Monday, August 17, 2009
Our Night on the Town
My poor husband. I mention that I've made reservations for a night at the Hotel DeLuxe downtown and his head fills with visions of a romantic evening with the sound of clinking glasses and the swelling strings of an orchestra playing in the background.
Happy hour at the Clyde.
What he gets is…surprise surprise…a list of happy hours as long as his arm, carrying batteries for my camera (the better to blog, my dear) and a walking tour of downtown and the Pearl. Though that's a slight exaggeration. We only hit one happy hour, one restaurant and one after-dinner event. But he did carry my batteries, bless him.
Our happy hour choice was Clyde Common, where I was hoping to snag some of the whole fried anchovies that I'd had on our first visit. Alas, anchovy season had just concluded, but our bartender was happy to suggest the (happy hour) charcuterie board and the sherry vinegar with sea salt chips. Dave ordered his favorite cocktail and his measure of a good bartender, a dry martini served up with olives, and I had one of the $5 happy hour cocktails called The Dissident comprised of Becherovka, an herbal liqueur made in the Czech Republic, house-made tonic and lime.
Fratelli at dusk…romantic, no?
My drink was icy and refreshing, but with enough Czech bitters to give it a nice alcohol bite, its golden hue looking lovely backlit from the fading light outside. And, in a note to Mr. Bond, from the last two martinis Dave has ordered, bartenders are trending toward stirred, not shaken.
We hadn't decided on where to go for dinner and hadn't made reservations, so with somewhat tremulous steps we headed a few blocks north to the Pearl. Fratelli was a place I'd heard about and referred people to based on recommendations, but hadn't yet tried myself. Since Dave is game for Italian (and there are usually Dave-safe options), he agreed and we walked in to the oblong, high-ceilinged space.
Gnocchi with favas.
After picking a wine, we ordered appies of a fennel bruschetta and gnocchi with favas, the sweetly caramelized fennel practically melting into the warm bruschetta slathered in aioli. The gnocchi was seared but still nicely soft, and the late-season favas were a nice mix of beany and buttery. To accentuate the emphasis on the market-fresh, seasonal ingredients that dominate the menu, the young green bean salad was mixed with mizuna, a green that is rapidly shooting to the top of my list and one I'll be planting in next year's garden.
Our entrées, which at other establishments have sometimes not lived up to the punch of the appetizers on the menu, were astonishing. I ordered the double pork chop served with chickpeas, braised apricots and dressed with pesto, and have rarely had a chop this good and cooked this perfectly. Slightly pink inside and crusted outside, I was sorely tempted to pick it up by the bone and gnaw away at it till shreds were left but, since there were other people to consider, I used the appropriate utensils and enjoyed it immensely with its condiments, all excellently done.
Dave's albacore (top photo), meaty slices seared on the outside and rare inside, came with an incredible eggplant caponata, a combination that was so outstanding we'll be doing it here at home in the near future. At this point the restaurant was only about half full on a Thursday night, which left us wondering about all those folks who whine about not being able to find decent Italian downtown. Great food, great prices, great wine list, seasonal ingredients…what up?
Movies al fresco (though not au naturel).
We finished our wine and walked back to the hotel just in time to catch Jacques Tati's "Trafic," the rooftop movie in the NW Film Study Center's "Top Down" series. With beer and wine for sale to the appreciative crowd, we bundled up against the slight chill in the air and were thankful for the quick toddle across the street to our little home-away-from-home. It's the kind of stay-cation I could take on a regular basis!
Details: Hotel DeLuxe, 729 SW 15th Ave.; phone 866-895-2094. Clyde Common, 1014 SW Stark St.; phone 503-228-3333. Fratelli, 1230 NW Hoyt St.; phone 503-241-8800.