Side Dish

When I was a lad, Northwesterners didn't eat mussels: We used them for bait. Even after they started turning up on menus, I never much cottoned to them. Where clams and oysters each offered their particular pungent aromas of the sea, mussels just seemed to sit there, soaking up their sauce. Well, live and learn. Having been privileged to eat my way right through the special all-mussel menu currently on offer at the locations of the Mitchelli family restaurant empire, I now know that soak up the sauce is what mussels are supposed to do: Soak it up and make it even more so. None of the baker's dozen of dishes on the menu costs more than $12.95, encouraging diners to mix, match, and discover the remarkable range of flavors mussels put their special spin on. There are mussels pristine in a fragrant saffron broth ($4.95); pan-smoked in the shell ($7.50); chilled and strewn with onion and sweet and hot peppers ($7.75); sizzling under chopped onion, bacon, and bread crumbs ($7.25). There are mussels with fennel, in risotto, in coconut milk; there's even (though only at the family's flagship, Trattoria Mitchelli) mussels on pizza ($9.25), bedded down on caramelized onions, chilis, and basil on a wafer-thin crust. The Mitchells plan to go through three tons of mussels before the festival's over, all the dainty summer-maturing Mediterranean variety farmed by Taylor Shellfish of Shelton. Should you need any inducement to help them meet their goal, a portion of the proceeds goes to support Puget Soundkeeper Alliance in its ongoing battle to make the Sound safe for all bivalves and people who love to eat them. Mussel Mania, through August at Angelina's (932-7311), Stella's (633-1100), and Trattoria Mitchelli (623-3883). THIS AND THAT Bad news for Ravenna: Santa Fe Caf鼯B> is closing its N.E. 65th Street location at the end of August (the Phinney Ridge edition remains). . . . Good news for Queen Anne: A new Macrina Bakery opens soon in the old McGraw Street Bakery space, offering the same bakery, coffee, and to-go meal line as the Belltown mother ship. . . . After nearly 10 years in business, Carlos Kainz and wife Julie Ann Guerrero of Dulce's Latin Bistro are celebrating making 2001 Wine Spectator's list of "the best restaurants in the world for wine lovers" in recognition of their moderately priced 850-item wine list. Other Seattle newcomers on Wine Spectator's list: Fleming's, Morton's, Waterfront, Daniel's Broiler, and Monsoon. Dish us up some at

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