Opening Night

Let me first of all say that I do not consider myself to be an established food writer, professional critique nor a veteran in the food industry. I like quality food, whether it is from a truck on wheels or the “finest” restaurant in the city. Personally I believe that the best and most interesting food writers/reviewers are well rounded and versed in their appreciation for many types of cuisine. My food knowledge mostly stems from growing up in a household where food was valued, we ate homemade macaroni & cheese, not one from powder in a box and I was challenged to appreciate trying new foods whenever possible. As an only child we ate at nicer restaurants and my mom had stacks  of Gourmet magazine including ones from the 70’s, I had trifle before it became infamous by Friends. I grew up in restaurant cities- Boston and San Francisco- farmers markets and fresh food were pretty much always accessible. I digress, this post is not about my background.

Last night I was one of the first public diners at Bastille in Ballard. As previously stated, my job is not to write about food, rather its something I enjoy as a hobby. My blog is still quite basic. I am active on Twitter, to me it’s a place to converse with others who enjoy my passion and learn from other home cooks, restaurant enthusiasts and industry veterans. My posts/tweets are not always profound nor do I have the life that I frequently can post about my beautiful meals prepared in my kitchen. Rather I live in a small apartment,  I cook infrequent rather mostly eat out on a very modest salary. My purpose in going to Bastille was pretty basic and mostly selfish, I never dined at a restaurant on opening night so I thought it would be fun since there was certainly a buzz around Bastille and it was “affordable” for my budget and it is in my neighborhood. Other Twitter folk were attending so I figured if anything fun people would be there as well. I asked a fellow Ballard resident/Twitter and someone I have been wanting to get to know better to go with me.

The stage was perfect, a warm summer evening, drinks outside on a real patio. This is one of my biggest beefs with most outdoor dinning in Ballard, they are all sidewalk spots, not that I do not support any and all types of outdoor dining, but a place where I could sit outside and not inhale car fumes and feel so crammed that I’m dining with the table next to me. Rather, unlike most outdoor locations in Seattle Bastille hit the mark, heat lamps, fans and  greenery, literally an oasis in the middle of the city. Before it opened I knew it would be a perfect summer hangout spot. In honor of the celebration I started with Champagne which did take awhile and wasn’t perfectly chilled but it was a delightful crisp not too sweet nor too dry for $6 pre-dinner drink. Others around me were less than enthralled with some drinks, I tasted a Rosemary lemon cocktail that was way too bitter and barely tasted the Rosemary (Volterra still wins for best Rosemary lemon drink with their house-made limoncello) and a French 75 that I actually enjoyed and I don’t  like Gin. I did watch the tweets, interested to see what other diners thought and for suggestions regarding best dishes to try. My dining companion and I settled on a rooftop greens salad, Moules Frites and the Duck Confit. Our waiter who was awesome especially for his first night ever at Bastille including the dry runs recommended one of the value reds (aka under $30 for a bottle).  Literally after I took my last sip of Champagne he brought out the bottle of wine and our fresh roof top greens with the hazelnut dressing followed. Crisp, chilled and lightly dressed the salad was absolutely perfect. The greens literally grown on the roof could not be more local bursting with flavor. After seeing the bread and butter a friends table we decided to order some, yeah its extra something Seattlelites aren’t quite used to but pretty common in French cafe cuisine and really for $3 with free refills of Grand Central Baugette and Pulgra butter we couldn’t complain. The bread also arrived quickly which I am very happy we ordered because the time in between the bread and the mussels was lengthy. Neither of us minded the wait, rather we conversed, sipped our wine and enjoyed a quintessential Seattle summer night (and maybe check Twitter a few times). The Moules Frites won me over, not a tough mussel in the generously sized portion. The butter, champagne, leek and thyme broth embodied classic French cafe cuisine and was truly fantastic, so good that I dipped anything and everything to entrench in the tasty broth. The frites sprinkled with grey sea salt were mostly warm and just barely crisp still tasted very good- I would of liked the option to upgrade to the truffle oil though, but as I always have to remind myself at a new place, next time. Then the long wait began for round two of our small shared plates. Granted they were full at this point. I used the opportunity to explore the absolutely exquisite inside with white subway tiles encompassing the walls, beautiful deep rich wood, a vibrant very open kitchen and a long community table to boot! In the back there is a larger bar with an incredible crystal chandelier. Once our duck arrived, we were ready for more wine, our choice, the $13 house carafe of red that our waiter generously filled to the brim to make up for our long wait. The duck was a bit dry  and lentils slightly undercooked, but that was most likely personal preference. Lastly we ended our evening with dessert because we were very much enjoying our night out on the patio. The pineapple upside downcake accurately described as old fashion with a fantastic pineapple curd I could of eaten by the spoonful. My profiteroles average, the chocolate, lukewarm and kinda blah, the puffs generic and overall just OK. After telling our waiter our critique, he told us they were on the house.

The buzz and discussion that since ensued regarding real time (Twitter) critiques of restaurants is fascinating. Personally I agree that none of us should expect perfection opening night or for that matter the first month. Never judge a book by its cover, opening night was the cover. I am absolute certain that Bastille has much to offer us and the few kinks we experienced on the first night will not matter a few months from now.  In the mean time I am planning on trying many more dishes and supporting another local business who is committed to using locally sourced food.

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