When the 80-degree days trickle in, the rain slows to a drizzle and all of Seattle gets collective seasonal amnesia about the windstorms and monsoon-like rains of last month, the biggest change the weather sweeps in is on our plates. We kiss the endless kale good-bye, give a patronizing wave adios to the last potato, and greet the fresh greens with great enthusiasm.
Halibut, peas, asparagus, and rhubarb are poking out from the grey cover of winter, showing up in restaurants and greeting diners with bright, fresh flavors: a prelude before we transition to the sweetness of summer fruits.
Hungry yet? Here's what some of our favorite restaurants in Seattle are up to with spring's finest foods.
Olive oil poached halibut at Westward
Gentle olive oil poaching keeps the fish, seasoned with lemon zest and fennel pollen, tender and rich. The green olive and seaweed tapenade bring the saltiness of the sea back, with orange zest, parsley and Calabrian chile for a bit of spark. Sea bean and fennel salad with burnt orange vinaigrette add crunch. And the bronze fennel frond garnish comes from the restaurant's own herb garden.
Squid a la plancha with asparagus at Lark
The current market fish special embraces both our local harbinger of spring, asparagus, and the national favorite, ramps, which see heat along with the squid on the plancha (flattop grill). Ember roasted carrots and warm bacon dashi round out the dish.
Wild halibut dumplings at Little Ting's
This North Seattle gem serves a variety of house-made dumplings, noodles, and pancakes that highlight their expertise in all things dough, but their specials really set them apart. The regular menu features unique combinations such as carrot-tofu buns and sea cucumber and pork dumplings, but January specials included uni (sea urchin) dumplings, and this month wild Alaskan halibut dumplings have been on and off the special board.
English pea agnolotti at Marine Hardware
The re-vamped former Chippy's space is serving up vintage Ethan Stowell cuisine, including the kinds of handmade pastas that first earned him his stellar chef reputation. The sweetness of spring peas comes enriched with a brown butter sauce and brightened up by mint.
Rhubarb bread pudding at Hot Cakes
Seasonality isn't just for savory stuff, and Autumn Martin's sweets studio is leading the charge into spring with rhubarb bread pudding. The sour stalks represent the first forays into seasonal fruit desserts and have mouths watering for the coming months when they'll be joined by strawberries, then cherries and so much more.