The other day, as I sat in Staple and Fancy Mercantile and tried to pin point exactly what was so pleasant about where I was, it suddenly hit me: Like Locanda Verde in Manhattan, it seemed to be perfectly designed as a restaurant. Staple and Fancy is the latest addition to Ethan Stowell’s restaurant empire in Seattle, while Locanda Verde is my favorite stop from an epic eating adventure I recently had in New York
From the moment I stepped into Locanda Verde, I felt like it was the best designed restaurant into which I had ever stepped. Each design element (like, say, the random silver champagne bucket in the picture above) seemed to be so beautiful in its own right, yet so purposeful. B thought there was too much stuff on the walls, but to me, keeping the wine bottles, cookbooks, glasses and spices displayed showed off what they have to offer while impressing with the perfection and organization. Then there was the perfect lighting. Bright, as it was day, yet warm and soft, giving an intimate feel. The division of the large room into various sections by way of tall leather seating helped that feeling. Yet the smooth floor and open kitchen indicated the casual feel expected from diners.
At Locanda Verde we enjoyed their signature dish, the ricotta shown above, and one of the most perfect renditions of steak tartare I’ve ever seen, alongside a few beverages. This was one of the few moments on an eating tour I’ve desired nothing more than to sink into a chair and order everything else on the menu. To spend my day awash in the perfect lighting, exploring the restaurant and its menu. But alas, we moved on to other places–more to come on those in a future post.
When I first arrived at Staple and Fancy it immediately struck me as being, like Locanda, perfectly lit. Also a large space, the booths that divided the room from the kitchen were designed well to both be a part of the room and break it into smaller spaces. The exposed brick along the opposing wall could be a cold element, but when paired with glass walls on both ends–one facing Ballard Avenue, one towards Renee Erickson’s Walrus and Carpenter Bar, it was quite fitting with the rest of the room. The orientation of the chairs, the booths and the open kitchen allow each table to view either the kitchen or one of the two windows, so despite the odd room shape and solid walls, it felt both spacious and comfortable to have a long, leisurely meal. Which is just what we did on a recent Friday night.
I don’t remember what each part of the four course ‘Fancy Menu’ included–other than the fact that it was more than four courses. There were tiny plates of tartines, treats of all types and nibbles coming from every direction. We had the sommelier pair up half glasses of wine for us, which were all incredibly good, including one which I had to write down so I could find it again. From the small plates we moved on to a pasta course (an example of Stowell’s incredible gnocchi), a meat course (an enormous chunk of wonderfully grilled pork) and a dessert course, all of which were excellent. Let me pause on the dessert, as B and I are not normally sweets people (I’d trade most desserts for a second pasta course in a heartbeat). There were choices for dessert (the rest of the Fancy menu is Chef’s choice), though for both of us the Ricotta Cheesecake was the easy option. It was so light, so savory, and yet so perfectly drizzled with berry sauce, that in an instant we both became dessert people–the kind who fight for the last crumb of crust, licking the final bits of whipped, light, cheesecake from our spoons. I’d like to get back there again, as I am not comfortable passing a strong judgment (like that this may be my new favorite restaurant) on some place I’ve only been once. Given that it would only be stealing the title from one of Stowell’s other restaurants (Anchovies and Olives), I’m only hesitating a little. Unfortunately, it seems word has escaped about Staple and Fancy, as reservations were not as easy to come by as I’d hoped when I tried to return.
Both Locanda Verde and Staple and Fancy dazzled me with their beautiful, comfortable interiors and made me want more of their delicious food. To have had such a wonderful experience in the capitol of dining out (Manhattan) and to come home, and a short while later have just such a meal here in Seattle means that I’ve now got evidence to support my claim of what a great food city we’ve got here in Seattle.