We all love Village Books – I know I can browse those aisles for hours. Now there’s a new reason to visit this fabulous locale in Fairhaven district of Bellingham: its new, upstairs eatery, Evolve Chocolate & Café.
Don’t get sidetracked by the chocolate. That’s just a teensy part of Christie and Shannon Fox’s culinary portfolio. At Evolve the talented pair is menuing tasty, innovative daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as $30 three-course meals Thursday through Sunday nights. Come for dishes like Moroccan lamb pita ($11), curried lentil or vegetable rice bowls, ($10-$11) and a surprise daily bento box that changes to reflect that day’s food inspirations. There are breakfast pastries and sandwiches, and house-made desserts including a guava rose roulade ($7), a triple chocolate cake, a sundae and a malted coffee affogato.
Christie has opened nine restaurants as a chef, including in Sun Valley (Idaho), Colorado and Bellingham, where she was at the helm of Northwater’s kitchen before chasing her dream. She and Shannon had long aspired to open their own eatery and when Village Books called in February, they were quick on the uptake.
“We were always looking for that perfect spot for our restaurant and when we saw the upstairs area at Village Books it was love at first sight,” Shannon confided.
At the time, the space needed a bit of work.
“It was like looking at a dirty dish,” she said. “The room wasn’t warm and inviting and there was no opportunity to see the view.”
The two spent months transforming the previous BookFare restaurant into a space that reflected their personal concept of a great restaurant. A friend made wood baseboards to match the bamboo flooring, while ReStore upcycled wood tables, some consisting of Douglas fir dating back to the 1890s. The walls were painted, warm brown drapes were hung and the work of a local artist hangs on the wall. Tables are positioned so diners can stare dreamily at the view of Bellingham Bay and downtown Fairhaven, and two green walls, filled with a selection of fresh herbs, add fresh greenery to the light-filled space (and deliver ready-to-go herbs for the kitchen!). Many dishes and drinks are served in beautiful plates, cups and bowls handmade for the restaurant by Blue Water Pottery in Bellingham.
“Being in the book store is like being in a womb – the smell, the feel, the energy. Our compatibility is great,” says Shannon. She, Christie and their effervescent server Mason pretty much run the place and chances are you’ll bump into at least one of them during your meal. I came twice – once for the three-course dinner and once for lunch. Both times I left deeply impressed by Chef Christie’s knack for delicious pairings.
The dinners change weekly as they’re driven by Christie’s culinary muse. The week I dined we received a fabulous appetizer of curried lentil planks, consisting of baked red lentils served in a harissa coconut yogurt sauce with avocado crema.
This was followed by blueberry cured wild salmon served with burrata cheese and chocolate chili vinegar, and a tofu cashew korma of vegetables in coconut curry, served with garlic flatbread straight out of the oven.
The grand finale was grand indeed: a saffron lemon cheesecake with a to-die-for almond ginger crust, and a heavenly rich, buttery Street Chai tea inspired by Shannon’s visit to India a few years earlier.
My lunch meal was quicker and simpler but no less delicious: a side of quinoa tabbouleh salad ($4) and a chopped green salad with Salish Sea albacore tuna and Whatcom blue cheese ($15). It’s hard to make a really good salad but this was one for the books, with its salt-cured egg, carrot ginger dressing and cacao nibs.
The restaurant opened in late September and by its grand opening October 11 it had already become a popular spot. Meanwhile, Shannon and Christie, a couple united in marriage as well as business, are hard at work planning their growth. Next summer their 36-seat patio will open downstairs, with a smoker, a barbeque, quick food-to-go, cocktails, beer and wine. Shannon is also planning on starting a monthly book club, Life Between the Pages, with a prix fixe dinner of $50 starting January 24. Participants will make reservations, receive information about the book ahead of time (available at 15% discount from Village Books) and enjoy a five-course meal with cocktail pairing. (For information email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Come for date night, a satisfying supper or a quick meal on-the-go. Whichever meal you choose, you’ll leave feeling deeply impressed, as I did.