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Georgian Room Dinner, 2

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Georgian Room

I wrote earlier today of our visit to the Wright Exhibition Space last Thursday afternoon, on the occasion of our 26th anniversary. Thursday evening, we continued our anniversary celebration with a dinner at the Olympic Hotel’s Georgian Room. This is always a natural location for our anniversary dinner, since we were married in the Olympic. We don’t make it there every year. Last year, for instance, we headed across the Sound to Alderbrook Resort & Spa on Hood Canal, a visit I wrote about at some length. But we were at the Olympic for our anniversary dinner two years ago, and I can’t imagine why we waited so long to return. It’s open, after all, on days other than our anniversary.

I realize now that I wrote about our two-year-ago Georgian Room dinner at the time. I had a lot to say. I expect this report to be briefer.

Let’s start with the menu. This link may not survive for long, and the menu displayed online tonight isn’t a perfect match with last Thursday’s, but it’s close. You might take a peek to start.

We arrived on schedule and were seated at one of the banquette tables along the back wall. These are two-tops designed for the diners to sit side-by-side on a sort of love seat to one side of the table, the other side being open. Sitting on the table was an arrangement with a dozen orange roses. (How did they know? I suspect it probably helped that I called Topper’s, a florist located on the hotel’s bottom floor, that morning.) We sat down, admired the flowers, then examined the menu.

A fixture of the menu is dessert soufflés, a standard one and a nightly special. In addition to deciding on our appetizer and main dish, we also needed to think about whether to order a soufflé early. More precisely, I had to decide. Gail didn’t. She always orders a soufflé. And we had to decide about wine.

In due course, we made our decisions. Gail chose the lobster appetizer. The online menu doesn’t explain it well. It came with a seaweed salad and some other item on the side that slips my mind. I had the onion tart, which is accurately described: Walla Walla Onion Tart, Baby Spinach, Warm Shallot and Bacon Vinaigrette. The tart wasn’t much more than an inch in diameter and an inch high, or maybe 1.5 inches. Next to it was another cylindrical stack, with greens and bacon in alternating layers. The salad stack was perfect. The onion tart was pretty good too, but I liked the salad even better. Gail was happy with her lobster, not so sure about the seaweed salad.

Oh, I jumped ahead, didn’t I, going from choosing appetizers straight to eating. Sorry about that. For her entrée, Gail selected the Roasted Rack of Lamb with Tomato Crusted Kalamata Olive, Sweet Pea Quinoa, Grilled Spring Onion. I’m going off the online menu, but it might have been slightly different. I chose the Filet of Angus Beef, Shallot and Oxtail Braisage, Young Organic Carrots. That’s what the online menu says, but our menus were different. Instead of carrots, I had mashed potatoes and peas. We also ordered a half-bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, and Gail chose to start with a Bellini.

The Georgian Room’s sommelier was soon at our table with the wine. He’s the same fellow I wrote about two years ago, from Austria, who regaled us with family stories for several minutes that evening after someone other table’s entrées were brought to us by mistake. This time, we learned about his nearly complete home kitchen remodel, even as a waiter brought us our amuse bouche and another brought Gail her Bellini. We didn’t mind. He’s awfully charming.

So, now I have things in the right order. We chose our food and drink, the wine came, the amuse bouche and cocktail came, then the already described appetizers came. I don’t have much to say about the amuse bouche. I hardly remember it. It looked interesting, but the taste wasn’t so memorable.

And then it was entrée time. We were both happy with our choices. My steak sat atop the peas, which were encircled by the mashed potato, extruded it appeared from one of those pastry extruder bags. A lovely presentation. Gail’s lamb sat atop the pea quinoa, which formed a firm rectangular block, a blended mix of peas and quinoa that looked inviting and tasted pretty good too. Off to the side was a waffle-shaped tomato crisp, and below were balsamic dots. When Gail was done, I tasted her pea-quinoa cake. It was so good, I finished it off, then I asked her why she hadn’t finished it or her chops, as I bit off the last of the meat. That’s when she pointed out that she didn’t know she was finished. She was just giving me a taste. Oh well.

By the way, I failed to mention it, but after an advance look at the dessert menu when we finished ordering the main dishes, I decided to join Gail with soufflé. She chose the on-going option, a black and white chocolate soufflé. I chose the nightly special, a peaches and cream soufflé. A waiter came by to ask about coffee just as we were reminiscing once again about the time we were eating at Topper’s Restaurant in Nantucket and Gail asked at dessert time if they had a Sauternes. Sure. She had a glass, and only when the check came did we find that it cost $65. We didn’t know how expensive Château d’Yquem Sauternes is, and we haven’t ordered it since.

But this was our anniversary, so Gail decided to go for it. She asked if it was possible to get a glass of Château d’Yquem. The waiter apologetically said no. She ordered cappuccino. Then the waiter returned a few minutes later, apologetic again, this time because he hadn’t pointed out that (a) she could have other Sauternes and (b) we could order a bottle of Château d’Yquem. Well, we sure as heck weren’t going to choose (b), but I urged her to go ahead with (a).

Soon the soufflés came. And the Sauternes. And the cappuccino. Everything was perfect. And some minutes later, the closing treat was brought to us, adorned with two lit candles making an arch and the message Happy 26th Anniversary written in glaze on the plate. The treat consisted of some chocolate disks, a little dish of honey, and a long narrow trough filled with white chocolate flakes. We were instructed to dip the chocolate in the honey, then drag it through the white chocolate trough. That worked well.

So ended our anniversary dinner. Except for a little confusion on the bill. The wine was missing. I suspected this wasn’t a parting gift, so I pointed the omission out to the waiter, who was effusive in his thanks. The adjusted bill came, we paid, we walked out, and we made our traditional journey to the Kensington Room, half a flight up on the balcony level that overlooks the hotel’s grand lobby. All the other function rooms looked pretty dead, but the Kensington was hosting a reception, so we couldn’t really stare in, as I like to do. Gail isn’t as caught up in this tradition as I am. The Kensington is, of course, the room in which we were married, and I’m always happy to point this out to any passersby. I resisted the temptation to crash the reception and tell the guests that they had the good fortune to be sitting in the very room where 26 years ago on that very day … .

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Categories: Food, Restaurants

Color Field Paintings

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Painting with Frame by Helen Frankenthaler

[Wright Exhibition Space]

I’ve written twice before (here and here) about seeing exhibits at the Wright Exhibition Space. This is a small gallery that mounts shows from time to time drawn largely, or entirely, from the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, the largest collection of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest. I highly recommend going, whatever the show, because the art is superb, the mix of art is interesting, you often have the space to yourself or nearly to yourself, there’s an informative little printed guide, and there’s often a docent to introduce you to the show and chat with. The gallery is open Thursdays and Saturday, with free admission.

The current show is Color Field Paintings and Related Abstractions Revisited, the “revisited” referring to the fact that much the same show was put on in 2004. We went down to see it on Thursday afternoon. Thursday was our wedding anniversary, so this seemed like a good way to mark the day, all the more because the gallery would be on the way to another stop we wanted to make in celebration of our anniversary, Albert Lee Appliance. What better way to celebrate domestic bliss than to shop for kitchen appliances?

The exhibit features multiple paintings from the Wright Collection by Helen Franenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Larry Poons, plus single paintings by Mary Corse, Hans Hoffman, Morris Louis, Robert Motherwell, Gerhard Richter, and Anne Truitt, 23 works in all. From the guide, Virginia Wright writes:

Dismissed as “corporate,” “lacking in human emotion” and “merely decorative,” critics attacked Color Field paintings as a dead end, of no interest or inspiration to other artists. For a long time there were few exhibitions of the work of Louis, Frankenthaler, Noland and Olitski, and only modest sales of their works. For example, Olitski’s Thigh Smoke in this exhibition, a painting that had been included in the Venice Biennale in 1966 and in Geldahler’s important 1969 exhibition at the Metropolitan, came up at Sotheby’s at a morning sale in 1997 and failed to make the opening bid of $20,000. We acquired it after no one else showed any interest in it, and regard it as one of the most important works in our collection.

[snip]

Matthew Kangas and Bagley Wright had been after me for some time to organize a Color Field show because our collection includes many Color Field paintings. They felt that after some thirty years, it was time to take another look at these “merely decorative” works. The hope was that in 2004, as a new century was beginning, we would perhaps begin to look back at the 20th century with new eyes, and Color Field painting might get a reprieve. In fact, there were already some indications of a change of heart. …

I have been pleased that the Color Field show of 2004 did help to retrieve the reputation of the artists on view. It was so popular that we decided to repeat it. This show is almost identical to the earlier one, but with a few changes we hope will intrigue viewers. Our hope is that Color Field painting will come to be seen not as a dead end but as a stunning chapter in the development of abstract art, capable of inspiring other artists and, above all, providing pleasure of the very highest order.

On Thursday, we spent a few minutes getting an overview of the show by the docent, then explored on our own for 40 minutes or so. We each had our favorites, and some of the works we had seen in previous shows, but as much as the individual works, we loved the impression they make as a group. We will return before the show ends in September, and you should go too if you’re in the neighborhood.

Categories: Art