Friday, August 21, 2009

Poppy, the last of the three restaurants

Live got in the way yesterday and stopped me from writing about Poppy in Seattle.

Sheila and I wanted somewhere interesting to go for dinner in Seattle. We got a sitter, dinner with Max is not relaxing. Kudos to the Olympic in Seattle for general amazing service, some good restaurant recommendations and finding us a sitter for Max.

Seattle is much more of a foodie city than anything we have in Canada. The current trend in the city is chef independence, small hole in the wall places with chefs really playing with their art. I see the Seattle food scene as the polar opposite of Las Vegas where it is all about big money backing big name chefs, this season's Top Chef is really showing that as the food scene there.

We took the concierge's recommendations and went with the most innovative sounding one and they was Poppy. James Beard award winner Jerry Traunfeld, formerly of the Herbfarm, is the chef that created Poppy which opened late in 2008.

Poppy serves their food in thali style, though the food is not in anyway Indian. The thali is simply their way of offering a tasting menu and it works very well. One gets a plate with ten small bowls and plates on it with small bites of food, though each thali (and the seven piece smallie) has a centre piece protein, in many cases grilled American wagyu beef. How does one explain this sort of a meal?

If a good burger and fries is like going to good rock concert, and if eating in a 'typical' fine dining restaurant is like a string quartet playing some Mozart, Traunfeld's food is a symphony playing a sublime Philip Glass piece. I have never had anything quite like this and I loved the whole experience. Each mouthful was perfect, was enough. The most amazing thing was that food engaged the brain, it inspired us to talk about all the flavours and textures, about the unique uses of northwest fresh food, of how it was presented. the meal was physically, spiritually and intellectually stimulating.

In many ways the meal felt to me like a northwest riff on the family dinners I grew up with. When we had a family gathering, the table would be filled with numerous different hot and cold dishes from which everyone would take a small taste onto their palate. We call this zakuska.

The restaurant was casual but still allowed for dressing up. The decor was a current day re-interpation of early 1970s minimalist decor. The decor feels like it would suit Philip Glass music.

It is the sort of place that is about the food and vision of the chef and not about being a place to be seen or being the "trendy" restaurant. Though Conde Nast Traveller calls it one of the top 50 new restaurants in the world.

This restaurant is worth making the trip to Seattle.
Poppy on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Three Good Restaurants

In the last few weeks I have had three very good experiences at three different restaurants, all of them outside of Victoria.

1) Captain Hardy's 7145 Market Street in Port Hardy

I recently went on a trip to Cape Scott and ate at this restaurant before and after the trip. I highly recommend that if you are in Port Hardy that you check out this restaurant.

This is a classic greasy spoon, they would be a good place to be on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They make very good fries and they make their burger patties from meat they get ground for them. This is one of the best burgers I have had in ages I should recommend it to the Victoria Burger Blog to check it out. It was the perfect classic diner burger.

The rest of their food seems to be made with just as much attention to working with high quality but affordable ingredients. We also had a breakfast there and they were busy, they had orders flying out. I had perfect french toast. The pancakes my son had came with some very decent fresh blueberries and no one complained about anything they got.

The only possible complaint would be the coffee - but then I was not looking for barista and espresso machine. Even with the classic coffee shop coffee maker, they still had a much richer and full bodied cup of joe than you could get at Tim Hortons.

2) Silver Water Cafe 237 Taylor Street in Port Townsend

Recently Sheila and I went down to Seattle for a couple of days. We caught the Coho at 3 pm from Victoria and put into Port Angeles just around dinner time. I wanted us to eat somewhere decent and reasonable and not a chain like Applebees. I knew Port Townsend is a cool town with an interesting core of the city. I thought there might be a good place to go there. We used the Urban Spoon app on the iPhone to look for somewhere to go and quickly found a likely place in the Silver Water Cafe.

We had to drive a bit longer than we wanted to and arrived for a dinner a little bit later than Max would have liked. It was worth the 20 minutes of Max complaining to go this place.

Where to I start? It is located in a wonderfully restored Victorian building in the core of Port Townsend. It is casual in atmosphere and price but seriously up market when it comes to the food.

The staff are friendly and attentive even when it gets busy. The place was packed shortly after we arrived and people were standing in line for 30 minutes to get a table on a Monday night. I can not imagine what it would like to here on a Friday or Saturday night.

The menu is long which normally sets off alarms in my head, it is hard for large menu to be done well with fresh ingredients. My fears were quickly eased when the waiter told us a number of things we not available.

We started with the Asian Seared Green Beans, I had expected something like edamame, but instead they were the classic green bean with some wonderful Asian flavours.

I highly recommend their seafood selections. I had the Cioppino, an Italian fish stew, and it was full of seafood and had a tomato broth that I could not stop eating.

So often a good restaurant will bring in their deserts and I simply find that lazy and a bad way to the end the meal. Silver Water Cafe makes all their deserts on site each day and they run out of stuff soon. We were on the early end of dinner service and they were already out of many things. Sheila had the key lime pie and I had the crumbe-topped Amaretto peach pie - both of them were excellent.

I will be going back to this restaurant any time I am passing close to Port Townsend.

Silverwater Cafe on Urbanspoon

3) Poppy 622 Broadway East Seattle ( I have to help my son, I will finish this soon)


OK, I have a bad task coming up, one of the birds seems to ill and on her way out. I should likely go and kill her, but I am too much of wimp to do it myself. I am getting my vet to come over and it.

My friend the vet and chicken keeper says I should have expected to have one of my birds to die in the first year or two. He is not surprised one of them is having problems.

Still I am not looking forward to this less savory aspect of animal husbandry. I am also realizing this means my egg production will drop off by 1/6th. Realistically four chickens should be enough for us on an ongoing basis though this will mean I will have fewer eggs to give away.