Madison Valley Trio
I mentioned in my last post that I haven’t been writing much lately, in part, because of house guests. But we sure had lots of good dinners, home and away. It was great to have Carol in the kitchen, both as Gail’s sous-chef and, one night, the chef herself (producing a superb salmon dinner). Among the meals out, I’ll mention three that were all within a block of each other in the Madison Valley neighborhood, just over a mile from here.
It’s a continuing wonder to me that Madison Valley has so many good restaurants. When I moved to Seattle a few decades ago, the Madison Valley commercial strip along Madison Street was non-existent. There was the New York Deli. And nothing else. Not just no other restaurants. No commercial establishments at all. The deli was an island. I’d drive home from the university through the Arboretum, making a left on Madison to go down to the lake and Madison Park, with Madison Valley immediately to the right. Another half mile up the road on the right were some stores, but I’d never head that way.
And now Madison Valley may have a more interesting collection of restaurants than Madison Park, among which are the three where we ate with Carol (and, in the first case, Tom).
1. Luc. I’ve written about Luc before. It’s the more casual French restaurant that Thierry Rautureau opened a few years ago to complement Rover’s, his high-end restaurant about which I’ve also written many times. We will miss Rover’s. Thierry is closing it soon. But Luc will continue, and perhaps we’ll get there more often. We ate there on Mother’s Day two years ago, but made it back only once since then, until going two weeks ago with Tom and Carol, Jessica and Joel.
We shared a basket of soufflé potato crisps to start, along with harissa aioli as a dip. Then I had the salad Lyonnaise: frisée, mustard, poached egg, lardon, and red wine vinaigrette. My main dish was the trout amandine with potato. There was a trout special that several of the others had. And I had to watch Carol, sitting across from me, eat their amazing sausage dish: house made lamb sausage, roasted root vegetables, and spring salad. That sausage is really good. I had forgotten just how good, but Carol was kind enough to let me try it.
I passed on dessert, but did try a bit of Gail’s madeleines. Oh, and a taste of Carol’s ice cream. We need to eat there more often. One thing, though. The back seating area, by a small seating counter that overlooks the kitchen, is really loud, as I learned three Januarys ago when I ate a sort of business dinner there. It’s hard to hear one’s table mates. We need to make sure we get seating in front.
2. La Côte Café. I’ve written about this also many times. I don’t have much to add. Ever since they stopped being a pure crêperie, dropping a lot of dinner crêpes from the menu and adding a variety of alternative French and Italian entrées, I pretty much always order the same thing: the côte salad with butter lettuce, shaved fennel, apple, and vinaigrette; the fettucini carbonara with slab bacon, parmesan, and cream (and a raw egg, not listed); and from their list of dessert crêpes, the Belle-Hélène, withpear, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce. This time I mixed it up, going for the Martiniquaise crêpe for dessert—banana and chocolate sauce. And, of course, a glass of cider from Brittany—I never remember which—that I keep trying to convince myself I enjoy, though it tastes something like burnt rubber.
3. The Harvest Vine. How could we never eat here before? We went a few days ago, our last meal out with Carol. I always thought it was just a wine bar. We’d drive by and people would be squeezed into the small space at the far end of the Madison Valley commercial strip, seeming to fall out of the open windows. What I didn’t know is that there’s restaurant seating below and a Basque menu. Carol knew her way around the menu, having spent plenty of time in Spain with Tom, so she could advise us, as the waiter was more than eager to do.
We shared all our dishes, as is the custom, starting with Tabla Ibérica, a selection of dry-cured meats from the pata negra pig. There were four meats, all fantastic, each thin sliced. We had Gazpacho and the Tortilla Española—a warm potato onion omelette with alioli. And Calçots—grilled Catalan green onions with almond romesco. The Cordero en Torrefacto, or grilled lamb in torrefacto with sautéed artichoke and some other stuff. And Venado, or grilled venison with oyster mushroom-leek ragout.
Hmm. I may have forgotten a dish. If so, perhaps Gail or Carol can comment. For dessert, I had the coconut flan (perfect), Gail the olive oil wine cake with roasted muscat grapes and whipped cream, Carol the rice pudding.
Three wonderful meals. Thank you, Carol and Tom.