Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The dinner club

Last Saturday night (5/19) we got together with 7 other friends for a special dinner at Cremant, a newish (it turned one in March) French restaurant in Madrona. Before I even get to the dinner part, I just have to say what a sweet neighborhood Madrona is--there are several cute shops and restaurants along the main strip, but it doesn't feel gentrified yet. Case in point--the ad for the Madrona Farmer's Market, which takes place in the Grocery Outlet parking lot. Love it! But back to Cremant. We had booked the Salon du Jardin for our dinner, which we figured was a private room in the back of the restaurant. Well, it was, but it turned out to be completely private--we were instructed to walk outside and around back, where we saw the door for our room. It's separate from the rest of the restaurant, with a door to the kitchen. I will confess that I was really excited when I saw that we had our own restroom.

We had decided ahead of time that we would let the chef choose our menu, so we had no idea what the evening would hold. We started with aperitifs, a kir royale for me and cremant (French sparkling wine from outside the Champagne region) for Larry. As the group settled in with our drinks, the host brought out a plate of cured meats, a pot of house-made rillettes (!), and 2 pots of a delicious spread made with albacore tuna, roasted fennel, olives and eggplant. You mixed it all together and then spread it on your bread--so good. Not as good as the rillettes, mind you, but then I might be just a wee bit biased since rillettes are one of my absolute favorite treats and are usually hard to find.

Our next course consisted of 2 huge platters of endive salad with walnuts and Roquefort, and a plate of 6 roasted marrow bones. I had never had marrow before, and when I first saw it I felt a little nervous, but the taste was incredible. We were instructed to spread some marrow on a bit of bread and then sprinkle some fleur du sel over it. The marrow was so smooth, like butter but even more rich, and the salt added the perfect contrast. The salad had a great tangy bite to it, and paired beautifully with a Vouvray white wine. It was so good that toward the end of the course when we saw the waitress start to take people's plates away, Larry and I quickly loaded our plates up with more salad so we could keep eating! (Yes, we are gluttons.)

The third course arrived just as everyone was finishing their wine; it was cote de boeuf and a potato gratin. The host poured us Vacqueyras, a Rhone red wine, and we started in. The beef had been braised but was still rare--again, something I normally wouldn't have tried, but it was AMAZING. There was a great crust on the outside and lovely pink, tender meat on the inside. This dish may well have converted me to rare meat. The gratin was rich and creamy, a perfect match for the beef. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record with the "this paired beautifully..." and the "what a perfect match..." but it's true. There's a lot to be said for putting yourself in the hands of the chef; they know what dishes will go well together (and what wines to pair), they can plan a meal that will leave you satisfied but not stuffed, they can serve you the best of what's available that night, and you get to sit back and be surprised. Of course, there are some surprises you might not want--before we went Larry had requested that we not be served steak tartare or veal--but it's fun to put yourself in the chef's hands every once in a while. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now, but try it some time!

For dessert the host brought out one of each dessert on the menu: creme brulee, chocolate mousse, rice pudding, and plums that had been soaked in Armagnac. Each dessert was delicious (the plums surprisingly so), but the creme brulee was my favorite. I really wanted to order one just for myself, but I refrained. We were all amazed at what a perfect evening it had been, and started talking about where the next dinner club would be.

One last story...just about everyone ordered tea or an after-dinner drink, and I saw that Chartreuse was on the digestif menu. I've always been curious about Chartreuse--I know it's made by monks and that it's where the name of the color comes from, but before Saturday that was the extent of my knowledge. Since we had already had such an indulgent night, I decided to try it out. It came in a little brandy snifter and was that beautiful shade of green. I raised my glass, took a deep sniff and...nearly burned my nose hairs off! Seriously, it smelled like rubbing alcohol. I took a sip; it tingled all the way down my throat. Don't get me wrong, it tasted pretty good, but it was so spicy--almost like the bite you get from cinnamon oil--and I am a wimp about spicy things. I encouraged everyone else to have a sip, not only so they could smell and taste it, but so that I would have less to drink! It was quite an experience, but it didn't end there. About 10 minutes after we left the restaurant, I realized that I was totally blitzed (don't worry, Larry was driving). I had been fine all through dinner, so it was definitely the Chartreuse. I guess it's not a drink for amateurs!

Next up: Sitka and Spruce, on June 22nd.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

And her name was Veronica

CW announced their fall line-up today, and Veronica Mars was nowhere to be found. While the show never reached the awesome level of Season 1 (isn't that nearly always the case?), it was still entertaining and interesting. But apparently not as interesting as, say, The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll, or Friday Night Smackdown, or a series based on the Gossip Girl books. (which Kristen Bell is reported to be narrating--at least she'll have a new job...) Maybe it's just as well, because in the last season it's been turning into more and more of a teen soap instead of a noir mystery. But still--why do the best shows on TV always get cancelled?!? At least I still have How I Met Your Mother, and Heroes, and Lost, and The Office...and isn't Project Runway starting up again after Shear Genius ends? Hmm...okay, maybe it's better this way. With one less show to watch, maybe I'll stop watching so much television--not likely, but anything's possible. And I can always pop in the V Mars Season 1 DVD for a bit of nostalgia. Misty water-colored memories...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May to Decemberists

The Decemberists came back to town last Friday and put on an AMAZING show. Those of you who know me are probably thinking that I was predisposed to think that, given my near-obsession with them, and that's true. But still. It was amazing!!! The show began with a darkened hall and a rousing Russian nationalist tune--perhaps in deference to the original Decembrists? In any event, it was a great way to start. I felt like I was listening to the overture at an opera.

As the band came onstage, another beautiful backdrop came down behind them, this time a night scene (I think it was depicting the same village as before) complete with full moon and butterflies. They started the set with The Crane Wife, Parts 1 & 2 and then went into Part 3. Although I love the way the album starts with Part 3 and goes straight into The Island, it was nice to hear the entire cycle in its original order. It seemed like from there they really followed the album for a while, playing The Island, Yankee Bayonet and O Valencia! (maybe not in that exact order, my memory fails me there). Later in the show came Shankill Butchers (with the stage appropriately bathed in blood-red light), The Perfect Crime No. 2 and the show closer When The War Came. In between there were old favorites like Leslie Ann Levine and unreleased gems like Cut 'Em Up, Boy (deemed "too violent" for the album, it featured Chris and Jenny pairing up on the keyboard while Colin put his theater major skills to work. He borrowed someone's cell phone to deliver the last verse that started with, "Listen up, boy..." and I'm still wondering if there was actually a person on the other end of the line.)

Near the end of the set Colin announced that it would be their last song, and the audience was treated to...the vocal stylings of Chris Funk! He launched into his falsetto rendition of The Outfield's Your Love and got the audience to sing along on the chorus: "I just wanna use your love tonight/I don't wanna lose your love tonight." A couple of people in front even whipped out their lighters. It was truly awesome. They ended with an extra-long version of When The War Came, but came out shortly after for an encore, of which the highlight was the crazy audience participation piece Mariners Revenge. I've never had so much fun pretending to be eaten by a whale. (If you're confused right now I recommend that you dash right out and pick up a copy of The Decemberists Handbook DVD from your local record store.)

In the middle of the set Colin took a moment to apologize for the show they gave in the fall, which they felt was "crappy" because he was so sick. Well, I loved that show even though he was sick--like I've said before, the whole beauty of seeing live music is that you never know what you'll get. You just have to go with an open mind and enjoy the moment. So I don't think they needed to apologize, but I wasn't complaining that they wanted to make up for it by playing an extra-long show. It was the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect night.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Everyone deserves a second chance...

That's why I'm rooting for Jeff Weaver to have a better game today. He gave a really candid interview to reporters in New York, chronicled by the Seattle Times here. Basically, he admitted that he's been too much in his head and just needs to get out on the pitcher's mound and follow his gut. You have to respect a guy who owns up to his shortcomings but is still trying. Hopefully things will go better today and he'll get to stay in the rotation.

In other news, today we went to the
Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale. We brought home 10 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, bok choy, Swiss chard, basil, thyme and sorrel. I'm going to keep a notebook on how the different varieties of tomatoes do and will post the results throughout the growing season for any other interested gardeners. We got almost all "odd-colored" tomatoes, like Green Zebra, Limmony and Black Plum to name a few. I can't wait to see what cool colors and crazy shapes they turn into.

I'll put up a separate post about the Decemberists show last night, but here's the short version: Best! Show! EVER!!!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Happy Decemberists Eve!

Tomorrow night we're going to see The Decemberists at the Paramount. We saw them back in the fall, but since I'm pretty much obsessed with them Larry got me tickets for Valentine's Day so we can see them again. I've been looking forward to this show for nearly 3 months and it's finally here! I have a feeling it will be the highlight of the weekend, though it has some stiff competition: we'll also be paying a late night visit to SAM's 35-hour marathon grand opening, and going to a discussion/book signing featuring Tim Gunn (eee!). So while I'm not sure what the very best moment will be, I believe I can safely say that this weekend is going to ROCK! Tune in for the full report on Monday...