Friday, May 10, 2013

The Whale Wins

Renee Erickson has done it again with The Whale Wins. It's full of homespun elegance, just this side of precious, with servers in striped aprons, a massive bouquet of pink tulips at the door, and spare but pretty decor.  A wood-fired oven lends warmth to the room, and flavor to your meal. They take no reservations for smaller parties, and are excruciatingly popular, so prepare to wait a hell of a long time at peak hours.  

We certainly did. We were told it was a two hour wait, so we made for the chilly front deck to clutch cocktails and though Mr. Pants was drinking a very well-made twist on an Old Fashioned (the Normandy Old Fashioned) made with fragrant Calvados, he was getting ferociously peckish. 

Chilly cocktails on the chilly front deck

Dutifully feeding Mr. Pants my toothpicked, brandied cherry from my Michters (yay!) manhattan to fend off his hunger pangs, we killed a good hour and a half before we were summoned back to the warm bustle of the restaurant to eat.

A generous slab of Bleu de Basque cheese with honey and golden raisins was perfect with the dregs of my manhattan. Huge slices of crusty, soft bread and butter were welcomed by Mr. Pants, (now wild-eyed with hunger).  Then came firm, slightly sweet roasted carrots with fennel and a sweet, spicy, rich and succulent Dungeness crab with harissa butter that was annoyingly messy, and completely worth getting your hands dirty. Simply prepared trout with lemon and capers went great with our bottle of Hungarian Tokaji (Kiralyudvar, Furmint, & Tokaji Sec, to be exact). 

Half Dungeness crab with harissa butter. 

My new favorite dessert was a remarkable " Eton Mess" made with a creamy-tart mess of meringue, whipped cream and a bright rhubarb compote. The name is derived from (if the cute story I heard is correct) a traditional English dessert of berries, meringue and whipped cream that was crushed inadvertently by a dog on the way to a picnic, and the meringue broke up into pieces, and they ate it anyway. You would too.   

"Eton Mess" dessert.

We spotted our favorite butcher, dining at the bar, who said it was quite the hangout for others in the restaurant biz, and maybe I'm shallow but I kind of like that. 

Erickson is a master with simplicity, innovation, and excellent locally-sourced ingredients. I can't wait for her next venture, said to be a spin-off of The Walrus and Carpenter in Ballard, called Barnacle. We'll be there. But I'll bring snacks for Mr. Pants, for the wait. 

Highlights: Reasonably priced and unusual wine list, harissa crab, trout, Eton Mess dessert. 

Disappointments: Wait time can try your patience. 

Mr. Pants: Very impressed. 

The Whale Wins on Urbanspoon

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