The good, the very good, and the wonderful
1. Veteran’s Day afternoon with Kate: being unstylish, unshowered, and happy on a sunny day and walking arm in arm along the piers and down to Myrtle Edwards Park, after which we split a spectacularly buttery brioche (her very first!) from Le Panier, bought some deep green crinkly dinosaur kale from flirtatious vendors at the market, and talked chamois creme.
2. Meeting a real, live (ex-)break dancer. Bonus points for recent thumb injuries incurred while break dancing at parties. Yeow.
3. A twenty-dollar seven-course “Chef’s Experience” menu at Mistral, thank you very much. Armed with a fortuitous inside connection, four of us enjoyed a très haute-cuisine dinner free of charge—save for the tip, which, after all, is only civilized.
Tucked away next to an alley in Seattle’s Belltown district, Mistral is unassuming to the eye: a long, narrow, simply decorated space with pale walls and a tall ceiling. The restaurant was opened in January 2000 by chef William Belickis, who turns out decadent, largely French-influenced fare with an emphasis on local ingredients.
We began with a Champagne whose name I—falling down on the job—neglected to note, and then the feast proceeded as follows:
- Kusshi oyster with grapefruit slices and celery foam for the other three—and for oyster-fearing me, a square filet of Arctic char on shaved white asparagus with some sort of green-colored and green-tasting purée splattered around, crunchy salt and crispy skin on top
- An enormous diver sea scallop (beautifully seared to a burnished brown, again with crunchy nuggets of salt; very meaty and sweet) in a smooth brown-butter and parsnip soup with drizzle of basil oil and spoonful of carrot foam (minerally, earthy, but I’m indifferent to this foam thing)
2002 Mason Sauvignon Blanc
- Wild Atlantic skate (a bit too salty, unfortunately) on a bed of silky cubed eggplant, thinly sliced turnips, and pearl onions, with a translucent green lettuce-and-Madras-curry sauce, drizzle of basil oil
2003 Forman Napa Valley Chardonnay
- Seared Sonoma artisanal foie gras* (crowned with ubiquitous crunchy salt; the whole melting instantly on the tongue) on a comice pear purée with a passionfruit and Tahitian vanilla bean reduction, with Granny Smith apple chips.
1988 Tokaji (from Hungary, amber brown, sweet but clean, not cloying, raisin-y)
- Moulard duck or Oregon lamb chop (two of each for the table, both beautifully rare) on fingerling potato purée (too sweet; very odd) with Swiss chard, “Thumbelina” carrots, chive oil, red wine reduction, and zatar-infused olive oil
2000 Arcadian Monterey Pinot Noir
- Slivers of five cheeses: Pavé de Jadis (creamy, mild goat), semi-soft Pecorino, Agour (Spanish sheep’s milk), Persil de Beaujolais (cow’s milk blue), Brillat Savarin (triple-crème cow)
Red wine I neglected to write down, being in mid-story (Cabernet?)
- Two of each for the table: a round of genoise-ish cake topped with a quenelle of crème fraîche ice cream, with tapioca and pomegranate seeds scattered all around; and a small pot of ice cream (vanilla and something unidentifiable), a shot of hot chocolate, and two vanilla sugar cookies
Very inventive and absolutely exemplary all around, minus the few quibbles as noted. Thank you, L.L., for a very glamorous and delicious evening. I’m a more than willing partner anytime. Another scallop, please!
But I have to admit (and not without some shame) that I don't think I'm cut out for "fine dining." I put my elbows on the table; I feel silly swirling my wine glass; and I'm worthless if you're looking to suss out the herbs and spices in a dish. This does not bode well for a career in food writing. I need more educating, or maybe more audacity. Then again, while there is much to be said for the expert balancing of flavors that a four-star chef can achieve, satisfaction is a fine roasted chicken and a slab of ridiculously rich chocolate cake, honey.
*Although I hesitated when the head waiter asked if we were all willing to eat foie gras, I decided to nod my agreement, choosing on this occasion to overlook my ethical concerns for the sake of my palate’s education. Forgive me; it was delicious, so smooth and so warm.