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.