The Corson Building: a community food gathering place

July 4th, 2008 by Eric

We’ve been fans of Sitka and Spruce since it opened, so when we heard last year that chef Matt Dillon was opening his second place, The Corson Building, we could hardly wait.  Whereas Sitka and Spruce is generally first-come-first-served, The Corson Building is reservations-only.  They’re only open for dinners a few nights a week, usually Thursday through Saturday, but it varies – their web site lists the dates.  They host a number of other events (more on that later) and periodic Sunday Suppers, too.  We scored our reservation for their first Sunday Supper, which was last weekend.

The entrance to The Corson Building

The Corson Building sits below the Corson Street off-ramp from I-5, in Georgetown.  You’d think this would make it easy to get to, but instead the ramp deposits you a block or two beyond the building, so we wound up making U-turns and backtracking before finally finding the rustic brick two-story.  The front half of the lower floor is the dining room with the original ornate fireplace taking center stage, and in back, Matt was cooking in the homey kitchen filled with windows.  The dining room was empty this evening because the tables had been moved outside.  Tonight’s dinner was to be the first official dinner on the patio (Matt joked that the meal he served outside to his family the previous week didn’t count).

For the first half hour, we wandered the yard, admiring the edible garden, chicken coop, and doves.  We enjoyed iced tea and oysters on the half shell while Matt’s friendly and mellow dog Che ambled about, greeting guests. The urban soundtrack of planes, trains, and automobiles was completed with the railroad tracks out back and Boeing Field nearby, both active this evening.

Two dozen people squeezed in around the single long table, some in chairs, others on wide wood benches.  When we had arrived, there were place settings on the ends which were missing when we sat down, so we asked if we could wrap someone around the end to get a touch more elbow room.  It only made a difference for one side of the table, unfortunately.  This would be a cozy supper.

Al fresco dining on the patio

Three wines were available for purchase on top of the $50 per person for dinner – a good deal given that the regular dinners are $80, but the pours were small and the dinner long so we would have preferred to purchase a couple bottles instead.  The wines were chilled and just right for the hot day.

Dinner finally commenced when heaping plates of radish and fennel salad with prosciutto arrived at each end of the table.  The salad was a refreshing start, though with just two plates to pass, there was sadly little left by the time each reached the other end of the table.  For the next course, we filled our plates with clams, bacon, and chorizo, plus crostini with rabbit liver pâté.  Both were delicious and a few of us wished for bread at the table to sop up the flavorful clam broth.  Instead we dumped our broth into the shells to make way for the next course after it was clear that there would be no fresh plates for the salad.  The roasted tomatoes were intense and really made the romaine, cucumber, and tomato salad stand out.

Radish and fennel salad with prosciutto

Everyone had a break to stretch their legs before the main dishes arrived in quick succession:  King salmon with fava beans, rabbit leg poached in olive oil, lemon, and bay, with green goddess dressing, and Bluebird Grain Farms emmer with morels, carrots, and lovage.  (Dawn and I predicted tonight’s meal would include fava beans and morels – ’tis the season!)  The salmon was amazing, and the tender rabbit’s simple preparation let the delicate flavor come through – definitely one of the best rabbit dishes we’ve had.  The meal finished with muscat wine, a large plate of Pecorino-like cheese, and a huge bowl of fresh strawberries with 25 year old balsamic on the side for dipping.

Dinners are only half of the picture of what The Corson Building is about.  Matt has plans to make it into a community center for the Georgetown neighborhood.  He’s collaborating with the nonprofit Seattle Youth Garden Works, providing the kids with a plot of land just down the street from the restaurant to grow produce that he’ll buy from them.  They will be growing some of the more interesting and unusual items that he can’t easily get elsewhere.  SYGW provides jobs for underserved youth, and you may have seen them selling their fresh produce at the University District farmers market.

Then he plans to host visiting chefs at The Corson Building.  Not only will he provide the chefs a venue for hosting dinners or classes, but if they’re from out of town, he’ll let them stay upstairs in The Corson Building.  The first chef’s dinner is this Sunday with Justin Neidermeyer, who is about to open his new Piemontese-style restaurant Spinasse Trattoria in Capitol Hill, where he’ll serve his amazing handmade pasta.  Matt also plans to have Jerry Traunfeld in a couple times before he opens his much-anticipated restaurant Poppy in September.  They know each other well, since Matt once worked in Jerry’s kitchen while he was at The Herbfarm.  And Matt will also soon be hosting Amaryll and Lori from Boulette’s Larder in San Francisco.

Matt has visions for his own larder next door.  He already has space in the back half of the neighboring building and plans to develop it into a café and retail space, where you can purchase top-notch ingredients for a party or your pantry.  He says it’s the place where you’ll be able to go buy a gallon of chicken stock or maybe some stuffed quail for your dinner party.

He’s open to other ideas for using The Corson Building space, too.  Let him know what you’re thinking about and he’ll try to make it happen.  Matt’s vision of The Corson Building as a vibrant community center for all things food-related is exciting, and we look forward to seeing it develop over the coming months.

The Corson Building
5609 Corson Ave, Seattle
(206) 762-3330

Corson Building on Urbanspoon

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