Chef in the Garden Wrap up: Elements of a Great Meal

Upon leaving the Chef in the Garden fundraiser (I talk about it here) I remembered one of the first things you learn when reviewing restaurants: just how many elements it takes to add up to a great meal. It was, I will tell you right here, a great meal. It helped that it was a grand early summer night, with the Interbay P-patch in full bloom and beauty as the day’s heat wore off and only the bight light of the sun still shone.

It was by no means a perfect meal–in fact f I were grumpy and picky, I would let you know about the one appetizer that was less than stellar or maybe the one that was on the menu that we never even saw. If I were unhappy at the end of the day, I might have spent this review talking about how they ran out of one of the three wine choices before we even sat.

But those were not the pieces that stuck with me. I had to rack my brain to remember the things that went wrong at this dinner (except the bad appetizer, that stuck in my head: “Did yours taste like grass?” B asked me). Meanwhile all this build up has been for me to tell you just how good it was.

Salmon Salad Nicoise

Photo by Ron Williams

It was this good. It was lavender petals on a soft cooked egg good. It was steamed new potatoes good. It was fresh haricot vert good. And it was that huge chunk of salmon, perfectly dressed with tarragon vinaigrette good. I barely made it to eating this fabulous dish, though, because of the wonderful people I was sitting with. You can find out a lot about a restaurant or in this case, an organization, by the people you meet, and holy hell, if I am doing that, sign me up. Ron, one of our tablemates is a photographer. He has kindly donated his photos to this blog. He also gave me a ton of insight from his experience working with the Ballard Food Bank about food donations and the possibilities there. Another tablemate has me convinced I should spend my Tuesdays helping garden for the P-Patch. But more than what I learned about opportunities and activities, I learned about the enthusiasm of the people there.

Photo by Ron Williams

Photo by Ron Williams

As the second course came out, we learned that nobody had more enthusiasm than Tom Douglas, who was the chef that night. He was behind the shed, grilling these delicious duck breasts for us, served with cherries from his own farm, alongside the Gnocchi and grilled zucchini. Before this came out, though, he popped out to the front to say a few words. The audience laughed at his many jokes, he nearly brought his own wife to tears, describing their personal involvement in the garden–his mother in law has a bench dedicated to her right there–and he appropriately credited and introduced his staff. It was about as impressive a schpiel I’ve ever seen by a chef, and friends, this ain’t my first rodeo.

Photo by Ron Williams

Photo by Ron Williams

By the time my rose geranium and strawberry ice cream floated by, I already had my checkbook out to donate to the cause (plus a little extra, because I may have broken a wine glass), but it also inspired me, the whole evening, to think about ways I could be involved with this fabulous organization.

And I already know the first one: Where was all this publicity? For one of the best events I had been to in ages, there was not a whole lot of coverage, either before to sell the event or after. I only hope I can help them to make these events pop next time, for bigger bashes and more guests, since I dare not harbor the thought that it could be better!

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