Saturday, May 29, 2010

meat, cheese and bourbon, please

When I first heard about the new specialty cheese shop a few blocks from home I literally did a little dance of joy. I'll call it the cheese jig. The Calf and Kid opened recently and I am, like I said, dancing with joy. Their Burricotta was luscious and divine, the Fourme d'Ambert perfectly ripe, and the wheel of "Dinah" cheese (like a subtler, milder, yellower camembert) was polished off in an embarrassingly rapid manner. Lots of knife licking (also embarrassing, as we did have company over). They also sell super fresh Macrina bread if you don't want your cheese straight from the knife.

Rainshadow Meats is right across from the cheese shop and has fed us several times since they opened. Tasty, mildly spicy Merguez one night, a great mustardy rabbit roast the next. (Mr. Pants is good with cooking bunny). We couldn't be happier to have this butcher nearby.

We were about to take our meat and cheese home with us, but first, we checked out the new bar called Still Liquor in the same building. It's a cool space, it's garage provenance retained in the concrete walls and floors, with additions of booths, warm wood and stuffed chairs.

Mr. Pants got a lemony Arnie Palmer and I got The Still, with bourbon and orange (one of my favorite combos).

After one of these, my photos became increasingly blurry. No idea why. No idea at all.

The only thing making this building better is the Marigold and Mint flower shop, where we also got some tasty Japanese turnips. Best of all, restaurant Sitka and Spruce has finally opened (yet more dancing) which we have yet to try though I'm hoping for this week if Mr. Pants can be convinced.

Our location on the hill seems even sweeter. We feel complete.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lucky to have Luc!


Thierry Rautureau's Luc, is like Rover's younger, hipper, less moneyed sibling. I've been waiting a long time for this, and I'm not disappointed.

It's tough to get tastier than Rover's, and I'm not sure Luc is, but at these prices, and with food this good, I'm gladly going back.

Last Saturday night it was bustling with prom dates and well-heeled locals.

And this crowd was friendly! Seated along the banquette we had conversations not only with each other, (of course!) but with the people on our left and those on our right. One was even kind enough to give us a taste of their meal!! Wild. I haven't experienced such friendliness since Chicago. We also recognized Luc's bartender from the Palace Kitchen, one of our favorite haunts, making us feel even more at home.

I started with an intensely green, refreshing, chilled asparagus soup with lemon creme fraiche.

Trout Amondine followed, and was all the brown-buttered goodness you would expect, mild, almost sweet trout with crunchy slivered amonds. Spinach and small potatoes on the plate balanced things out.

Mr. Pant's got a sandwich with fries- the fries were flavorful, but wanted them a smidge crispier. A cheap bottle of very drinkable Muscadet paired well with our meal.

The warmly lit bar will no doubt beckon to me on the occasional weeknight; I foresee meeting Mr. Pant's there after our workday drudgery.

It's really smart of Monsieur Rautureau to do this in these times, wines by the bottle were affordable, as were entrees. Weekly specials are for sharing- and include a roasted whole salt crust chicken, roasted leg of lamb, whole fish of the day, among other meaty options.

And Mr. Pants had his little Ratatouille moment, blasted into the past he was, by the peach melba dessert, with candied almonds and Chantilly cream.

Highlights: Trout almondine, asparagus soup with lemon creme fraiche.

Disappointments: Nitpicking, but fries a bit flaccid.

Mr. Pants: Tres content.

Luc on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Future of Restaurants?

Saw this in the last Dining section of the New York Times:

Of course, this is happening in Chicago (why don't I live there, again?)

The gist of it is this: Grant Achatz will be selling tickets for seats at his next restaurant, aptly named Next Restaurant, and after paying ahead of time all you do is show up, eat enjoy, and leave. No worries about tipping or settling a bill. Even more interesting, the menu will change seasonally and feature a different place, and a different time. Sounds pretty wild, and in lesser hands, potentially disastrous. And hooray, it will be cheaper than Alinea, his absolutely fantastic, if pricey, current restaurant. The website for Next tells us it will be serving "4-star food at 3-star prices".

I had the great good fortune of eating at Alinea last year, (sans Monsieur Pants) and this was a meal that made us want to record everything, to pause, tease out, and savor each ingredients. We ended up just bedazzled and enjoyed ourselves immensely, since the chef had every detail nailed anyway. The service was indeed outstanding- some of best, totally deserving their recent James Beard Award. I ended up leaving with a bit of a crush on one of the waiters, even.

If anyone can do this, Achatz can, he's got just the right mix of playfulness, creativity and perfectionism to make this work. I don't think many others could. In fact, I tried to imagine a Seattle chef who might succeed with this and couldn't think of anyone quite as perfect.

Each menu focusing on a different time and place!? I wonder if he needs any extra help with his research! :)

Mr. Pants Dubious the idea will work at all, but then again he hasn't sampled Achatz's whimsical genius.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


The last time I saw chef Scott Carsberg was in the luxe environs of his past restaurant, Lampreia. It was a special occasion dinner, and Mr. Pants and I felt compelled to whisper along with the hushed, reverent voices of other diners that night.

That's why it was all the more surprising when the yelling started. The chef was seriously chewing out a member of his staff. It got so harsh that it pushed my injustice button and I was about to stand up and defend the waiter. I didn't of course. I was a big chicken. Kind of didn't want to be yelled at either. And finally, much as I hate to admit, I was also really, really enjoying the food.

We enjoyed the food last night, too, at Carsberg's new cicchetti bar - Bisato. In order to call this place a cichetti bar we need to clarify, this is not your average snacky, casual Venetian joint like we enjoyed the last time in Venice, where you could get a rice ball, a meat ball and an artichoke heart on a toothpick with your glass of vino bianco, and not spend your entire wages.

Bisato is a much more upscale version of a cicchetti bar.

Gone were the hushed tones, quiet grays of Lampreia. Instead we saw warm lighting, wooden tables, and the only loud voices came not from the chef, luckily, but from the tipsily boisterous tables nearby.

Mr. Pants started off with the effeminate, coral-colored Venetian Sunset cocktail, and I got the more whiskily masculine Basil Hayden Manhattan- both were very well made.

Mediterranean mussels with thin pasta rounds was more like a soup- tiny mussels in broth with almost paper thin rounds of pasta in the bottom of the bowl- hugely flavorful and very nicely done. Carsberg has a serious gift with with texture and flavor.

This gift showed in the smoked artichoke with robiolina cheese; half an artichoke heart. (Half! Not even a whole one!) with a little helmet of white cheese curving to fit perfectly over the halved heart. The intense smoke flavor was a surprise, and a delight, as I love just about anything smoked. At $9, however, I was hoping for a little more on the plate, as I'm getting to be almost as cheap as Mr. Pants. (Who is very, very cheap, by the way)

Chilled pea and mint soup was had by Mr. Pants, and our friend Rakesh tried the Celeriac soup which was made creamier than maybe it needed to be by ricotta salata cheese on the bottom of the bowl. Little squares of tomato gelee broke up the decadence a bit and added color and depth. We really loved the awesome "Branzino Fillet Cooked in Tagine with Black Trumpet Mushrooms." This was more reasonably priced for the portion size and ingredients at $12.

A lemon tart with strawberry sauce was good, though not quite as lemony as I like, but the orange confit with chocolate caramel mousse was maybe my perfect dessert.

Service was attentive and stellar, knowing what you needed before you knew you needed it.

Highlights: Branzino with black trumpet mushrooms, smoked artichoke, mussels, orange confit, cocktails, service.

Disappointments: Steep bill.

Mr. Pants: Stroppy, and muttering about the cost the whole walk home.

Bisato on Urbanspoon