The white takeaway coffee cup in my hands radiated more than enough heat to counteract the wind that knifed down Westlake. Every time I lifted it to my lips, the aroma beneath the lid exhorted, “Drink me,” even as that heat screamed, “Burnt tongue.”
I perform a similar ritual every morning, but on this raw day it wasn’t coffee testing my gustatory patience. It was broth. Or bone broth, as devotees who extol this drink’s theoretical health benefits (reduced inflammation, boosted immunity, a healthy gut) usually call it.
Josh Henderson pointedly avoids that term at his saucily named new counter Poulet Galore, which serves rotisserie chicken and “drinking broths” to the South Lake Union lunch crowd. Halved and quartered birds yield stacks of remnant chicken spines, which most chefs refer to as chicken backs. For a chef, all that connective tissue, not to mention the two nuggets of backbone-flanking dark meat known as the oyster, hold exciting possibilities: “It’s all fatty—god, it’s delicious,” says Henderson. “I almost want to start a restaurant based on chicken backs.”
Instead, his staff simmers them with roasted mirepoix to make a meaty broth, served in a to-go cup as if it were your morning Americano. You can add pickled ginger, green onions, or Calabrian chilies to bob around and infuse some kick, but really it needs no garnish—the chicken flavor somehow both clean and endless, a deep amalgam of heat and time seeping cloudy richness from its bones. If Poulet Galore were on my commute, I’d drop $4 here daily.
Which I’m a little embarrassed to admit, because toting around broth in cups is ubertrendy in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Like the paleo movement that twines it, the bone broth craze turns legitimate mindful food choices into an easy target for mockery by slapping a cutesy name on something that’s existed for centuries. The term is also weirdly redundant—like going to a restaurant and ordering a meat steak—since any nonvegetarian broth is inherently made with bones.
The goofy nomenclature might be why Seattle was slow to get on the broth-by-the-cup bandwagon. But now, in addition to Poulet Galore, fast-casual Sweetgrass Food Co. dispenses herbed chicken and vegetarian fennel-miso versions alongside grains-and-greens bowls and juice concoctions. Eve, Fremont’s house of higher-end clean eating, serves appetizer mugs flavored with coconut and turmeric. To the south, Portland-based Broth Bar has opened a second location in Olympia.
After all, there’s no better climate than ours for broth appreciation. The portable version feels like the halfway point between two of our civic staples—coffee and pho. Sure, bone broth is a trend, but furthering a general appreciation for broth’s classically slow-simmered charms yields something timeless—much as hours in a stockpot draws lasting flavor from something otherwise temporal.
Le Gourmand chef Bruce Naftaly built his considerable reputation in this town on flavors coaxed in large part from traditional, labor-intensive stocks. Soon he and his wife, Sara, will open a restaurant called Marmite in Chophouse Row, which will sell those stocks by the pint for home cooks. No surprise, Naftaly’s opinion of bone broth falls somewhere between a chuckle and a snort: “It’s an insane term that’s meaningless.” But even the skeptics know, a good broth packs intangibly therapeutic powers: Marmite’s takeaway window will always have a cup of something “in the restorative consomme department,” says Naftaly, referring to broth’s clarified French cousin. “Growing up, if we were sick, that’s what we got.”