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Mediterranean mystery at Seattle's Golden Beetle

Visiting Seattle for the 2013 International Food Blogger's Conference was a wall-to-wall food fest for the lucky 320 writers who attended. On Saturday evening we were all treated to a mystery dinner hosted by UrbanSpoon Seattle, who sent us out across the city in small groups to sample the creations of some of Seattle's best chefs at intimate tasting parties around city.

As part of the fun, the only clue to our destinations was a general location hint, and mine was the historical Ballard neighbourhood. When our group of eight bloggers arrived along with our Urbanspoon host, we discovered that our mystery restaurant was to be the acclaimed Golden Beetle, famous for unique Mediterranean flavours from James Beard-award winning chef Maria Hines (who I later discovered has also competed against Morimoto on Iron Chef).

The menu of the Golden Beetle focuses around the flavours and spices of Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt paired with organic, seasonal produce sourced from local farmers and foragers. The Golden Beetle is also known as the third restaurant in the entire US to receive the acclaimed Oregon Tilth organic certification.

I was very intrigued by our tasting menu (pictures of which were difficult to catch in the low light), as this is a cuisine I don't know as much about. We started with a platter of house-made flat breads with Baba Ganoush, Muhammara with walnut and pomegranate molasses and an English Pea Hummus. Lots of garlic was upfront and centre in the Baba Ganoush and I loved it, being pro-garlic-in-almost-everything.

The Golden Beetle also prides themselves on creating unique signature seasonal cocktails to pair with their menu, using house-made bitters, tinctures, sodas, garnishes and infusions. For our dinner, the bartender created two special cocktails - The Bloggers Dilemma and The Turkish Curveball. I went for the Dilemma, a tastebud-awakening combination of Cachaça, Campari, grapefruit juice, honey and juniper tincture, which hit the spot after what had already been a long day of food-related education (and consumption).


We sampled a variety of tasting portions of the menu throughout the evening. The Kibbeh Bulgar-Lamb Meatball with Green Harissa was a new flavour combination to me, aggressively salted both inside and on top (a little too much for our group), but filled with bright flavours and colours.


The highlight of the evening was the simple and unassuming-looking Chickpea & Lemon Stew with walnuts and pita croutons, served over a yogurt base. It was lip-smackingly good, with a delicate Meyer lemon broth that I could have chugged straight from the pot. It was a big hit all the way down our table of bloggers.

Our meal ended with a dessert duo of rich Chocolate Torte with fresh plum coulis and mini Baklava with cinnamon Chantilly cream and rosewater - a nice finish to an evening of diverse tastes.

The unique decor and relaxed ambiance of the Golden Beetle is also a big part of its charm. The restaurant is filled with beautiful glass mosaic lanterns and the kitchen has an incredible wood-fired oven completely tiled in stunning colours by a local artist to represent the flow of the seasons.

I enjoyed the opportunity to discover some previously unexplored flavours of the Mediterranean through the Golden Beetle's tasting menu and want to send out a thank you to the gracious staff and bartenders who made us food bloggers so welcome. Another big thank you to UrbanSpoon Seattle, and our host Melissa.

Creating an intimate dining experience for a conference of 320 people, all in one evening, is a massive undertaking and it was a big success as far as I'm concerned. I'm hoping we have the chance to do it again at next year's conference, I loved reading the updates from other bloggers all over the city eating amazing food from stellar chefs.

To learn more about the Golden Beetle and Chef Maria Hines, click here or follow @MariaHines on Twitter.

To check out more bites of what the Urbanspoon Mystery Dinner was all about, click this hashtag: #spoondinner to read blogger's twitter updates and blog posts, or follow this link to view the pictures from restaurants all over Seattle.


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