SEATTLE, WA — Yes, I said, “cheese” ice cream. Not “cheesecake” ice cream. But ice cream made with actual cheese. Have I got your attention now? I should — because this ice cream is worth making a special trip for.
Hats off to my friend Tami, who lived in Seattle for a few years, and suggested I make time for the ice cream at Kurt Farm Shop on Capitol Hill. Tucked inside the Chophouse Row building food hall, this sliver of a shop sells cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and glorious ice cream.
The custard base is made at its Kurtwood Farm using Jersey cream and milk from its own cows.
They’re generous with samples. I knew I wanted the Flora’s Cheese flavor from the get-go. The ice cream is super rich and smooth, with a pronounced naturally sweet milky taste. There are actual bits of frozen feta-like cheese in this flavor. It’s cheesecake-like, but not quite as tangy. There’s more of a developed cheese flavor, though, no funkiness. It’s ever so savory and just a twinge salty. It’s one of those flavors that’s an instant classic.
The blackberry was nicely not too sweet. Instead, you really tasted the berries, even its slightly tannic nature.
A standard size, which lets you have a scoop of two different flavors, is $5.75.
Singing the Praises of Chocolate Popcorn
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who passed away just days after I returned from Seattle, clearly loved this city. He was a philanthropist, whose wealth and thoughtfulness supported many causes.
One of the lasting things he did was to buy an iconic downtown movie theater, the Cinerama, which might have been demolished otherwise. He revamped it, installing state-of-the-art equipment, and upping the offerings at the concession stand big-time.
My husband and I walked past this theater many times on our trip. Its marque, proclaiming, “chocolate popcorn” couldn’t help but grab our attention. Chocolate? Popcorn? What was that exactly?
Fortunately, the theater allows you inside the lobby to buy its snacks without having to actually pay to see a movie. That’s exactly what we did, buying a small size ($6.50) that was packed with the popcorn. You can get all regular butter popcorn, all chocolate popcorn, or a mix of the two.
We went all in with just chocolate popcorn? How good was it? So good that we wished we had bought a large to bring home on the plane! It’s crispy, fresh, large kernels of popcorn coated with not-too-sweet chocolate. It’s almost the taste of hot cocoa in popcorn form. And it’s addictive.
The Ultimate Prosciutto Sandwich
Our last stop in Seattle? To pick up some gourmet provisions to enjoy while we waited at the airport for our flight home.
There’s no better place to do that than Salumi, the artisanal Italian deli founded by Armandino Batali. Yes, Mario’s father.
At the tiny storefront, you can get a soup of the day, hot pasta, salumi rolls or sandwiches that run about $12 or so. (Tip: Mondays are slower at lunch time; otherwise, you’ll most likely encounter a line.)
This is the place to try culatello, as Salumi is only one of three places in the United States that actually make it, the workers behind the counter told me.
It is the meat closest to the bone on a heritage breed ham that is air-dried for a year. It’s also known as the “heart of the prosciutto.” Or as the workers like to boast, “the Rolls-Royce of prosciutto.”
Although the culatello is not listed on the sandwich board, the workers will be happy to slice some off for your sandwich if you just ask, which is what I did.
The hefty sandwich comes on Macrina Bakery ciabatta, with sauteed onions and peppers, and an olive oil-based dressing. The culatello is cut nearly paper-thin and piled inside.
At the airport, I unwrapped it, and took a bite — that nearly took my breath away. The meaty part of the culatello is like a more intensely flavored prosciutto. It’s as if the porkiness were amped up. But the real treat was the fat. It practically melts in the heat of your mouth, reminding me of a fine lardo. It’s nothing short of amazing.
A Side of Kitsch With That Salmon
With its totem poles marking the entrance and a dining room that looks like something out of the Great Northern Hotel in “Twin Peaks,” Ivar’s Salmon House is perhaps a bit overwrought.
But there’s no denying that its expansive restaurant puts out a great plate of salmon, especially for the price. With its water views, it’s a popular location for family celebrations, too.
The restaurant specializes in alder wood-grilled cooking. The Alaska Chinook King Salmon ($35) is a huge fillet draped over coconut rice with Pinot Noir dried-cherry buerre rouge sauce. It’s cooked beautifully — smoky tasting with a center that’s still nicely pinkish inside. It comes with corn muffins, too, that are tender, cakey and just a little sweet.
What’s That Line For?
When wandering around Pioneer Square, no doubt you’ll stop in your tracks upon seeing a line — often more than 15-people-deep — in front of this storefront.
Il Corvo Pasta is a pasta shop and a lunch-only restaurant that serves its hand-made pastas. Each day, it posts on its Instagram page what the offerings will be. The beautiful photos of plump pastas and serious sauces are what drive this frenzy.
My husband and I got in line on a Friday just before noon. There were already 10 people in front of us in line. Inside the restaurant, it was packed with diners. We ended up waiting 90 minutes in line before getting a seat at a table, which made me wonder: Who are all these people eating here who have time on a workday to do this?!?
Yes, you wait outside, even in the rain. And even when you get your foot inside the door, you wait again, in a line that forms down the middle of this very compact restaurant, until you get to the counter where you order your food. Then, the host will scan the dining room, and locate a place for you to seat. You may be sharing a table with others, because space is at a premium here.
The food is brought to you. But you bus your own table afterward.
Three pastas ($9.75 each) are offered daily. We had the rigatoni bolognese and the fusilli with pancetta, Brussels sprouts and chiles. Both pastas are good values and generous servings for the price. Both had a toothsome texture with good chew. Both had a kick of spiciness. The bolognese was thick, coating the pasta entirely, so that they became one. The fusilli was flavorful, though quite salty from all the diced, rendered pancetta.
The focaccia ($3.75) is a carb lover’s dream — crisp and golden outside, pillowy inside with the taste of good olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
Was it all worth a 90-minute wait on a drizzly afternoon? I can’t say this surpassed any pasta I’ve had at any top place in the Bay Area necessarily. But I’m glad I tried it. After all, when in Rome — or Seattle….