Ten Questions for Anthony Campbell of Redwing Café in Rainier Beach, Seattle

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Redwing Café

When my chosen family in Seattle moved to the Rainier Beach, Seattle, neighborhood a year and a half ago, one of the first restaurants to which they introduced me was Redwing Café. I was immediately smitten with the entire restaurant, from the healthy menu selections to the warm and friendly atmosphere, to the art adorning the walls. Since my first visit, I have returned to Redwing Café every trip to Seattle. During one of my visits last year, we bought some of Redwing Café’s vegan biscuits for a sparkling wine brunch my family and I hosted. Needless to say, I was thrilled to finally meet and interview co-owner Anthony Campbell and share Redwing Café’s story.

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One of Redwing Café amazing dishes

I heard that your entry into cooking and the food industry was baking. Please share your story. 
I was a contractor for many years but was ready for a change. I always cooked at home but decided to teach myself to bake and it worked.

What inspired you to get into the restaurant business?
There were no restaurants near our home in Rainier Beach. I had worked in a vegetarian restaurant in the past and my wife and I decided to just go for it.

Is Redwing Café your first restaurant? How did you choose the name? How long have you been business? 
Yes, this is my first and only restaurant. My wife, Su Harambe, and I opened it four and a half years ago. I chose the name because my grandparents lived in Red Wing, Minnesota. When I was a kid we would visit often. It was a place I loved that felt very homey, someone was always glad to see you when you arrived.  I wanted the café to have that kind of a feeling. Like coming to our home for breakfast or lunch or just to hang out with coffee and a pastry. And, I think we achieved that.

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A brunch sandwich at Redwing Café

Why did you select your location in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle?
We have lived in Rainier Beach for the last 15 years and loved the neighborhood. We were missing a café, and we wanted one that embraced the entire community. I wanted to offer healthy food in a beautiful atmosphere. It is important to me that everyone feels welcomed by me and my friendly staff.

Will you share with us details about your restaurant’s concept and décor, especially the art element?
We worked with what we had, so a lot of things in the café were re-purposed. The beautiful wood walls just appeared when I removed the drywall. The exposed framing is for 2x4s nailed directly to each other. We cleaned up the wood and finished it with linseed oil. We like color and art and wanted to have all of these elements as part of Redwing. The art shows change every two months and we try to show mostly local art. All proceeds of art sales go to the artists. Art is a very important part of the experience here and my wife works hard to find lots of beautiful art to hang.

Is Redwing Café vegetarian? What is your style of cooking and baking?
Yes, Redwing Café is all vegetarian. We offer many vegan options as well as plenty of gluten free items. My wife and I have been vegetarians for most of our adult lives, so that was natural for us. The style of cooking and baking is pretty simple. We like the pastries to never been overly sweet. You should enjoy the flavors rather than being shocked by sweetness. The menu items are healthy and meat free, but we hope they are also appealing to people who are not vegetarian.

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My brunch with the indescribably delicious vegan biscuit

I am a huge fan of your vegan biscuits, thanks to my dairy-free friend, Gary, and I am a Southern girl that demands a lot from her biscuits. Will you share with us why and how you came up with the idea and recipe? What are some of the other customer and staff menu favorites? 
It was just a matter of trial and error until the perfect biscuit emerged. The Harambe salad is quite popular and it uses the lemon tahini dressing from an old Seattle favorite, Gravity Bar. My wife and I both worked there and since it no longer exists the owner gave us the go ahead to put it on our menu. Our almond croissants are quite popular. And of course, the vegan biscuits and gravy are a hit. For many of the vegan pastries, we use Earth Balance (vegan buttery sticks) in place of butter. The secret to the vegan biscuit is olive oil. The gravy contains hemp milk, cashews, almonds, and rice flour, among other things, all blended to a creamy consistency.

Do you have a philosophy as it relates to food, beverage, and hospitality?
We want things to be tasty, healthy and beautiful. We like everyone to feel like we are welcoming them into our home, our family and our community. Because of that feeling people seem to come in and join into that community and make new friends here. Kids seem to feel really comfortable at Redwing as well.

Do you have plans to open additional locations or restaurants? Why or why not?
No more. This is plenty of work and this was as much about Rainier Beach as it was about me owning a restaurant. It would be hard to duplicate in a neighborhood in which we weren’t so involved.

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A glimpse inside of Redwing Café

Do you have any additional information you would like to share with the readers, such as forthcoming menu items, events, etc.?
Yes, an event! May 10th from 6pm to 9pm we are hosting a fundraiser and art opening to benefit the Twilson Mack short film production, 703 – short, gay, and delicious. Featuring live music from Moon Dial, the evening will also be the official opening of writer/director Tom McIntire’s show of paintings of 703’s short, gay, and/or delicious cast members.

Redwing Café
9272 57th Ave S
Seattle WA 98118
Phone: (206) 420-1706
Email: redwingcafeseattle@gmail.com
Hours:
Tues – Fri 7am – 4pm
Sat & Sun 8am – 4pm
Closed Mondays

Ten Questions for Sam Etheridge of Ambrozia Bar & Bistro in Asheville, North Carolina

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Ambrozia’s signature deviled eggs paired with NV Gruet Winery Blanc de Noir, New Mexico

Another restaurant stop on my recent visit to my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, was Ambrozia Bar & Bistro in North Asheville, in the neighborhood where my mother grew up and where my uncle, aunt and cousins lived. I had not been to this part of the city in a long time, so imagine how delighted I was to learn of Ambrozia, tucked away in an unassuming shopping center. While interviewing owner and chef Sam Etheridge, I discovered someone that truly inspires me, a person who is committed to family and life-work balance, both of which are difficult to achieve being in the restaurant business. Below is the fantastic story of Ambrozia in Sam’s own words.

What inspired you to get into the restaurant business?
I have always been in the restaurant business. I began as a busboy as a teenager and worked at various restaurants throughout high school and college. After college, I attended culinary school in South Florida and the rest is history.

Why did you select your location?
We decided to move to Asheville from New Mexico in order to be closer to family. I grew up in Tennessee and my wife in Florida. We loved the food scene and lifestyle here and the city itself as a place to raise kids.

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Smoked salmon platter paired with 2017 Garzón Albariño, Uco Valley, Mendoza

How did you choose the name of your restaurant?
This is the second restaurant I have had named Ambrozia. The first was in New Mexico. I chose the name because it means “food of the gods” and had a Southern tie-in with the sweet salad you see at church picnics. After moving to Asheville and deciding to open a restaurant here, I kept the name because I just identified with it and loved the name.

Will you share with us details about your restaurant’s design and décor and how the theme complements your menu?
I had a friend of mine come in who is a contractor and help with design and décor. Being in a strip mall, our idea was to make you forget that you were in a strip mall once inside. We wanted an understated wine theme that was upscale and modern, but also comfortable enough to be an everyday hangout.

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Bison Reuben paired with 2015 Tacho Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza

What is your restaurant’s style of cooking?
We are modern Southern cuisine with a twist and a focus on farm-fresh, local ingredients.

What are your and/or your staff’s favorite dishes?
Our deviled eggs and fried chicken have long been our signature dishes. We change the menu constantly, so we have lots of favorites seasonally like tomato pie or chile relleno.

How does your restaurant’s beverage program enhance the cuisine?
We are very focused on wine that enhances the food. We don’t want anything too overpowering. We like high acid and well-balanced fruit. We also create seasonal cocktails that are focused on culinary ingredients and seasonality and local beers, for which Asheville is very well known.

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Bourbon butterscotch pudding paired with Notorious Coffee, Marshall, North Carolina

Do you have a philosophy as it relates to food, beverage, and hospitality?
My philosophy is to have fun, whether it be me, the staff, customers, everyone. It’s not always an easy thing in the high-stress business, but I think everyone is better off if they are enjoying themselves and it shows.

Do you have plans to open additional locations or restaurants? Why or why not?
No, I do not have plans. I have kids and a family, so that is my focus. I had tried to have multiple restaurants before, and it was not good for my family life.

Do you have any additional information you would like to share with the readers, such as forthcoming menu items, events, etc.?
We feel like we are a hidden gem in Asheville. Everyone is so focused on downtown, and it is great, but Asheville offers great restaurants all around the city and everyone should get out and explore the neighborhoods as well.

Editor’s Note: I recommend Ambrozia and its prix fixe menu during 2019 Asheville Restaurant Week January 21-27, 2019.

Food and Wine in the Big Easy

Prix Fixe Menu at August
Prix Fixe Menu at August

I just returned from a wonderful, but very short trip to New Orleans. When I think of New Orleans, I don’t think of wine, I think of cocktails. I also have to admit I didn’t realize that New Orleans was such a foodie destination. Shame on me. Below are my reviews of some must-eat, must-drink food and wine destinations (some content originally posted on Yelp).

 Yam and ricotta cavatelli with Brussels sprouts, duck confit, and black trumpet mushrooms
Yam and ricotta cavatelli with Brussels sprouts, duck confit, and black trumpet mushrooms

Chef John Besh’s Restaurant August
Contemporary French made with local ingredients
Neighborhood: Central Business District
My meal began with an amuse-bouche from the chef, an eggshell filled with a crème filling that was very good. I had the three-course Prix Fixe lunch as follows: pâté of local pork with house made pickles, marmalades, and toasted brioche; yam and ricotta cavatelli with Brussels sprouts, duck confit, and black trumpet mushrooms; and dark chocolate hazelnut tart with almond and satsuma ice cream. The sommelier recommended a glass of Côtes du Rhône with my meal, which was a perfect choice. Another good choice would have been an earthy Pinot Noir. The check was accompanied by a truffle and pecan praline. The meal was outstanding, especially for the price of $20.13 + tax and tip. My favorite course was the yam and ricotta cavatelli. The duck confit was similar to pulled pork in texture, but decadently rich. Each course was colorful and full of different flavors and textures. I would definitely return here for lunch.

Grilled mahi and Pinot Grigio at NOLA
Grilled mahi and Pinot Grigio at NOLA

Emeril’s NOLA Restaurant
American, Cajun/Creole
Neighborhood: French Quarter
At NOLA the atmosphere is lively, the food and service are good, and the dress is casual. I had the gumbo of the day, seafood gumbo ($10), and the grilled catch of the day, mahi ($30) with fingerling potatoes, sweet corn, grape tomatoes, fennel-arugula salad, and black truffle butter sauce. Both were delicious. I also had a glass of Pinot Grigio, another great pairing suggestion, which pushed the meal price into the $50-range plus tax and tip. In retrospect, I wish I had tried the entrée of the day, the wild boar chop, as it looked amazing.

The best Bloody Mary ever at Dress It
The best Bloody Mary ever at Dress It

Dress It
Gourmet Burgers
Neighborhood: Central Business District
OK, this isn’t really a wine destination. However, it was a nice place to relax at my hotel. This small restaurant is part of the Omni Royal Crescent Hotel. It’s called Dress It because the primary food is hamburgers and you can “dress” your burger to order. I had just gotten off an airplane and didn’t feel like venturing out, so I stopped in. The restaurant itself wasn’t busy for dinner (breakfast and lunch are more popular), but the small bar was crowded and everyone seemed to be having fun. Instead of ordering a burger, I opted for a daily special: side salad and seafood gumbo and rice for only $10, made especially for me by Walter. It was a great meal for $10. After dinner I ventured over to the bar where all of the fun was and ended up having the BEST Bloody Mary of my life made by Ren, who serves as bartender/server/room service when on duty. I will be back to Dress It, if only for more outstanding Bloody Marys.