NEIGHBORHOOD HOT SPOT… HUMBLE PIE

As a recent transplant from NYC, I’m constantly on the lookout for great pizza here in the Northwest.  We have incredible seafood, an abundance of awesome Asian cuisine, and of course, the best coffee in the country, but pizza has always felt a little ho hum here, which is such a let down after years of unlimited super delicious NYC pies.

Lucky for me, after a fair amount of Friday night “Pizza Research” that my husband and I embarked on, we discovered this gem right down the street from our house.  Humble Pie is run by Brian Solazzi, an incredibly intelligent and fascinating architect-turned-restaurateur who has made it his mission to offer organic, fairly priced, high quality food to his neighbors.  We stopped by one afternoon to tour the space, learn about his operation, meet the chickens who produce eggs for the restaurant and obviously, eat a whole bunch of really great pizza.  Read on to hear all about his adventures in pizza making in the Northwest.

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8581

Tell us a bit about Humble Pie and why you decided to open it on the edge of the International District?

Humble Pie is a wood fired pizzeria rooted in three goals: make the most delicious, healthiest pizza possible, strive towards increased sustainability of all our practices, and to benefit our local community.  We are located in the ID because that is where my roots are. I’ve lived here for years, and I even went to the Japanese school across the street from humble pie when I was a kid.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8622

How did you get into the food and restaurant industry, and what drew you into wood fired pizza making in particular?

Pizza is one of the perfect foods. Like burritos, it is a complete meal, with all the food groups brought together in one delicious meal you can eat with your hands. Although we make some more adventurous pizzas, the traditional Italian wood fired oven is at the heart of our kitchen. In addition to pizza of course, we do all our prep cooking by fire. It’s amazing how precise the old world technology is. As for me, the first real job I ever had was making pizza, way back in high school. I’ve been dreaming about pizza ever since.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8430

Can you give us a run down on a day in the life of a pizza maker?

Great pizza is all about great dough, and that’s how I start all my days. Our dough needs to cure for a minimum of 24 hours, so it’s important to get an early start. After dough we start in on the rest of the prep, and by 11am we are ready to serve lunch. After lunch we’ve got a little window to finish up on prepping for dinner and the next day, and of course there is the other side of things, which is the running the business. You’ve got to wear a lot of hats to make it work, and there is always work to be done. Luckily my coworkers are world class people as well as pizza makers.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8573

Tell us a bit about the ingredients you use for you pizzas…much of it is grown here on location.  Can you tell us about this process, and the thinking behind it?

Our flour comes from a Washington farmers coop, our apples, potatoes, red and yellow onions, mushrooms and eggplant are all Washington grown organic, we grow our own organic basil… I could go on and on about ingredients and quality and values, but by now I think most foodies can agree that local, fresh, and sustainable, are not only the best for the planet, but also make for the most delicious food.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8396

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8549

Who are your favorite Seattle chefs?  Best places to get a meal in this city?

There is a place for food as art, and sometimes an excellent meal can be worth a steep price, but I favor more ‘daily bread’ type of establishments. Mark and Picha at Thai Curry Simple are incredible chefs and excellent people. Both Chu Minh and Thanh Son Tofu are wonderful places to eat. Lately I’ve been loving Gastropod as well.

 

What is your favorite part about living and working in the Northwest?

The people. Unpretentious,casual, and open minded.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8380

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8351

Any new dining trend you’re loving right now?  Any you’re so not into?

The best dining trend in the Northwest, bar none, is BEER! As a lifelong vegetarian I probably don’t get a vote on this, but I am so over the pork trend.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8340

What are some important lessons you’ve learned about running a small business, and being an entrepreneur?

Believe in yourself. Unlike more recondite professions, with restaurants, everyone has an opinion on everything. You’ve got to learn to listen with compassion and an open mind, while keeping true to your own values and vision.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8422

Best pizza on the menu?

Do I have to choose just one? Alright, how about the smoked eggplant with fresh red onion and cherry tomatoes.

 

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8605

 

Head on over to Humble Pie if you get a chance!  The outdoor seating is plentiful and perfect for the hot weekend ahead.  I highly recommend the pizza with Apples, Beecher’s Cheese, and Spiced Walnuts… delicious!!

525 Rainier Ave S.

Seattle, WA 98144

 

Photos by KettleWerks.

 

 

NEIGHBORHOOD LUNCH SPOT – THE BEAR AND THE BEE

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8080

This week, we thought we’d pay a visit to one of our favorite new lunch haunts, The Bear and The Bee.  It’s right in the middle of Belltown, an area of Seattle that borders Pike Place Market, Downtown, and the Waterfront, and is chalk full of wonderful little shops, galleries, and restaurants…a great place to spend a day exploring.

We discovered this new sandwich shop a couple of months ago, and have been devotees ever since.  The sandwiches are just pure goodness, full of tasty ingredients from local providers.  The combinations lean toward the more creative, such as “The Smashed Potato”, which includes White Cheddar, Gouda, Leeks, Chives, and Fingerling Potatoes, all on an open faced Sourdough….so incredible!  It’s lovely to have a place in the area that caters to the local clientele who expect just a bit more out of their usual lunch break.

Marcus Johnson, one of the owners, sat down with us to answer a few questions about running such a great addition to the neighborhood.

 

Tell us a bit about the shop, and why you decided to open it here in Belltown?

Jessica Gifford and I, after opening a few bars in Belltown, decided the neighborhood could benefit from a small and comfortable sandwich shop that would serve high quality foods and stay open through the Seattle food witching hours (3-5) until 7p.m.  We wanted a fresh approach to classics like the Italian sub (The Milan-Torino) or the BLT (we add shaved onion and fresh avocado).

Bear and Bee Inside Look

How did you get into the restaurant industry?  What made you decide to tackle artisan sandwiches?

I’m a big foodie, but I’m a career barman so my experience with professional food prep is a bit naive to say the least, and I figured if we were to expand into the food scene we had better start small with a solid staff from which I could learn.  The Bear and the Bee is hopefully a stepping stone and research tool towards bigger things.

You own several other establishments in the area.  Tell us about these, and how you manage to keep balanced while running all at the same time.

We own and operate three bars within a one block radius in Belltown, off 2nd and Blanchard.  Bathtub Gin & Co. (built from scratch) is our slightly hidden cocktail bar.  The Rabbit Hole (a former Thai restaurant) has become our Cheers of sorts with skeeball, a full kitchen open late, and a couple televisions for the games.  Lava Lounge was on the verge of being closed when we decided to buy it, redo the mural, and basically just keep it the way it has been for the past twenty years.

 20141018_ClarkEngagement_8095

Your ingredients, the bread, the juice, the wine and beer….it’s all so excellent.  Where do you find such great purveyors?

The sources for our products are very important to us, even for a tiny little sandwich shop.  Besides produce from Frank’s and other vendors in Pike Place Market, and Zoe’s and Grand Central Bakery for meats and breads, we also brought in a local juicing company Healthy Bonez, for our personalized cold pressed juices.

Who are your favorite Seattle chefs?  Best places to get a meal in this city?

I just can’t say enough about how lucky we are to have so many great chefs and restaurants in the Seattle area.  I wish I had more time (and deeper pockets) to explore and re-visit every chef and their restaurants in town, but a few of my favorites: Renee Erickson; The Whale Wins,  Scott Staples; Quinn’s,  Jason Wilson; Crush,  Maria Hines; Tilth,  Matt Dillon; The Corson Building. So many good spots.  I also really enjoy the old staple restaurants that locals know and love: Palace Kitchen, Machiavelli, and half the restaurants in the International District.

The Making of a Sandwich - Bear and Bee

What is your favorite part about living and working in the Northwest?

I moved to Seattle about 13 years ago and am thoroughly enjoying planting my roots here.  I like the direction the city is moving and I see many opportunities in the future.  But the people, the water, the culture, and of course the 9 month anticipation of summer keeps me here.

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8058

Any new dining trend you’re loving right now?  Any you’re so not into?

What I’m really loving right now, is restaurant design.  Although the food and service should be number one, I love walking into a well thought out room such as Westward or The London Plane.  Trend in the industry that I’m not too fond of? Lazy, uncaring service is always old.

Bear and Bee Interior

What are some important lessons you’ve learned about running a small business, and being an entrepreneur?

Being a small business owner has taught me many things and I have come to realize that it’s becoming an eternal classroom that fortunately lets me meet new people and pay the mortgage.

We love the look of The Bear and the Bee…tell us a bit about the thought behind it? 

I’m glad you enjoy the design of the place.  I thought a little wood (maybe a lot), some easy colors, and random art on the walls would sit well with a small open kitchen.  And I wanted to make sure we had a front sitting area up against the large floor to ceiling windows looking out at 2nd Ave.

 Bear and Bee Look

Best sandwich on the menu?

These days I’ve been enjoying The Southpaw. Ham and swiss with some sloppy sweet and sour slaw.  So good.

20141018_ClarkEngagement_8143

Go check out The Bear and The Bee at 2211 2nd Ave between Blanchard and Bell in Seattle, Wa…. You won’t regret it!

All images curtesy of KettleWerks.