Poppy

[From Poppy’s website]

Wednesday night was the start of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Normally, even the most minimally observant of Jews would go to synagogue for Rosh Hashanah. I suppose I qualify as minimally observant. But over a decade ago, we began a variant tradition. We had already begun to celebrate assorted Jewish holidays with our friends Cynthia, Andy, and their family. One year, we were having Rosh Hashanah dinner at their house, welcoming the new year, when it became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to both finish dinner and get to evening services. We went with finishing dinner. So began the tradition of eating dinner in lieu of services, then attending services the next morning.

We don’t adhere to this tradition every year, sometimes because travel intervenes. Last year, for instance, Rosh Hashanah came early (as part of the continuing back-and-forth drift between the lunar-based Jewish calendar and the solar-based calendar of our daily lives), so early that we were still on vacation in Nantucket. Gail and I attended the Rosh Hashanah evening services of Congregation Shirat Ha Yam, held in Nantucket’s historic Unitarian church, then grabbed a couple of slices of pizza for holiday dinner at Steamboat Pizza.

Which brings us to this year. The powers that be decided we would return to the tradition of building our Rosh Hashanah evening celebration around dinner. And rather than a traditional Jewish holiday dinner, we would open with ceremonial challah, apples, and honey at our house, then head to a restaurant.

So it was that we headed up to Poppy, where Gail had eaten before, but not the rest of us. What’s Poppy? According to its website,

jerry traunfeld’s capitol hill restaurant brings a new style of dining to the northwest. jerry’s inspiration comes from the “thali,” a platter served to each guest holding a variety of small dishes. poppy’s menu borrows the idea of the thali to present jerry’s own style of northwest cooking, highlighting seasonal ingredients, fresh herbs, and spices. it’s a modern northwest tasting menu served all at once.

Traunfeld is one of the northwest’s most famous chefs, thanks largely to his years at The Herbfarm. A visit to Poppy was long overdue.

I understood from studying the menu ahead of time that one chooses either a 7-item or 10-item thali. What I didn’t understand was how large each item was and whether diners were encouraged to share with others at the table or focus on their own thalis. Our server explained that we should each just choose our own thali. As for portion size, the 7-item thali has one primary dish, the 10-item two, and these are modest sized entrees, the other items serving as smaller complements.

The menu keeps changing. What you see online differs from what we had, though the current listing is close. There is also a selection under the heading to start. Each of us chose a starter from the list below:

spice crispies

eggplant fries with sea salt & honey

spiced fig, onion, blue cheese and sage tart

batata wada (potato fritters) with cilantro lime sauce

heirloom tomato, herb, feta and olive salad

little lobster roll fines herbes

lightly fried mussels with lovage

poached oysters with sorrel sauce and bacon

*half-shell kumomoto oysters with anise hyssop ice

lavender duck, radicchio, blackberry and hazelnut salad

washington farmstead cheeses with rye-thyme crackers

three spreads with naan

grilled monterey bay squid with arugula, walnut, peppers and orange

Namely, the eggplant fries, spiced fig tart, potato fritters, and lobster roll. We then shared a bit. I chose the potato fritters, anticipating that they might be like samosa, which they were, though much smaller, little balls. They were perfect. I had two of the four. And I had lots of eggplant fries, which were astonishingly good.

As for thalis, here are the current online choices.

10-item thali

king salmon with chanterelles, bacon and lemon-thyme sorrel sauce
grilled waygu beef with tomato, capers and fingerlings
red-pepper apricot soup
watermelon, cucumber, cinnamon basil and almond salad
radish, purslane and grilled spring onion salad
local roots carrots with fresh fennel seed
golden beets with spice bread and mint
corn basil spoonbread
peach, blueberry and anise hyssop pickle
nigella-poppy naan

10-item vegetarian thali
cauliflower agnolotti with lobster mushrooms
quinoa cakes with goat cheese, squash blossoms, fillet beans and tomato
tomato, sage and strawberry soup
watermelon, cucumber, cinnamon basil and almond salad
radish, purslane and grilled spring onion salad
golden beets with spice bread and mint
corn and basil spoonbread
sprouting broccoli with oregano
plum-shiso pickle
nigella-poppy naan

7-item thalis

king salmon with chantarelles, bacon and lemon-thyme sorrel sauce
tomato, sage and strawberry soup
watermelon, cucumber, cinnamon basil and almond salad
local roots carrots with fresh fennel seed
corn and basil spoonbread
plum-shiso pickle
nigella-poppy naan

tandoori poussin with fresh figs and huckleberries
tomato, sage and strawberry soup
radish, purslane and grilled spring onion salad
golden beets with spice bread and mint
corn and basil spoonbread
plum-shiso pickle
nigella-poppy naan

grilled wagyu beef with tomato, capers and fingerlings
red-pepper apricot soup
watermelon, cucumber, cinnamon basil and almond salad
sprouting broccoli with oregano
golden beets with spice bread and mint
peach, blueberry and anise hyssop pickle
nigella-poppy naan

The first two items in the 10-item thalis are the main dishes, the first one in the 7-item the lone main dish. Wednesday, the actual main dishes in the 10-item non-vegetarian thali were the salmon, as listed, and the poussin, shown above as a 7-item main dish. I wanted to try the beef, and wanted some of the 10-item accompaniments, so I was stuck until the server said we could swap the beef salmon or poussin. That made it easy. I had the 10-item. Gail had the 7-item with beef. Andy and Cynthia chose 7-items with salmon.

It turns out that a 10-item thali is a lot of food. I should have copied Gail and chosen the 7-item beef thali. I somehow missed that the beef doesn’t come alone. As you see on the menu, it has its own accompaniments, the tomato, capers, and fingerlings. It is a min-meal by itself. Similarly with the salmon.

When the server brought our thalis, she explained that we should rotate among the dishes, using the pickle item as a palate cleanser. As listed above, I had peach, blueberry and anise hyssop pickle as my cleanser, but I only occasionally followed instructions. I did rotate. I only occasionally went to the pickle as an intermediary.

So many delicious items. The soup. The corn and basil spoon bread. The beets, and I don’t even like beets. The carrots. The naan. Everything was so good. I can’t wait to return.

And then there’s the garden, which is just outside the back door, between the building and a parking lot. Below is one image of it. See the website for more.

If I had gotten this post written more quickly (but, you know, it was Rosh Hashanah, and also I had a new book to read), you might be thinking, let’s see, Wednesday night, Wednesday night … wasn’t that the night when all those amazing baseball games were played, the night that will go down in history? You mean to say you were sitting in a restaurant instead of watching them all?

Yes, that’s right. The only consolation is that if we weren’t out to dinner, I would have been at services. Then again, we might instead have been eating dinner at one of our homes, in which case we surely would have switched over to watching the games in time for their dramatic ends.

Andy and I did get to check the scores on our phones. We did have some idea of the flow of the games. But we didn’t realize that Papelbon had two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, or that Dan Johnson hit his game-tying home run in Tampa with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. We didn’t really understand the extraordinary events unfolding while we were eating our thalis.

Fortunately, a half hour or so after we got home, I got on the treadmill and turned on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight just as they started a recap of the four crucial games. At least I got summaries and understood what we had missed. And it was my holiday. One must have priorities.

But Andy, I’m sorry. You sacrificed too much. There’s no way to make it up. Thank you for choosing Rosh Hashanah dinner over baseball.

Advertisements
Categories: Baseball, Restaurants
  1. awilliams53
    October 3, 2011 at 6:32 AM

    It wasn’t the first time that I missed important baseball for other events. Cynthia and I were having an anniversary dinner in 1988 when Kirk Gibson hit that home run off Dennis Eckersley. We had watched the middle innings in the Knarr Tavern (this was pre rehab!) as the Dodgers were unable to do much against the A’s, and I thought it was a loss cause, so was reconciled to enjoy a wonderful Italian meal at the restaurant across University Way.

    And, after dessert, when we got back in the car, I was stunned to learn the outcome, but glad that I had recorded the entire game on the VCR, back when we actually used those things.

    L’shanah Tovah!

  2. Ron
    October 3, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    I know the feeling. We had tickets for a folk concert in 1986 and had to leave the house during the 6th game of the World Series. It was my idea to go to the concert, so I couldn’t just skip it.

    I still can’t believe that we went, thereby missing the Red Sox’ first world series championship in 68 years. (They won that game, didn’t they?)

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: