Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sitka & Spruce

Slow food. What exactly does that mean? It's the hottest thing in the culinary world since, oh I don't know, stacking food so high it falls on your lap. Here's the thing though, slow food is a trend that is actually beneficial to the well being of our world and our lives. All it really means is that we eat locally, chemically free, and small farm produced food prepared with care. Not only does this help the environment (less auto emissions from shipping, less packaging to throw away, and more organic toxin-free soil) it makes us healthier (a body full of toxic chemicals and strange animal hormones is not a happy one). I really hope this movement in food sticks with the joe-schmoe public and forces corporate slop companies to find something else to ruin the world with. End rant.

Chef Matt Dillon (no, not Dallas from the Outsiders) is a bit of a daredevil. Not necessarily with the food he makes but with the choices of his locations. Sitka & Spruce, a tiny 20 seater with a communal table, is located in a strip mall. Diners have the choice as they walk up to the building, Subway or Sitka & Spruce. As hard of a choice that may be to some folk, anyone who walks through the stale bread stenched doors to the left should be bashed in the head with a day old baguette. Sitka does not take reservations and you may have to wait quite a while for a seat (if you can get one at all) in which case the lovely waitstaff will encourage you to go across the street to a bar and have some drinks or try again tomorrow. Chef Dillon also has plans to open a new restaurant, The Corson Building, named so after the old building it's located in. Apparently it's under a bridge next to live train tracks near an air field. The funny thing is that even though that sounds like the worst possible location it will be packed and delicious and worth every ounce of odd loud noises. He could probably open a restaurant on a rickety leaking houseboat parked next to the Discovery Park sewage drains and it would still be successful.

So anyway, my pals Rod & Shannon took me and K out to eat for a late birthday dinner. Luckily we showed up at just the perfect time and a table for four was empty and glowing with a single ray of the dying sunlight as if the gods themselves were saying "Happy birthday little guy"! The waitstaff was very sweet and knowledgeable. I think I went to culinary school with one of them but she was a few quarters below me so I didn't really know her and I kept my mouth shut. Most of the dishes are small plates so we ended up ordering a bunch of things to share. A nice bottle of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and off we were.

Slow Cooked Rabbit with Watermelon, Raddichio, and Pickled Chanterelles
This was as delicious as it sounds. I loved the sweet crunchy watermelon with the beautifully tender braised rabbit and the plump tart chanterelles. All of the flavors worked perfectly with each other. I think this was a little bit genius and definitely my favorite dish of the night.

Billy's Tomatoes, Bufula Mozzarella, Gaetas
Lovely heirloom tomatoes, with fresh buffalo mozzarella, olive oil, and fresh basil. It's hard to make the classic caprese salad remarkable. The fresh flavors of the beautiful ingredients in this dish made it just that, remarkable.

Petite Bell Peppers & Duck Ham
Cured duck breast has to be one of my new favorite things. Using the term duck ham is just a playful way to say cured duck. It's basically duck that has been salt cured to the texture of proscutto. To me it has a slightly saltier gamier taste than your cured hams. I love the stuff. Here it was paired with some sweet roasted peppers, hard cheese (parmesan/pecorino), and a drizzle of either aged balsamic or wine reduction (I forgot). This was a truly well balanced dish. I wish there had been a little more of the duck though because I'm selfish and I wanted to eat it all. I'm going to make some at home soon. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Pork Chop with Tomatillos & Coriander Leaves
This is one of the best pork chops that I've ever had. And that's a pretty big statement coming from a Cuban. It was cooked perfectly and was so juicy I had to be careful not to drool all over myself. The roasted tomatillos and cilantro matched up to the smokiness of the pork very well. Now that I think about it maybe this was my favorite dish. Hmmm, I can't decide.

Cucumbers with Butter & Lemon Verbena
Generally cucumbers aren't anything too special. Kinda watery and not much flavor. The warm cukes were delicious and buttery and the lemon verbena and salt lifted them into a whole new place. Very inventive and tasty.

Poussin 'Al Mottone, Roasted Peaches & Sage
A beautiful spring chicken cooked under a brick. The meat of the game hen was so tender that it was falling off the bone and the skin was crispy and amazing. The roasted peaches made excellent company to the bird. I also loved the fried sage garnish. You can take almost any herb and fry it. They make the perfect garnishes and they taste awesome as well. I was pretty damn stuffed by this point but dessert must be had.

Chocolate Sorbet & Peach Crepes
It's no secret that I am not a big sweets fan. However I must admit, these desserts were fantastic. The rich chocolate sorbet was so creamy and dark I really enjoyed it. The crepes were eggy and fluffy and not overly sweet. Very good "cooks" desserts. And by that I mean, good, simple, and not very sweet. To most cooks dessert is kind of an after though. That didn't seem to be the case here. After having a few bites of these super rich desserts I was ready to take a nap.

Sitka And Spruce may not be the fanciest of places and it may not have to most inspiring location (although once you're inside you'll forget you're next to a fast food chain). But if you want to eat inspiring food that has been in great care from farmer to chef, Matt Dillon can set you up. Support these kinds of restaurants and try to cook this way at home and I promise, you won't regret it. All it takes is a passion for your food.


Nora B. said...

Farmer to chef - that sounds like a restaurant I would support. Your meal sounds delicious!

roddy said...

that was a great meal and a fun night. can't wait to try the corson building in georgetown when mr. dillon finishes it.

heading up to farm land this weekend for the "family farms" festival: http://www.festivaloffamilyfarms.com/index.html

can't wait to bring home some farm-fresh local goodies. we'll have to have you and K over soon to help us prepare and eat it all.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Matt Dillon is a greaseball. I would never eat there or at his other crumby place.

Vi said...

I never said he was a nice guy, I've actually never met him but I do know he is a great cook.