How do you get all this free stuff? I’m always asked, and for once I had an answer that didn’t exclude the general public. I answered a Twitter Tweet. Yup, a tweet out in the public domain, nothing having anything to do with me being a blogger. Simply it had to do with me being the first one to call in and say “hey, I’d love the free dinner that you just offered on Twitter!” You might say it would be hard to consider a free dinner in a review, but since my only dinner at another restaurant of this caliber in Seattle (Rovers) was also free, I feel prepared to make the comparison. And this? It blew Rover’s right outta the ever-lovin’ lake water that separates the two!
And so on a beautiful Friday afternoon, we slogged through traffic to get to the other side of that water, then up to Woodinville for our dinner. I actually thought the kitchen garden tour was one of my favorite parts, sampling various edible herbs straight from the plant, learning how to eat tulips and basking in the sun. Did I mention it was like 70 degrees and sunny? Perfect.
After a glass of punch and a wander through the wine cellar we were sat in the rather cluttered dining room, the table packed with various shapes and sizes of wine glasses.
We start with the scallop tartare in the lower left hand corner, topped with caviar and carrot-lovage foam (they called it a sauce. I appreciated the attempt to be less pretentious). It was good, it introduced me to new flavors, which I like and always makes me think more highly of a place. The second part of this array of apps was the spot prawn chawan mushi. I adore chawan mushi, and this was a good version of it, but my favorite part of it was the garnish on top, the sake cured salmon roe. The least good part of the appetizer tray (but by no means a bad bite) was the dungeness crab and mangalitsa pig sausage spring roll. It just muddled the flavors a little too much. With this we were served champagne cocktails–our choice of tamarack or spruce. Following the first course, the chef and sommelier said their pieces, describing the various food and wine we’d be eating in our “Spring Forager’s Dinner.” This might have been my favorite part, as it was like live action food porn hearing the descriptions. I was especially impressed with the sommelier’s enthusiasm about each wine–it helped that she chose some of my favorite kinds though.
A little close up of the sake cured salmon roe, for all of you food porn voyeurs out there. I don’t normally take pictures at restaurants, but with the loads of light in the room and the beautiful food, I knew I could do it unobtrusively and have them turn out beautifully. Besides, I was way classier than the group taking flash photos of themselves or the man sticking his giant SLR in everyone’s faces and meals.
Next up was a pizzeta, topped with two different preparations of tuna with caviar. This was very tasty, though B’s was slightly less well executed than mine. The soft boiled egg in the center and the wasabi sauce underneath did serve to remind us of the little touches that a fancy dinner like this employs to make things special, but over all, we still felt a little like we were eating pizza. Pretty pizza, but still pizza. I normally love albarinos, which was the white wine we were served with this, but I had to admit it was not my favorite.
This was a rabbit pave with rabbit saddle on top and a potato smear thing and some kind of sauce? Sorry, I’m trying to do this by memory because I stupidly cleaned over the weekend, by which I mean stacked all the loose pieces of papers flying around my room, assorted menus included and haven’t dug through them yet, because that would make it no longer clean. This was B’s favorite dish, I believe, and it was good. The texture of the pave was fabulous and the hint of sweetness to the sauce went well with the slight gaminess of the rabbit. I was dismayed to find some bone pieces in my pave, which was otherwise a smooth paste texture, but upon notifying the sommelier (who was serving us) things were handled with the utmost professionalism. Really, lets be honest, everyone makes execution errors, but when things are dealt with so well, it’s hard to hold it against them especially when they apologize with a tasting of muscats (the three muscat tiers, har har har) at your cheese course and by saying “this is because of the bunny bones”. Those little bits of slight lightheartedness was what kept the ambiance from being stuffy with formality (a problem, I felt, at Rover’s).
That squab, right there in the middle? Easily my favorite bite of the night. So rare, so savory, perfect texture, amazing flavor. Going clockwise, you get to the ‘faux gras’ which was basically a squab liver mousse. I loved it. I might have loved it more if it hadn’t been called something so close to foie gras. Then I wanted foie gras (but Gastrognome, you say, you always want foie gras! And you are right). At the top are that amazing spring combo of morel mushrooms and asparagus (tips only, ooh lala!), though I didn’t think the honey smear added much.
Um, lamb detritus? Yeah, forgot to take the picture before I started eating this one. In the bowl was a lamb and mushroom gratin, which, while quite delicious seemed a little out of season for the day. That said, had this been one of the much rainier days this week, I think it would have been perfect. As was the fabulous lamb in the front, with the herb pesto on it.
While the squab may have been my favorite bite of the meal, I believe this was my favorite course. The simplicity of it, combined with the matching of the flavors meant that it was more than just the sum of its parts. The River’s Edge Full Moon goat cheese there may well also be my new favorite cheese, stinky and rich, soft but with just enough structure. The ‘samosa’ on the other side was nice, lightly spice and full of potatos and vegetables. This was followed by a buttermilk panna cotta that was a tasty little intermezzo, then we moved on to dessert.
The thing on the right was a hazelnut and chocolate thing that, as I recall, was described as being like a kit kat bar.Next to it was this lovely little cake that just melted in your mouth. It was unbelievably good, not too sweet, perfectly soft, almost a custard, but with enough bite to slice. It went amazingly with the crunch of the apples underneath. Then there was another dessert plate of little bites. They also handed us chocolate as we walked out the door. I was overloaded. But while I was full, I wasn’t so full that I was in pain, as I sometimes am after a dinner this long, which was nice. The dinner had been well portioned and well paced, so I felt good.
In the end, I felt like not only would I return on my own volition, paying with my own dollars, that I would want to look for an occasion to do so, which is saying a lot, when you’re looking at spending $220/person to do so.