Mark’s Visit – Day 7

Since I can’t expect restaurants to enhance their lighting for the benefit of us amateur food photogs/bloggers, I have to learn to either put my camera away and just enjoy the meal, actually learn how to use my new camera or snap grainy, less-than-optimal pics under ambient lighting. Then it’s like saying, “ok, imagine this, but way prettier and more appetizing.” And then I’m not really doing justice to restaurants or chefs. What happened to going into a restaurant and letting the flavors take over your senses? What happened to just telling people how delicious, or not, a restaurant is? When blogs are out there spewing information about where to go and what to eat, visuals help entice potential diners. There is this hunger for expressing all the joys included in the dining experience letting the viewer inside your meal, your moment. But some places don’t need visuals. And most of the time, even when placed in front of you, the colors and textures aren’t that clear in real low-light life anyway. What you are trying to do is feed people, offer them the love that you felt when you dined at a specific place. There’s a fine line between wanting to share that and being really annoying to the staff and fellow diners. And when the chef brings a dish to your table, notices that you’re snapping away (sans flash, of course), and says, “oh great, you’re taking pictures,” that can mean either, “oh great, i can’t wait to see them afterward” or “would you just f**king put the camera away and eat?” So that’s why I’m not going to post the less-than-stellar shots I took last night at the Madison Park Conservatory. With their phone and online rezzies ringing off the hook, they don’t need me to post mediocre pics in order to get diners through their doors. Their menu of beautiful flavors is all the evidence they need.

Though I will mention a few things: slather a bit of the buttery roasted bone marrow onto your oxtail marmalade toast and top with parsley salad. The grilled beef tongue comes with mustard and house-made pickles, but I say eat the melt-in-your-mouth happiness as is, sans moutarde. (On a side note: That may have been only my second time eating tongue. The first time was in the Philippines about 15 years ago. It was delicious, but too soft and reminded me of sucking on my own tongue. The first time I ever saw one was when little, I walked into my grandmother’s kitchen to see one hanging out of a big pot on the stove. BLECH! I got over that. I would devour MPC’s delectably tender goodness any day.) Don’t forget your veggies; dig into the sumptuous sautéed kale. And you can’t go wrong with fries (off the lounge menu). When opting on the lighter side, order the young lettuces; delicate, yet flavorful. The dungeness crab & parsnip soup is a sure cockle-warmer. And the weet and savory roasted chicken with dates, almonds and chicory is a cheerful choice, especially when comfort is key during this uncertain Seattle weather. 

There is a reason Cormac is on Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs list. Props also go to Zoi frontin’ the line, Danny mixin’ it behind the bar, Lilli’s sweet front-of-house smile and hospitality and the stellar staff. I’m happy. My friends who came with me are happy. That’s all that matters. Go there. 

But for those eateries dishing out major color-flavor combos and great lighting, you’re screwed. I’ve got my Nikon in tow and I’m headed your way. 

Day 7 (Day 6, I drank water and napped.)

Even with Seattle’s bipolar weather, we’ve managed to take mini-naps on park benches, get in a market tour and peruse the Emerald City streets. Yesterday we even fit in a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. Continuing the Bloody Mary search, I believe we might have found THE ultimate tomatoey concoction at Doc’s Marina Grill (plus a scrumptious Greek Antipasto plate). Enriched with horseradish and topped with a spicy shrimp, green bean and asparagus, it almost makes a $7.50 voyage to the Island worth it. Add to that a seat in the back room/heated patio with a view of the sailboats. A sweet and savory little getaway. 

But I seem to be going backwards. The day actually began with a trip to my fave Arabica Lounge for Stumptown coffee and some pretty, and delicious, nibblies. I was all set to dive into eggs with prosciutto or the salmon and sun-dried tomato toast, but then this orange-poppy seed cake caught my eye and reeled me in. JoJo’s incredible talents shine through all menu items including the bacon-asparagus-monterrey jack crêpe perfectly salted and spiced with black pepper. In the words of Penelope Cruz (aka Maria Elena)… geen-ee-ous. geen-ee-ous!

Today, the sun is out, the Joe Bar chai is spicy and the tummy shall rest until this evening’s festivities in Ballard. Thanks again to all who made yesterday so appetizing.

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