Monday, June 22, 2009

Wait...There was a Dessert Course?

For Father's Day (and a late Mother's Day) my parents came up to Seattle for the weekend, and Amanda and I took them to Elemental @ Gasworks, an "eclectic culinary endeavor.' As a family of self-proclaimed gastronomes and wine lovers, we were excited for an evening of elegant yet simple cuisine, perfectly paired wine, and each other's company. However, as I sit down to write about our fantastic dining experience at Elemental, I realize that I can barely recall the beef course, the cheese course was a blur, and the dessert course was... wait... there was a dessert course? What caused this food amnesia and ensuing short term memory loss? It all started at 5 pm, Saturday night, at the end of Wallingford St, overlooking Gasworks Park...

We sat down in the dining room of Elemental, enamoured with the crisp white linens, simple decor, and bottles of wine stuffed in every nook and cranny. Phred, who owns and operates Elemental with his wife, head chef Laurie, delivered four filled shot glasses to our table, along with a carafe of fragrant cucumber water. Unsure of the contents of the glass, or the 'rules' of the restaurant, we gingerly sipped and nonchalantly looked around at the two other tables for guidance. Advised by Phred to 'try before we ask,' we finished our shot glass of...something like port... and ordered cocktails. In the mood for something new, we all asked Phred to surprise us- something bitter for John and myself, something fruity for Amanda and Mel. My cocktail was a deliciously bitter, slightly breathtaking concoction of white rum, dry vermouth, and Aperol-a bitter orange Italian aperitif. We sipped our cocktails, slower at first, and then faster once we saw Phred taking half full glasses away from other tables in order to deliver the first glass of wine. Waste not, want not.

Our first course, with a perfectly paired glass of white wine, was... popcorn! Flavored with truffle oil and a hint of garlic, this was certainly the fanciest (and most fantastic) popcorn any of us had ever experienced. Truffle is the richest, most distinct flavor I've ever encountered... more of a feeling than a taste, and combined with a simple bowl of popcorn it was pure heaven. We literally licked our bowls clean (when Phred wasn't looking, of course). Next, with another glass of wine, Phred brought out beet, pineapple, and goat cheese salad with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped pistachios. While I generally never meet a food (especially a cheese) I don't like, I've never enjoyed goat cheese. Until now. The combination of flavors was so perfect, that I can't imagine eating the beet and pineapple salad with anything other than goat cheese. And beets and pineapple together... genius! Amanda and I can't wait to try to recreate this dish at home!

One 'shot,' one cocktail, one hour, and two glasses of wine down, our next course was delivered... with another glass of white wine. Shrimp in garlicky butter with peppered focaccia bread sticks. So simple, yet so elegant when paired with a perfectly matched glass of wine... which we knocked back with gusto so that Phred wouldn't take them away still full.

One shot, one cocktail, a long time, and 3 glasses of wine down, we started to take video of us describing the food- for historical records, of course. We also started to reminisce, giggle, and talk in a higher octave. Up next was one of John's favorite courses. With a glass of wine (of course), Phred brought out squid stuffed with a sausage and rice mixture (according to the video, we thought it was either chorizo or linguica). The squid was firm and slightly chewy, and added a briny, fresh sea flavor to the spicy stuffing. It was served over a garlicky Swiss chard. Mel wasn't crazy about the squid, but the rest of us loved this course, for it's unique flavor and fun presentation.

The next course, paired with another glass of wine, was spinach balls in a tangy tomato sauce with a slice of baguette and sweet, rich butter. Following the spinach balls, after one shot, one cocktail, 3.5 hours, and too many glasses of wine to count, we were served one of my favorite courses. Gougères (the savory equivalent of a profiterole...or cream puff) filled with chicken liver mousse and drizzled with a balsamic reduction, accompanied by red wine. I love liver. Mel, John, and I devoured the gougères and reminisced about when I was a kid and would beg them to make BBQ'd chicken livers, one of my favorite things to eat. Amanda didn't care for the liver cream puff, but she was never a fan of liver. I think I raved to Phred about the liver... I might have even told him that I was the liver-eatin'est-kid-around... but I'm not sure because this is about the time that my memory started become spotty.

With our next glass of wine, we were served ravioli in a cream sauce filled with a tapenade that we thought had olives and mushrooms. The pictures were starting to get a little blurry at this point. As were my taste buds. I sort of recall liking this dish.

For the next course, we were served a hearty red wine. And Phred started to make jokes about our tables' frequent trips to the restroom (I believe the exact statement was that John has the bladder of a 13 year old girl). Oh yeah, we were also served the beef course. I wish I could describe the the flavor of the tender, rare slices of beef, or the side of green beans and mushrooms. I would love to tell you, reader, of the way the wine and the beef were perfectly paired, or to examine each individual flavor in the vegetable side... yet I cannot. It's not that I didn't enjoy the beef course. According to historical video records of said course, I loved the beef. Unfortunately, my only memories of the beef course reside in wine induced, giggly, fragmented videos, and blurry photos.

I think that the cheese course came with two more glasses of wine. Rumor has it that we were served a dessert course, which was accompanied by more wine. Amanda tells me that Phred joked about not wanting to lose his liquor license...shortly before John took me outside for fresh air, and before I reportedly bear crawled up the sidewalk. The rest of the night is lost, living only in the minds of my dear parents and sister. From what I can remember, our evening at Elemental was amazing. Filled with 5 hours of amazing conversation and laughs with my family, inventive and delicious food that we are still raving about, and, of course... glass upon glass upon glass of perfectly paired wine.
Thank you Elemental for a wonderful culinary experience. I hope to be back soon so that I can tell my readers about the vast selection of cheeses and the fantastic desserts that I'm sure you serve. Next time, I'll let you take away my glass after each course, with wine still in it.
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