Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Coterie Room

2137 2nd Ave


I was astonished to hear that Restaurant Zoe, once one of my favorite dining rooms in Seattle, was moving to Capitol Hill. What, I frequently wondered, would take its place? Answer: Coterie Room!

I was saddened by Restaurant Zoe’s departure from its vaunted 2nd Ave location, but time waits for no one, and besides: the Coterie Room employees did a great job with the old Zoe space. Gone were the heavy late 1990’s furniture and fixtures and drapery: these were replaced by a pressed tin ceiling, a chandelier, and an unusual science-wall of live plants. This décor could only be more Edwardian if there was a Shooter's Sandwich on the menu which, I am sad to report, there isn’t.

Still, despite the menu’s lack of the Shooter’s Sandwich, the food at the Coterie Room is still fairly badass. The marinated beet salad ($8) was interesting: we got a pretty big bowl of arugula mixed with tangy sanguine cubes of pickled beets, lots of pistachios, and soft pockets of cottage cheese. This was perhaps the most homogenous beet salad I have ever eaten: usually the beets are way too big to fit onto your fork with other ingredients, but this time it worked perfectly, and all the components eaten together was absolutely masterful. The sour and dense texture of the beet was tamed by the creamy cottage cheese. Eventually the arugula elbowed its way in, augmented by a salty battering ram as the pistachios crunched in your mouth.

Usually I abhor cottage cheese: it’s pasty and curdled like a dowager’s upper thigh, and why would anyone but a circa 1980’s dieter want to eat it? But THIS cottage cheese, courtesy of the Cowgirl Creamery, was so mellow and smooth, I was amazed. If my 14-year-old self knew I was eating a COTTAGE CHEESE AND BEET SALAD he would mutiny. Times change, past chump.

A foie gras torchon ($12) was sadly and inexplicably less awesome than the beet salad. Three toasted oval cross-sections of bauguette were each topped with a perfectly round beige areola of foie gras torchon. I liked the torchon itself: almost geometrically circular, mercilessly executed, creamy, rich, and full of that endlessly savory flavor that’s unique to duck liver. But then they fucked it up by dousing the plate in some kind of sweet vinegar reduction. Cloyingly sweet, this reduction emitted its astringent acid vapors into your mouth with every bite: the Samuel L. Jackson of condiments yelled at my tastebuds in his hoarsest voice, “I’M VINEGAR, BITCH!” This dominated the proceedings.

Similarly less than badass was a special: the duck prosciutto salad. This special salad wasn’t that special. A tiny pile of frisee was all tangled up, on top of a couple slices of duck prosciutto, red and white like meaty candy canes, with thin slices of bosc pear. It was fine, and hardly what I would call a misstep, but it wasn’t good enough compared to the utterly awesome dishes that were to come.

Like the poutine ($12). These motherfuckers make a version of Canada’s national dish so good, that the entire nation of Canada should swear allegiance to the Coterie Room and become the Coterie Room’s janitor. Seriously, every single component of this dish was better than the last: the fried Beecher’s cheese curds were like little nuggety nuggets of deep-fried deliciousness. The fries were possibly among the best French fries I have ever eaten. The gravy was silken and salty. And the braised pork shoulder was magical: these molecular gastronomy assholes must have performed some molecular gastronomy on the pork shoulder because it was way too pink (cured with nitrites, maybe?), and so tender it fell apart when you looked at it. I was so surprised by how this dish tasted, my face looked like a botox job gone awry for hours afterward.

The Parisian gnocchi special ($25), was similarly delicious: soft cylinders of dough swam lazily through a cheese sauce, with little cubes of guanciale and chanterelles. It was creamy and comforting and ALMOST perfect: the waiter promised us fried Brussels sprouts, but I called bullshit because there were maybe 4 fried Brussels sprouts leaves in the entire dish. I wanted more.

At this point an electrical disturbance on the sidewalk outside distracted me. A weird kid, clad in a Morbid Angel shirt and glowering from beneath his bangs, strode up to my table. “What the fuck are you doing, old man?” he demanded.

“Who are you?” I asked, but I already knew, because I’d been here before: my 14-year-old self was time traveling again.


But I knew how to handle this punk. “Yes, that’s right. I MUST be gay. That’s because, unlike YOU, I no longer masturbate to the Sear’s catalog.”

14-year-old me didn’t see this one coming. “How did you know?”

“I LIVED IT, asshole. But don’t worry, next year Mom will start getting the Victoria’s Secret Catalog. And the year after that, you’ll have the audio from the scrambled Spice Channel to work with. Sometimes you can clearly see a boob!”

I wasn’t done humiliating the little prick. I gestured to my lovely and talented companion. “You see this tall, blonde, big tittied woman I’m dining with? YOU HAVE DECLINED SEX WITH HER! REPEATEDLY!”

14-year-old me was thoroughly chastised. “Don’t be such an asshole.”

But I wasn't done. “You need to understand that times change, little man. What you think is cool now will suck in a couple years. That’s just the way of the world, dude!”

“No way!” he huffed. “Metallica will always kick your ass!”

“Guess what? They just recorded a shitty album with LOU REED on vocals instead of James Hetfield. Do you remember who Lou Reed is? That geezer Dad always sings along to on the radio? ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side?’ Remember that shit? THAT IS LOU REED AND METALLICA SOLD OUT AND TIMES CHANGE BITCH.”

“No!” Completely flabbergasted, he sat heavily down at the table next to us, with an old lady vainly trying to finish the Wagyu Sirloin. Unfortunately, that old lady would never finish it. At $50, it was the most expensive thing on the menu, but that’s okay because this was a huge family style plate. That price got the old lady 7 or 8 big slices of steak, which must have been cooked sous vide for days because it was so fucking soft, and beefy like a bunch of firemen, coated in a miles-deep demiglace. This magnificent steak sat atop a fluffy layer of ricotta mashed potatoes, attractively piped, old-school, into foamy bunting around the steak. In the middle was a hidden undersea treasure of some glazed carrots and a little diced squares of braised endive.

Just as delicious was the family-style seared trout ($28). This was an astonishingly cheap since this is the price for a meal for two. We got two unnervingly perfect rectangles of trout filet, the skin still on, gleaming like hammered steel, tarnished brown on the edges. The flesh was nutty and delicate like Crispin Gliver, and sat atop a pile of fregula, twined through with sautéed spinach leaves. On the bottom was a mellow green smear of pistou. By this point my 14-year-old self had recovered from the shock of visiting this futuristic dystopia, where Metallica sucks, and he would eventually love liver and beets and Brussels sprouts and sometimes be too tired for sex.

“What’s fregula?” he asked?

“Pasta shaped like tiny leprechaun balls.” I replied

“What’s pistou?”

“A fancy French name for pureed herbs and shit.”

He seemed disoriented.

“Don’t worry,” I told him. “You’ll obviously be fine. Let me give you this tip from the future: buy as much stock in Apple Computers as you possibly can.”

“Apple?” he seemed nonplussed. “That shitty computer in English class? All that’s good for is ‘Oregon Trail.’”

“Trust me. Buy Apple Computers and this company called Amazon. And Microsoft. And also, stop Bin Laden.”

“Stop who?”

“Never mind, here’s dessert.” My 14-year-old self needed a break from all of these astonishing revelations, so we split the pineapple sorbet with white chocolate soil and candied pineapple ($8). This dessert veered into molecular gastronomy territory: on the bottom was a sandy and bland dusting of powdery chocolate “soil.” On top, shingles of candied pineapple stabbed into the quenelle of sorbet. They could’ve just given me a modest scoop of the sorbet, graced old-school with a mint sprig, and I would’ve been happy. My 14-year-old self, on the other hand, was bowled over:

“Holy shit this is delicious!” he raved.

But we’d also ordered the Cinnamon fritters, also $8, which should more accurately be called “awesome flavor balls.” They weren’t overpowered by cinnamon flavor, light and airy, dusted in cinnamon sugar, and accompanied by a luscious caramel sauce which would be totally appropriate if licked off of tits.

“These desserts of the future kick ass!” my 14-year-old self gushed.

It was time for a life lesson: “Listen,” I told him. “Everything changes eventually. Restaurant Zoe used to be in this very building, and it was awesome. And I was sad to see it go, and that's okay. But then this place opened, and it's even better! Someday you will paradoxically think that Buddhists are lame, while simultaneously agreeing with their axiom: ‘life doesn’t change; life IS change.’ When you realize that a static, unchanging existence is not only futile, it’s also uninteresting, then, my young friend, will you be truly wise.”

My 14-year-old self pondered this a moment. Finally he stood up. “You know, you’re right. I learned a valuable lesson today!”

If any other 14-year-old had said this I would’ve experienced a heartwarming moment of bonding with him, but I was, of course, intimately acquainted with this particular asshole. “I learned,” he sneered, “that in 21 years I’ll turn into a total PUSSY!”

Then, before I could issue a cutting retort about the time he almost shit his pants in trigonometry class, the time machine called him back to 1990 and he blinked out of sight. That little bitch had gotten the last word. If I hadn’t known that this was going to happen, I would’ve been totally pissed. But at least I had eaten a delicious meal.

Rating: 9 chrononauts out of 10

The Coterie Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

John Howie Steakhouse

11111 NE 8th St in Bellevue, inside the Bravern Bulding.


A rare trip to downtown Bellevue prompted me to eat at John Howie Steakhouse. Conveniently located inside Bellevue’s funhouse of conspicuous consumption, the Bravern Building, I decided that John Howie’s old- school menu was just what I needed to make me forget the cheesiness of the surrounding neighborhood.

Perusing the menu, I noticed a dish that was completely out of place. Artichoke and mascarpone ravioli? At a steak house? For $23? You’d have to be a crazed lunatic whose taste buds were mutilated in a tragic fireworks explosion to order such a dish. Naturally, the woman at the table next to ours heard my ranting about the artichoke and mascarpone ravioli and glared at me, as she ate her order of artichoke and mascarpone ravioli.

Just then, some dude appeared. He strode purposefully over to that woman’s table.

“Excuse me,” he told the woman and her husband, “I’m John Howie.”

They seemed suitably impressed that the owner himself would take the time to come over. “Is everything all right with your order?”

“Oh yes,” the woman said, “This ravioli is fabulous. It’s to die for. I’m sure it’s going straight to my hips!”

John Howie smiled. “Well, good! But the reason I just wanted to make sure everything was okay with your order was because if you order ravioli at a steak house YOU MUST BE RETARDED. And I just wanted to make sure your special needs were being met. But now I know that you’re not retarded, but instead that you simply have bad taste. AND MOTHERFUCKERS WITH BAD TASTE DO NOT EAT AT JOHN HOWIE STEAKHOUSE, BITCH!”

The woman, appropriately flabbergasted by Howie’s enraged rant, remained sheepishly silent as he roared on. “You fuckers don’t deserve my hospitality!” he angrily swept the complimentary bread basket off the table, which they had barely touched. Five different varieties of awesome baked goods spilled out onto the floor: a thin breadstick, gnarled and woody like a wizard’s wand; a crisp salty sheet of cracker, almost big enough for them to have printed the menu on it; a small yeasty pretzel, studded with spikes of black lava salt like a punk-rock arm band; a sweet mini rye loaf; and what was possibly the BEST gougere I have ever tasted—peppery, cheesy, almost creamy inside, with a flaky buttery crust. I almost wept at this senseless destruction.

Howie wasn’t done. He picked up the three- layered salt caddy, each rung of which contained a different boutique salt: Portugese fleur de sel on top, pink sea salt in the middle, and black Hawaiian volcano salt on the bottom. “YOU DON’T DESERVE AMBIANCE EITHER!” He dumped the salts unceremoniously into the table’s candle, so that it looked like one of those layered sand jars, perhaps bought at a New Mexico rest stop, only with salt instead of colorful sand.

“This isn’t Outback Steakhouse. None of this ‘No rules, just right’ shit. Here there ARE rules: MY motherfucking rules, and I govern with an iron fist. No, wait, fuck that, it’s a PLATINUM FIST with lightning bolts shooting out of it and diamonds and spikes and other badass adornments. And rule number one at JOHN. MOTHERFUCKING. HOWIE. MOTHERFUCKING. STEAKHOUSE is that you order a goddamned steak!”

This chick was being buffeted by Howie’s vitriolic bellow, her hair and clothes blown back like that dude in the old Maxell ad. Then John Howie reached under and flipped up their table. “GET THE FUCKING FUCK OUT OF MY RESTAURANT!” The woman and her husband scrambled to get away, ducking under John Howie’s outstretched foot as he tried to kick the husband in his ass.

Howie, red faced, breathing heavily, turned around to glare at everyone in the restaurant. “Anyone else have anything to say?”

In retrospect I know I shouldn’t have piped up, but I’m addicted to poking bears, and bee hives, and hornet’s nests, and your mom, and everything else that causes a disaster when poked. But I really wanted to complain because my steak was too expensive: at John Howie Steakhouse you can order combinations: diners can choose two four-ounce portions of different kinds of steak. $55 got us one each of an American wagyu filet and an Australian A5 wagyu sirloin. The steaks were tasty, to be sure, but too tiny in my eyes. So I foolishly decided to call John Howie out on it.

“Hey John Howie,” I asked, “How come these steaks are so small? Is it because you get a lot of anorexic Bellevue chicks in here?”

John Howie turned and fixed his awful Eye of Sauron upon me. I immediately regretted my decision to fuck with him. He came over to my table.

“Are these steaks small, tough guy?” He stared me down.

“Yeah,” I told him, but that was a stupid mistake.

He leaned heavily on the table. “Let me tell you something, little bitch. Those steaks are superb. That American wagyu filet, that beef is so tender, it CRIES when you cut it. It’s the closest thing to pussy you can ACTUALLY EAT and DIGEST without them making a documentary about you from your prison cell. And the Australian sirloin is so motherfucking beefy it’s like failing to outrun the Bulls of Pamplona, but the only difference is that you end up with far less hoof marks on your dick!”

“But—“ I was going to make a joke about why John Howie’s mom has hoof marks on HER dick, but he cut me off.

“SHUT UP. I’m talking. All of the beef we serve here is GOOD BEEF. We don’t sell that Holocaust beef, like Costco or Outback, beef that comes from cows that are happy to die, from cows that want you to eat their flabby, drug-addled flesh so that you, too, can taste a sliver of their suffering. No, we serve REAL BEEF here, son: beef that drank WHISKEY and played FOOTBALL and climbed MOUNT EVEREST and LIVED LIFE THE WAY A GODDAMNED COW IS SUPPOSED TO LIVE. And if you think that’s not worth $55, then I don’t know why your parents didn’t abort you, son.”

I should’ve just taken my rebuke and ended the argument, but of course I didn’t. “They’re like the size of skateboard wheels.”

“Yeah, they’re skateboard wheels,” John Howie hissed. ‘Skateboard wheels that let you nose grind and Ollie on the half-pipe of PURE UTTER DELICIOUSNESS!” He leaned in closer to examine our plates. “Besides, you little fuck, you’re complaining about the portion sizes but you didn’t even FINISH YOUR FUCKING SIDES!”

It was true. The sizes of the steaks might have been small, but everything else was very reasonably priced for the sheer volume. A “cup” of seafood chowder was a mere $8 for a huge cauldron. It was creamy without being too heavy, and contained enough seafood to stock an aquarium: huge lumps of sweet crabmeat and delicately poached shrimp swam in this savory pelagic zone, coexisting peacefully alongside lots of corn, bell peppers, asparagus tips, and a few sliced scallions. You can get a bowl for $12, but I would sincerely hate to see how big that would be.

Potato pancakes, too, were a steal: for $6 we got two large discuses of shredded Yukon Golds, lacy like a doily in a great- aunt’s house. They were lightly fried to a soft taupe on the outside, while remaining sunny yellow and fluffy within. These were topped with a melty drift of crème fraiche and copious tiny green bracelets of diced chive.

Sauteed spinach ($8) came in a giant steel chalice. This spinach had been cooked down into a comforting bale, looking like a bigass pile of crushed green velvet, with lots of garlic, and speckled with little cubes of preserved lemon rind. I found this dish a bit too salty, possibly due to the lemon rind, but it was otherwise tasty.

And $6 got us a twice baked potato as big as a circus big top, covered in a billowy tent of really fluffy and silky mashed potatoes. Inside, the potato was studded with bacon bits and scallions; outside it was dusted on top with diced chives and microplaned cheese. This thing was the size of my cock, and there was no way I could’ve finished it.

“But I bet you left room for dessert,” John Howie growled, interrupting me reverie. “Didn’t you, you little hypocrite? Any questions about my dessert menu, prick?”

“Actually, yeah,” I said. “New York Cheesecake? Crème Brulee? Bananas Foster? Cherries Jubilee? All pretty lame ” I knew I was taunting that motherfucker but couldn’t help it, “Did you forget Crepes Suzette? I’ll have the strawberry shortcake.”

John Howie fumed for a bit before stalking off to the kitchen. He returned with a stylish concoction of molecular gastronomy: a couple delicate pucks of pastry were cantilevered with a frozen disc of whipped cream, still smoking cold from its time on the anti- griddle, and dotted here and there, red and green, with reverse- spherified strawberry jam and mint gel “caviar.” “Is this modern enough for you?”

He set the plate down onto the table. It looked so tasty, but just as I was about to dig in, John Howie swept the plate onto the floor. “SIKE!” he yelled, then body slammed the broken plate and began break dancing on top of it: first he did the centipede, then a couple back spins. He finished by leaping to his feet, making halting, jerky movements, arms akimbo, biceps held rigidly in parallel to the floor, hands pivoting freely: doing the Robot. “I AM A ROBOT.” he roared in his best Stephen Hawking voice, “SENT FROM THE FUTURE. TO DESTROY SHITTY FOOD.”

Right on his heels was one of his minions, carrying the real strawberry shortcake. For $8 we got a classic template of this famous dessert: a big tawny cube of airy shortcake was layered with a cloud of whipped cream and topped with a pile of macerated strawberries. Garnished with mint. You simply can’t get any more classical.

By this point John Howie’s rage had subsided. “You see,” he told me, his chef’s whites stained with red, white, and green smears of shortcake, “we aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. I offer polished and understated service, and very high- quality ingredients, at a reasonable price. We here at John Howie Steakhouse put the customer first, which is why we do ‘old fashioned’ things like taking reservations. I know we can be staid at times. But not every restaurant can be Alinea. And that’s okay.”

John Howie’s humble admissions shamed me far more effectively than his brutal tirades ever could. “You’re right, John Howie!” I told him. “I’m sorry I made fun of your steaks.

He put his hand on my shoulder. “And I’m sorry for all that stuff I just did.”

Then we became friends.

And true friendship is better than any steak.

Rating 8.5 fabrications out of 10

John Howie Steak Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Inn at Langley

400 1st St, Langley


Thanks to a gracious invitation from my friend Stephen McClure, sommelier at the Inn at Langley, we were able to score a table in the Inn’s dining room for a tasting menu by Chef Matt Costello. This was a TEN COURSE MEAL and there’s a lot of ground to cover here, so I’m just going to dispense with my usual bullshit introductory paragraph and just jump into it.

Things started off well enough with a seemingly arbitrary combination of amuse-bouches. There was a tall and cylindrical shot glass containing a translucent lime- green liquid which we were told was a “BLT consommé,” a little stand with a glossy maroon bing cherry on top, and a peculiar thing of some sort that looked like a big pink Hershey’s Kiss. These were brought to the table on a cluttered little platter and looked like a chess board that a losing player, caught in the grip of his opponent’s endgame, frustratedly tried to sweep clean.

The BLT consommé was quite good, though served unfortunately cold, with a shimmery tomato flavor and a draft of smoke in the finish. The cherry was stuffed with something, and was somehow supposed to represent a deconstructed Manhattan cocktail: it didn’t taste like bourbon, but you could get a hint of bitters in the finish. And the pink Hershey’s Kiss was a beet meringue, filled with camembert. In general, this combination of flavors seemed pointless. Each thing taken separately worked, though there was no rhyme or reason to the combination of BLT, cherry, and camembert. But it was crazy, and ambitious, so I figured I'd give it a chance.

First up was a salmon mousse. The mousse had been frozen in a big bowl of liquid nitrogen which, as the chef stirred the freezing mousse, spilled white vapor all over the countertop. Little pink crumbles of frozen mousse were served strewn across the plate, along with magenta semicircles of pickled onion and a garnish of coriander flowers. I’d feared that the mousse would still be frozen into crystalline chunks or, even worse, that the chunks would melt, and then ominously recombine themselves into a fully formed salmon mousse a la the T1000 from Terminator 2 but, luckily, no: it was soft and pillowy, with a very mild salmon flavor. Accompanying this was a small clear disc of rosewater gel which was an effective palate cleanser.

Next came a pretzel roll. This was served with a tiny cylinder of goat’s milk butter and razor-thin discs of sliced radish. The pretzel was so fucking good: crusty and burnished bronze on the outside, like your mom’s face, yet steamy inside, like your mom’s panties. Even better was the goat milk butter: so creamy and tangy, I really don’t understand why goat butter isn’t more popular, though it probably has something to do with people not wanting to say “Do you have goat butter?” to the guy at Whole Foods. The pretzel and butter together were almost too rich. In fact, the watery and piquant and dirty-tasting radish, which I ate last because I couldn’t keep from wolfing down the pretzel, was an effective change of pace.

The third course was a “baked potato.” No, I’m not one of those people who use quotation marks inappropriately, like when they’re trying to emphasize something. Once when I was a kid I patronized a snow-cone stand with a sign that read “Please ring the ‘door bell’ for service.” The door bell wasn’t in reality a midget’s ball sack with an LED attached to it; they just thought they’d call attention to the fact that you should use the “door bell” instead of yelling “hey bitch come out here and get me a snow-cone.” What I mean by this pleasant walk down memory lane is that my cloistering of the phrase “baked potato” in quotes means that it wasn’t actually a baked potato. What we got was a small chunk of pork belly, slow-cooked sous vide for 15 hours then seared. This was served in the bottom of the bowl adjacent to an ivory cloud of potato foam, dotted with miniscule bracelets of diced chive. But we weren’t supposed to eat it like this: eventually the waitress emerged with a small kettle of potato consommé, which she poured into the bowl, halfway submerging the belly and lifting the foam afloat. The consommé, sadly, was not served boiling hot, as consommé is classically served. Nonetheless, this “baked potato” was “awesome.” So awesome, in fact, that it made me temporarily forget how to use quotation marks.

Jesus Christ it was good. The pork was so tender you could cut it with a spoon, which was lucky for us because they didn’t give us a knife. When you took a step back from this dish and tasted it altogether it really tasted like a baked potato. If you got too close, though, and ate each ingredient separately you couldn’t get the effect. This was culinary pointillism. Accompanying was a lacy cheese cracker, white cheddar or gruyere or something sharp, topped with crumbled bacon bits. Like most crackers, myself included, this cracker was largely superfluous.

The fish course was a neat triangle of seared halibut, served atop a puffy nimbus of mint foam. With this came a scattering of vivid green peas and a couple buttery baby carrots scarcely thicker than those tiny pencils you score golf with. Splashed across the plate was a stripe of bruleed anise foam. This was generally good, though the halibut trended to dryness and the anise foam was so overpowering, it kicked your mouth’s nuts repeatedly. But the peas and carrots were the most among the most Platonically perfect examples of vegetables I’ve ever eaten. Who needs halibut? They could’ve served me a bowl of peas and carrots and I would have said “Thanks, dude.”
Then we had an intermezzo: a small scoop of melon sorbet, served atop a smear of feta cheese, crowned with a miniature bouquet of fennel flowers. This was simultaneously salty, sweet, and accomplished its mission of refreshing the fuck out of me.

The gustatory marathon continued with risotto: a glossy pile of risotto was served with a foie gras emulsion (which was modestly referred to on the menu as mere “duck liver”) and sautéed wild mushrooms, topped with an impressively large slice of black truffle, easily bigger than a pog. And if you remember what a pog was, then you’re old enough to properly appreciate the taste of a slice of black truffle. The risotto was flanked on either side with twin piles of macerated huckleberries, slices of roasted onion, and a weird awkward disc of something which we were told was some sort of mushroom- based product. The risotto was delicious: creamy and rich, with millions of miles of flavor. The truffle was, as per the Inn at Langley’s locavore mission, a local truffle and not a Perigord, but I sure as fuck won’t hold it against them. The only misstep here was that weird mushroom circle thingy: I felt like flinging it but decorum demanded I didn’t.

We rounded the bend with the meat course: a medallion of a grassy- tasting lamb tenderloin, seared outside, cooked to a confident medium rare and then sliced, so that its red eye stared up at you like a drunk on a bus. This was perched atop a smear of artichoke puree. Tiny balls of green and yellow squash were served alongside and, curiously, camouflaged among these was a floppy green sac of spherified béarnaise sauce. We were supposed to break the sphere and release the sauce amidst the balls of squash. When I broke the sphere, it belched out a gout of completely smooth green sauce all over those spheres. Creamy sauce spurting all over spheres? What does this remind me of? Saturday night with your mom, of course! The problem was that the sauce, heady with tarragon, was too much for the squash.

Personally I wish it had been served, jiggling precariously, atop the medallion of lamb. After all, béarnaise is traditionally a sauce for meat. Still, I have to give them props because the sauce itself was expertly prepared. After all, just making a Hollandaise that won’t separate is tricky enough in itself, then these motherfuckers SPHERIFIED it. Later I ate the deflated sphere: it was salty and slimy. Eating it seemed wrong, kinda like those insane hippies who eat human placentas.

The cheese course consisted of a quenelle of ice cream which, according to the menu, was flavored with toasted grass, but it’s my opinion that whoever wrote that was toasting a different kind of grass because it mostly just tasted sweet. Either the flavor was VERY subtle, or my taste buds were fatigued by all of the imperial gluttony that preceded. My memory becomes hazy at this point: there was a smear of triple cream somewhere, and yet another jelly disc: this one with a bracing green tartness, made of sorrel.

Finally, dessert. The menu called it “blackberries from the side of a country road.” A big dark purple quenelle of blackberry sorbet was surrounded by clouds of sweet herbal foam. Flowers dotted this serene sugary landscape. I was too tired to concentrate so just blindly gulped it, the way a kid eats ice cream, or the way I go down on your mom. This dish, like the baked potato, was a pleasing pastiche of flavor.

We thought we were done, finally but no: they made us eat cotton candy. Actually “made” is a strong word, because I would’ve eaten that cotton candy out of a rotten armadillo shell: it was CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE COTTON CANDY! They somehow obscenely combined two awesome treats into one. The cotton candy had been formed into a snow- white disc, with a spiral of coca dust in the center. It was served on a stick, as cotton candy usually is, which was in turn anchored into a shot glass of coca nibs. You weren’t supposed to eat the cocoa nibs but I did anyway. This was some crazy Willy Wonka shit.

So that’s it. Dinner at the Inn at Langley is an interesting experience, to say the least. This gluttonous marathon punishes you, but the courses are so creatively fucked up, curiosity about what’s coming next trumps the fact that your stomach feels as stuffed with food as your mom feels stuffed with cock. The wine pairings, too, are a thing of beauty. I don’t usually talk about wine, but we got a LOT of wine; enough, in fact, to get me shitfaced: no small feat. And finally, in the spirit of full disclosure and blogging law and the federal government and all of that pussy shit I don’t really care about, I must make a revelation: the Inn at Langley cut me quite a deal. Normally the tasting menu is $95 per person, and the wine pairing will set you back $85. I, however, paid far less than that. Yes, they knew who I was. No, I almost never reveal myself to a kitchen. In this case it was unavoidable since they knew we were coming because Stephen set up my reservation. I feel justified in writing about this because it was a tasting menu, and so everyone ate exactly the same food which was prepared all at once, and there were like 6 tables, including the communal table where we were seated, and everyone got the exact same service too. So fuck your ethics.

Rating 8.5 ethical standards out of 10

Inn at Langley on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Bindery

198 Nickerson Street


One unexpected quirk of sociology is that nerds are really successful people. Think about it: how many famous and powerful people are nerds? Their ranks include luminaries like Benjamin Franklin, Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, Sister Wendy, Woody Allen, and Mila Kunis. No, that last one isn’t a typo: the very same Mila Kunis that everyone loves to jack off to is, in fact, a massive nerd who openly admits that she constantly plays World of Warcraft. Conversely, how many highly successful people seem like they’re really cool motherfuckers? This list is miniscule: Jack Nicholson, Latrelle Sprewell, Dr. Kary Mullis, Samuel L. Jackson. Very few US Presidents, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama, have been cool as hell. And that, my friends, is a true American tragedy.

But what makes a nerd so successful in life is an intense scrutiny to detail, which makes nerds both high achievers AND lots of fun in the sack because, after all, if you can remember the name of the giant vagina dentata that Boba Fett fell into in Return of the Jedi, you can damn well figure out how to work a fucking g- spot. Lady nerds obsessively twitch their kegels until their pussies could siphon gasoline from a car; man- nerds optimize their diets for the best possible tasting jizz (PRO TIP: avoid asparagus!).

Which brings me to Book Bindery.

Book Bindery looks like an aristocrat’s parlor. It’s a timeless wainscoted tribute to shit old ladies care about; effortlessly elegant and unapologetically old- school, like a Prime Minister’s wife. We sat at the bar.

We started with the foie gras terrine ($18). This was a rich candy bar of foie, the terrine a foamy taupe, like meaty nougat, topped with a high- gloss tortoiseshell of aspic embedded with truffle. Accompanying the terrine was a beet salad. Yes, I know beet salads are cliché, but this one straight up fucked with my mind: miniscule quartered baby beets—purple, golden, pink—were littered like crashed race cars atop a maroon highway of beet puree. Interspersed here and there were crispy Chioggia beet chips, and the landscape was dotted with tiny edible flowers.

Truffle fries ($8) avoided the usual truffle fry crutch of being doused in synthetic truffle flavor, which was a relief because, as everyone knows, there was a recent scientific discovery that truffle oil is actually robot come. The fries were garnished instead with copious black flecks of shaved Oregon truffles. True, the delicate flavor of Oregon truffles seems almost feminine in comparison to the brutal petroleum musk of real Perigords, but then again no one is arguing that Oregon can beat France in ANYTHING. The fries themselves were great: fried to a glittering bronze, these crisp shoestrings would have been flawless if they hadn’t been over salted.

Poached hen egg ($12) featured a jiggly blister of poached egg, cloudy white and glistening wetly, like an old man’s dead eye, which stared up at us from a nest of supple pasta. The egg was half submerged in a parmesan broth, umami as fuck but sadly, also very salty.

Compressed summer melons ($14) was an unfortunate, matter-of-fact name for an audacious interpretation of prosciutto e melone. Rectangles of honeydew and cantaloupe, compressed with a vacuum sealer into sweet glassine prisms, were served with ribbons of prosciutto and a little drizzle of a sweet sherry sauce. The prosciutto was shaved razor thin and was astonishingly marbled: the reds were so red, the whites so white, it was like this prosciutto was either designed by Roy Lichtenstein, or else someone used a mandoline to slice a peppermint stick.

Sea scallops ($25) were perfectly cooked, nestled down into a drift of creamy sunchoke foam. Reinforcing the flavor profile were chunks of roasted sunchoke, which dotted the plate here and there like the scattered stones of a ruined abbey. A few wispy microgreens completed the picture.

A duo of pork cost $26, which works out to an average of $13 per type of pork: a bargain I must admit. Braised pork belly was fatty and rich like Oprah; a pork loin chop was seared a pleasant golden outside, while still managing to be moist and steamy inside like a saxophone solo in a 1980’s suspense thriller, the bone protruding obscenely from the flesh. With this came a neat pile of petits pois a la francais: shocking green peas peeked shyly from within the folds of braised red leaf lettuce, and the whole things swam in a graceful creamy sauce.

Finally, we closed out with a buttermilk tart, which, I smugly noted, was the last one they had that day at the restaurant. The crust was flaky like your mom, filled with a custard that was tangy and dense, also like your mom. With the tart was rhubarb, prepared seemingly every way possible: there was a rhubarb foam, a rhubarb compote, rhubarb sauce. By the end of it I was tired of rhubarb, but I never did get tired of taunting nearby diners over the fact that we got the last one.

Book Bindery, with all of its book binding and attention to detail, is a true nerd’s paradise. The plating is mind- bendingly quixotic without seeming intimidating, and everything is prepared with a nebbishy exactitude. I really love the Book Bindery. In fact, I love it SO MOTHERFUCKING MUCH, I’m going to get married there. The portions tend towards the smallish side and as a result the Book Bindery, with its exotic presentation and posh decor and high(ish) prices, becomes the kind of restaurant which Tea Baggers stereotypically assume is de rigeur dining for libtards. Luckily, discerning libtards can tell that the Book Bindery is sexy and intellectual, just like Mila Kunis.

Rating: 8.5 dirty nerds out of 10

Book Bindery on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 25, 2011

General Tso's Death March

General Tso’s Chicken is the best food in the world. This is what it tastes like: mad scientists combined the DNA of an eagle, a lion, a dinosaur, and Aron Ralston AKA the guy from the James Franco movie who cut his own arm off with a Leatherman tool in order to escape a ravine. Then they took the resulting badass mutant bird and assassinated it using the only means possible to kill such a resilient beast: they had to throw it into the sun. Then, using a space craft and several million miles of special towing cables, they removed the carcass, rolled it in uncut cocaine, and deep fried it. Then they coated it in Christina Hendrick’s vaginal juices. The resulting delicious gleaming abomination is General Tso’s Chicken.

I’m a HUGE fan of the General’s. I once wrote nostalgic paean to the General since it is unquestionably my favorite food. But my absolute favorite purveyor of the General closed in 2006, and I hadn’t been able to find a suitable replacement in Seattle. So in the true martial tradition of the A-Team and other buddy movies with an ensemble cast, I recruited a crack team of fellow gourmands to help me track down Seattle’s most delicious iteration of General Tso’s Chicken.

Joining me in my quest were men whose palates I trust without question, men with august personages and huge penises who are leaders in their respective fields: Matthew Amster- Burton is a well-known local food writer and a fellow General Tso’s aficionado. Langdon Cook is an author and professional forager, whose poetic turns of phrase are surpassed only by his ability to discover a bunch of killer shrooms. Marc Schermerhorn is a food blogger and an experienced chef who’s staged at Alinea and Allium on Orcas. Henry Lo is an architect and experienced home cook. Henry is also a true General Tso’s authority: a family friend of his is a chef who studied under Peng Chang-kuei, the Chinese chef who INVENTED THE GENERAL TSO’S RECIPE. And so with my expert cabal assembled, we ventured afield.

Louie’s Cuisine of China was our first stop. Nuggets of breast meat were doused in a light sauce. The meat itself was a little dry, though not offensively so. The batter was very airy; indeed, it manifested itself as a bare dusty coating on the surface of each nugget. The sauce managed to be sweet without being syrupy. A good plate of the General usually comes with a couple florets of steamed broccoli, but Louie’s version didn’t include any. While I assigned demerits for the lack of the General’s native flora, some of my colleagues disagreed. Langdon was quite smitten with Louie’s, ranking it as his favorite, and Matthew scoffed at my proposed rating for Louie’s. “I’d give it a 10 for no broccoli.” But I’m writing this review, Matthew, and not you.

Rating: 7 Louie’s out of 10.

Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon was next up, and I must say, with absolute clarity and a complete lack of obsfucation, that they failed to not disappoint. Judy Fu’s failure was surprising given that the hand-shaved noodles they serve there are the second best shaved thing in the world. However, this usually reliable Maple Leaf institution was a stalwart in the worst sense of the world: it was stale and tasted like warts. These limp- wristed slabs of pity were shrouded in a puffy winding sheet of soggy batter and condemned to an ignoble burial at sea in a bland ocean of slimy sauce. Visually, Judy Fu’s General was quite striking, shellacked an impetuous and glossy maroon, like a lacquered box found at an estate sale. But unlike in nature, where the vivid colors of toxic South American frogs and treacherous butterflies serve as a visual growl to predators, Judy Fu’s General had no bite: spice was nonexistent and the tang was muted. It tasted like watered- down Aunt Jemima’s. Sad. It wasn’t the worst version of the General we tasted on our campaign, but given Snappy Dragon’s reputation, it was the biggest letdown. This General deserves a court martial.

Rating: 2 defanged predators out of 10

Black Pearl is just down the street from Judy Fu’s and we managed to infiltrate the premises just before closing. Black Pearl’s version of the General was okay: massive hunks of chicken breast were crusted in a lackadaisical batter, which was serviceable, if spongy, much like your mom. The chicken was glossed over with an unlikely sauce which somehow managed to be both spicy and bland at the same time. While it wasn’t too bad, Black Pearl’s General Tso’s is hardly the stuff of legend.

Rating: 5 serviceable, spongy batters out of 10

Chiang’s Gourmet proved to be quite the conundrum. On paper, at least, Chiang’s General should have been superlative: juicy nuggets of thigh meat were jacketed in a really crunchy crust. These nuggets cavorted playfully amid a tangy citrusy sauce with a rumbling heat. Everyone besides me seemed to enjoy Chiang’s General, but I kept getting overcooked pieces: while the sauce was good, the batter seemed to be scorched and the meat was stringy and dry. “You must’ve gotten a rogue piece,” Henry offered, but if I did then it must’ve been a rogue dynasty, because the second piece I ate was easily the Kim Jong- Il of General Tso’s Chicken. Still, Chiang’s gets a boost in the ratings from me because the sweet and spicy sauce was quite tasty, and I was clearly the victim of a statistical outlier.

Rating: 4 outliers out of 10

China Harbor did a pretty good job: hearty slabs of poultry stare up at you from beneath a glistening bronze pool of sticky and vinegary sauce. The crust is deceptively crisp; it looks like it would be flabby yet somehow, blessedly, it isn’t. Yet China Harbor is such a wacky fucking place, the décor almost detracts from the food: it’s not only a restaurant, it’s also a fucking marina. And there’s an indoor swimming pool. The dated interior décor sports the classic red-on-black color scheme and musty Victorian chinoiserie of the old Chinese restaurants of yesteryear. It’s the kind of place where it seems like people should legally still be allowed to smoke inside. It’s the kind of place where Jews eat on Christmas Day. The panoramic view of Lake Union can’t be beat, but unfortunately the General cares not for such things. After all, what is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women: these things are best in life.

Rating: 6 pieces of chinoiserie out of 10

As far as asian restaurants go, Monsoon rivals perhaps only Wild Ginger as the most popular among crackers. Seriously, Monsoon’s Drunken Chicken is the white-breadiest dish on the menu of one of the whitest restaurants in Honkey Town, also known as the back side of Capitol Hill. True, it technically isn’t called “General Tso’s,” but here we just assumed that the General was going undercover, because while Monsoon’s Drunken Chicken might violate the letter of General Tso’s iron-fisted law, it joyfully embraces its spirit. Tender cuts of chicken breast, juicy like an issue of Us Weekly, were breaded in a crisp batter that practically fragmented when bitten into, and painted with a complex and subtle sauce that managed to negotiate the fine line between sweet and sour. The Drunken Chicken was dusted in sesame seeds and served on a sprightly bed of sautéed yu choy. Masterful.

Rating: 8.5 delicious examples of deliciousness out of 10

At this point we suffered our first casualty: Matthew had to go home, but he urged the rest of his comrades to soldier on. So we did. The last battle of the campaign took place at Honey Court. Honey Court’s General Tso’s was universally panned by my compatriots, but I found it intriguing. True, the desiccated shreds of chicken breast were sheathed in a limp parka of foamy batter, and the sauce had too much cornstarch, which gave it the consistency of the swill found on the floor of a peep show. Despite all of that, I rather enjoyed it, in a perverse way, mostly because I liked the flavor of the sauce: it was tangy and bright orange, with a vinegary heat, as if they mixed a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot with corn starch slurry. Honey Court’s General Tso’s Chicken fails on almost every level, but the sauce was different, at least. Accompanying the General were a couple stiff green broccoli florets, glossy and dense like the plastic food inside a floor model refrigerator at Sear’s.

Rating: 1 slurry out of 10

The General is a formidable foe, and his chicken is not to be fucked with. Many places try in vain to capture the General’s flag, but end up, like your mom, looking like a homeless asshole with a dick in her mouth. Yet a few masters do in fact turn out a respectable homage to General Tso’s greatness. Now you know.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Lecosho is so goddamned awesome, Jesus Christ obviously came back from the dead to eat there. Unfortunately, Jesus's timing sucks because he came back from the dead a couple thousand years too early to eat at Lecosho, which sucks for him and all the zillions of people who died without eating there. Almost as motherfucking awesome as Lecosho is the fact that Word’s spell check software recognizes “motherfucking” but not “Lecosho.” That’s progress.

The handmade spaetzle ($6) was tasty. This price got you a big bowl filled with shitloads of chewy pasta squiggles, the golden- brown ringlets mounded up, like a careless toss of a pretty girl’s head on a summer day. This cascade was topped with a gossamer pile of microplaned romano, like cheesy dandruff on Goldilocks’ scalp.

$6 also got us a bowl of balsamic lentils with potatoes. The French puy lentils, heaped up like gleaming emeralds in a long- lost undersea treasure chest, were perfectly cooked. The eponymous balsamic vinegar kept a respectful distance; with each bite the vinegar made itself known without yelling “IT’S ME, MOTHERFUCKING BALSAMIC VINEGAR BITCHES” at the top of its vinegary lungs. Atop this savory pile were three medallions of grilled potato, seared a pleasing burnt sienna outside, soft and pillowy inside.

Grilled polenta was, at $6, similarly priced and also similarly as awesome. Three scalene triangles of polenta, sides perfectly straight as though cut by industrial machinery, were crusty outside yet as fluffy and silken as a cloud of pussies within. They were lightly salted and graced, like the spaetzle, with another microplaned drift of romano.

Housemade sausage with roasted cabbage and apple slaw ($10) was okay. The sausage itself was so fucking good, I’m totally gay for this sausage: when cut into, this juicy glans of pork sausage ejaculated a lurid gout of juice all over the plate. The meat was delicately seasoned, and very finely ground into a perfect sausage. Sadly, there was only one of these awesome homoerotic sausages for the huge- ass bowl of cabbage. The roasted cabbage and apple slaw was great: crisp, sweet, maybe a bit too tart, and did not at all smell even the slightest bit flatulent, as cabbage sometimes can. A dressing of housemade mustard came close to overwhelming the slaw, but those canny Lecosho assholes stepped right back from the brink, and so it tasted (mostly) balanced.

Spicy coppa salad ($9) was the only thing I’d consider a misstep. Arugla, pickled beets, and a couple blobs of goat cheese were piled atop a couple thin slices of coppa. Like a bitchy Republican from a Podunk congressional district, these beets screamed red- faced at full volume, dominating the proceedings. The goat cheese, obviously designed to buffer the beet’s tirade, proved ineffective at quelling the uproar. Unlike the balsamic vinegar in the aforementioned lentils and potatoes, the pickled beets didn’t have the good sense to back the fuck off. The spiciness of the coppa only added fuel to the fire, intensifying the bitchy flavor. Each bite of this salad was like licking a brass doorknob with lightning bolts shooting out of it. The arugula was fresh, at least.

Cavatelli ($15), on the other hand, managed to be spicy without losing its cool (just like me). This price got us a big bowl of cavatelli, which was supple and folded into little packets, like a magnificent pile of pasta vaginas. These labial folds were evenly painted with a rich orange tomato sauce. The sauce, like the coppa salad, had a sultry, unapologetic heat, but the creaminess of this sauce kept it from flying off the handle. Bitter skeins of braised kale twisted throughout the bowl, and the whole thing was topped with the recurring pile of finely grated cheese.

But probably the BEST FUCKING THING we ate was the porchetta. Affordably priced at $17, we got a huge meaty slab of porchetta. If you don’t know what porchetta is, allow me to explain with this fanciful meaty analogy: imagine a world made entirely of meat. The crown prince of this fleshy land is a fat kid, whose torso is made of meatloaf, his cock is a salami, and each of his legs is a whole prosciutto. His fiery, proud eyes are spicy meatballs, and instead of freckles, his nose is dotted with bacon bits. All hail King Meatyass! In his hand he holds the sacred symbol of his office, Porchetta: a pinwheel made of meat, this holy relic spins lazily in the carnivorous wind which blows across King Meatyass’s kingdom.

Maybe I went too far with that dumb fantasy. After all, how unrealistic is that? Kings don’t carry pinwheels! Duh. But that’s what porchetta is: a pinwheel made of pork. Lecosho’s porchetta was superb. A whole pork tenderloin was rolled up in pork belly like a jelly roll, then the whole thing was roasted. Sliced into cross- sections and finished in a pan, the belly was as yielding and juicy as when your girlfriend comes home drunk, and the central core of tenderloin was, after having been constantly basted by the fat of the belly, tender like a skinned knee The porchetta was perfectly seasoned, with a rind of crisp skin, and served on top of a mound of white beans and thinly sliced baby turnip. The beans were creamy, and the baby turnips, cute little while minarets, each topped with a precious green crewcut, were piquant and sweet. It doesn’t, my friends, get better than this.

We didn’t get dessert because that's for people who mourn an unrequited love and read the Twilight books. If you’re still hungry, get more porchetta.

Lecosho is badass. Unfortunately for Jesus and George Washington and Rick James and all of the other sad motherfuckers who died, they will never be able to eat at Lecosho, but I lived long enough, so fuck you, dead people.

Rating: 9.5 dead out of 10

Lecosho is located at 89 University St at the Harbor Steps

For reservations call 206-623-2101

Lecosho on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 02, 2011

Requiescat in pace, Mrs. Ricketts

Kim Ricketts died last week. A lot of people have already discussed her untimely demise, but I wanted to talk about it too: she was one of the most awesomely outrageous women I have ever known, and I respected her a lot. She was the only mom on earth exempt from my jokes about your mom.

I’ll never forget the day we met. It was day two of Foodista’s very first International Food Blogger’s Conference. It was just after lunch. I had eaten enough food to make a hippo become bulimic, all of it masterfully prepared by expert delishtards like Mark Fuller and Brian Cartenuto and Keith Luce. Elise Bauer or Molly Wizenberg or somebody was instructing everyone in the audience on how to become beloved by billions of housewives. The mid afternoon sun was slanting in through the windows, hammering me in the face, and suddenly all the tequila shots I had drunk caught up to me, and I nodded off. When I opened my eyes, this lady at the next table was staring directly at me, laughing. Weird laugh, crooked smile: Kim Ricketts.

During the break I introduced myself to Mrs. Ricketts. We talked about reading and writing and Sour Patch Kids and Conan the Barbarian. She had a distinctive voice. It was weathered and lilting, cracking on the high notes: this was the sound of a $1000 a day Ricola habit. And that motherfucking laugh: wheezing, squealing, like a cigar-smoking chihuahua. It was like her vocal cords were made out of an old baseball glove.

She was charming, savvy, literate, and fucking generous. The same night I met her, she introduced me to Ruth Reichl and, I proudly recall, referred to me as “one of the best food writers in Seattle.” I instantly knew that Mrs. Ricketts was my kind of people, and not just because of her effusive praise (although that really helped). Someone more concerned about politics would never have risked her own reputation by exposing the Archduchess of culinary journalism to an unknown douche with a penchant for jokes about your mom.

That was one of the great things about Mrs. Ricketts: sometimes she really just didn’t give a fuck. She was fearless. A couple years ago she invited me to dine with her at the Ruins. The dinner conversation, of course, was stellar, but the food was less than awesome: there was turtle soup, and roasted duck breast, and a bigass steak, but nothing to write home about. After dinner she asked me what I thought about the menu. I lied politely about how good it was, but Mrs. Ricketts was having none of it. “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” she hissed, “because I thought it sucked.” And one time she told me the lurid story about how, when she was pregnant, her water broke in the bathroom at Vito’s. It was probably the third time I met her when she revealed this.

She could also be a total harpy if you crossed her. Last October she hosted a reception for Renee Redzepi at Mistral Kitchen. Redzepi, chef at NOMA restaurant in Copenhagen, was in town promoting his new cookbook, but Mrs. Ricketts was SUPER PISSED for some reason. Later on I found out what was going on: to make a long story short, Mistral Kitchen proprietor William Belickis had somehow tried to double cross her. After Redzepi left, Mrs. Ricketts and I retired to the Palace Kitchen for a drink. She was adamant that I write about Belickis’s attempt to steal her thunder. “PLEASE,” she told me, “make sure to tell everyone that I will never work with William Belickis again!” Now you know.

Anyway, I was as shocked as everyone to hear that this woman, once so full of piss vinaigrette, had been stricken with cancer. She was stuck in the hospital for what seemed like a long time. I got a few emails from her, and followed her Twitter stream, and she seemed upbeat. I thought for sure she was going to defy the odds and survive. After all, this woman was fearless. If she could handle Marco Pierre White (“That man is a vampire!”) then cancer would be a fucking cakewalk.

But she didn’t survive. She was gone, so suddenly. Which really fucking sucks. Here in Seattle we’ve managed to build a food writing community that’s probably the most interesting, engaged, and cohesive scene in the entire country, and yes, I’m including New York City when I say that, and Kim Ricketts was instrumental in bringing us all together. Now the keystone has fallen out of our arch. Fuck.

Still, the show must go on, and for me at least, Mrs. Ricketts’ death has served as a wakeup call. Besides, she’s in a better place now anyway. After all, being dead means you no longer have to hear anything about Branjelina, and she’s probably already organizing book tours for John Milton and David Foster Wallace by now. It’s bittersweet, in a way, like being kicked in the nuts by a leprechaun: yes, it hurts a lot, but YOU GOT TO SEE A LEPRECHAUN. So thank you, Mrs. Ricketts, wherever you are, for being such an awesome leprechaun.

Rating: 12 personal inspirations out of 10

I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the Ricketts family.

I would also like to respectfully dedicate my entire oeuvre on this blog, from 2005 up to today, to the memory of Kim Ricketts.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Toulouse Petit

Toulouse Petit

601 Queen Anne Ave N

206- 432-9069

Hey everybody! I'm going rogue once again, because the Seattle Weekly didn't want this review of Toulouse Petit. So enjoy! The Weekly never lets me say "retard" but I control all the variables here, so... retardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretardretard.


When I heard about Toulouse Petit I was immediately intrigued, but skeptical. Normally I try to keep my nose out of the politics but I heard a rumor that the dude who owns Peso’s had something to do with Toulouse Petit. That was strike one because Peso’s sucks ass. Actually, I’m sorry: I can only CONJECTURE that Peso’s sucks ass because you aren’t allowed in there if you don’t drive either an Escalade or a
Hummer, and everyone knows that my ride is your mom so of course I’ve been denied entry to Peso’s.

I was also extra skeptical because I don’t like the name. Toulouse Petit. It’s like they tried to come up with the most “New Orleans-y” name possible. I could have come up with some better ideas: how about “Bayou Billy’s Bourbon Street Bordello?” or “A Streetcar Named the Superdome?” or “Show me Your Tits: the Restaurant?”

Still, I’m a glutton for punishment so I went to Toulouse Petit. Much has been made of the interior, but I don’t think words can describe how over the top this fucking place is: the multicolored rough plaster walls look stupid. Or maybe they hired blind hookers to paint it. The menu brags about how many gazillions of pieces of glass are in the windows. And yes, I’ll agree that the windows look cool, but that’s
only from the INSIDE. From the outside, Toulouse Petit’s extra- awesome windows just look like a lot of expensive handcraft embedded into a green stucco box. And the tables, with their intricate wood inlays, are just fucking ostentatious.

I’d call the showy interior a fail. It looks like a crayon factory exploded inside. They DID, however, get one very important thing right: the menu. Toulouse Petit’s menu, like Galatoire’s or Antoine’s or any one of the old school New Orleans pleasure palaces that it’s trying to emulate, is a vast decadent Bible of
gustatory excess. We started with the boudin blanc ($7.50). This boudin blanc is similar to the watery, pallid, rice- filled sausage you find in Louisiana convenience stores in name only. Toulose Petit’s boudin was fantastic: plump, juicy sausages, sautéed to a glossy bronze, strained in their cases and practically begged you to cut into them. And when you did, it was awesome: rivulets of juice ejaculated from a deceptively light and airy pork stuffing.

The duck confit salad ($10) had lots of radicchio, crescents of sliced celery, and lurid glistening purple chunks of duck confit, topped with a poached egg and a mustard vinaigrette. The vinaigrette combined with the grumbling bitterness of the radicchio was ALMOST too much until you cut into the egg and mixed the yolk into the salad, which mellowed the fuck out to the point where it was JUST painless enough to wolf the fuck down.

Fried alligator seemed a bit pricey at $9.95. For this price you got a small pile of alligator: pink slabs of fleshy tail meat sliced thinly and fried in a really shaggy but crisp breading. This was served with twin pools of remoulade: one chili flavored, smoky and burgundy; the other bone- colored and speckled with herbs. Both remoulades were finely textured. Sometimes when eating alligator, you get the
shittiest, most rank taste you’ve ever had in your mouth, similar only to the shitty rank taste I get when eating your mom. The gator was in no way contaminated by the rancid flavor of reptile fat.

Fried Chicken Gumbo was, for $7.50, a rather small bowl. They wisely didn’t try to stretch the gumbo with too much rice; all of the shitty bowls of gumbo I’ve seen at tourist traps always feature an enormous ice cream scoop of white rice, or even TWO scoops sometimes, mounded into twin bosomy heaps, with only a meager splash of thin grey dishwater gumbo on top. Toulouse Petit’s gumbo was nothing like this: the roux itself was thick and chocolatey, with a satin finish, and there was just enough
rice to mix into the soup without blunting the flavor. Perched on top were crisp chunks of chicken breast fried in that same crunchy shaggy batter as the fried alligator. Well done.

Beignets cost $7. This is pretty fucking pricey for 6 triangular beignets. That’s highway robbery in Louisiana. In Louisiana, beignets are CHEAP. But that’s BECAUSE THEY FUCKING SUCK. Beignets are for old people and drunks: drunks can’t taste how shitty and leathery these fucking things are, and old people remember the time they ate a rat at the height of the Great Depression, so to them a stale,crumbly fake donuts tastes delicious. The beignets at Toulouse Petit are not much better: they’re fried to a dark brown varnish, folded into crumbly triangles like middle school paper footballs. They were okay but a creamy chicory crème anglaise that accompanied was brilliant: when you dipped the beignets into the chicory cream the overall effect was like a million 5 am breakfasts with your grandparents.

I reluctantly found myself genuinely enjoying Toulouse Petit. The food is actually quite tasty. The only way it could be more reminiscent of the actual Louisiana experience would be if the food caused you to drop out of high school and drive a Firebird and wear white rubber boots.

Rating: 8.5 Louisiana experiences out of 10