of the day without a single substitution or alteration needed.  Smoky summer hash with smoked potatoes, corn, summer squash, grape tomatoes, red bell peppers and fried eggs with bacon. I only wish I had thought to order two slices of bacon for the side, to go along with the lardons IN the dish. Next time!

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

The eggs were perfectly done, and you tasted every single ingredient without feeling like anything over powered the dish. That’s a tough bargain when you’re talking about hash, which is so easy to get wrong (either all starchy potatoes, or all greezy-like and gut-bombing).

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

Now, I’m usually not a dessert fan, but there is one thing I cannot resist. My one true Kryptonite: carrot cake. And when I say carrot cake I mean legit, home made, grate those carrots yourself, stir the raisins and walnuts in by hand, completely from scratch, sweat it out because the batter is so stiff, carrot cake. Only edible with homemade cream cheese frosting. So, I am a carrot cake snob. So WHAT. It’s my thing. I own it. I don’t even like when other people make me carrot cake for my birthday if they don’t know how picky I am, because it always ends in someone (usually me) being disappointed in some way (which leads to me making carrot cake at home later that night/week to correct the situation).

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

So I was a little skeptical when I saw it on the menu, as was my partner in crime, because he is (dare I say this and out him as my fellow carrot cake snob) as picky as I am about carrot cake. But after everything else that evening was so delicious, how could we not?!  The carrot cake was a 4 layer masterpiece with cream cheese icing that had the most delightful vanilla bean flecks and toasted almonds. Amaze-bees.

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

We basically shut the place down (which was bumping when we arrived at 7pm, there was only a table or two open….were we really there that long?! I guess so!)

The Commons Cafe

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

We watched a wedding at The Hollywood School House let out across the street, and then we watched the sun dip behind the tree line, and then we watched our cups of decaf go empty as we shared (and cleaned) the plate, including all the toasted almonds and candied carrot strips (totally stealing that idea!).

The Commons. Do it. Eat all the food. Love it. Report back. Go.

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