Monday, September 05, 2005

Neapolitan Pizza!

9-5-05 Neapolitan Pizza!

Who are the Italians? Once a bunch of clueless sheep herders, they somehow became the world's first superpower following the Roman conquest of Carthage during the three Punic Wars. Eventually they succumbed to laziness, decadence, and butt fucking. The latter is a joke that writes itself: the Romans picked up the art of anal sex from the newly conquered Greeks! Marcus Cato the Elder, the Rush Limbaugh of his day, complained loudly and often about the vices the Greeks had introduced into Roman culture (some things really never change).

After the Goths (the bearded heathens who wore bear skulls as helmets, not the pansies who listen to Morrissey) sacked Rome in 476, the Italians took a 1000 year coffee break. Then Venetian merchants, sailing all over the Mediterranean trading with new people in far-off lands, started to find all these strange ancient texts, written by weirdoes that the Church didn't approve of like Democritus and Plato. The old Greek and Arabic technology that Europe had forgotten about spread across the continent, which of course brought about the Renaissance.

Food production increased with the development of the metal plow and the yoke. Yes, the yoke. The most important invention that can be strapped on since the strapon. Without it, horses couldn't be used to pull the plow, so the farmers either had to push the plow themselves or lash it to an ox. Horses were faster and smarter than oxen, so using them to pull the plow saved time and allowed the faster accumulation of surplus food. With more food and extra time, people were finally able to do faggy stuff like sitting around thinking and drinking espresso and creating art. Artists, using the new techniques of perspective, stopped drawing people the same height as buildings.

Yet the Italians were no longer a political force, just a cultural one. They were too busy with constant in-fighting to conquer anyone else, splintered as they were into regional kingdoms and duchies like the Piedmont, Tuscany, Venice, Florence, and Naples, that could never get along. While England and France had been unified as modern nations for centuries, Italy was late to the game. It took until Italy until 1861 to unify, and by then nationalism was old hat. Even the USA was already 85 years old.

So what do you do when all the cool kids have passed you by? Ride one of their coattails, of course! After squiggling out of being on the losing side of WWI they made the worst possible mistake: siding with Hitler! Why'd they do that? Honestly, did they really think the Nazis would tolerate being allied with a bunch of guidos if they won the war? Mussolini always reminded me of the kind of guy who bought Amazon's stock when it cost $100 a share. Always a day late and a dollar short. Buy high, sell low. We all know someone like this. The literal definition of a chump.

Anyway, though the Italians are now unified, the regions still find shit to argue about, but one thing those dagos don't argue about is that the modern pizza was invented in Naples in 1871 by chef Raffaele Esposito. The classic cheese pizza was originally called “Pizza Margherita” after Queen Margherita di Savoia, who proclaimed it her favorite. 134 years later, enter the European Union. Bothered by the dilution of the word “pizza” by shitheaps like Pizza Hut, a series of rules were created to properly define the true “Neapolitan pizza.” The rules set the size of the pie, thickness of crust, number and type of toppings, and the cooking parameters. For instance, only a wood fired oven may be used, and the dough must be kneaded by hand, not rolled with a rolling pin nor a machine.

Contrary to what libertarians might proclaim at 2:00 am on public access television, the new rules actually seem to have encouraged innovation, because now there are three pizzerias here in Seattle that follow the new EU rules: Tutta Bella, La Vita E Bella, and Via Tribunali (which I'm guessing is too new or too ghetto to have a website).

So, being the public advocate I am, I took it upon myself to try out all three of these, plus two control groups (just to make it scientific):

Via Tribunali

Via Tribunali is the closest one to my house, so I went there first. Obviously these motherfuckers are very dedicated to all things Italian, because not only is the menu written entirely in Italian, but the fucking waitress was Italian. The interior décor is goth (here I'm talking about the Sisters of Mercy- listening pansy Goths, not the burly berserkers who sacked Rome), and strangely like a church with its cavernous ceilings and stained glass everywhere. We ordered the prosciutto e funghi (that's ham and mushrooms for you gringos and borscht belt motherfuckers), which set me back $15.95. The crust was light and flaky, but I found the very center of the pizza undercooked. As in, drippy and not cooked at all. Plus the “prosciutto” they used was a clear impostor: real Prosciutto di Parma should be stringy and delightfully salty. The fake prosciutto seemed more like Black Forest ham, and while I'm not against Black Forest ham, when I'm told I'm getting prosciutto, I goddamn want real prosciutto! The biggest plus of Via Tribunali was the house wine, which at $15 per liter is a pretty good deal for a decent (though somewhat flat) table wine.

Tutta Bella

This place is located in the hinterlands down south. I had to stare down a crazed lunatic on the bus to get there safely. But braving the terrors of the evil Ranier Valley becomes totally worth it once you sit down at Tutta Bella. Here, as at Via Tribunali, the house wine is cheap and plentiful: they don't even let you sit down without handing you a glass as you walk in the door. We tried the prosciutto e rucola (prosciutto and arugula). At $9.95, this pie was the cheapest of the three by far. It was perfectly done, though there was quite a bit of arugula on there. As in, it was almost like a salad on a crust. Still, it was damn tasty and they used real Prosciutto di Parma! The distance of this place from civilization is a bit of a barrier though.

La Vita E Bella

My favorite of the three, La Vita E Bella is located conveniently in Belltown. While Via Tribunali only hires real Italians to wait tables, and Tutta Bella just hires whoever walks in the door, La Vita E Bella takes a strange middle route: they hire people who appear to be Italian but who are actually from other countries. The waiter we had last time I was there was from Lebanon. Another time I overheard two of their staff conversing in Spanish. Something you can count on at this place: the Gamberoni al Pistachio (13.95) is fucking delicious. This dish is simple: prawns sauteed in olive oil with pesto, parsley, pine nuts, and of course pistachios, served on a bed of arugula. Superb. The caprese salad ($9.95) is of standard quality, but the pizza is naturally the real standout. The prosciutto e funghi is $13.95, and the crust is bubbly and chewy, with a delightful smear of soot on the bottom from the wood fire. They use real Prosciutto di Parma. The specials are usually good, but don't bother with the Anatra al Balsamico ($16.95). It's a sliced duck breast sauteed with pancetta in a balsamic reduction. It's too salty and the balsamic heavily dominates the flavor.

Pizza Hut

Now the control group! We tried the Pizza Hut thin crust with pepperoni and mushrooms (do I need to tell you they didn't have Prosciutto di Parma available as a topping?). Absolutely shitty, and it cost $16.48! The crust was thin but still too heavy, like a roofing shingle (or a stale cracker), and the pepperoni smelled like anus. Pizza Hut sucks. May God have mercy on your stomach if you patronize those shitholes!

Pizza Passion

The second control group is a surprise contender! Pizza Passion opened in this convenience store on Capitol Hill at Broadway and East Harrison. The store once housed this Turkish gyro place, which unfortunately (unfortunately because those doner kebaps were fucking badass) closed after the guy who owned it got deported back to Turkey. You see, his wife was his green card sponsor, but when the dude started cheating on her she revoked her sponsorship. Then back to Turkey! Moral of the story: only American citizens should cheat on their wives. Anyway, Pizza Passion eventually replaced the gyros place, and it's actually worth it! A slice of cheese is $1. Pepperoni is $1.50. It's cheap, the slices have a good sauce and a decent cornmeal crust, and plus it's open until 3:00 am. So if you're out drinking until after Dick's closes, you've got a backup plan.

I'm tired of writing now, so to sum it up: go to La Vite E Bella. If you can't get a table, get in your car and drive down to Tutta Bella. If they're full, try Via Tribunali. If they're full, then there's always Pizza Passion. But if you're willing to drive all over the goddamn town looking for pizza, then you suck. Or you're pregnant. Though the conundrum here is that maybe if you had sucked, you wouldn't be pregnant.



What might one consider minimalist food? Could it be a single pea drizzled with a thin stripe of balsamic reduction? Or a grilled shrimp, topped with a lone flake of gari? Does it make sense to introduce the minimalist ethos into cuisine? After all, if taken to its logical conclusion, an adherent of minimalism would never own anything, do anything, or eat anything and would thus starve. Then I would label the deceased minimalist a chump, a fate worse than death to be sure.

I don't understand minimalism. That's because I'm a maximalist. Unlike minimalists, who don't want anything, maximalists want EVERYTHING. Even shitty things like cancer. I'm a true maximalist because I love everything that's complicated: HP Lovecraft. Baroque music. Taxes. The only thing I normally prefer slick and streamlined is pussy. And Japanese food.

Now that I've said all that shit let's discuss Elemental. Located in a condo on a cul-de-sac overlooking Gasworks Park, it's a tiny minimalist fantasy in brown and light brown. We tried to get into Elemental once before, but it was full. By full I mean that all 4 tables were occupied. If you don't get to Elemental BEFORE IT OPENS at 5:00 pm, you're never going to get inside.

Between 5 and 6 is cocktail hour. The chipper bald guy who seems to run the place took our drink orders. I already knew I wanted a manhattan. Some other poser overheard my selection and also got one. Lame. After we got our drinks, the bald guy brought out a clear glass cylinder of ice water, in which was floating a thin slice of cucumber. In the summer heat, the cucumber water was light and refreshing. With the ice water came a dish of popcorn, heavily peppered, perfectly crisp, and perfumed with truffle oil. A great accompaniment to a manhattan and a glass of cucumber water on a warm evening.

Finally we got around to dinner. The first course was figs with bleu cheese ($6). Three black figs were hollowed out, the pulp removed, then mixed with the cheese and stuffed back into the fig. The tang of the cheese contrasted well against the sweet fruit. Unfortunately the figs were less than ripe. My grandpa's figs are better, though my grandfather has never eaten bleu cheese. Or even knows that cheese comes in any color other than yellow. So fuck him.

Next came the cream of fennel soup ($6). Delicious! The cream was light but still smooth and rich, and the fennel flavor was very intense. In true minimalist fashion it was served without garnish in a clear glass bowl. This was my favorite dish of the evening. Following the soup came watermelon salad ($6). Slices of pink and yellow watermelon were drizzled in olive oil and served with goat cheese and arugula. Refreshing.

Then we had the tuna tartare ($12). Cubes of raw ahi were tossed with sesame oil and accompanied by a petite pile of cold buckwheat noodles. Yes, I know, we all hate the “pan asian” bullshit, but it was awesome. The fish melted in your mouth. It was served with a shot glass of very fine chilled sake. That sake was so good, in fact, that my raving about it prompted Elemental's bewildered proprietor to ask me if I liked the sake better than the tuna. The answer, luckily for my taste buds, was that I liked them both.

After the tuna came baked tomatoes stuffed with lamb, bell peppers and corn ($16). These were light and tangy, but were probably the low point of the meal for me. I generally don't like stuffed tomatoes because, like your mom's cunt, they're too drippy and the skin slides all around in your mouth when you try to eat it. Yes, I actually wrote that.

Following the tomatoes we had the cheese plate: three scalene triangles of hard, white cheese with the tiny holes and dry tang reminiscent of manchego. Maybe it was manchego? I lost track, because by this time I was so damn stuffed I couldn't believe it. I was also delightfully fucked up. We drank probably 10 glasses of wine, which is INCLUDED with dinner. Note to the bald guy who runs Elemental: you are one hospitable motherfucker! It's more like being invited to a dinner party at a friend's than like going out to eat. Our total bill came to $142, more than reasonable for the amount and quality of food and service, and best of all, gratuity is included!

Elemental is fucking awesome: simplicity in every bite. I was surprised to find my maximalist appetite tamed by their minimalist sensibilities. Maybe the two philosophies CAN be reconciled! Or maybe Elemental is really a maximalist restaurant in disguise, a wolf in sheep's clothing, because the menu changes weekly. Unfortunately, by the time you read this, my review will be out of date. But then, next week's menu will just give me an excuse to go back.

Rating: 8 dead minimalists out of 10

Elemental on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 04, 2005


9-4-05 A Fond Tribute to New Orleans

The following is a list of motherfuckers I will surely miss now that they're under 10 feet of water:

Fiorella's (45 French Market Pl)

We Never Close (10240 Chef Menteur Hwy)

Samurai (239 Decatur St)

Parasol's (2533 Constance St)

Central Grocery (923 Decatur St)

Siam (435 Esplanade Ave)

Manuel's Hot Tamales (4709 S Carrolton Ave)

Napoleon House (500 Chartres St)

I never scraped together the cash to hit Commander's Palace, and I regret the fuck out of that. And no, going to the one in Las Vegas isn't an option. With Siegfried & Roy out of commission (the only thing I love more than magic is a magician- eating tiger), Las Vegas has nothing to offer me. I hate gambling. The last gamble I made was fucking your mom without a condom. And I don't care that you can drink 24 hours a day, in the street. If I want to drink all night I'll go to, uh... New Orleans. Never mind.

In New Orleans you could walk into any shitty looking convenience store and get a sandwich that's offhandedly better than anything you can get in sandwich- deprived Seattle. Better than Honeyhole. Better than The Other Coast. And all for about 1/2 the price (and actually about 1/5 the price of the sandwiches at Salumi's ).

My experience in Seattle with so-called “New Orleans favorites” is a litany of disappointment. Behold: one time I went to Bad Albert's in Ballard. I was incredibly surprised to see a shrimp poboy on the menu! I was so excited, I ordered one immediately. I should've known better. The “poboy” didn't come dressed with the traditional diced iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, mayonnaise, and french's yellow mustard, but was instead covered in a gross miasma of the kind of cheap tartar sauce only available in middle school cafeterias. Even worse was the fact that THE FUCKING POBOY ONLY HAD TWO SHRIMP ON IT! Yes, TWO. One. Two. I counted (all those years of watching Sesame Street finally paid off, I guess). I couldn't believe my fucking eyes. In a real poboy, more than two shrimp should roll off the bread and onto the floor while you eat it. Bad Albert's= POSERS.

Another time I had the muffaletta at Roxy's Deli in Fremont. I know, I know, I shouldn't have ordered it, but hope springs eternal, I guess, kinda like the guy I know who's had the same long distance relationship going with this girl for 9 years but has never fucked her. That muffaletta was sort of like a girl who doesn't put out for 9 years, too: dry and retarded. It came on a sourdough roll, not the authentic sesame seed muffaletta bread. While the meats were correct (black forest ham, mortadella, and salami), the olive salad was too garlicky, and didn't have enough (or any, actually)of the diced celery, marinated cauliflower, and pimento that a proper olive salad should have. Furthermore, there wasn't nearly enough olive oil on it. A good muffaletta should fucking swim in extra virgin olive oil. There should be so much oil on it that it drips off the bread and stains your shirt when you bite into it, so that you say “My shirt's ruined but who gives a shit? This muffaletta is so damn good I just spontaneously ejaculated!” This actually happened to me once. True story. But that mufalletta came from the Central Grocery, not Roxy's. Roxy's is a fucking pale imitation.

Then there's the New Orleans Restaurant in Pioneer Square. Where do I even begin to disparage this fuckfest? I ordered the fried catfish platter. As I recall it cost about $12. For that price, what you'd get in any hole in the wall in New Orleans (or even an upscale place like Deanie's ) would be: a huge pile of catfish, sliced razor thin so you can't actually taste the catfish, breaded in cornmeal, and deep fried, with a huge pile of fries, hushpuppies, buttered french bread, and a shitty iceberg lettuce salad. In contrast, the New Orleans restaurant sucks. Their catfish platter? A single breaded catfish filet which appeared to have been BAKED (blasphemy!), two hushpuppies that were hard enough to use as ball bearings, and a cup of undercooked red beans that were still HARD INSIDE! Fuck! What a bitter, bitter meal that was. I weep just thinking of it.

Don't get me wrong: there's plenty of good eating to be had in Seattle. But the food in New Orleans is effortlessly awesome, and cheap as well. It's just too damn bad we won't be able to get any of it for at least a year. To the citizens of New Orleans: rebuild, my brothers, so we might once again enjoy a decent poboy!

XO Bistro

7-8-05 XO Bistro

Hmmm... this place is retarded.

I used to walk past the XO Bistro all the time on my way home from the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, where I'd have some beers with my good friend Mr. C, play a couple rounds of Golden Tee, and inevitably see the scruffy asshole from Soundgarden. I even remember walking past the now legendary Cassis and ogling the menu, though I never went inside, because I'm such a jackass (back then I was a poor jackass). Then Cassis closed, and the XO Bistro appeared in its place. Sigh. A missed opportunity I'll never have back.

We went to XO because I'd been walking up 10th Avenue after a long absence from the Roanoke. On a whim, (correction: a drunken whim), I called XO and got reservations for the next day.

Well, gentle fuckface, XO let me down. First of all was the waiter, who looked like he was secretly a carpenter. He was weird. He talked too quietly for me to hear him, especially since there was a table with screaming kids near us. His hands were dirty, cut, and bruised, which is what made me think he was some kind of manual laborer during the day. He was also dirty. You could see the cloud of dust swirling around him as he walked. Motherfucker looked like Pigpen from the Peanuts comics. Worst of all was his timing. Whenever I needed him, he was nowhere to be seen. He'd bring the food to the table, then disappear until the next course came out. I understand that service slows down when it gets busy, but the place wasn't crowded. That said, the dude was polite, even though he was fucking filthy.

We started with a side of pommes frites ($4), more commonly known to those of us who drink Busch beer as French fries. Thank god the whole “Freedom Fries” thing went down the toilet finally. If you're one of those Lee Greenwood listening, Wal-Mart shopping fucks with a flag sticker on your SUV, who calls yourself a patriot yet nonetheless doesn't know what the Monroe Doctrine is, you should know that shortly after your mother finished Freedom Kissing my asshole, I put on a Freedom Tickler and threw a classic fucking on her that would've made the original smutty Frenchman, the Marquis de Sade, proud. It was extra nasty because I made her complain about gas prices as she was coming.

The frites were pretty good, though naturally not as good as the ones they fry in duck fat at Campagne. Still, it's difficult to fuck up French fries. Even McDonald's can make them taste good, and they aren't competent enough to keep from insulting Hindus. And those Hindus can take a lot of abuse! They withstand dysentery, cholera, the plague, floods, the inevitable deadly stampede that always seems to occur during their holidays, and the inundation of a nonstop stream of jobs that once belonged to American college students and welfare mothers. When those motherfuckers die, they die 100,000 at a time, and they still pump out babies as if fucking was going to be outlawed tomorrow. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, pommes frites.

Next was an ahi tuna carpaccio. The tuna was ground up into a paste, smeared on the plate, and garnished with olive oil, pepper, and capers. I didn't like it because it had a sandy texture that was a turnoff, and despite the pepper and capers was rather bland. And at $10, it was, in my opinion, a goddamn ripoff. A waste of sashimi grade ahi tuna. I weep, weep at the thought!

After the carpaccio was the tarte flambee ($11.50), a thin crust pizza topped with gruyere, crème fraiche, onions, and bacon. Finally something that really kicked ass. I could've eaten 100 of them. The crust was flaky and light, and the creamy tartness of the crème fraiche contrasted nicely with the salty bacon and cheese. XO should remove all the other junk off their menu and just serve this. Delightful!

My entree was the lamb sirloin. The lamb itself was tender and juicy, but not really seasoned very well. It was served over a mushy, flavorless ratatouille comprised of bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant. There were also some kind of roasted potatoes with it, and everything came with a very intense thyme sauce (too intense- it overwhelmed the rest of the flavors). I ate all of the lamb, but almost none of the rataouille. Lame. Not worth the $19 it set me back. Do I need to make another lame joke about what I could have bought with the money I instead spent on the lamb sirloin? Okay, here goes. For $19 I could get 19 blowjobs from your mother. Are you happy now? Sigh. I'm just a hack. I wish I had gone to that medical school in Grenada after all. Why, god, why? Why is my life without meaning?

We ended the night with a pretty good crème brulee and espresso, followed by a flight of different dessert wines. The dessert flight was the surprise hit of the evening. For $20 we got 6 tastes of different ports and sherries. Definitely reccomended.

To sum it up: though certainly affordable, XO Bistro is too lame to bother with shitloads of courses. Their wine list is cheap and there are some good choices available. Your best bet is to sit in the bar, get a bottle of the L'ecole 41 Merlot, and order the tarte flambee and some frites. Then go across the street to the Roanoke and play Golden Tee. Be sure to name your Golden Tee guy (you know, the little golf playing character who looks like the ass baby of Will Ferrell and George W. Bush) “ASS.” That one gets me every time. I'm so mature.

Sunday, July 31, 2005


5425 Russel Ave NW

Hi-Life's menu has a word in it that I HATE: “blunch.”

They think they're so fucking cute, calling it “blunch” instead of “brunch.” Fuck off. Brunch is pase. Homer Simpson discovered a meal between breakfast and brunch. The taxonomists at the Royal Society have named the new meal “breakbrunch”. Using Homer's success as a starting point, I took his research further: I discovered a meal between breakbrunch and lunch, which I dubbed “breakbrulunch”. Then, I used a fractal equation to discover a meal between breakbrulunch and lunch, or “breakbrululunch.” By this point the amount of computer power needed to isolate any further new meals from the meal-time continuum had grown so large that I realized I'd need to use one of those supercolliders that will someday turn earth into a piece of beef jerky. Unfortunately, I can't afford that, so I instead dropped what had been a fruitful line of scientific inquiry went to Hi-Life.

So they remodeled the old Ballard Firehouse. Now there's nothing in the Seattle city limits for Great White to burn down! Where will Kevin Dubrow go to shake the sweat out of his jerry curl wig? (editor's note: Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin Dubrow is dead now, so fuck his corpse for ruining my joke) You goons in the Chamber of Commerce need to provide a draw in our fair city for all of those valuable B-list cock rock dollars, or the Emerald Queen Casino will get it all!

I know from experience that the place can get crowded, especially around “blunch,” which I finally discovered is brunch for people who can't spell. Luckily we got a table pretty quickly. The menu at Hi-Life is seasonal, with each season featuring a different European cuisine. This time, the featured cuisine was Spanish.

We started with a pitcher of sangria ($19.75), which was a let down. I expect sangria to be spicy, with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and slices of orange and lemon. Hi-Life's menu claims the sangria has figs in it. A worthy innovation, I'd say, except that you couldn't taste the figs in it. In fact, you couldn't taste any of the spices, only the shitty jug wine. There was no actual fruit in it. But that, of course, didn't stop me from swilling that shit like it was going out of style. After all, I might be bitchy but I hate wasting stuff (because I'm destitute).

Next came the tapas table ($14.50) and the pollastre de grellada ($29.50). You might think those prices are steep, but those two dishes were enough to feed three people. The tapas featured some interesting choices: marinated grilled flank steak, olives, sliced chorizo, eggplant spread, sauteed garlic shrimp, and spiced almonds. The flank steak I found a bit chewy, though pleasantly spicy, with lime and paprika. The olives were the standard mixed Mediterranean selection: black and green, tiny and big. The shrimp was fucking brilliant, and came served in a small dish of garlic and olive oil. When we finished the shrimp, the shrimpy garlic oil was in itself good enough to sop up with some bread, which we did, especially me, because I hadn't eaten in days. The eggplant was WEAK, similar to baba ghanoush, which I don't like to begin with. The almonds were dusted with chili powder and dotted with a cheap granular salt that looked and tasted more like Morton's Iodized than Fleur de Sel, the end result being that they were too salty and not spicy enough.

But it was the chorizo that insulted me the most. Imagine that, a grown man being insulted by a cured meat! How is such a thing possible? Well, just between you, me, and my nutsack, there's plenty of stuff that's offended me: Wal-Mart. The Academy Awards. The Strokes. Now add the chorizo in the tapas plate at the Hi-Life to the list. Why? Because there wasn't enough chorizo to go around. There were three of us, and TWO slices of chorizo! I HATE when places do that. Cheap bastards! Fuck.

The pollastre de grellada sounds boring when you try to describe it: it is, after all, roast chicken. But never mind that. The chicken was perfect. The skin was so crisp it shattered beneath my teeth, and the flesh beneath was so juicy and tender you didn't even need to chew it (Surgeon general's warning: always chew chicken thoroughly). The meat was well seasoned throughout. Grilled red peppers and green onions, deliciously charred on the skin and tender inside, were served as an accompaniment.

Dessert? $4.75 worth of standard, middle of the road flan. Am I getting predictable with the desserts? Seems like I get the same dessert every week. Sorbet. Flan. Sorbet. Crème brulee. If you don't like it, fuck off. Oh, and go fuck your mother, while you're at it. She's free tonight because I just got finished doing that very thing! What, your mom's dead? I know. I fucked her to death.

Rating: 6 dates with your mom out of 10.

Hi-Life on Urbanspoon

Matt's in the Market

6-28-05 Matt's in the Market

These motherfuckers are laid back. Mlle X told me two things about Matt's in the Market: 1. It is incredibly small inside. 2. The waiters are unusually cool. As with so many things, she was right on both counts.

I showed up an hour early for my reservation, because when I got off work I didn't have time to go back home first, so I had to go directly to Matt's. You see, I work in Fremont, and live on Capitol Hill. Many people think I'm some sort of Unabomber-esque madman because I walk to and from work, every day, rain or shine. “Why don't you just drive?” they inevitably ask, “The President says the only way to fight terrorism is to drive your car everywhere. Why do you hate America?” You know why, you fuckers? Because the food I eat is so very, very expensive, it means I can't afford a car. You pedestrian losers (or am I the pedestrian loser?) pay however many dollars a month for a car note, insurance, gas, and maintenance for your ride, but then at the end of the month all you can afford are fucking frozen Totino's Pizzas. All of that money that I didn't spend on a car goes into my stomach. The side benefit is that I can eat literally whatever the fuck I want to, because I walk 8 miles every day, rain or shine. A friend of mine is a food chemist. He figured out that I'm burning close to 1000 calories a day, walking so damn much. Guess what that means, assholes? I can eat foie gras for every fucking meal, if I want. I can take a bath in butter, like some sort of mad Roman aristocrat. I can wash my hair with milkshakes. I can brush my teeth with Ranch Dressing. Get the picture? I can eat a whole turducken, a Luther Burger, or four and twenty motherfuckers baked in a pie, if I want. But I hear gout is a real drag, and would in fact hinder my daily commute, so naturally I try to lay off the organ meats, and have a salad every now and then.

Anyway. Because I was walking I didn't have time to walk all the way back to Capitol Hill, get dressed, and go back down to the Pike Place Market. So i went directly to Matt's, instead, even though that made me close to an hour early for the reservation. I was especially hungry because my appetite was stoked by the squashed rat (with a side of maggots) I saw along the Burke Gilman Trail. Luckily, those aforementioned laid back Matt's employees let me sit down, without any hassle. I got a glass of Durand Syrah ($7/ 28), which is a pretty typical example of my favorite varietal. Smoky, with hints of raspberry, it went down easy. Too easy, in fact, so I had a second glass.

They put the brakes on my fast approaching fucked-upedness by delivering to my table a plate of rustic rosemary bread, served with a ramekin of olive oil. Here was a very original touch: in the bottom of the olive oil was diced white and green onion. The oil by itself was extra virgin and bright green, no doubt from the first cold pressing, and was probably the product of one of those countries that were either in cahoots with or didn't put up a fight against the Nazis, and was good enough to have been served without the diced onion. But the onion gave the oil a sweet spiciness. I'm so fucking tired of the cliché pool of balsamic vinegar, staring up at you from the bottom of a dish of olive oil like a fish eye, so when you dip your bread into it you get it completely full of oil with no vinegar on it, until all the oil's gone, then you get nothing but a soggy piece of bread soaked all brown by the balsamic, and it makes your stomach turn when you eat it because the shitty restaurant you went to used cheap balsamic and it was too acidic. So kudos to you, Matt's in the Market, for not being cliché.

While sitting at the tiny table in the tiny restaurant, gazing out across the sliver of Elliot Bay visible from the dining room windows, I overheard the table next to me raving about the catfish. They were English, though, so naturally I took their accolades with a grain of salt. After all, the English think that the most disgusting crapola is good eating. Though I'm not one to judge, because being from the south, I fucking love catfish, which many spoiled yuppie scumbags (and Jews) think is disgusting (and blasphemous).

Eventually Mlle X and Uncle F appeared. We perused the menu. Note: the menu, like the interior of Matt's, is tiny. Five appetizers (including salads), and four entrees. If you're looking for a 25 page opus like they have at The Cheesecake Factory, forget it. If you're a picky bastard, crazy, or on the Atkins diet (the third choice actually encompasses the first two), don't even waste your time at Matt's. Mlle X and I both chose the white anchovy salad ($9.50). I'd never had a white anchovy, and I was pleasantly surprised by its flavor. It still tastes like an anchovy, but milder. It's as if they took the salty fishy oiliness of regular anchovies, and turned the volume down a couple clicks. “Anchovy Lite,” I'd call it, if and when they make me president of the American Anchovy Association, if and when they actually get around to creating the American Anchovy Association. Four white anchovy filets were served criss crossed over a bed of endive, with kalamata olives and mandarin orange slices. Delicious!

Next I chose, predictably enough, the catfish ($18). Breaded and fried, it was served covered in Carolina Barbeque Sauce, which is light, smoky, and tangy; in other words, exactly the opposite of the gloopy, sickly sweet barbeque jizz that Kraft sells. Along with the filet were a couple oven roasted red potatoes and a coleslaw. The catfish was crispy on the outside, moist and flaky inside. They of course used farm raised fish, which is a shame because I miss the dirty, dirty taste of wild catfish, so dark and grimy like my soul. The roast potatoes were crisp outside, creamy within, and studded with sea salt.

A word about the coleslaw: normally when restaurants serve that crap to me, usually in a big pile beneath whatever kind of food I actually ordered, I leave every single strand of the shit untouched. I don't usually like cabbage. I'm ambivalent about mayonnaise. So why the fuck would I eat coleslaw? But the coleslaw at Matt's was julienned apple, red cabbage, and red onion, dressed with a vinaigrette. White, purple, and purple. No mayonnaise to be seen. Crisp, tart, and light. Brilliant. Congratulations, Matt's in the Market, you win the First Annual Surly Gourmand Best Coleslaw Award. The prize for this prestigious award: I didn't dine and dash.

Dessert was an apricot sorbet. You may have noticed I usually get sorbet for dessert. Know why? Because sorbet tastes good.

All the while, of course, our plates were dished out by the previously mentioned smooth operators on the wait staff. It's as if they exhumed the corpses of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr., reanimated them, and forced the zombies to work as waiters. An added bonus? The waiters at Matt's smell better than rotting corpses. And that's why I left them a 25% tip.

Rating: 8.5 swingin' Rat Pack cadavers out of 10

Matt's in the Market on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 18, 2005

Restaurant Zoe

Upon arrival at Restaurant Zoe I was forced to engage in a game of one-upmanship with the maitre'd over whose sideburns were bigger. Winner: me, asshole. There are only a couple dudes on earth with bigger sideburns than me. One of them is the lead singer of Bloodhag. Another manly man capable of shaming my dundrearies is Burt Rutan, famous (kinda) engineer and aviator. Unfortunately, my victory in the facial hair arena did not come with free food. I guess the “prize” was that they honored my reservation.

The wine list is the only thing that sucks at Restaurant Zoe, because it is TOO EXPENSIVE. I think the bottle we ordered, Montegrossi San Marcelino, was at $42 among the cheapest on the list, and honestly I can't recall being blown away by that vintage. If you're one of those ostentatious bastards, the kind of guy who drives a solid gold car, and can afford to pay Bill Gates to walk your pet unicorn, and you have an entire staff of robot butlers which are powered by burning Picassos, or if you're an NBA player, maybe you wouldn't mind dropping $150 on a bottle of wine, but I'm so poor I would've settled for Thunderbird. Or an upside down can of Whip It.

I stopped complaining about the wine list when the food arrived. The romaine salad ($8.50) was good. It was a grilled romaine heart topped with sauteed apples, bacon bits, and Roquefort dressing. The edges of the lettuce were charred crisp, which combined with the bacon gave the salad a pleasantly smoky flavor. The dressing, tangy and creamy, delightfully balanced the sweetness of the apples.

Next up was the foie gras. Aahhh, foie gras, cruelest of the cruel foods. Or is that veal? Hmmm, I can't decide, so I declare it a delicious tie (at least until they finally invent “orphan cracklin's”). That foie gras was as juicy, yielding, and soft as a cloud of titties, with hints of curry powder and saffron. It was perfectly prepared, and served with sauteed mango slices. The mango had a carmelized sugar cinnamon crust, just like on top of a crème brulee, which gave it a sweet, spicy crunch to contrast the juicy ripeness of the fruit. The foie gras cost fifteen absolutely delicious dollars.

The yellowfin tuna nicoise ($22) was quite a treat. A square block of rare seared tuna topped a bed of green beans, olives, and roasted potatoes. Usually nicoise salad has chopped up chunks of boiled egg, which I hate because it seems like the kind of crap my grandma eats. This nicoise had instead a poached egg, which stared patiently up at me from the plate, like the old dude's vulture eye in “The Telltale Heart.” The yolk was runny. The white was firm and seasoned with cracked black pepper. Fucking AWESOME.

Next was grilled branzino ($29.95. What the fuck is up with that price? $29.95? It's like a damn infomercial. “But wait, there's more. If you call now, and promise to tell a friend, you get two branzinos for the price of one!”). Served whole, the waiter filleted the branzino right at the table. It was flaky, and the flesh had a pleasantly nutty flavor, reminiscent of trout. Actually the fish looked like a trout too, so maybe it's a kind of trout. I don't fucking know. What am I, an ichthyologist? As the old adage goes, if it looks like a duck and fucks like a duck, it's a duck. Or in this case, trout.

Dessert was interesting. I don't usually go for the ultra chocolatey bullshit, puddings, or cake, so I went with the blackberry sorbet ($6). Our waiter, who looked like the dude from Swingers (no, not Vince Vaughn, the other guy), recommended the Moscato d'Asti dessert wine ($6) to accompany. A perfect recommendation! The muscat was lightly sparkling, and just a little tart against the blackberry sorbet. The sorbet was smooth, not cloyingly sweet, and without a trace of the ice crystals that plague lesser sorbets, and it really tasted like fresh fruit.

The ultimate verdict is that Restaurant Zoe RULES. If I had any criticism, it's that the Swingers guy waiter was a little too chatty. I found myself wishing I could change places with him, and I could be the waiter and he could be the customer, so I could serve him a rich creamy bowl of SHUT THE FUCK UP. Now I'm no elitist, only because I'm too poor, but I generally prefer my waiters to be like culinary ninjas, or gustatory ghosts; in other words, I want the motherfuckers to sweep away my dishes, make the occasional recommendation, and otherwise stay the fuck away. But that's a minor quibble, I guess.

Rating: 9.5 chatty waiters out of 10.

Restaurant Zoe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Cellar Bistro

7/3/05 Cellar Bistro

One time I went to a party, years ago, in Baton Rouge, LA. My brother, in his first year at LSU, was there with his friends. I was there with all the lowlifes I called (and continue to call) friends. The party was at this random guy's parents' condo. I don't know how we got invited, since I knew neither the host nor any of the host's friends. Crazy old Mr. D got my brother and my brother's friend with the fucked up ear high in the host's parents' bedroom. They smoked pot out of a coke can (classy!!!!) and Mr. D, the clinically insane art major, took to calling the kid with the fucked up ear Vincent van Gogh. The fucked up ear kid didn't get the insult. Pity, because that was probably the cleverest putdown that guy would ever hear about his cauliflower ear. “Hey, nice ear asshole,” or “Your ear is ugly,dude,” is probably the extent of the levity he was used to, since he was, after all, from Houma. So he should have thanked crazy Mr. D for the sublime comparison to that tortured, earless, prostitute soliciting bastard genius from the Netherlands.

Anyway, later that night a fight broke out after one frat boy called another frat boy's grandmother a dago. Now, my grandmother is a dago, and I wasn't in the least angered enough to resort to fisticuffs, but apparently the frat boy's opponent was, because they started tussling drunkenly in the living room, upsetting a framed Anne Geddes print and causing a general ruckus. Luckily, the glass in the Anne Geddes shattered when it fell off the wall. I say it was lucky because Lt. Dan's dog had a piece of stringy shit hanging out of his asshole, and the good Lieutenant used the Anne Geddes print to remove the offending shit string. “What do you feed that bastard?” I slurred drunkenly at Lt. Dan, in reference to his dog, “Towels?” Clever, eh? Yeah, well after a case of Shiner Bock you try to sound like the fucking Algonquin Round Table, shithead. Do I need to make a joke about the appropriateness of using an Anne Geddes to wipe a dog's ass? I'll let you fill in the blanks on your own. It's kinda hard to miss at this point anyway, isn't it?

What does any of this have to do with the Cellar Bistro? Fuck if I know, so I'm going to weakly segue into the review by talking about dagos. Like I said, my grandmother is a dago, which makes me ¼ dago. So I'm at least ¼ qualified to talk about dago food, which is to say, any kind of pasta covered in red sauce. The Cellar Bistro is dago food par excellence. Simple, no nonsense, generic Italian food. Eye-talian, as Mr. E, my no- nonsense pal from Cumberland Gap, TN, used to say. Yeah, it's plain, but sometimes less is more, as I've said many times, and besides, it's cheap.

I took Mlle. X to the Cellar Bistro because we'd heard it was awesome. Well the short answer is that is IS awesome. There exists a triple point in restaurant quality. Were any of you bastards aware of the culinary triple point? I bet you weren't. It's the nexus at which quality of food, quality of service, and price intersect. If you go too far in any direction, either the quality of food goes down, or the quality of service goes down, or the price goes up. The Cellar Bistro is one of those rare establishments that straddles the triple point (fuck you, Beavis, I know “straddling the triple point,” sounds like the title of a gay porno, but I'm trying to make a point here, 'kay?).

We started with the gorgonzola dolci ($5.95), which is a plate of sliced gorgonzola, drizzled in a balsamic vinegar reduction, and served with toasted bread and a small ramekin of roasted garlic. Normally I hate when stuff is drizzled with other stuff, but I'll make an exception this time. The bread was a sourdough. Normally toasted sourdough is as impenetrable as kevlar, and grates the flesh off of the roof of your mouth when you bite into it. In this case it was acceptable because a sturdy substrate was needed on which to spread the gorgonzola, which was served at less than room temperature and so was a little chilly- were the bread not toasted we'd have destroyed it trying to smear the stiff cheese all over it. Also included was a ramekin of pureed roasted garlic. My only complaint is that I wish they'd use a more tangy balsamic to offset the sweetness of the gorgonzola and garlic. But I guess that's why they call it dolci. Verdict: fucking delicious!

Next we tried the fried mozzarella. Let me tell you about the time my dad tried to make fried mozzarella. When I was a kid we had this big party at my house. My mom took out the good silverware (as opposed to the usual set, that was mostly stolen from Denny's). The white zinfandel was flowing like, um, shitty wine. My dad manned the Fry Daddy. To say he dropped the ball is to put it kindly. Half of the sticks were undercooked, so that the breaded exterior was barely toasted and the cheese inside was cold. The other half were cooked too well. You'd bite into the breading and find it fucking hollow, an empty breaded husk, as if it had been victimized by some kind of spider that eats cheese. The cheese inside had either vaporized or leaked out through a hole in the breading into the hot grease in the Fry Daddy, which caused the oil to froth and bubble, the way milk bubbles when you blow into it with a straw.

The fried mozzarella at the Cellar Bistro wasn't quite as bad as my father's sophomoric attempt, but it was close. At $6.95, this was about $5.95 too expensive. It was just lame, breaded, fried, mozzarella sticks. The cheese was rubbery, and overall the mozzarella tasted like it came pre- breaded and frozen from Costco. Boring. Plus they served it barely warm, so the cheese wasn't melted, just like 50% of the ones my dad tried to cook.

The antipasta plate ($8.95) was perfectly serviceable. It was served with provolone cheese, olives, pepperonici peppers, sopressetta, salami, and my perennial second-favorite cured meat, coppocola. Enough said. Except that the olives were the shitty pitted black olives that look like garden slugs and taste like a tin can.

On to the entrees. Verdict: good enough. I had the veal marsala. The veal was too thick for this dish, and chewy. I'm guessing it was overcooked, and the marsala sauce was too sweet. When I cook this dish I use dry marsala. These fuckers obviously used sweet. Bizarrely, they served it with a side of fettucini alfredo. Overkill, anyone? If you were Paul Prudhomme , that morbidly obese, Dom Deluise looking fuck, you might think it's a good idea, but I don't. On its own the alfredo was good, but you can't pair a pasta that heavy with an entree as heavy as veal marsala. I'd have substituted angel hair with olive oil and lemon juice. But that's just crazy old me. Still, at $14.95 the price wasn't that bad.

Mlle. X had the linguine puttanesca ($11.95). This dish is one of my favorites, if only because it appeals to my juvenile sense of humor: in case you didn't know, this dish literally translated means “whore's linguine.” This is supposed to be a light, not too filling dish. The flavors of anchovies, garlic, roma tomatoes, capers, and olives should all be discernible and separate, not in competition with each other, but all working together to make the prostitute eating it feel satisfied, but not full so that she could go back to whoring after lunch without feeling too bloated. After all, I know I wouldn't want a 250 pound mafioso on top of me on a full stomach. Ultimately, it was another mild disappointment. All the bases were covered, but they just couldn't pull it off. The flavors were muddy, and the pasta came drenched in marinara sauce, so that tomato paste dominated. Blah. If I were a hooker who ate this puttanesca, I'd give up streetwalking and become a real estate agent. Or an Italian Member of Parliament.

We finished with sorbet. In the true Italian style they served the sorbets in the shell of the fruit from which the sorbet was made: coconut for Mlle. X, lemon for me. Unfortunately, they were frozen to absolute zero and so were impenetrable by spoon for about 30 minutes. To pass the time we finished the bottle of sturdy, passable chianti ($22) and had an espresso. Finally we were able to (sort of) dig in to the sorbets, but they were served, oddly enough, in martini glasses, so it was fucking unwieldy to eat, because you had to constantly worry about tipping over the glass while you wrestled with the ultra frozen ice age sorbet. Though they were obviously frozen too hard, they tasted fresh, and representative of their native fruit, so it wasn't all bad.

With all these misfires, why do I, harsh master of all things culinary, give the Cellar Bistro a passing grade? It's my ¼ dago talking. The place fucking rules. According to Mlle. X there's a velvet painting of Sinatra in the women's bathroom (no, no, you got me, I can't lie. I confess. It was I who saw the velvet painting of Frank Sinatra. I like to sneak into women's bathrooms in restaurants, and, um, in every other kind of building too). The Chairman's velvet men's room counterpart is Sophia Loren, predictably enough. The Cellar Bistro's interior is red, and cavernous, with a fake trellis of fake grape vines suspended from the ceiling, Every doorway is arched, like a roman crypt. The wait staff is competent and friendly. Plus, it's cheap. All these factors combine to make the Cellar Bistro a good place to swill cheap chianti, eat some inexpensive (if overly saucy) pasta, and enjoy the company of a fellow dago. If my dago grandmother weren't senile, and if she didn't live 3000 miles away, I'd take her there. If your grandmother's a dago like mine, you should visit the Cellar Bistro with her, post haste, you filthy fuckers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Dahlia Lounge

Dahlia Lounge
2001 4th Ave
(206) 682-4142

Years ago I went to this cooking show thing in the Convention Center. It was a pretty good bargain because wine tastings cost $1 each. Thirty tastings later I was drunk, stuffed full of free samples of pork sausage from Larry's Market, and dangerously close to jumping fully clothed into the liquid chocolate fountain. Eventually I found myself talking to this scruffy dude with a booth. He mentioned that he was a restauranteur. Later I was astonished to see the scruffy dude's picture on the cover of a cookbook. Turns out it was celebrity scruffy dude Tom Douglas. I was intrigued, since I don't get to talk to famous people very often. Once I tried to heckle that dreadlocked sucker from Counting Crows. “Hey Counting Crows,” I yelled, “you suck!” That really would have caused his world to come crashing down, I'm sure. Luckily for him he didn't hear that mind bendingly awesome put down.

Anyway, I wanted to see for myself why Tom Douglas is so famous, so I went to one of his restaurants, the Dahlia Lounge. I opened with the veal sweetbreads. What are sweetbreads? Thyroid gland, gringos. Before I have to sit through your choruses of “Ewwww!” let me say this: 1) what the fuck are you, a third grader? and 2) considering the only partially edible BULLSHIT (cough! Hot Pockets! cough!) I see commercials for on TV, you assholes who think sweetbreads are disgusting should fuck off, but not before you realize that at LEAST they are pure, recognizable animal parts, and not a fucking bunch of frankenstein's lips and/or asshole. The veal sweetbreads were almost delicious: deep fried to a crispy golden brown, spongy, moist and sweet on the inside. Ahhh, veal, the cruelest of foods! It wasn't perfect, though. Those crispy awesome sweetbreads were desecrated by a nightmarish bernaise sauce, which was GRAINY, a sure sign that the egg yolks in it had curdled. At $11, this dish was just sad, and ONLY because of the shitty sauce! Pity.

Fortunately, the bread salad ($9) was delightful. Mixed greens were tossed with tomatoes, mozzarella, coppacola, and grilled bread. The bread was smoky, slightly salty, and deliciously chewy. The mild vinaigrette, creamy mozzarella, and croutons went well with the spicy coppacola. You ever watch The Sopranos? They inexplicably pronounce coppacola “gobbagoo.” What the fuck is gobbagoo? A Ramones song?

The mixed greens salad ($7.50) was solidly constructed, tossed with a zesty, lemony dressing which was buffered by goat cheese crostini. A perfectly serviceable salad, and no complaints here. Luckily I'm so easy to please. Note how I wrote that last sentence without a trace of irony. Fuck you if you think I'm hard to please.

The Peking duck was cooked perfectly, as I'd expect: the skin was crispy as fuck, and the meat beneath was so moist and soft it was bad ass! Unfortunately it reeked of too much Chinese five- spice powder. The fried rice was too salty, and contaminated with too many chunks of that skinny Chinese sausage that looks suspiciously like hot dogs. It was a let down, and it set me back $25.

For dessert was the crème caramel. It was okay, though for $8 you could go to Dilettante Chocolates on Broadway and get the same thing and a coffee, or a rock of crack. The homemade donuts ($8) were deliciously decadent! Lightly dusted in cinnamon and sugar, they were soft and pillowy and served with homemade strawberry jam AND mascarpone.

In the final analysis, I wasn't impressed, but sadly it doesn't matter. Why doesn't it matter? Because Tom Douglas is rich. Why is Tom Douglas rich? Because his recipes are accessible. He took out the “gross” parts of French and Asian cuisine, and left the lazy stuff in, so that his food is really just shorthand for other, better food. I'm not going to say the stuff we had at the Dahlia Lounge wasn't good. In fact, it WAS damn good. But it wasn't transcendent, which is what I expected. If you want an awesome meal go to Restaurant Zoe, and
you'll save yourself about $50. Then you can roll up the fifty dollar bill you saved and snort some coke off a stripper's ass. If you don't heed my words, that $50 will end up going into Tom Douglas's pocket, and he'll get to snort coke off a stripper's ass. Only he's so rich, it won't be cocaine, it'll be powdered unicorn horn. And it won't be a stripper's ass, it'll be Jenna Bush's. And he won't use a rolled up fifty, he'll use the Shroud of Turin.

Rating: 6 lines of powdered unicorn horn snorted off Jenna Bush's ass out of 10.

Dahlia Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Erath Vineyards Winemaker's Dinner- McCormick's Fish House

The Erath Vineyards Winemaker's Dinner- McCormick's Fish House
Seattle Cellars, a pretty damn good wine shop in Belltown, is sponsoring a series of dinners at various restaurants around the city. The ulterior motive, of course, is for Seattle Cellars to make money so naturally each course is served with a particular wine, which you can buy (how convenient!) after the dinner.

This week's dinner took place at McCormick's Fish House and featured the wines of the Erath Winery. In attendance with me were Mlle. X, Mr. and Mrs. A, Ms. Y, and Ms. Z.
The first course was an asparagus and shrimp crepe with a pinot gris cream sauce. I've got only one single word for you: fucking awesome. I bought Mlle. X a crepe on the street near the London Eye once. Like all English food it sucked. It was dense, tough, and doughy, and was rolled into a cone, then filled with a big ass miasma of process Swiss cheese, which promptly separated into a layer of polymerized cheese solid on top and a pool of dismal pustulent yellow oil on the bottom.
Anyway, these crepes were exactly the opposite of the one we ate in London, which is to say THEY KICKED ASS. The crepes were very thin, lightly browned on top kinda like an egg roll wrapper, but a little spongy, which of course you'd expect since it's a crepe, after all. They weren't all pancakey like shitty crepes can sometimes be. The asparagus was still a little crisp, which is good because I FUCKING HATE MUSHY VEGETABLES. The shrimp weren't overcooked either, and I'm glad for that because they can get tough and stringy when overcooked and I consider the desecration of perfectly good shrimp to be a goddamn shame. The pinot gris sauce was creamy and sort of like a light alfredo sauce. Too bad I don't know what pinot gris is. The Erath 2003 Pinot Blanc was paired with the crepes. Normally I find white wine either too tart or too sweet, but this one was neither. Which is why we bought a couple bottles of it.

The soup course was a smoked salmon bisque with roe and lemon crème fraiche. The chef was playing coy and accidentally “let slip” the fact that it was copper river salmon in the soup. Big fucking whoop, Ms. Chefy van Chefferbratten: I could give a shit because once it's blended up with cream and all the other shit you put in a bisque, you can no longer tell it's copper river salmon. You coulda saved yourself a couple bucks and used just regular king salmon or whatever. That having been said, however, this bisque was good. It was rich, and creamy, and crisscrossed with intermittent threads of lemon zest, which imparted a very delicate lemony flavor. My only other complaint is that in the description of the soup they use the word “with” a little too loosely. My particular bowl had a single thin stripe of crème fraiche on top and ONE salmon egg in it. Instead of “with roe and lemon crème fraiche” they should have said “passingly associated with and may possibly contain roe and/or lemon crème fraiche.” The bisque was paired with the Erath Pinot Noir 2003, which was perfectly drinkable but ultimately distracting because the numbskulls in attendance kept babbling about how much better pinot noir is than merlot. A word about Pinot Noir: fuck Sideways and fuck you, you bandwagon jumping fucks. All red wine, it its various appellations, is good drinking (except Strawberry Cisco, which technically is red, and is wine {kinda}, and so is thus red wine). Do the vintners a favor. Buy a bottle of merlot and SHUT THE HELL UP ABOUT SIDEWAYS.

Next came the salad: arugula with pears, blue cheese, and glazed pecans. Salad is salad is salad, and as long as what I get isn't a bowl of yellowing, brown- spotted iceberg lettuce swimming in a pint of warm thousand island dressing, I'm usually pretty easy to please. That having been said, I am in particular such a whore for salads with fruit and cheese. One exception: Velveeta does not count as cheese. Canned maraschino cherries do not count as fruit. Mlle. X's mom makes a salad using both of the aforementioned ingredients. Sigh. With the salad was the 2004 Pinot Gris. As I expected it was a little tart, though it was an okay pairing with the blue cheese, pears, and sweet glazed pecans in the salad. Note to Yankees: they're pronounced “puh- KAWNS,” not “PEE- cans.”

The entree took the motherfucking cake. It was listed on the menu as “Grilled Copper River King Salmon & Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut.” We thought you had to choose. Surprise, fuckers! Decadently enough, we got both! I felt like a badass emperor getting to have both, especially since I was having trouble choosing when I thought I had to choose. The Halibut was topped with Dungeness crab and morel mushroom butter. Flaky but dense, it was perfectly cooked halibut, though the crab was a little rubbery. Still, it was a minor setback because I LOVE halibut. A note to the general public: eat more halibut, assholes. It's one of the few fisheries which is sustainably managed, thanks to the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Great job dudes! Why don't you take over the swordfish racket before all those delicious fuckers are extinct?
The Copper River Salmon was served with a Pinot Noir reduction. Absolutely awesome. If you've never had Copper River Salmon, you either suck, or you're poor, because it kicks too much ass not to eat it nonstop during the retardedly short period during which it's available. It's like regular salmon, except it's darker and not as flaky, with a richer flavor and none of that strange indescribable “salmon” aftertaste you sometimes get. It's like the steak of fish. Steakfish, some might call it.
My complaint with the entree was that both fish came on the same plate, and the two different sauces mingled. Fuck that. I got the salmon's pinot noir reduction on my halibut. I got the halibut's morel butter on my salmon. Like a third grader I prefer my sauces conveniently contained, each in its own individual sauce hole, preferably served in one of those Dixie plates which are splintered into 3 different wells a la the Mercedes Benz logo. The wine paired with the entree was the Erath Anniversary Reserve Pinot Noir 2000. Now THAT was one badass wine. We duly bought a couple bottles of that magnificent vintage. It would be a crime, both to humanity and to Art itself, not to have purchased some.

Almost as an afterthought, dessert: chocolate bread pudding with crème anglaise and strawberries. Now I'm not a “chocoholic.” By “chocoholic” I mean “gay.” Curiously, the spell check software I'm using while writing this review accepts the word “chocoholic.” Has that stupid word entered the lexicon? Fuck you, chocoholics of the world, for invading my consciousness. Anyway, I'm no chocoholic, and after such a filling, rich meal I found the chocolate mess too much. Less is more, fuck-O's, and a ginger sorbet would have served nicely. Luckily that gloopy chocolate quasar distorting the gravitational field around my plate was paired with Erath's 1998 Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer. Dessert wines can be hit or miss, but this one was the unqualified awesome success of the universe: it had a rounded fruity flavor, with hints reminiscent of falling leaves and jack o' lanterns. Fall blew into my mouth with a soft kiss and suddenly I couldn't stop the lines of purple prose flooding into my brain. So I wrote it all down instead. We bought the last 4 bottles of the Gewurtztraminer. PS don't ask me to pronounce Gewurtztraminer.

Conclusion: while I have eaten at the McCormick & Schmick's on Lake Union, this was the first time I've ever been to the one on 4th ave. I was more than pleased. Total price: $50 per person INCLUDING TIP. Obviously McCormick's took a loss, expecting to make it up by getting a cut from Seattle Cellars when all the drunk fucks (read: us) bought case after case of wine. Which we did like the crack whores we are. I'm sold on both the Seattle Cellar dinners in general, and McCormick's Fish House specifically. I advise you to go to both, if you haven't already, you plebian bastards. But remember that the Seattle Cellars dinners rotate restaurants, so it wouldn't necessarily be at McCormick's next time. Thus if you go to McCormick's, it won't be that cheap usually. But I guess if you don't understand that, you're beyond my help anyway. God help you if you try to vote in Florida.

Something I wasn't pleased about was Cal Erath standing us up. The winery owner, looking like a low- rent Zaphod Beeblebrox, sidled up to our table and asked us if we wanted to go bowling with him. So we dutifully went to the Garage on Capitol Hill, but the fucker never showed. Luckily Mlle. X loves bowling, so the night wasn't a total loss. Side note: Ms. Z is allergic to wine, so she gave Ms. Y all of hers, thus making Ms. Y incredibly fucked up. As we were leaving the Garage Ms. Y was trying to walk backwards in heels and predictably fell down on the sidewalk. Oh well. It's not like that was the first time. But YOU, Cal Erath, you let me down man. I don't believe in nothing no more, man. Next time I see you, dude, you owe me a game of bowling AND a bottle of the 2000 Anniversary Reserve Pinot Noir. So there.

Introduction to the Surly Gourmand

5/28/05 I hate restaurant reviews. I don't like the adjectives reviewers use. They always describe shit as being “delectable,” or “scrumptious” or “eclectic” or “gooey.” Like music reviewers, they ran out of ways to describe stuff a long time ago. The end result of this is inanity at best, and completely inappropriate description at worst (like the Rolling Stone review I read in which the Red Hot Chili Peppers album Californication was characterized as being “baroque.” On behalf of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel, who are dead and so can't defend themselves, FUCK OFF AND DIE ROLLING STONE).

Plus they're almost always favorable reviews. You NEVER see an awesome harsh review because the reviewers usually work for some newspaper or magazine or some shit and the fucking editor is afraid of getting sued. Fuck you and your editorial restraint. Being on the internet, and paying for all this crap myself, I could give a shit if a chef gets pissed at my review. Remember, assholes: it's a free country.

We need some strong literary antibiotics to cure the banal infection that's dripping from the dick of the art of culinary review right now. I'm going to administer to you fuckers a megadose, but like most medicine you might not like the taste. I'm very opinionated. I like to eat. I like to drink, fuck, and swear. I'm a bad role model. But at least, at the VERY LEAST, I'll never call something “delectable.”

Call me Cipro. I'm going to solve all your problems. Enjoy the ride.