before these violet hours fade

Had a pretty good trip to Chicago a few weeks ago, and a few good cocktails. I’d like to commit all to screen before the memory fogs or I lose my notes.

I flew to the Windy City for a day of work and the opportunity to compete against a bunch of high-tech traders in a rousing Texas Hold’em tournament. I short-stacked my way to a decent showing. Decent enough for me, anyway.

  
That ball of light and energy is Wrigley Field and during my entire trip the city was in a state of electric enthusiasm. In the end, the Cubs didn’t reach their shinning moment but the hope on the streets, bars, and Ubers of Chicago was palpable; a lovely atmosphere that was a true, rare pleasure.

  
Inspired directions. 

 
Pre-flop.

After poker and a couple slices of Free Pizza I was thirsty. My boss suggested I try The Violet Hour and, luckily for me, I generally do as I am told.

  
You can open the hidden doors.

  
Looks promising.

  
BONFIRE GOSPEL: domaine dupont calvados, botran white rum, lustau palo cortado, Leonard Cohen’s Songs Of Love and Hate, and campfire bitters.

It was a bright fire to behold. More blaze than smoke, more Laud than Vigil, more tabernacle than temple. A strong first showing.

  
ALLEGHENY MOUNTAIN FLIP: Rittenhouse, lemon, whole egg, The Paris Sisters’ I Love How You Love Me, malted rye-walnut syrup.

Those of you who have followed this diary for awhile know that I tend to always drink excellent cocktails in Chicago. This flip knocked them all into the ivy at Wrigley. Phenomenal. I love a good egg in good booze but this was something special. Rye on rye on rye, a subtle chill brushed awake by precisely the right amount of lemon. It’s milky yet it’s not milk, it’s garnished with fresh nutmeg yet you’re mentally sipping this next to a beach somewhere quiet with a new book. Simply outstanding. I could have giddily finished more than a dozen.

  
I want to thank Harrison (my barkeep on this violet visit) for his consummate professionalism, being an expert on walnuts — such keen knowledge. Thanks for not being a creep and for suggesting we enjoy a few rounds of Amaro Di Angostura. I always forget that’s allowed in your area code. 

  
The Violet Hour

1520 N Damen Avenue

Chicago, IL 60622

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back to wonderland 

Occurred to me this past week that this food diary has become a repository for my pictures of mollusks; which I am fine with, for they simply cannot be celebrated enough.


Henry’s Old Fashioned with four roses single because I was in a mood.


St. Helen’s sheep (Adna, WA) with pickled raisins. Mustard seeds were added whole to the brine, syrupy with just the right texture to play with the cheese.

Another collection with a wonderful face: barron point, baywater sweets, block h, penn cove selects — mignonette de Campari.
 salmon gravlax: pickled spring onion, labneh, clove, bay leaf. I’m fairly hesitant when it comes to clove but this worked to impart a slight musty turn which added complexity to the labneh.


sea wolf bakery

A final round of henderson inlet and blue pools.

the walrus and the carpenter

4743 Ballard Ave NW

Seattle, WA 98107

odds-on favorite

one of my top 5 sandwiches in Portland for a long, long time

  
pork belly cubano w/ ham, Swiss, pickles, mustard. 

side of tea.

consistency.

préparation pour le grand désastre

I’m the type of person who spends a lot of time thinking about disaster, it is a woeful personality trait that really only serves me well professionally. I patrol an imaginary lighthouse on the lookout for heartache and greater doom. Do I have enough money to survive the next financial downturn? Am I emotionally prepared for unspeakable horrors to happen to my loved ones? Is something awful happening to them right now? This is the mental residue of my own traumatic experiences. I am well aware of the ways trauma teaches its prey to be ever vigilant. 

So when the NY Times released an exhaustive report on the plate-shift that will cause an earthquake, which will release a tsunami, which will take out a great swath of the Pacific Northwest – I was unmoved. I started researching such an occurrence in the late ’90s when I first heard Blatz sing their seminal classic, “California.” (“It’s stifling taking things for granted.”)

Who are the people who are unaware of these promised ghastly, yet earthly, phenomenons? Will they know how to treat their own water or cap a gas line? If stranded or trapped can they handle solitude? Do they live on the 5th floor of a brick building? The report seemed completely new to some people; what are the merits of being blissfully unaware?


Multiple. Turns out there are multiple merits, virtues, to choosing the present and the present only. As evidenced by my recent experience at a restaurant named C’est Si Bon. It’s so good to be blissfully…well, anything.

Located on the outskirts of Port Angeles, a length of land presumed to bear the most impact from The Big One, sits an idyllic outpost serving French food and no cares, not a care in the world.


A solarium filled with roses and carousel horses, plum trees in the back yard, C’est Si Bon is the only starred French restaurant in Washington that’s not located in Seattle. The owners are Norbert and Michéle, she’s the chef and he’s the maitre d’. They’ve operated this place for over 30 years, each year taking place in the promising present.

Let’s start with some snails. Escargots Curnosky.


Anything is better with garlic, butter, wine and parsley; even heartache. Even better on a hot baguette.


Sweet butter lettuce salads to enjoy before the entrée. Dressed in a light tarragon vinaigrette and pimentons.


I ordered the Sole Meunière, he ordered the Medaillon Beurre de Cassis on the assumption this wouldn’t be one of the last kind meals we shared. Me? See the first paragraph. I am always, always prepared for the inevitable. Though I will admit the air and ambience in C’est Si Bon quieted the doubts in me, for a moment, just for a little while.



The entrées are accompanied by small plates piled with steamed broccoli, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, and the most ethereal scalloped potatoes (Gratin Dauphinoise) I have ever had, creamy and crispy. Simply divine. I’ll never forget the way he kept ordering more and more scalloped potatoes; like an overjoyed child with a booming adult voice, always a true Catholic but now beyond the bounds of sinful gluttony, laughter emanating from the Confessional. Future be damned.


The interior of C’est Si Bon is difficult for me to describe. What does the belly of positivity look like? How many colors exist in a world without shame? If Dolly Parton ran a French Brothel would you hang out there?


In C’est Si Bon it feels as if every holiday, anniversary, holy day, election win, and birthday is being celebrated all at once. Easter eggs and Christmas lights. Wicker wedding bells and skylights filled with rain. A continuous joyful present, located on the outskirts of the great Olympic Peninsula – a place Mother Nature is willing to deal a mighty blow to keep for herself, and I can’t say that I blame her.

C’est Si Bon

23 Cedar Park Road

Port Angeles, Wasington

Dinner Served from 5-11

Tuesday-Sunday

sea cows and summerstones 

Whidbey Island Rosé  

A selection of Hama Hama summerstones, a bottle of Don Julio hot sauce that I travel around with because you can’t fake the funk.

  

  

Smoked oyster road snacks. Lemon pepper on this particular occasion.  

A beautiful lunch at the Queen Anne Taylor Shellfish location, we nearly had the place to ourselves.  

Virginicas & Olympias  

Geoguck freshly shaved from the clam.   

Spot Prawns, raw, animated tentacles.  

Prawns poached in vermouth.   

lovely counter snacks 

feast day

To celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Joan of Arc I dined and drank the tasting menu at Canlis in Seattle. A place where old things are made new.

There is a pianist in the lounge who plays lovely and contemporary standards like Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” and Sia’s “Chandelier”.

I started with a pre-dinner cocktail called Lusca – Plantation 3 Star rum, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, orange, maple syrup. It’s like a Spanish Monk on ‘roids.

An amuse trio featuring potato, parsnip, foie, radish, and pea shoots in no particular order. The pairing was a 10-degree tin-brewed sake.

Tartare on some kind of crisp, the flavors of melon and wild flowers.

Canlis uses trucker seating, a party of two is seated side-by-side instead of across from one another. It is the best seating, and I gladly contorted myself to snap a pic of my date’s iced tea service. 

This is the infamous Canlis salad, which is romaine and mint and tomatoes covered by a Parmesan crisp.

You crack the crisp and mix it all up in the salad. It’s super fun for a salad.

The salads were paired with a Provence rosé. I meant to keep track of all these vintages but my notes are mostly filled with thoughts on the meaning of “varnish” and what songs the pianist was playing. I think this is the 2013 German Riesling they paired with the Sockeye, we may never know.

Sockeye salmon with yogurt and sea beans.

A monster serving of foie.

And this strange nugget is the Canlis Shrimp, heated with dry vermouth and garlic.

Squab with puffed rice, charred cornichons, and squashes. The squash was pureed with umeboshi which gave the dish a wonderful fermented flavor.

I sadly fell behind on my wine but the squab was paired with a HUGE Australian Cabernet, my favorite pairing of the night. Below is the wagyu entree, with parsnips, basil and asparagus. 

The sweet silence of an emptying establishment.

Pineapple sorbet, white chocolate handkerchief, sugared corn, Douglas Fir foam, malted macadamia crunch. This was my dessert appetizer, paired with an exclusive Austrian bernalseace blend which tasted beautifully of dried stone fruits. My notes include an odd mention of “Lily Pulitzer??” I think I was trying to make a joke about exclusivity and corn.

The aforementioned Austrian wonder. 

Coffee.

Messages written in chocolate, a deconstructed crème brûlée.

A house-made negroni macaroon and a lime macaroon which I rediscovered at the bottom of my purse the next morning.

the fisherman’s wife

My last post took us to Port Angeles, Washington, a town I return to in both mind and body. There’s an undeniable pull that has caused me to visit (and fish) on three different occasions in 2015 alone. It’s a town where you can hear church bells and fog horns, rain drops and ocean freight steamers. The area hosts so many genus species between water and woodland creatures that it feels a bit like Noah’s Ark.

I enthusiastically recommend the root beer milkshake from Frugal’s, the Moscow Mule at Michael’s Steakhouse, and the homemade salsa from El Puerto #3 does not disappoint. But if you are serious about finding the local bread and butter you’ll have to spend time down at the docks.

Donna’s Fisherman’s Wharf Cafe is owned by a husband and wife team who fled Seattle due to traffic and they serve the local catch day-in and day-out. Service is extremely quick and terse, plates are hot and seasoned. It’s all perfection.

The clam chowder contains about 20 sweet and briny clams in every serving. Chowder is always something you should have to chew.

Halibut, oysters, fries. Tartar, cocktail sauce, slaw. Don’t forget the lemon.

The oysters are flash fried in a hot cast iron pan and they don’t lose any of their character in the process. The halibut is beyond fresh, it’s simply NEW; untainted by the world, direct from boat to belly.

Donna’s Fisherman’s Wharf Cafe

826 W Boathaven Dr, Port Angeles, WA 98363

Monday – Friday 7:00am – 3:00pm

Note: I’ve recently received a few emails regarding the pictures I post on this food diary. They are all taken by me with an iPhone, in January 2015 I began using a Leica V-Lux (a gift from the fisherman) which I struggle to operate but my skills should improve over time. If you wish to use any of the photographs on this food diary please feel free to do so. Crediting the “photographer”, in this case, is not necessary.