Curious Appetite

Seasonal

Oysterfest 2011 in Samish, WA

Lately, I have been epicuriously dining at potlucks, backyards, farmsteads and as of most recent: at the seashore. Sometimes, the best food is that consumed in and by good company. I was lucky enough to be invited to Oysterfest 2011  in Samish, WA . And may I say, it was quite an exhibit of the Pacific Northwest BOUNTY! Not only with seafood, but also the yummy delicious sides just about everyone brought! Oysterfest was nestled this year in Samish, WA at the Acme Seafood Company along a beautiful strip of beach and mountains in view paired perfectly with breezy Bluegrass by the Shed Boys. As if donating extra joy to our lives wasn’t reason enough, the event was intended to raise money for TeenFeed, a Seattle-Based non-profit that provides resources, outreach and rehabilitation to teens living on the streets. Talk about win-win, the day came dressed with a sweet dose of SUN. The irony of it all, is that we missed the boat on the oysters, but believe me, I didn’t even notice until I put the subject line in for this post.

I can’t imagine how I got so lucky, but we were surrounded by bottomless fresh perfectly cooked crab with TEQUILA BUTTER for dipping, Mediterranean Chorizo style Mussels, CLAM FRITTERS with a buttermilky batter (paired with a divine tartar sauce), and creative potluck sides like Harissa style garlicky Carrot Salad, a creamy yet kicky Potato Salad, Fresh shucked corn and tomato salad topped with perfectly ripe avocado, several quinoa salad variations, Tuscan Panzanella  salad (a delicious olive oiled bread, tomato and fresh mozzarella salad), and a killer dessert of Blueberry Batter Cake. O.M.GOOD!  Enjoy the slideshow of the shots I managed to pull myself away from my fork and crabby fingers from to take!

This was the mouthwatering mussels and clams cooked in a Mediterranean spicy full bodied chunky tomato sauce, please mind the glaring sun:)

cracking away to fresh caught tequila butter dipped crab

my plate stock piled with amazing sides, such as this sweet citusy corn salad with fresh avocado, cilantro and tomato

The nutty smooth olive oil silkened Panzanella salad

CLAM FRITTERS in the frydaddy making!

these little clam hush puppies lasted for about 3 minutes out of the fryer and popped happily into a few lucky bellies

and how did I forget to mention the king SALMON!! This was the ultimate CANDY of the sea! So sweet, tangy, moist, peppery, melty, not to mention fresh! Please, try not to drool!

#pureheaven

Last but not least, the Blueberry Batter cake. No need to describe this buttery cakey blueberry mound of goodness!

PAIR

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.

PAIR

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.

Emmer and Rye.

Emmer and Rye, ahhhh. A few weeks back I was refused a dining experience due to lack of reservation. I did succeed in getting a table, and miraculously I lived through the icy spine splitting awkwardness of our waitress to tell about it.

Emmer and Eye is a seasonal celebration of the local goodness artful chefs and the Pacific Northwest have to offer, perched on the top of Queen Anne in a cozy 100yr old Victorian home.

Emmer is basically the ancient wheat grain. Like Farro. Which is Spelt. But grown in Washington. Rye is Rye.  Recipes change according to Season. We are now in Spring. So we ordered a bunny. Ill get to that in a sec.

Starters:

These “Farro Fries” basically looked like fish sticks but were made with a farro batter and lightly fried. A tad crunchy on the outside like a crisp fry but saltily buttered texture inside with beads of farro grain to give you some chewage. Then this yogurt sauce that came on top was slightly minty and garlicky. Not too garlicky. I really resent that adj. “garlicky”. But it kinda was.

Oysters. Think lemon spritz mini explosion washed down with a touch of olive oil.

Chunked slices of Pork belly over heirloom beans and Chicory Greens.  The Pork belly looked like slices of pure fat but had a surprisingly meaty punch. The fat was so sweet mesquity that I could swear these pigs grazed on hazelnuts. The texture almost reminded me of Bulgogi beef rib meat, you know the real fatty meaty ribs that melt in your mouth that makes you growl in guilt the morning after for eating 12 of them. The beans? Well we tried to figure out what put the “heirloom” in these beans because they just looked like a mix of pinto and black beans. They probably were but had a better fiber mouth feel. Anything with bacon is a winner. 5 bucks for this locally sourced seasonal happy plate. When i told my So. California based sister about this dish she questioned its seasonality for Fall.  Yep, thats the PNW for you, basically always Fall year round. But if bacon is a Fall food, i’m glad to be in the PNW.

We also got a cheese plate. a Black truffle brie like creme soft gooey cheese. A sharp cabot cheddar from Vermont. Which obviously was not local, and consequently my least favorite cheese, not sharp and a little too hard.  Then a semi hard scotch washed rind white almost cheddar cheese. Smelled like feet, tasted like scotchy nutty cheddery crumbly hard cheese. Yummmm. Then a baby boy blue cheese. Super almost really creamy yet firm, with just a streak of blue (hence the baby) which gave the surrounding a more fresh cream compliment to the aspiring gorgonzola. This plate came centered with an apple cherry conserve and house baked apricot studded whole grain bread. 8 dollars. Take that wolf cooker, Stowell!

These were just apps.

The 1st main: Half Chicken with morel cream, wilted greens and orzette potatoes. They were the happy chickens. They had to be, the skin was so oily and tender yet crispy and the meat moist and beaming with juicy happy flavors. The Morels were perfect, perfect touch of cream, perfect cookature, perfect foraged mushroom earth to compliment the greens and buttery golden tater slice.  I never thought of morels to be so yummy and meaty-like.

Then we ordered the bunny. Actually we ordered the braised rabbit over fresh nettle in-house made pappardelle pasta with carrots and thyme but when the waitress came out she said “here’s your bunny!” Talk about mortified! She said thats what they call it in the kitchen, and apparently thats what they called it on the bill.  It was my 1st time ever eating rabbit and I wasn’t grossed out, it was a very interesting reminder of game and chicken. Shredded and slightly smidgenly juicy. The pasta was interesting, never thought of eating nettle pasta but it tasted like a very grained herbaceous yet almost basilic pasta. Al dente.

DESSERTS! So our waitress was really akward, she maybe warmed up to us after 3 hours, meaning she smiled. is a smirk a smile? She had a real hard time looking at us and i’m pretty sure she cast a spell on us and our bunny. It wasn’t that she gave bad service, I don’t think she was even capable of utilizing any personality except awkward and plain-face stare at a wall while you order.  It was quite the hurdle to get our hands on the dessert menu as a result, but when we did, we let our taste buds play with salted caramel rocky road toasted marshmallow brownie and a mini apple galette with a golf ball of browned butter gelato. I wasn’t a huge fan of the apple tart thing, the crust was good and dense with butter, but the apples were kinda bland. But the brown butter gelato was some story. Flecks of vanilla bean and good burnt butter flavor. Full bodied for just butter and vanilla gelato. But the brownie!!! The caramel was so rich and salty (good) and sweet but tart and dark and of course tasted of butter! Ahhhman it was good! I licked the plate basically! And the hazelnuts were toasted and still super fresh and complemented the fudgey chocolate brownie. The toasted marshmallow was adorable. I spooned it with the brownie caramel and hazelnuts for the best explosion of sweet sour bitter and butter I can put in my memory. Yummy  sticky vanilla chewy goodness. Ahhhh.

So the verdict, with all that food (plus a leek nettle-mint hazelnut soup I left out) plus crisp white wine and a rye manhattan, our bill had us each pay out less than 25bucks. We did make happy hour, but still that was totally worth it and way better than How to Cook a Wolf. The atmosphere was less snooty, more homey, and despite our (new) awkward waitress, the people were pretty nice and unpretentious. I highly recommend this joint. Its some of the best food i’ve had in Seattle yet.

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