It had been a very long time since we'd had a "date night." So when a friend called to say she couldn't meet us because her visiting brother-in-law broke his collarbone, we decided that, rather than taking chicken soup to the invalid, we'd go out on the town. Shows you what kind of friends we are.
Deciding where to go, however, was not just a snap decision. Should we go to one of the hip bars and see what the kids are doing these days? Would it be better to try one of the myriad new restaurants that have opened recently? Weighing these heavy matters, all Dave had to do was ask, "Who's the best bartender?" and the decision was made.
There is no better bartender that we can think of than Suzanne at Café Castagna. My brother says that a good bartender is like a trusted closer in a tight game, and she's been called Cy Young material. So once we got there and she poured one of her signature gimlets (above, left), the evening just fell into place. (And check out that sexy meniscus!)
We started with a half dozen of their fresh oysters and mignonette, three each of the teeny Tottens from the Puget Sound and another three of the only slightly larger Nootka Sound oysters from British Columbia. The Tottens were light and fresh, the Nootkas meatier and stronger, and neither really needed any accompaniment to taste absolutely perfect.
To follow those briny gems, we chose the "meat board," a selection of their very own house-cured products with a salad of Ayers Creek chicory in a light vinaigrette. In the photo, clockwise from the upper left, is their lomo, thinly sliced cured pork tenderloin; rabbit pate; mortadella with pistachios; and lardo, cured pork fat. It doesn't get much more delicious than that.
And to finish off, it was a salad of crumbled croutons and duck cracklings sprinkled on top of frizee, topped with a halved soft-boiled egg that had been lightly battered and deep fried to give it a crunchy coating. This is what we call "scary good."
Suzanne suggested a digestif of Elisir M. P. Roux liquer, a densely herbal and slightly sweet concoction, to top it all off, and who were we to refuse? A sip or two later and we were waving goodbye and strolling out of the restaurant in a lovely, satisfied fog. You can be sure our next date night won't be so long in coming.
Details: Cafe Castagna, 758 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Phone 503-231-9959.