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Bruni on Seattle Restaurants

The travel section of this Sunday’s NYT will have a lengthy piece by former NYT restaurant critic Frank Bruni on Seattle. It’s on-line now. I saw the link at the NYT home page earlier today and wasted no time having a look. The more I read, the more I thought Seattle sounds like a great place to live. I didn’t entirely recognize it. Obviously I need to get out more.

Bruni opens with an encounter at The Walrus and the Carpenter, which leads into the paeanful passage below:

To eat in and around Seattle, which I did recently and recommend heartily, isn’t merely to eat well. It is to experience something that even many larger, more gastronomically celebrated cities and regions can’t offer, not to this degree: a profound and exhilarating sense of place.

I’m hard-pressed to think of another corner or patch of the United States where the locavore sensibilities of the moment are on such florid (and often sweetly funny) display, or where they pay richer dividends, at least if you’re a lover of fish. You could, I guess, make a case for the southern stretch of the Pacific Northwest around Portland, Ore., a city honored by its own cable television show, “Portlandia,” which pokes fun at its artisanal obsessions, epicurean and otherwise. But Portland isn’t as connected to and intimate with the sea and tides as Seattle. It’s not as wondrously watery.

In greater Seattle and the San Juan Islands you get a lineup and caliber of local oysters that aren’t easily matched, in addition to superb spot prawns, salmon, black cod and halibut.

Did I mention Dungeness crab? The region is lousy with Dungeness crab. It came at me in more ways than I could keep track of. At Seatown, an enticing new restaurant near the Pike Place Market, it formed a snowy layer in a colorful, carefully molded puck with pale green avocado and glittering orange tobiko, which is flying fish roe. Seatown further used it with bacon in an unconventional B.L.T. For its part, the restaurant Madison Park Conservatory, an excellent recent arrival to the shores of Lake Washington, served Dungeness crab deviled eggs at brunch. Somewhere around Seattle, I’m certain, Dungeness crab gelato is being made. I simply didn’t have the good (or ill?) fortune to find it.

The region provides a natural theater for this feast that’s just as inimitable, a thrilling topography of steeply pitched hills and gently sloped mountains. Snowcaps shimmer on the horizon. Evergreens are everywhere — gargantuan and piney and so very, very pointy. The tree line has jags, edges. It looks as if it’s serrated.

The Madison Park Conservatory, mentioned above in passing, is in our neighborhood. I’m embarrassed to say we have yet to eat there. On the other hand, it’s still new, and we did eat in the restaurants that preceded it on the same site. Indeed, Gail and I had our second date there when it was Crêpe de Paris.

See also the slideshow that accompanies Bruni’s article.

Categories: Restaurants
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