24.7.08

FLOG: how to cook a wolf

i guess this is it. i guess this shit is official. this is A Thing now.

i guess this is for real because once upon a time (last week) there was something that was kind of a quasi-joke that we did for the first time: FLOG. food blog. thing is, we did it again tonight. it's like ramona quimby's dad said: "first time is funny. second time is silly. third time's a spanking." shit got silly tonight when we hollered at How To Cook A Wolf (Queen Anne; Seattle).

for the sake of this entry i'm going to go ahead and assume you haven't heard of Wolf. first thing you should know is that they don't take reservations. period. you go there and you put your fucking name on the list and you wait your turn. second thing you should know is that their schedule is unusual. oh, you think you know something about the restaurant biz? think you can dodge the rush by going on an off peak night? wrong. they're closed tuesday and wednesday. enjoy your wait.

we knew the joint was red-hot but we said fuck it and hit it up for flog night anyway.

trust: seating capacity is limited. the bigger your party, the bigger your wait. there were 6 of us tonight so this translated into a two hour and forty-five minute wait. luckily we were down with kicking it in a neighborhood park knocking back some 40s to kill the time.

Wolf is italian tapas, so if you're starving you're probably going to end up ordering a few things. They change the menu somewhat frequently so i'd recommend checking up on their menu online before you go, just to get an idea of what you might want to get. they trickle your food out to you as it's prepared so go ahead and holler at 5 things--they bring it to you when it's ready; no need to sweat about dish sprawl hogging up precious table real estate.

by now you should be fully briefed on what to expect if and when you go so l-lets get'ta goin.

the chilled pea soup they brought us as round one is flavored with mint and hazelnut oil, which pools on the surface of the soup. tasting it, it's thinner than i anticipated. the puree is perfectly smooth, where i had expected more texture. this is a surprise, not a disappointment. the lightness of the soup works nicely with the freshness imparted by the mint--a flavor that comes through as a finish after the initial savoriness. the flavor of the hazelnut oil is undetectable, at least to me.

the first really strong feeling i experienced after tasting the soup was concern. i was geniunely worried that i would not be able to remember the varying nuances of the dishes i was eating. the flavors are so complex and we ordered so many different items from the menu that i was sure i'd be unable to describe them with any sort of detail. i literally had to take notes. and yes, this made me feel like a pretentious titty, but goddammit, i'm for real about eating food and then writing about it in here so allow me to expound on the scribbles i done scribbled on the back of a menu i copped for the purpose.

- an approximation of latholemono is formed by the lemon juice and olive oil that coats the geoduck ceviche. chili flakes sprinkled throughout season the dish and there is also a moderate amount of what appears to be cilantro in the ceviche itself. a broad swath of creamed avocado adorns one side of the bowl. the geoduck is shaved thin. The avocado is very creamy and is a nice foil to the chewy-crunchy texture of the geoduck. the lemon juice works well with the avocado and, to a lesser degree, the cilantro. i think there is a little too much cilantro in the dish but overall it's good. my eyes can see the tiny, tiny chili flakes but my mouth cannot taste it. i wonder if something is wrong with me. i continue to eat some of the oil with bread after the ceviche and the avocado are gone; it has a great lemon flavor without actually being sour.

- tiny black flecks of vanilla bean pepper the vanilla oil that accompanies the ahi crudo. a cucumber salad that sits on top of the ahi fillets is seasoned with sea salt. crunchiness is lent to a bite of the ahi by the cucumber. the ahi, having been dredged in lime juice, disintegrates in the mouth. the dish is well seasoned and citrus-savory gives way to a fresh sweetness provided by the cucumber which is followed by the distinct essence of the vanilla oil. i can't leave the oil alone. emily and lynsey exclaim that "it tastes like dessert!" andrew and i agree.

- i love eggs, so, having ordered the soft-boiled eggs with anchovy mayonnaise, i'm excited for them to arrive, and am more so when they do. unfortunately, this turns out to be a low point of the meal for me. as the whole focus of the meal so far (in my estimation) has been on the interplay of flavors in a given dish while keeping the dish itself relatively uncomplicated, i am not expecting to be blown out of my chair by the eggs themselves. rather, i'm hoping to experience some sort of interesting relationship between the egg yolk and (in particular) the anchovy in the mayo. I'm a bit let down to find that the mayo is not as fully emulsified as i had expected and has mixed with the yolk of the egg. the anchovy flavor is, in my opinion, completely overtaken by the flavor of the yolk. the eggs themselves are wonderfully cooked and presented--the shelled, halved whites are hard-boiled solid, while retaining a pool of runny yolk inside. i am also a bit surprised to find that they are cold; i had expected them to be at least warm. i'm not sure if i'm disappointed because of my expectation of a highly emulsified, peaky mayo isn't fulfilled by this particular dish or if it's because i wanted to taste a balance between egg and anchovy and did not.

- surpassing everything we've been served at this point, the beef carpaccio arrives, presented elegantly with white anchovy and celery leaf and topped with shaved reggiano. the main thing about this dish to me is that it exemplifies Wolf's MO to a T. there isn't really a whole lot to the dish itself but the manner in which it is prepared and the way the flavors are perfectly balanced makes it seem more than it really is. i'm incredibly impressed at the way the beef, which is sliced so thin as to be translucent, is practically digested the moment it hits your tongue. the celery leaf has a very strong flavor and finshes out the interplay between the saltiness of the anchovy and the sweetness of the reggiano. this particular relationship was my favorite part of the dish.

- the bruschetta comes and everyone is intrigued by the cranberry beans. the beans turn out to be similar to pinto beans and, through no fault of the bean itself, are not as cool as everyone (myself included) imagined and are given flavor by the balsamic. fiore sardo, (romano's geekier, milder, less-popular cousin) is sprinkled atop the bruschetta and has a mildly smoky-sweet flavor which is complimented by the balsamic. the beans have an subtle crunchy-creamy texture beneath the crusty bread. as a whole i could take or leave this dish. almost all of the flavor comes from the young garlic that is part of the dish and the balsalmic, as well as the cheese. in my opinion those three would taste great together regardless of where they are prepared. i am not wowed.

- while working on a longliner fishing cod and halibut years ago i had a captain who insisted i eat scallops, just-caught from the sea and immediately cut from their shells, from his knife. they were delicious--cool, ocean-salty and creamy. the seared scallops we order take that basic formula and elaborates on it with a creamy white bean puree, sea bean, and radish. the sea beans provide a flavor of saltwater and the bean puree is smooth and nutty; it's texture plays nicely off of the creamy flesh of the scallops.

- also on the seafood tip we try the marinated gulf shrimp. they are very fresh and firm and are accompanied with sweet onions, taggiasca olives, and capers. the olives are small and soft and lend a delicate flavor that is enhanced with the pickly flavor of the capers. there's cilantro in this dish as well and i kind of wish there wasn't, but i really enjoy this dish.

- the one pasta dish we order is the spaghetti. it comes topped with a 2-inch pile of cheese (major bonus points). having not closely examined the menu prior to recieving the dish at our table i was surprised to see that it does not include marinara but in fact is flavored with with garlic, chilies, and anchovy. quite a few of our party are nonplussed by this dish--indeed, kevin seems to be outright disappointed, saying it is too garlicky--but i am really into this dish, due partially to the abundance of garlic it contains. there's a hint of anchovy that permeates each bite of the pasta and i welcome every piece. the dish has more heat than i expected. i give this one high marks; it's not a typical spaghetti dish.

- our meal is finished off with the baked polenta. 2 crispy-edged cakes of cornmeal sit atop each other in a small ladleful of fontina fonduta. i hear the comment that the polenta "tastes like cream-of-wheat," which, without the fonduta, it does, as they are similar. i also hear that the fonduta is kind of salty, which is something with which i would agree. however, i find that the trick to this dish, is to make sure to get some of the crispy fried outer crust, the slightly-gritty yet creamy inside of the polenta, and some of the fonduta all in one bite. the relatively neutral polenta and the creamy, salty fonduta cheese sauce balance each other out while the crispy outside provides texture. it's delicious. i'm reminded somewhat of some kind of baked macaroni and cheese.

the big question with Wolf is: are you prepared to wait? if you know that you are, the question quickly becomes "is the food worth the wait?". i can't say that i would regularly patronize on a regular basis any establishment with an average wait time of three hours, but i can say that i don't regret waiting to eat there. provided you are okay at keeping yourself entertained or go there with people you are okay doing whatever with to kill an hour or few, the wait becomes a minor inconvenience (depending on how hungry you are). i'd recommend that one tough Wolf's prodigious wait out if they have never been. the food is worth it. i'd also recommend just concentrating on enjoying the food--trust, it'll come natural--and not taking notes, because it makes you look like a dick.

see you next week, floggers.

- mant

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The beef carpaccio was very very well prepared and delicious. Nice flog mant.
KH

david said...

i love this kind of dining experience. i wish i could see how each presentation turned out. nice entry.

Freshi said...

Nice work FLOGER! Thinking back on the 'wolf' I have thoughts of spaghetti and beef carpaccio. Very delic!!