Tell the truth… you missed me, didn’t you?! I know, I know… one and a half whole weeks without food posts from yours truly is simply unacceptable! I’ll try not to let it happen again. But rest assured! I’ve brought back some wonderful pictures and food memories from my jaunt to a couple of the country’s most solid food cities, Portland and Seattle, and I can’t wait to share!
First up: Beast.
What a place! The food here was soooo awesome. It’s no wonder that Chef Naomi Pomery made it as far as she did on Top Chef Masters. Was anyone else watching that show?
And honestly, from a restaurant/cook’s perspective, this is the way to do it! They only have 2 seatings a night, it’s a fixed menu and everyone is served at the same time. It’s like being at a dinner party at someone’s house. Talk about an easy night on the line! Everyone was so relaxed and happy…just havin’ a good ol’ time singing along to the music, makin’ some food. No pressure to get the orders out, nothing to confuse or screw up. It was awesome! I want a restaurant like that!
Each course was set up on the huge island that took up half of the ‘dining’ room (which also contained the kitchen, dish pit and most everything else). Like this:
The rest of the space was very cool and casual, too. A couple of the walls are full chalkboard on which they have written a bunch of meat-loving sayings. Things like, “If we aren’t supposed to eat animals, then why are they made out of MEAT?” Haha! Hilarious!
But when the food started to arrive, it was clear that these women were NOT messing around. It was all thoughtful and complex yet balanced.
Our first course was “Black Cod & English Pea Chowder with Fresh Dug Fingerling Potatoes and Cherry Smoked Bacon.” Not that you can tell from the picture, but it was so many things: creamy, smokey, fresh & deep. Every once in a while you’d get a pop from some fresh herb or earthy oil. I wish I could clearly communicate how truly delicious this seemingly simple chowder really was. I guess you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.
The charcuterie plate, too, was simple yet intricate. I mean, you may look at this an see a bunch of tiny little bites but upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that each little bite has some serious components. Like the “Foie Gras Bon-Bon,” for example (which you can see at 12 o’clock). Not only did they make that delicious, silky-smooth, rich, fatty mousse but they also made the shortbread that it sits on and the sweet sauternes gelee that pops with a sprinkle of sea salt. Talk about decadence! I wanted to fall on the floor, it was so good. Or get up and dance… one of the two.
There was also a chicken liver mousse TDF (To Die For, really) with a pickled shallot and lard cracker, the brilliantly colored, house-cured Sockeye Salmon, spicy artisanal salumi and lightly tangy steak tartar with quail egg. To counter the fatty richness of the plate was the classic mustard and cornichon along with the not-so-classic (in fact, unheard of) pickled green strawberry and red chard stem. Interesting, huh? Are you, like me, wondering just who in the hell thinks of these things? Someone much more creative than I. And in the center, to clear your palate between each complex, flavorful bite was a fresh, lightly lemony salad of shaved fennel bulb, herbs and micro greens with dainty, orange edible flowers for color. It’s so gorgeous that I made it my desktop wallpaper :).
The duck was fab, too, with its crispy skin and moist, pull-apart meat. My fave, however was the asparagus, herb & cherry tomato salsa. It was such a nice accompaniment to the rich duck&veal demi. I also loved the slow cooked zucchini with green garlic that was soft and melty but not mushy and just salty enough. Mmmmm….
Even the simplest of green salads was spot on. The “gathering together of early summer greens” was fresh and perfect, heightened by the light citrus vinaigrette and deepened by the finely shaved parmesan.
A cheese course followed with something creamy, something nutty and a blue. The honey and poached apricot were definitely yummy but even better was the cardamom shortbread and the most glorious Marcona almonds I’ve ever tasted in my life. Why were those things so good? Oh yeah, they were fried and salted. Good thing I don’t have those in my pantry…. I don’t think I could control myself!
Last, but certainly not least, came another summer specialty: strawberry mousse. The fruit’s full flavor came at you singing in this creamy, soft pillow of summer love. There to accompany it were its brighter, bolder friends… the macerated strawberries and a few tangy, unadulterated golden raspberries, just to give the palate something else to consider. The loose Champagne gelee was no stretch in regards to flavor combos and I’m not totaly sure that I loved its texture. But the buttery, caramel-y, black pepper tuille, on the other hand, lent some contrasting crunch and depth. I hear that opposites attract. I’ll go with that… especially on this plate.
This style of service is also much different than the traditional way as it eliminates the most errors since there are no orders to take or courses to time, but that didn’t keep the staff from taking their jobs quite seriously. They had a lot of explaining and presenting to do and clearly everyone was well educated on the menu. Plus, they were all friendly and very professional if not minimal.
In case I haven’t made it clear: Fabulous dinner. Just Fabulous.
The Short Version (Out of 10)…
Overall impression: 10
Would I go back?
Um… that would be a ‘yes’… and I suggest, if you get the chance, you do too.