Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great restaurants of Seattle

Twice in one year. I am so enjoying this year. Twice in one year I get to enjoy fantastic food at great restaurants here in Seattle. In April I had the pleasure of heading over to Capitol Hill and dining at Poppy's restaurant. Already last night I was able to go to Tilth in the Wallingford neighborhood. I promise I am not spoilt yet. It certainly has been an exceptional year.
Tilth is owned by chef, Maria Hines. Maria was named this year's James Beard's Chef of the year for the Northwest. She has been running Tilth since 2006 and last year made NYTimes top 10 best new restaurants in the nation. She's got a great crew too. As we were standing looking into the kitchen at the end of our meal all the sudden the whole crew stopped their activity and smiled and waved at us all at once. There's a show stopper for you!

Let's go back to the beginning of the meal and our waitress, Sherri. She's got it going on because she let us know we can have "half orders" and that way we can try more things on the menu. Excellent plan of attack. My dining partner - yep, my son - has an inside scoop on this particular restaurant. He's been eyeing some dishes waiting for the opportunity to try them out. We each ordered two "half-orders" from the menu and ate off each other's plates as if we were related (oh that's right, never mind). We were still proper diners. We used our forks in the proper order and kept our napkins in our laps. What more do you want?
Beautiful Plate of Tuna, baby carrots and chive spaetzle
please note: napkin on lap
We enjoyed the Tuna (oh, the tuna...and the chive speatzle under it was light a refreshing and perfect to look at as well as to eat). We had Sweetbread - something I've never had before (wow, almost a light liver, as in pate, but not - I'll stop now). We had Balsamic glazed chicken - succulent and the corn puree accompaniment was the sweetest corn I ever remember eating. Is it because these things are organic? There was a lightness, nothing muddled about the flavors.

But, the thing I wonder I will always remember from this visit to Tilth is that I ate mussels and not only liked them...I want to go back for more. Mussles with dill and cilantro - what a vibrant flavor combination! I can taste it just thinking about it. It was good, damn good.

This Mussels thing is an amazing wonder in that I have never liked anything that vaguely resembles an oyster. Anything bivalvular had me looking at the other side of a menu. This aversion, I'm sure, started at Christmas Eve, the dreaded Christmas Eve Oyster Stew. Before I even started school I remember watching either my mom or my aunt or my grandma making oyster stew on Christmas Eve. Each of them would be going on and on about how good it is and our Swedish heritage and this will get passed down for generations (oops, sorry). I would be standing on a chair at the counter watching the oysters and the milk and the butter, salt & pepper going into the pot. I still want to gag at the smell of that. I can't help but wonder if a bad batch of oysters showed up one year and that was the "formative" year for me and oysters.

We can't say that my taste buds have finally grown up. I had the opportunity to try Cockles this year and, nope, they are as icky as oysters. Just smaller. These mussels at Tilth were good because they were cooked well. I wouldn't have thought to put dill and cilantro together. This is a spectacular burst of flavors. I suppose that's why I'm not the chef.

My son knows how to pick 'em. He makes a great dinner partner too. Espresso! Finish your night out with espresso, and the deserts (strawberry sconey thingy and a chocolate decadent scrumptious thick cake with creme and...the best....)!


  1. Dang. You almost have me wanting to try mussels, but no, not gonna go there.

    You should be writing these things for publication. I like how you add a personal story for background as you go along. I could see the oyster pot. Sure didn't like that visual :-)

  2. Wow, that place has the big time reviews. Your palate is of the sophisticated variety that must be very satisfying to chefs. Probably free ranging, happily grazing mussels. A good life makes for better food. I can only guess the invention of oyster stew came about in hard times when nothing else was there to eat. Then someone made it an art form to keep the kids quiet. That's my theory.

  3. As fascinating and famous as Tilth remains - I cannot imagine eating mussels (I don't care how they're flexed). Blaaaach. Meanwhile: I love your entry today. It's so good to read about someone and some business venture that's absolutely spectacular and thriving.