Saturday, January 6, 2007

We ate our table scraps

Tonight we finally made it over to Sitka and Spruce. It's a little difficult for me to begin on this one, especially without flailing into a lot of gutteral noises and pantomimes that don't translate well into blogging. For starters, I can say that without a doubt this is my favorite restaurant in Seattle. I've been reading a lot about this place over the past six months or so. I'm not sure if it's intentional, but I have a bad habit of laxidasically avoiding new, highly-regarded things of all kinds. It could be a remenant of NYC life, where popular almost always means some version of hell to me. But I digress. Sitka and Spruce is all about dishes of necessity. Every creation is literally catered according to the locally grown, often organic, ingredients that are available that day. I've heard that they have yet to reproduce a single dish. I'm not sure I believe it, but I wouldn't be too surprised considering the bountiful, obviously well-used shelf of cookbooks visible in the spacious kitchen.

I should preface this entry with two things: one is that I am an enormous fan of food that is as complex as it is refined. I love it when a single dish, often of limited ingredients, dances several sensations across the palate. I enjoy nothing more than discovering different details with every bite. Secondly, eating these kinds of meals makes me realize how limited my vocabulary is when I attempt to impart my experience to others, so please just use your imagination as much as possible, I may be just a little out of my league here as far as words go.

We started off standing at the bar with a couple glasses of red and a plate of braised black kale. Kale is one of those things that I love to eat in a restaurant, but just can't get the hang of at home, so I'm easily impressed by it as a general rule. This kale, however, was like none I've ever had; it was springy and crunchy, full of buttery, garlicy flavor but without a touch of the bitterness I normally associate with it. It was served with 6 plump, fresh green olives that tasted like salty hearts of artichokes. I traded my last olive for M's last forkful of kale, it was just that amazing. We followed this with a small plate of tuna carpaccio with satsumas, sorrel and celery. Normally I'm the big raw fish fan, but I practically had to fight M for the last morsels of this delicate mixture. The tuna was excellent, high quality and just the right temperature (very important to the asethetics of eating raw seafood in my opinion). The olive oil gave it a generally smooth sensation, and the combination of the grassy sorrel and salty capers made for a delightful mouthful. I easily could have eaten a bowl full of each appetizer, but there was so much to come...

The menu of a dozen or so delectable sounding items was a bit daunting, so we delved right into two heady dishes: breast of guinea fowl with acomo pepe confit and a blood orange vinagrette, and organic tri-tips with yellowfoot shanterelles. The guinea fowl was succulent, charred just slightly on the outside with indescribably moist and tender meat within. The confit was reminiscent of the perfect thanksgiving bite - savory with a hint of citrus-berry flavor. The meat quite literally fell off the bone, I don't know how the hell they cooked it so perfectly without doing it to order. The tri-tips were M's favorite, and also a little mind-shattering. The meat had a rich, buttery flavor that complemented the shantarelles nicely though I thought the mushrooms' flavor could have come through a little more strongly. The shining star of this dish was a bittersweet parmesean whose name I cannot remember. There were small shavings of the stuff scattered over the teeny filets, and a bite of steak with one of those babies made my toes and fingers curl silmultaneously.

We both have a tendency to get a little physical when we eat amazing food, in the sense that we appreciate each bite with our entire bodies. I alternated between stretching back in ecstasy and then hunkering quietly over my dish the way I've seen my mother in law do when she's got a plate of something incredible. We probably looked like we were graduating from a novice mime course, but I don't care, and I cannot for the life of me understand how so many other people can sit down to a meal such as ours and not physically express the joy of eating wonderful food in this way. Anyway, I don't use the term loosely, but dinner at S&S was transcendant. While we refrained from licking our plates, we both surreptitiously pinched the abandoned morsels off the table once they were cleared. To boot, our waiter was jovial and informed without being annoying, and he gave us tastes of every wine we wanted to try before we committed to a whole glassful. Now how cool is that? We are seriously considering spending our impending 10 year anniversary at Sitka and Spruce, where we will order one of everything on the menu, and tell them to bring it all out as they would have it.

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