Pair is a little nook in the almost Wedgewood, nearly underrated, neighborhood of Seattle. It’s perched on a steepish hill with a tender view of a local cemetery. The inside decor is nicely inviting, with a picnic table-like set-up and a cozy bar area where this dinner was nested. Pair is trying to be the neighborhood date and foodie joint with an emphasis on a locally sourced, euro-inspired seasonal menu and strategically paired quality wines that the average person would never be able to pronounce.
The house white was an Italian Pinot Grigio and the red was a Montepulciano. Eh, pretty basic. I thought it was strange that the house wines were imports, and this joint is claiming to have a bleeding local heart. I did eventually move up to a menu merlot/cab/syrah wine from Walla Walla that blew my socks off. Talk about delicious! Very fruity spicy and equipped with a thick body. We ordered a cheese plate along with our 3 small plates and the server asked if we wanted the cheese plate before or after the plates. And what a concept! Duh, right? Clean your palate (and surrogate your sweet tooth) with some yummy cheeses and red wine AFTER a ton of complex flavors.
Sauteed Chard with sliced carrots, raisins and pine nuts.
Nill ingredients of which seem local. Ok, maybe the chard. But last time i checked pine nuts came from china and raisins probably from a box. Sorry im being nit-picky but if you’re gonna call yourself a locally sourced restaurant then make a little more sense. You could have used hazelnuts and cherries and ditched the carrots, actually it was like 2 pieces of sliced carrot that seemed way too robust to be from WA, as our growing season has been lame due to equally LAME temps. The plate was OK. I could have made it better myself, by adding a lil pepper and cumin and maybe even truffle salt. For a whole lot less than 9 dollars. It was certainly anti-climatic for foodie expectations.
Manila Clams w/ Salumi Guanciale and large cannellini beans.
Ok, so Guanciale is pork cheek and Salumi is the brand that Pair sourced its Guanciale (aka THE Seattle salumeria). I thought this was going to be really unique since Guanciale has a very delicate yet porky smokey bacony melt in your mouth kind of feel. But there were like 3 pieces in the whole thing which seemed more like pancetta than guanciale and the clams were too chewy. The broth was pretty mediocre, it was as if some boxed chicken stock was poured over already boiled clams and then cooked some more. Maybe threw some sage in there to throw the eater off. The only redeeming quality were the beans. They were cooked perfectly and absorbed all the flavors of the Guanciale and Clam juices very nicely. I liked making a little wrap of Guanciale a bean and a clam. When all nestled together, it made the dish worth while, left to their own devices: boring.
Potato Leek Gratin. My favorite dish.
But you really can’t screw up a Gratin unless you really burn everything and even toast. Its potatoes baked with olive oil (sometimes butter) gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs, how is that not good? AND with Leeks? Delicious! But also the least seasonal and local of the bunch. Ok, maybe the potatoes were local. Keyword: WERE, from last season. Nevertheless, a potato bake with heavy cream and cheese should never be a seasonally offered (advertised) plate in the summer, even if I am wearing my cable knit sweater at night here in the PNW. It was fantastic though, gruyere very creamy and gooey, breadcrumbs fried baked in the plate’s natural oils and buttery firm yet tender potatoes. NOT atkins friendly by any means.
The highlight of the night was the 3 cheese plate. It came adorned with julienned dates with walnuts and a tiny tub of (i hope) local honey.
Le Bleu des Basques- A blue veined cows Basque cheese wedge. It was pretty creamy, bluey, more sweet than spice. Firm and not crumbly. Cream indeed. Paired greatly when dipped with honey and crunched in a walnut.
Caprifeuille- This was a delightful almondy french goat chevre. Pretty firm, a lot of goat chevres crumble and seem too chalky to me, the firmness indicated to me good quality cheesemaking, with attention to moisture details. The cheese also didn’t have that gamey “barty” waft to it most goat cheese have, which also is a check plus for artisanship. I read in Edible Seattle that the gamey, they call “Barty”, aroma is actually pheromones produced by does in the presence of billy goats, a good cheese maker knows to separate the boys and girls for milking season.
Aragonès- A spanish washed rind cow/sheep milk hybrid. It was sooooo good, pretty firm and slicable witha nutty sweet cream sheepy finish.
Verdict: If you live in this neighborhood, you don’t have much choice for fine dining and as long as you don’t mind the view of the cemetery you got your self a descent dinner spot. I wouldn’t recommend coming to this place more than once if you are coming from cooler foodie friendly quarters of this emerald city. Its good that Wedgewood has a nook for good wines and cheeses (that are mostly French) and a good back-up of creative (so called local) small plates that you yourself can then go home and probably make better at home. In your very own, local kitchen.