Right before the holidays, I had the good fortune to dine at a restaurant that was perched at the top of my Seattle restaurant bucket list. To say it blew my mind would be the understatement of the (end of the) year. The entire experience at Poppy— from the modern interior, the great branding, the attentive service, and most of all the spectacular food, just rocked my world. I wasn’t sure I’d love the Thali dining experience, worried that receiving all my small plates at once would be too much, or that my food would get cold. But I was wrong. It was a perfect platter, my entree surrounded by the most succulent, beautifully prepared seasonal vegetables, nestled in their own little dishes. It really were the vegetables that got me, so much so that I might go for the vegetarian Thali on my next visit. You know a genius is in the kitchen when you feel that strongly about the vegetables. Nothing was overly fussy, he just happened to throw in just the right touches to accent the dishes. A touch of citrus and briny olives to highlight the radicchio, caraway seeds to contrast with the brussels sprouts, a touch of dill in the cauliflower salad. It was a fun challenge for me, slowly letting the flavors dance across my tongue, trying to name exactly what I was tasting without cheating and looking back on the menu; a little private test of my own palate. And while the vegetables stole the show for me, I have to admit the slow roasted pork with vanilla, chestnut and pears was equally mind-blowing. Again, that dish featured flavor and texture combinations that I never would have dreamed up in a million years. I guess that’s why I’m a photographer, not a chef.
When I got home the first thing I did was hit up amazon to see if chef Jerry Traunfeld has a cookbook. Fortunately he does, for his other restaurant The Herbfarm. And I dug around the web and found a handful of online recipes by Traunfeld, like these from Food & Wine and these from Epicurious, which will be gracing my dinner table in 2012. And maybe yours?
Happy New Year, and Happy Eating everyone!