Walk through the farmer’s market at this time of year, and you’ll find fewer produce farmers and slimmer pickings. Don’t get me wrong, we live in a great part of the country for growing food, and in the winter we still have beautiful greens, apples galore, winter squashes, and carrots to brighten up your bag. But after eating Yet Another Apple, I start to long for summer days with more variety.
So I give props to chefs who are committed to using local foods year round and, in the middle of winter, still come up with diverse, interesting menus – especially a menu like Seth Caswell’s at the newly opened emmer&rye on Queen Anne hill. During my visit there this past weekend, I was ready to order one of everything. Lucky for me, the menu is designed so you can choose half or full sizes of nearly every plate (including dessert!), so with several friends, you really could order everything.
It’s a given that you will order the farro fries, which is destined to become the restaurant’s signature dish. Farro is another name for emmer, and the namesake starter is crisp outside and creamy, cheesy goodness inside. I’m now inspired to try making the farro fries recipe I came across in the most recent Edible Seattle, to see if I can come close to the same thing at home.
Highlights from the “small dishes” section of the menu were the roasted sunchokes and potatoes with truffle aioli, along with the cauliflower, mushroom, and greens salad. These dishes were all about the ingredients, cooked simply to emphasize the best flavors of each vegetable. On the other hand, the sausage on our crostini was dry, and the pork belly, while flavorful, fell a bit flat. Our former-chef friend at the table commented that the dish needed some acid, and no, he had not read Seattle Magazine’s assessment of the same dish.
Our table’s universal favorite from the “large dishes” section was the orrechiette bolognese, which had the perfect ratio of pasta to flavorful beef sauce. And every aspect of the goat crepinette dish was outstanding, from the herby goat, to the butternut gratin, to the trumpet mushrooms we were fighting over at the end. My least favorite dish was the rabbit pappardelle, which just needs a few tweaks to make it great. In our case, the rabbit was tasty, but the noodles were thick and undercooked, and the dish was swimming in too much liquid.
The best desserts we tried are the only two that aren’t available in a half size. But order both anyway. The chocolate bourbon bread pudding is dense and perfect. One person at our table who doesn’t even like bread pudding declared it delicious. My favorite, though, was Gramma’s cheesecake with huckleberry sauce. Light and tangy, it was lovely with the huckleberries, and all four spoons at our table made it disappear in a matter of minutes. If you can only get one dessert, Get. The. Cheesecake.
Chef Seth Caswell opened emmer&rye quickly once he secured a lease on the former Julia’s restaurant. I doubt anyone believed him when he said at the beginning of January that he’d be open by February 1 – you know how those things tend to go. But he was better than his word, and the place is already packed each evening. Reservations are recommended.
And it looks like there is more good stuff in store. The Victorian building housing the restaurant has a lovely patio in front, which promises to be the perfect place for a summer meal on the hill.
And the emmer&rye web site hints at a forthcoming brunch. I’m excited to see what Caswell has planned for the menu. Anyone know when brunch service will begin?
1825 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle