Why I specialize in restaurants serving high-quality, healthy food

Terrific milk oolong tea at BaSa on Bainbridge Island, WA
Terrific milk oolong tea at BaSa on Bainbridge Island, WA.

I’ve always considered myself pretty “low maintenance” when it comes to food. As is often the case in our microwave-world, for most of my younger years I was of the opinion that if a meal costs more than $5 and takes more than 4 minutes to prepare, it was too expensive and took too much time. These opinions held despite working in (fairly good) restaurants most of my way through college, such as Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle. And I continued to think this way despite moving in my 20s to New Orleans, considered by many to be a culinary mecca in the U.S. Whether due to having little money or bad priorities (the beer budget), I always tended to look down on the indulgence of quality meals for myself, especially in the form of dinners out.

Marzano's in Tacoma, WA
Marzano’s in Tacoma, WA. Spoiler alert: she said yes.

I absolutely loved living in New Orleans, but really the only exposure I had to the local cuisine was in the form of fried catfish hangover Po-Boys (my favorite was Guy’s on Magazine Street uptown). This despite living a few doors down from Commander’s Palace in the Garden District for a time, which used to be one of Emeril’s restaurants.

Then several years later I met my wife Aubrey, and she helped introduce me to a new appreciation for gourmet dinners that I never had before, especially when it comes to eating in restaurants. I started to love good flavors, to recognize the artistry of plating, and to enjoy the ambience of an establishment. She even made me a fan of Top Chef – I now know the meaning of the word “umami.”

Abell and Aubrey out to dinner in a winter rainstorm, but warm and comfortable on the patio at BaSa on Bainbridge Island
Abell and Aubrey out to dinner in a winter rainstorm, but warm and comfortable on the patio at BaSa on Bainbridge Island.

Our first “place” together was Marzano’s Italian restaurant in Tacoma, where we had one of our first dates. The food was spectacular of course, but the highlight of my experiences there came a year or so after Aubrey and I started living together when I asked her to marry me. Our wonderful waiter managed to capture the occasion for us despite my asking him on the spot to take a photo… I wasn’t very well prepared for that part.

We later moved near her hometown of Bainbridge Island, where we enjoyed spots like The Streamliner Diner, which had the best takeout menu we tried during COVID. Another one of our discoveries on the island was BaSa. If you visit, I recommend you don’t miss the Chicken Buns, Banh Mi, and of course their signature Basa catfood dish. During COVID they were one of the only restaurants where you could dine in thanks to their covered patio. During our last meal in Bainbridge, a deluge of cold rain was hammering the Puget Sound area, but we were perfectly comfortable thanks to the heated outside dining area.

Piva Modern Italian in New Westminster, B.C.
Piva Modern Italian in New Westminster, B.C.

In 2021 we moved to the Vancouver B.C. area, specifically New Westminster. By far our favorite there was Piva Modern Italian, where my appreciation for flavorful restaurant dishes may have really taken hold. Our first time there I ordered the Bolognese. It might have been the first time in a restaurant that I had the knee-wobbling experience of sitting back and saying “holy CRAP that’s good.” You also must not leave without ordering the For Nonna cherry dessert, a can’t-miss experience.

For our anniversary last year, we visited Butchart Gardens near Victoria. After wandering the gardens for a couple hours, taking in all the beautiful sights and amazing smells in the rose garden, we had the experience of a fancy high-end tea time with the amazing accompanying delicacies. Another thing I never thought I would try.

Chicken Raviolo at Larch in Leavenworth, WA.
Chicken Raviolo at Larch in Leavenworth, WA.

Most recently, for my birthday this year we stayed at the Post Hotel and Spa. I’ve never been a spa-pampering kinda guy, but I gotta say my body thanked me. However, the topper was our dinner the first night when we went to Larch Seasonal Northwest Pasta. This was an even more transcendent “holy CRAP” flavor moment, as the Chicken Raviolo may have been the best plate of food I’ve ever eaten in my life. The octopus appetizer was almost as amazingly flavorful, and Aubrey’s Porchetta was so tender it fell off the bone without the need for a knife. I believe we would be going back to Leavenworth just to visit Larch… but we will probably not want to miss Post Hotel too.

As I mentioned earlier, my restaurant experience goes back many years, to my college days as a busboy and waiter. As a web developer and designer, I’m proud to include the website and logo for The Grub Hut in Kingston, WA on my portfolio, and the owner Sean has become a good friend. Check back soon for a new blog post on some of the solutions we’ve come up with for them, as well as an in-depth rundown of the countless options for helping restaurants that are available in the WordPress ecosystem. Restaurant owners face a number of pain points, especially in the COVID era, but the solutions are there to help overcome these obstacles.

Check out another post on how I developed my appreciation for locally-sourced food and farm-to-table experiences!

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