Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Seattle sojourn, part 1

Does everything feel better today or am I just imagining it? I brought home a glow from a recent overnight trip to Seattle where the oysters at left were joyfully consumed, then today's inauguration has seemingly illuminated the world. I'll leave everyone with their own reflections on today's incredible events in the District, but shed a little light on Seattle, because for one night out, we had an incredible time with two fabulous meals. Part one today, part two tomorrow.

Living in Portland, Seattle has always been the perfect one or two night escape. Far enough way to not be too accessible, but close enough that with an approximately 3 hour drive you're there and kicking it in one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Now I'm a huge fan of my hometown, but with the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and the Olympic Mountains just across the water, and especially on two sparklingly clear days like we miraculously had, this is really an incredible setting. For me it's a classic "LOVE to visit, wouldn't want to live there" kind of places. To kick off our visit, w had made reservations at the Alexis Hotel as we wanted to bring our young lad Chopper along with us and they are very dog friendly. They even brought a dog bed, a dog dish, and treats to the room. Chops was living large. If it wasn't for his inconvenient lack of opposable thumbs and a certain inability to speak, I'm sure he would have been giving room service a workout when w and I were out to dinner and he was in the room alone (yeah, he's also the perfectly behaved dog, too)! Everyone at the Alexis was incredibly friendly, helpful, and seemed intent on defining the word "hospitality". Great place in a superb location.
So after settling in and putzing around the neighborhood, we headed out to dinner at Crow (with a stop for a cocktail at Palace Kitchen where I had their addictive deep fried olives and a perfect sidecar), where I had eaten once before a few years ago and have continued to read superlative reviews of since. Down on Lower Queen Anne, Crow is set in a large open space that still retains a lot of warmth, with a bar on the right when you walk in, tables scattered around the middle, and toward the back an open kitchen with seats along a counter, which is of course the choice spot for a little smack talking with the cooks. To get in the right frame of mind i ordered a half-dozen oysters. I can't remember exactly what kinf they were, but they were maybe the best I've ever had. Kumamoto-sized, with a meaty texture, these definitely set the right tone! Then we hit the apps menu with a pomegranate and date salad, grilled manchego cheese (left), and potted pork rillette (pic above this paragraph). All three were delicious. The salad was lightly dressed bibb lettuce with candied walnuts to go with the pomegranate seeds and dates. The manchego was wrapped in grape leaves, drizzled with a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and grilled to a slightly softened texture, then served on top on ratatouille. Awesome! Can you say "steal that idea" for my next dinner party? And of course the pork rillette was rich, savory shredded shoulder, ready to be spread on crostini, with a frisée salad alongside. All three were generously portioned, and went all too well with a crisp bottle of Vermentino from Italy.

For our entrées all w had to hear was "scallops" as the fish of the day and she was in. The reason I love sitting at open kitchen counters: I was wavering between their braised beef short ribs and the duck and pork cassoulet. I could see several plates of both going out, and they both looked awesome. So I consulted a conveniently located, meaning three feet in front of me, line cook and got his opinion. A slight hesitation, then he said what I was hoping he would..."cassoulet"...one of my top three favorite foods in the world. While we were eagerly waiting the arrival of those two, we had our waiter pop the cork on a bottle of 2001 Thomas Pinot Noir "Dundee Hills" I'd brought along. Have you heard the term "sublime pleasure" before? This was that. I'll expound more on a later post, but suffice to say this was incredible. So how were the two mains? Um, stellar? How about fabulous? How about I wish I was still sitting there eating? w's scallops were absolutely spot on, crisply seared, surrounding a pile of roasted brussel sprout hash that was remarkably similar to this one, and was a just right counterpoint to the scallop. My cassoulet, you ask? Well, just let me say that it was everything I could have asked for. Rich, steaming hot, the pork and duck juicy, the beans just tender enough, topped with a crust of broiled bread crumbs, and so satisfying on cold winter evening. It's a classic for a reason, ya know?

w was ready to give up at this point, but if everything else was this good up this point, how could you possible NOT have a dessert? Or two? She's heard all of my rationalizations before, and kindly indulges my overindulgences, so we finished with a pistachio cream napoleon and a bowl of cubed ginger cake topped with whipped cream. All I can say is they did not disappoint! Just like the whole Crow experience! A little drunk, full, and happy, we stumbled merrily back to the Alexis and Chopper's resentful glare!
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one year ago yesterday @ E.D.T.: you must try The Perfect Hendrick's Gimlet!

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