I sat on the other side of the line last night, enjoying dinner in a restaurant as a diner rather than a cook. Russell and I went to a restaurant in Ballard called Market Street Grill. This restaurant is fittingly named, as it is on Market Street. The restaurant recently hired a chef, Blake Caldwell, who has spent some time as a sous chef for Thomas Keller at Bouchon. The restaurant was recommended by a few people, and my curiosity was piqued as to what someone of the Thomas Keller vein was doing with a restaurant in Seattle.....Not even Seattle.....Ballard.
Ballard, a community that is home to movements to secede away from the metropolitan city of Seattle into itself, to preserve its industrial core disallowing urban growth, and has bumperstickers that say "visualize Ballard". So what is a chef that left to seek refinement in Napa under an American culinary icon doing there. I had to know.
The restaurant was nice. We sat at a nice booth (Russell said he likes privacy, but he really just wanted to play footsies). On the way in, Russ said, "I want to start with the cheese plate. Not the one on the dessert menu, but as a starter." He had obviously done his homework on the internet that afternoon. I was impressed that he took such a proactive approach to our dining experience.
So the cheese plate was our starter. It consisted of 3 cheeses, Le Chevrot, Cana de Oveja, Fourme d'Ambert, marcona almonds, sliced grannie smith apple, and some sliced bread. The presentation was clean and impressive. The apple was sliced super thin like I like it, but obviously on the same board they used to chop an onion, which I don't like. And the bread had a very nice chewy yet tender, dense yet light quality. And I am the type to pass on bread rather than eat a mediocre loaf.
There were other things on the menu I would have liked to try as a starter. There was a crispy duck confit canneloni that looked good. When I told James I had eaten there his eyes got big and he said, "ooohhh, did you try the pate?" I would have liked to have tried the counrty style pork pate, garnished simply with little cornichons.....I saw one walk past me. But the Pork Belly slow roasted with lentils and cippolini onions would have been my choice if cheese wasn't taking the number one slot. I developed a dear love for pork belly while in England. Well, good pork belly.
So all this day dreaming about the things I didn't have..... What did we eat? I had a lamb sausage, made and stuffed in house. It was served over grilled eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, and onions. These were cut into small, precise pieces that didn't suffer from a long drawn out cooking time that can make that common combination of vegies soggy and taste so bad. And off to the side was a little puddle of a balsamic reduction that had been mellowed out with some grain mustard. The flavors were all right on.
Russell had halibut, seared, and served atop a pile of wilted spinach. This was in a bowl with a grain mustard creme friache sauce poured around. The creme friache tasted amazing, but was runny and didn't adhere at all to the rest of the food. I don't know if this was the point, but I wanted to eat the sauce on the fish and I didn't have a spoon. All pickiness aside, both Russell and I really liked it. The flavors were clean, simple, and precise. As was all the plating.
For dessert we had a peach cobbler with vanilla icecream. The top of the cobbler was really good. It was soft, dense, almost cake like rather than a crumble or a biscuit. It reminded me of the "clafouti" Lampreia used to do. I liked this take on the cobbler better than most I have seen. We also had a tart that was filled with a lemony creme friache, and topped with fresh raspberries. Over this was a streaking of white chocolate sauce. The white chocolate was my favorite part. It was underlaid with an anise of some sort. This gave it a depth that white chocolate most often lacks, and created some warm tones while the temperature was cold. I really liked it.
Now I only wish I had not forgot my camera. Soon, I will learn to take it everywhere.