Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Seattle Weekly on Chefs Tough and McCracken: A Review of the Food at Tavern Law

Below is an article, in part, that takes a close look at the Chefs and our Chalkboard Menu at Tavern Law. We'll ruin the punch line. The article ends with, "Which is why Tavern Law has now rocketed onto my list of favorite restaurants. It isn't merely that I would happily come back just for the food, forgoing the cocktail list and drinking nothing but water. No, if allowed I would move permanently into the crawl space below the bar and live like a troll, drinking nothing but whatever dripped from the bar gun and eating sautéed rocks two meals a day—provided that the third would come off the chalkboard menu, cooked for me whenever I got hungry."

Do take a moment to read the entire story by clicking the blog title above. It just might make you hungry.

The reviewer writes, "I want to be careful not to overstate this, but those potatoes were the single best potato-based appetizer I have ever had in my life, anywhere. Better than any order of fries. Better than all the house-made potato chips everywhere. They were what every potato wants to be when it grows up.

And it was so simple: just perfectly chosen fingerling potatoes, high in sugar, low in starch, split in half, smoked (I can only assume) by magical elves with secret powers, then crusted with spice rub and fried 'til golden in every way that word can be taken. They tasted like they'd been fried in bacon grease, and had the texture of perfectly constructed chocolate truffles—a little crunch from the shell of spice, then a warm, soft center, with a bit of texture from the skins that had been left on. They were, in a word, unbelievable.

Which of course meant I had to go back for more.

The next night, the bartender was handing out tastes of a dessert experiment from the kitchen: peaches soaked in vodka and set atop mascarpone like peaches and cream. There were a few more people at the bar, scattered around the secondary bar and the tertiary bar and the clubby interior of Tavern Law's back room. The chalkboard menu was the same, similarly simple—odd in its easy, American influences and roots, because "easy" and "simple" are not words one generally would use to describe the work done by Tough and McCracken at Spur.

There was pan-fried trout, a burger with onion jam and pork belly, a green salad, some lamb. On other nights, there's roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, turnips, and smoked almonds; potatoes done with wild mushrooms; nearly classical confit legs of duck. I went for that most American of summertime indulgences: fried chicken with warm potato salad, because I figured that fried chicken is so easy even for a really good galley to screw up that this second-thought kitchen at Tough and McCracken's cocktail lounge stood a really good chance of blowing it completely.

But it didn't. The kitchen didn't just do a solid plate of fried chicken, but an amazing one: partially boned-out breast, rib, and leg sections done with the skin on, in a crisp cornflake crust, fried perfectly with an expert's sense of doneness so that the meat was wet with fat and the crust had formed a shell both crisp and yielding. All this was mounted over a potato salad that was barely the suggestion of a potato salad: the same fingerlings used in the smoked potatoes, boiled this time, shocked before losing their stiffness, and dressed in nothing but a smear of coarse-grain French mustard. The entire thing was excellent beyond all my expectations, delicious in a way that was totally out of line with how good it needed to be to act only in support of a very good bar."

Thank you Jason Sheehan!

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