Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Last Friday I got my hands on a pot brownie. Not some random pot brownie that somebody’s roommate made, but a commercially packaged, legal brownie from one of Colorado’s state-run marijuana stores. Yes, Colorado. Our home state hasn't yet gotten its collective head out of its ass yet re: reefer. I split the brownie four ways with three friends. Then we went to see Interstellar. What a fucking mistake. Every second was an excruciatingly loud eternity. I think I had a stroke!

Anyway, the next day was Saturday and, still completely stoned, we went to Vespolina. We started with the antipasto misto ($11) which was delightful. A plate of mortadella was sliced as thinly as bible pages, and wouldn’t you rather swear on a 1000 page pile of mortadella instead of the boring fucking bible? Sure, mortadella is the most polarizing member of the charcuterie family; it’s the uncircumcised penis of cured meats and you either love it or hate it, but luckily for me I love it, despite the fact that mortadella is really just baloney with a master’s degree.

Along with this came a cute little pile of roasted radicchio with pine nuts and some balsamic vinegar. There was also a novel salad of cold calamari with chickpea puree and a few razor thin rounds of sliced watermelon radish. The calamari was prepared masterfully. It was very tender, which is great because if you don’t cook calamari properly it turns into a leathery cock ring that you are compelled to chew for decades. Luckily this calamari was delicate and lovely. A word of warning about the antipasto, however: the price on the menu is PER PERSON and they failed to tell us this when we ordered. Caveat emptor, or whatever.

Apple radish salad ($12) was generally inoffensive, with sliced apples and discs of watermelon radish, along with a few big curls of pecorino, and some fried leaves of arugula or dandelion greens or something. The server claimed that this was chervil but I’m calling bullshit.

Spaghetti “carbonara” ($17) was a fair interpretation of the famous Roman pasta dish, but I couldn’t understand why they put “carbonara” in quotation marks. I asked our server, and she stammered out an incoherent reply; I suppose that I wasn’t the only one still reeling from last night’s pot brownie. Still, the “carbonara” was great: supple swirls of “pasta” were tossed with a "creamy" sauce of “egg yolk”, “pecorino”, and little porky chunks of “guanciale.” See, Vespolina: “I” can misuse “quotation marks” “too.”

Squash ravioli ($22) was so fucking good that I’m breathlessly hyperventilating while reminiscing about it. The ravioli was masterful: thin pockets of pasta as delicate as an infant’s eyelids enclosed a silken and savory orange squash filling. Fried sage leaves and a few shavings of cheese on top finished this dish, and if I could eat this every single day I would. It was a symphony in orange and green and tasted like a stroll through the autumn woods. If there had been a hint of smoke in this dish I would’ve dry humped the table.

Dessert was bombolini ($7). For this price we got six fried doughnut balls, burnished a rich mahogany outside and with a mystical custard interior. The bombolini were drowned in a sticky pool of black truffle honey. I’m making no comments about the honey: I get bitched at no matter what I say about truffle flavor, so fuck you. But the bombolini were crusty outside and soft inside and being completely drenched in honey, like a group of medieval princesses bathing decadently together, didn’t hurt either.

Vespolina is pretty solid. The service leaves something to be desired, but in Vespolina’s defense I was as high as a fucking kite so my questions probably sounded like a poorly translated DVD player instruction manual. The dining room is gorgeous and the pasta will inspire serious Proust moments so go there now. Don’t do drugs though. Or if you do drugs, make sure you go to see a fucking mild-mannered Merchant-Ivory film.

Rating: 8.5 drugs out of 10

Vespolina is located at 96 Union St.

For reservations call 206-682-3590

Vespolina on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 13, 2014


I don’t even know where the fuck to begin with Westward. I walked into this place and was stupefied by portraits of Bill Murray and Captain Stubing and, I suppose, other notable captains of the ship on the walls. The waiters all wear striped sailor shirts, despite the fact that this is the outfit for the FRENCH Navy which everybody thinks is staffed exclusively by pussies. And behind the bar is an impressive diorama of a cargo ship, the hold of which, we are expected to believe, holds the Abominable Snowman from the famous 1964 Rankin/ Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and also the combatants from Wrestlemania IV. Requiescat in Pace Andre the Giant! We hardly knew ye!

Anyway: Westward. We started with the quick fried east coast squid ($13), and in every case I’m reproducing the name of each dish exactly as presented. The squid was lightly fried in a kind of delicate fairy’s wing fritto misto atop a fluffy mattress of mashed potatoes. Sprinkled on top was a drift of sesame and black caraway seed, and the whole thing was spritzed lots of lemon. The potatoes seemed to be strictly potato, although maybe there was some olive oil in there, but certainly not the several cups of heavy cream that I, for instance, use when I’m making some fucking mashed potatoes.

Wood baked gigante beans ($9) were deliriously satisfying. I’ve had a million different iterations of this dish and this one was great: a pile of creamy white gigante beans swam in tomato sauce amid a swirling Sargasso Sea of half melted feta cheese and a hint of cinnamon, topped with a crumbling breadcrumb infrastructure.

Potatoes cooked in the fire ($9) didn’t need to tell me that they were cooked in a fire because they looked like burn victims, but in a good way, not in the way burn victims typically look, which is totally gross. Blue and yellow marble potatoes were cooked in a lot of oil and studded with shitloads of coarse salt. This was my main complaint, actually: while the potatoes were creamy inside and their succulence restrained by a corset of crisp skin, there was almost too much salt. Like enough salt to pay a Roman general. Which is a shame because I like salty potatoes: in fact potatoes are really just vehicles for butter and salt. Sometimes ketchup. Mayonnaise if you’re a fucktard who likes soccer and pretends to understand European politics. But they just went too far with the salt.

Albacore confit ($17) was pretty good: big chunks of albacore were delicately cooked in oil, with a few chunks of radicchio on the side, a couple shishito peppers, and some grilled bread croutons. While the fish itself was actually delicious, the other stuff was lame. There wasn’t enough radicchio. We got maybe four miniscule chunks of it, and that’s too damn bad because albacore is rich, and being cooked in oil, it could’ve benefitted from the snide remarks offered by the radicchio to brighten things up. The shishito peppers could have been charred a bit more. And the croutons were billed on the menu as “grilled bread.” I was eagerly anticipating a couple slices of bread, to make like an open-faced tuna sandwich with the confit, but we got MAYBE three small chunks of bread with a thick asphalt crust that stymied my gums the way I stymie your mom.

Chilled beef tongue ($16) was generally good, but the plate was a bit too busy: four medallions of braised tongue, topped with a bushy tuft of pickled spruce needles, a smear of crème fraiche, some Dijon mustard, a scattering of pickled mustard seeds, a couple caper berries, and two slices of grilled bread. Finally, the bread I wanted to come with the albacore confit! But alas, it was too late: we already ate the albacore. The tongue itself was supple and luscious, like dry humping a silk sheet, but as was the case with the potatoes it was too salty.

Actually that’s not quite true: the medallions of tongue were shingled on the plate, and the tongue got progressively less salty the farther down we ate, so while the top tongue was too salty, the bottom piece was actually fine. And besides, when you ate the tongue with the bread, even the saltiest piece wasn’t too salty. And the crème fraiche cut the salt too. I just feel like complaining, I suppose. But I WILL say that they didn’t cure the tongue with nitrites. So it looked like a dingy dish rag. People hate preservatives but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and use it, because with nitrites braised meats looks pink and fresh, like a delicate spring blossom, but without it, it looks grey and haggard like your mom.

Butterscotch pot de crème ($7) was fucking great. A teacup filled with creamy butterscotch custard, topped with a petite quenelle of whipped cream and sprinkled on top with a few crystals of flaky sea salt. On the side was a sugary cube of shortbread.

Westward is twee as fuck. Twee like Bjork screening a Wes Anderson movie. Twee like an elf having a tea party with a squirrel and a hedgehog within a hollow tree. Twee like a midget riding a pennyfarthing. Normally I hate the word “twee” because it sounds like the noise a princess makes when she farts. The princess whose farts I’m describing is Princess Tam Tam, whose flatulence is like a lavender puff of mist escaping from between her caramel sticky buns. Her hair is spun sugar and her tits are a croquembouche, each nipple a butterscotch chip. Her thighs are creme brulee. Her stomach is pastry cream. Her eyes are white chocolate truffles, she wields a rock candy scepter, and Princess Tam Tam is the perfect match for Prince Meatyass: the union of savory and sweet that shall rule the world of flavor. “Come inside my sugar walls,” Princess Tam Tam tells you, and you of course have been waiting for this invitation for centuries, like a kid who will very soon be plundering a candy store, so how could you possibly deny her?

While not as tasty as Princess Tam Tam, Westward is good, but errors in execution marred what could have been a totally epic orgy of flavor. Still, the view is grandiose and the décor is entertaining, to say the least, so give Westward a try.

Rating: 7.5 sugar walls out of 10

Westward is located at 2501 N. Northlake Way

For reservations call 206-552-8215

Westward on Urbanspoon