Monday, November 26, 2012

Off the Map: Why Are We Eating Pork Sorbet?!

Poco Carretto Sorbetto -- Cafe Juanita, Kirkland, WA
Cafe Juanita

Refusing to be outdone by the Baltimore Best Thing I Ever Ate adventures involving the friend known as Bloody Mary, Vodka's Seattle-based friend has recommended a culinary jaunt around her own town.  

Where Are the Clouds, Seattle? VODKA WAS PROMISED CLOUDS
It is for this reason that Vodka arrives at the Seattle airport, eating-itinerary grasped tightly in her hand, and makes her way with the self-monikered "Chianti" to our first West Coast Best Thing I Ever Ate stop: Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, WA.
Let's Play a Little Game: What Kind of Food Would YOU Assume Cafe Juanita Serves?
Now, if you have ever wondered from where Vodka gets her penchant for idiocy, just know that she has been friends with Chianti since sixth grade, and she has thus been exposed to such conversational masterpieces as this one for most of her life:

Chianti: What are we eating there again?
Vodka (consulting itinerary): Poco carretto sorbetto.
Chianti: Ugh, right.  I remember reading that.  Why are we eating pork sorbet?!
Vodka: What are you talking about?
Chianti: Pork sorbet.  Who puts meat in sorbet?
Vodka: It's made out of PROSECCO.  Not PORK.

As you can see, this Seattle Best Thing I Ever Ate tour is going to be a true meeting of the minds.
Doing a Bit Better on the Cloud Front Now, Seattle
After arriving in Kirkland and taking entirely too long to find a parking spot (um, Cafe Juanita, we assume you like to have more than 3 patrons in your establishment.  Perhaps it's time to expand your parking lot), we stumble into the restaurant one hour early for our reservation.  Luckily, the place is virtually empty, so we cozy up to a table and get right down to the most important aspect of any eating tour: drinking.
In Chianti's Country, This Drink Is Referred to as "Bacon"
Our first surprise comes when we discover that Cafe Juanita is not, as we had assumed, a Mexican joint.  With nary a margarita to be had, we order the apertivi pairings of the "Velluto" with castelvetrano olives (Chianti) and prosecco with parmigiano reggiano (Vodka).  
Any Drink That Comes with a Free Snack = Stellar
Before we can work our way up to the dinner menu, a bread plate appears before us.  And not just any bread plate -- one of the best bread plates to ever grace our presence.  If they were to add a slice or two of stromboli, it might even rival Scarpetta's.  
If It Is Not Abundantly Clear, Our Opinions on Restaurants Are VERY Heavily Influenced by the Bread Selection
The bread itself is moist and fluffy, while the accompanying crisps taste like high-end Cheez-Its.  In fact, we manage to polish off the whole array so quickly that when our waiter asks if we'd like another serving of the platter, we practically leap out of our seats to answer, "YES!"
In Other Words, We're Fat
When we manage to tear ourselves away from our carb consumption long enough to order, we choose the bartlett pear salad with pine nuts, parmigiano reggiano and white truffle oil, along with the angel hair pasta special in a brown butter sauce.  Chianti, who has a penchant for all things truffle oil, warns while dipping her eighteenth slice of bread into the provided butter, "Sometimes food is so good that I just want to jump in and swim.  Wait until the truffle oil comes.  I might lose control."
Chianti's Version of a Jacuzzi
Living up to her promise, Chianti begins sniffing the air like a hyperactive dog the minute the pear salad appears on our table, mumbling incomprehensible thoughts about the wonder of truffle scent.  
Me Smell Truffle
Diving into the plates before us, we barely allow the waiter to explain the ingredients before stuffing half of them into our mouths.  When we come up for air, however, we realize that we seem to be receiving an awful lot of attention from the Cafe Juanita waitstaff, and since the New York City service workers' attitude towards us often hovers somewhere between "could care less" and "disdain," we are mildly confused.

"I bet they think you're important," Chianti says, waving her finger around the camera and "notes" placed next to Vodka's plate.  "I feel like you look fancy and that's disarming in this region."
Chianti: "I Mean, For Instance, I Am Wearing This. Which Is the Norm Around Here"
As if to validate Chianti's reasoning, within moments, our waiter appears back at our table with a complimentary bowl of goat cheese gnocchi with lamb and candied pumpkin, courtesy of the chef.
What Now? You Think We're IMPORTANT? Well, This Is a First
Clearly, Ginger and I need to start spending more time outside of New York.  People appreciate us in other places.
And By "Appreciate Us," I Mean "Give Us Free Food"
While the brown butter pasta special is good, if standard, and the pear salad is interesting, if a tad overpowering, this gnocchi is out of this world.  Sprinkled with greens and tender strips of lamb, even Chianti, who is (allegedly) a vegetarian scoops it up heartily (she claims to be eating around the lamb). 
The Lesser of the Two Pasta Dishes
Indeed, if this gnocchi were the dish that had been featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate, it would garner 5 stars easily.  But unfortunately for all involved, Melissa D'Arabian chose the "pork sorbet."
Where's the Side of Ham?!
Now, to be fair, fruit in dessert is not really Vodka's thing, and being that this sorbet is featured on the WITH FRUIT episode, it is running at a distinct disadvantage.  But when the two scoops of poco carretto sorbetto is placed before us, it is a bland array of white-on-white aesthetics.
You Know It's a Problem When You Add a Spoon for Some "Color"
Scooping bites onto our spoons, we are suddenly inundated with a burst of faint bubbles in our mouths -- the hint of prosecco in the sorbet coming to life.  While Chianti christens the taste a "bouquet of fruits," Vodka feels like it could use some extra flavoring (as, sadly, the rhubarb version that Melissa D'Arabian had touted was not on the menu).  
Anyone Have Any Chocolate Sauce?
Tasting essentially like champagne in frozen form, Vodka is not blown away, and she feels obligated to give the dish 3 stars, despite her love of the bread basket and gnocchi that had come before it.
And of Her Love of the Free Chocolates. Why Is All the Good Food Free?!
As we pack up and haul ourselves out of Cafe Juanita, the entire staff, including the chef, waves goodbye to us.  Either the folks of Kirkland, WA are excessively friendly, or the poor souls have no idea that they just wasted a free dish on a second-rate food blogger and her incapable-of-discerning-the-difference-between-pork-and-prosecco friend.

Cafe Juanita's Poco Carretto Sorbetto: 3 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment