Last night, I came home from work to find my kitchen overrun by Ethicureans. Man of La Muncha was mixing cocktails for the crowd. Dairy Queen was here, as was Potato Non Grata. For the first time, we met Omniwhore, E-I-E-I Ho, Momniwhore, and Dadniwhore. The plan was to have pre-dinner drinks and then head to the Stumbling Goat for dinner.
Our mini-Ethicurean conference began with drinks around the picnic table on our back patio. I had a glass of chardonnay from San Juan Vineyards (though the organically grown grapes are sourced from the Columbia River Valley), as did some of my fellow Ethicureans, while Man of La Muncha made gins and tonics and vodka tonics with huckleberries for everyone else. The chardonnay had a nice balance of fruit and vanilla, without the overoaking that has become the signature of so many wines, and made for a pleasant accompaniment for getting to know Omniwhore, E-Ho, and her parents.
We were so busy talking that it was time to head to the restaurant before we knew it. We piled into two cars and headed off towards Phinney for what we hoped would be a tasty locavore dinner.
Both cars got rock star parking, right in front of the restaurant and when we poured through the front door we were immediately shown to our table. After settling in, we perused the menu and discussed what to try. Dairy Queen and Potato Non Grata chose the ceviche and the chilled fennel soup with Dungeness crab, and Man of La Muncha likewise ordered the fennel soup. Momniwhore and Dadniwhore split the oven-roasted cauliflower with foraged mushrooms and arugula. I decided to try the smoked stuffed figs with frisee and arugula. The smokiness intensified the savoriness of my figs that contrasted nicely to the dab of mild blue cheese on top, and I grudgingly gave one fig to Man of La Muncha. The ceviche disappeared rapidly, accompanied by many "yums" of satisfaction. Momniwhore and Dadniwhore made quick work of their cauliflower and foraged mushrooms. Man of La Muncha praised the fennel soup and quickly polished it off.
Stumbling Goat states on their menu that, whenever possible, they use local, wild, and organic ingredients. I agree with Rebekah Denn, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer food critic, who in a recent roundup of current restaurant trends said, "I'm always glad to see organic foods on the menu, but the 'organic when possible' caveat, virtually always an accompaniment, drives me mad. As I've said before, I don't know whether it means 90 percent or 10 percent, 'when it's easy to acquire,' or 'when it doesn't cost more than we think you'll pay.'" In the case of the Stumbling Goat, by talking to the server and reading the menu (both dish descriptions and the list of purveyors on the back), we were able to ascertain that much of the produce is local and organic, while the bolognese of Wagyu beef and Berkshire pork is made from meat purchased from Williamson Farm in George, Washington. The salmon is both local and wild, though the duck breast comes from Sonoma Farms, which can't really be called either local or (according to Dairy Queen) organic.
After talking to the server and discussing our options, half the table ordered the Wagyu beef. Omniwhore and I opted for the summer squash risotto with stuffed blossoms and ricotta, while Man of La Muncha ordered the local wild salmon. Potato Non Grata opted for the duck breast. To go with our mostly local meals, we ordered two bottles of the Domain Drouhin 2003 pinot noir and a bottle of the 2003 Sineann cabernet sauvignon; both are from Oregon.
I verified the fitness of the pinot noir, while Man of La Muncha confirmed that the cabernet was not corked. The pinot had hints of strawberry and currant. Though it didn't have the stinkiness that I love in pinot, it went very well with the risotto, bringing out the sweetness of the oregano and emphasizing the subtle, savory nature of the dish. I also tried a bite of Dadniwhore's bolognese and stole a sip of cabernet from Man of La Muncha. The bolognese was rich and hearty, with a spiciness that paired well with the muscular red. The grass-fed Wagyu was flavorful and stood up well to the heavy red sauce, while the orecchiette was done al dente — Perfection! — and was the right size and shape for scooping up the sauce. Man of La Muncha enjoyed his salmon paired with the pinot, with the corn-tomato salsa complimenting the dish well and the faro providing a nice contrast in flavor and texture. He didn't feel that it was a great salmon dinner, but admitted that the cabernet was overwhelming. He switched quickly to the pinot and was pleased with the improved combination.
After dinner, we discussed ordering a sampling of Estrella cheeses for dessert. Normally, we would not have paused for discussion and would have ordered cheese, but a tempting alternative had been proposed. Man of La Muncha had baked a huckleberry-peach pie earlier in the day, and had made blackberry mint ice cream earlier in the week. Everyone was more interested in dessert than cheese, so we paid our tab and headed back to Ballard.
Once we were settled in the living room, Man of La Muncha began serving generous slices of pie heaped with ice cream. Momniwhore opted not to have ice cream until she had a bite of Omniwhore's. I confirmed that there would be ice cream left over and decided to enjoy the pie, saving the ice cream for another night.
The pie had a lattice crust, and the fruit topping oozed between the slats — a work of art. Man of La Muncha had considered making a pie crust with lard, but was unable to find anyone who sold lard from ethically raised pigs. Instead, he made a butter crust, and declared that he will make his own lard once he finds an ethical source of pig fat.
The fruit filling was well balanced between the tartness of the huckleberries and the sweetness of late summer peaches, with the flaky crust holding the filling nicely. The combination of pie and ice cream was received rapturously by the crowd of Ethicureans.
There were no leftovers.
Note: Pictures courtesy of Potato Non Grata and Dairy Queen.