Monthly Archives: September 2008

Happy 21st Birthday, Rover’s!

Rover's famous scrambled eggs with caviar

the signature scrambled eggs with caviar

In my right mind, I should have declined the invitation. An elegant  multi-course dinner on a Tuesday night? With wine pairings? And a 4:00 am wake-up call the next day for an early flight east? But my right mind lost out to my inner pouty 4-year-old who didn’t want to miss out on the fun. After all, how could I skip the opportunity to help celebrate this milestone of one of my favorite chefs in town–the talented, hilarious, be-hatted Thierry Rautureau, who I worked with to bring Rover’s: Recipes from Seattle’s Chef in the Hat to life? Couldn’t do it.

Rover’s actually opened in August of 1987, not September. But like the school kid who has a hard time rounding up friends for a birthday party over the summer, Thierry decided to postpone the festivities for a month. After this media preview evening, restaurant patrons were served

crab, lobster and turbot, oh my!

crab, lobster and turbot, oh my!

the same menu (a copy of which is available for browsing here). The menu featured 21 small dishes, one for each year of operation, served 2 or 3 at a time in 9 waves.

The right mind did hold sway after the fifth wave, the clock about to strike 9:00 and still a few rounds to go. That inner 4-year-old was tired by then anyway. I did manage to miss some delicious bites but was quite contented with the few different servings of foie gras–terrine served with Sauternes gelée, pan-seared with baked peach and blackberry gastrique, an ethereal mousse with nectarine chutney and seared scallop with foie gras and sweet corn. And my last bite was among my favorites of the evening: quail with fig, duck prosciutto and roasted garlic.

My husband and I have been fans of Rover’s since our first summertime

quail, as art

quail, as art

dinner there about 18 years ago. A recent Friday lunch to celebrate a work anniversary of his was the latest Rover’s extraveganza. The place has never failed to make me swoon, to make me leave feeling happy and indulged. Distinguished, creative dishes in an environment that’s engaging, warm, relaxed. It’s something we all deserve to treat ourselves to from time to time.

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Seattle Tops for Markets, and More

I was traipsing around central Kentucky last week, picking up where I left off from my July trip there, for more bourbon and regional cooking research. And this week I’m in Pittsburgh, along for the ride while my husband takes a course at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon.  One thing about leaving my hometown is gaining a bit of perspective about how non-natives feel about the city I’ve called home all of my life. I’ve met dozens of people at a variety of events and easily 50 percent of them–soon as they hear that I’m from Seattle–respond with virtually the same phrase: “Oh, I LOVE Seattle.” And then go on to tell me of a great vacation they had there recently, or a college friend who moved there and fell madly in love with the city. Warms my heart with hometown pride! Just last night, the hostess who seated us at Six Penn Kitchen told us she’d been to Seattle in June for a cousin’s graduation and loved the city, aside from the fact that she saw the sun only once during the week. On the other hand, a woman I met in Lexington was there a week and not a cloud the whole time. Luck of the draw.

Another scope through which to see how Seattle is viewed by the rest of the world comes in this month’s issue of Travel & Leisure magazine. The cover feature highlights “America’s Favorite Cities of 2008” with results of reader survey. Twenty five cities were included, each ranking somewhere between 1 and 25 on dozens of characteristics. While there’s probably little surprise that Seattle ranked low in the weather department (23 out of 25; though when the weather’s just righ in Seattle there are few cities on Earth more beautiful), it was heart-warming to see how highly regarded the Emerald City was on a variety of points. From Number One position for “intelligent” natives, farmers markets, and (of course) coffee shops, Seattle also garnered high ranks for the skyline and views, environmental awareness and access to the outdoors. It’s fun to click through all the categories and city profiles to imagine where you might go next!

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Come Dine with Dames

If you don’t have anything on your calendar for October 16 and you’ll be in the Seattle vicinity, I’ve got a proposition for you. Come join me and many of my Dames pals for this year’s fundraiser. It’s going to be a fun and tasty evening, held at the wonderful and exclusive Kathy Casey Food Studios in Ballard. We’ll be celebrating the release of the first cookbook ever produced by Les Dames d’Escoffier, a national organization of professional women in the fields food, wine, hospitality and other gastronomic pursuits. Our local chapter has disbursed more than $240,000 for educational programs, community projects and culinary scholarships for women in Washington state over the past 15 years. Money raised this evening will help continue those philanthropic efforts.

Though the book includes some well-known women from around the country–the forward was written by Alice Waters, recipes include those from Dorie Greenspan, Anne Willan, Alice Medrich and Joanne Weir–we have special hometown pride as the book was edited by our own Marcella Rosene and published by Seattle-based Sasquatch Books. On the 16th, you’ll be able to sample recipes contributed by local members, including Fran Bigelow, Lisa Dupar, Leslie Mackie and Kathy Casey. It’s going to be a convivial, casual evening.

Space is limited and tickets are available here, each includes a signed copy of the cookbook. More cookbooks will be on sale that evening as well, a great opportunity to stock up for your holiday giving! Help support our efforts to, in turn, support women joining the culinary field in the Seattle area! We promise a fun evening with delicious eats.  And a chance to get to know some great Dames!

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Dining Out: The Corson Building

Crossroads. The new Corson Building in Seattle’s burgeoning Georgetown neighborhood rather epitomizes the term in a figurative sense, serving up a dinner experience that represents the intersection   where “small independent restaurant” and “private dinner party” meet. It’s a communal meal, strangers can blossom into new friends over the course of the relaxed 3-plus hour meal, served family style.

Then there’s the more literal crossroads of The Corson Building. Housed in an early 20th century Italianate building that’s tucked alongside a freeway off-ramp, next to train tracks and beneath the approach path for Boeing Field, there’s a very urban soundtrack and setting. Which honestly just seems an appropriate part of the character of this place and its home in this still-industrial neighborhood. The Herbfarm, it’s not.

As for the meal, the food, it’s pure Matt Dillon, owner too of Sitka & Spruce, though he’s more fully turning his attention to Corson and leaving S&S in the capably hands of the crew there. I dined at the latter with 7 girlfriends this summer, Matt not in sight and not a beat was missed in the outstanding quality of the meal. His legacy continues while he has moved on to this new venture, with a menu that changes weekly, taking best advantage of what’s available and following the rhythms of the season.

While vising the garden, the chickens and doves, checking out what was on the grill, we were served simple, delicious grilled padron chiles. To sip alongside was a variation on the bellini, using prosecco with butterscotch melon puree and minced pineapple sage.

As we gathered inside at the candlelit tables, platters soon began showing up. Local albacore tuna tartar (of sorts) with grapes, preserved lemon and shiso leaves. Grilled whole Pacific smelt with thick slices of juicy tomatoes and wedges of baby artichokes. This amazing salad of treviso with chanterelle mushrooms, corn and pecorino cheese. Thin slices of grilled beef tongue with roasted beets, nectarines and almonds. An amazing eggplant soup served “Ottoman” style, with a spoonful of homemade yogurt (using milk from Vashon Island) and drizzle of melted butter. This was not only delicious, but sent me on a flashback to my 1985 trip to Turkey and the iskender kebab I loved so much,  served topped with amazing rich-tangy yogurt and hot brown butter.

We were the lucky group to first dine on eggs laid by their own chickens roosting outside. The eggs were medium-hard boiled, quartered and served on toasts that were spread with chicken liver pâté, a little nibble alongside the soup.

Now to the mains! We had a tender, flavorful braised brisket and a wonderful paella with quail and mussels. Simple, pure, unaffected flavors, celebrating the core ingredients from the first bite of those grilled peppers to the perfect final course to cap off the evening: poached whole donut peaches (with some anise hyssop in the syrup) served with peach leaf ice cream. I’d never heard of peach leaves as a culinary ingredient before and love being surprised by such new discoveries. The ice cream was rich and luxurious with a sort of bitter almond flavor that reminds you of the shared ancestry that stone fruits share with almonds.

Marc Papineau–late of BOKA and Earth & Ocean–joined the team here a month ago, directing the wine side of things. For an extra $30 (on top of the $80 meal charge), he pairs up 4 or so wines to work in tandem with the various platters and courses. No by-the-bottle wine list to pick from, otherwise, at least not for the time being. Marc’s choices were great and complemented the meal wonderfully.

Quite a night, quite a place. Not an inexpensive meal. But from a value-for-dollar perspective, no complaints from me. It’s far from your average dinner out, to be sure. They’ll be adding another night or two to the weekly cycle of dinners here soon, to include winemaker dinners and other special themed gatherings. Or create your own special gathering and book out the whole place if you like. Otherwise, call a couple of your most fervent food friends and book some spots at one of Corson’s communal tables. This is definitely an engaging, unique dining experience that adds some new richness to the gastronomic landscape of Seattle.

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