you can now find pat my butter here: www.patmybutter.com, like a real website.
patience is possibly the most valuable virtue to a server and i do my best to keep this in mind while at work. if someone holds me hostage at their table while they take ten minutes to decide what they want to eat, i may be seething inside and curling my toes and writing a “to do” list on my dupe pad, but not in a way that will draw they’re attention. the fact that my patience is usually well-compensated makes everyone more bearable.
there are, to be fair, certain times when i’m more susceptible to fury and frustration than others. these occur on especially busy nights, when a table is seated for the third or fourth time in an evening, or when i’m hungry or hung over. hunger makes for the most nasty version of me. there are also certain customer behaviors that are more likely to put me over the edge. touching me to get my attention is absolutely one of those things. and lately, something new has been cropping up; customers asking for water when their glass is more than three quarters full.
i’ve struggled to think of an acceptable reason for this request. is it because people don’t think anyone will fill their water when it gets legitimately low? why the lack of faith? someone is nearly always circling our dining room with a water pitcher. where are these people used to dining? as a diner, i actually wish waiters would leave my glass alone until i was actually near the bottom and skip the constant topping off.
can this fall into the “because of the recession” category like so many other things lately? are people unconsciously hoarding their water, one of the few free things at a restaurant? or, even worse, is it a control issue? do (some!) diners like to make demands of their servers simply because they can, because it makes them feel special to ask for something, no matter how unnecessary, and have it delivered to them?
the other day a gentleman (simply the generic word for a male customer) was finishing his glass of water as i approached with the water pitcher. it’s not a subtle pitcher; in fact, it’s rather bulbous and awkwardly large. i paused near his table so he could return the glass to the table so i might refill it. instead of doing so, however, he persisted to keep the upturned glass to his lips, making sucking sounds while attempting to tongue any last condensation from it.
this tiny drama gave my suspicion a strong nod of confirmation. these water tantrums weren’t about not having enough water (or this guy would have just let me refill his glass), but something more petty.
by the way, march 22-28 is world water week, and the week many local restaurants participate in unicef’s tap project. diners are asked to donate a dollar to improve drinking water in places where there aren’t waiters to refill your riedel stem wear with pelligrino. hopefully there will soon be a list of participating seattle restaurant’s here.
i’ve been using a new site to keep track of one of my favorite things – happy hours. all the happy hours going on at any point in the day can be found at gotime.com, a site all about going out and supporting the economy. upcoming events, from wine tastings to shows, are well-organized and extensive. bars and restaurants are rated by other users and all applicable information is provided. it’s also nice and easy to enter their drawing for a $150 happy hour wherever you choose.
the last time i was in the loveless building was to eat lobster corndogs. as it turned out, seafood on the stick wasn’t enough to keep fork afloat. i never did make it to coco la ti da, the all-dessert restaurant open for a minute in the space.
olivar opened quietly, without the media frenzy of poppy, and operates in a similarly understated manner. it’s a neighborhood restaurant, a place neighbors happen across without reading about it in seattle metropolitan. chef philippe thomelin grew up in france and spent a decade in spain; both cassoulet and albondigas are offered at olivar. the heft of the menu lies in the small plates section; only four or so are classified as large.
it is casual, wintry food. meat is braised, eggs are poached, and a salsify casserole is a component of one large plate. the albondigas ($9) are golf-ball sized, crisp on the outside, rosy pink within. well-seasoned and juicy, i could have easily made six of them my whole meal without complaint.
sangria was the natural accompaniment to our first plates. tart and flavorful, it’s the kind of sangria you drink in spain. a soft sheep cheese appetizer was described on the chalkboard in the middle of the room. herbs, a pickled plum and a pool of chorizo oil dressed it up the creamy cheese pyramid.
scallops ($15) are cooked classically, seared as usual and bedded with fresh peas and tiny bits of pork. gnocchi with wild mushrooms ($12) were soft to the extreme, and it’s not just because i’ve become so partial to the pan fried, crisp version lately. mushrooms tasted properly like mushrooms, but an unexplainable brown purée lined the bottom of the dish…more mushrooms? it was neither alarming nor appealing.
braised pork ($9) was rich and salty, cooked with care among tomatoes and rosemary. flatbread was nutty and absorbent and made the dish nearly a complete meal – the small plates are hardly bite-sized. though it’s possible we were distracted by drink and talk, my table of three (none of us modest eaters or spenders) only made it through four of them.
most of olivar’s seating is in the front room, which is about the size of the living room of my one bedroom apartment. the low ceilings and still intact loveless building murals bring everything closer. with candles, dim lights, hot toddies and a space heater, it would have been fantastically cozy; instead, each time the door opened the dining room became the rhone valley with le mistral gusting through. no one in the front room could have been exempt, though we were in the line of fire.
i hate dwelling on a little thing so easily fixed with a curtain or a temporary, outdoor, new york style entryway.
see it on the right?
but being uncomfortable colored my memory of the meal more than i would have liked. it was dumb to go out with bare arms in february, but women out to dinner tend to do that.
the wine list is short, but flexible. it’s mostly spanish and a knowledgeable guide is helpful; our server steered us towards an affordable garnacha we were more than happy to drink.
when the bill came, we were floored and discussed framing it – had we ever spent so little on a full dinner out? this and the sunday night crowd were reassuring, and i’d like to go back soon. before or after a movie at the harvard exit, most likely, or at least when the air whipping through the room is august air. sitting on a small table out front with a sangria and a plate of albondigas sounds beautiful.
oriental kitchenette doesn’t have a sign. what it has – and all it needs – is a few stools at a narrow counter and a display case of richly colored philippine adobos teeming with meat or fish, bay leaves, spices, and whatever is special that day.
it’s one of those stalls tucked among the innards of pike place market, squeezed between a butcher and cheese shop, staring out at shy giant frozen yogurt. there’s always activity at the restaurant, and i’m never sure who’s working and who’s just stopping by to chat. i’ve learned that rather than get impatient when i’m not the first priority, i should just enjoy the (invariably happy) social exchanges around me.
the cause of all the buzz is the apostol family, who emigrated here from the philippines in 1973. both the family and the business have grown along with their base of market regulars. the adjoining oriental market and house of woks and bowls are theirs as well, all run by family. hi-chews and cookbooks linger on the counter, hoping to go home with you and your lunch. the mart is packed with sauces, noodles, rices and spices of every flavor and nationality.
i always get the chicken adobo. the pork adobo is wonderful, as is everything else i’ve had, but the chicken’s still my favorite. i get a little flutter in my heart when i see one of the ladies pick up my styrofoam box (and not from guilt about the styrofoam). first in are generous scoops of gleaming rice from the rice cooker behind her. then it’s the pancit bihon, an adobo accompaniment of noodles, vegetables, and some kind of meat. lastly, at least two drumsticks and rivers of sauce a top it all. each time i finally have my lunch (and dinner) in my hands, i’m shocked by how heavy it is. and that it only costs $6.
the food itself is hearty, but refined. the sauce has a tartness from the coconut vineagar, and is rich with gentle garlic, while the meat is tender from hours spent in the sauce. the spanish word “adobar” means “to marinate”, after all. philippine food is highly influenced by many other cultures, particularly mexican and spanish, and adobo is now widely considered to be the national dish.
i have yet to finish a chicken adobo in one sitting. fortunately, i also like it cold, when the sauce has congealed with the rice on the bottom of the container (and i’m too lazy to heat it up). the dish isn’t spicy, but a little chili sauce does wonders to brighten it up.
a large, handwritten poster on a back wall of the kitchenette displays the recipe for chicken adobo. they’re right in recognizing that giving away the secret won’t hurt their business. the charm of the restaurant and its owners is as fulfilling as the food.
i discovered my new favorite gummy candy at world market the other day. not bears or worms but pig faces.
admittedly, the first couple pieces took some getting used to. not only is the candy human-like faces, but they’re flesh colored and soft and slightly textured in a fleshy way.
surprisingly enough, they’re not pig flavored. rather than tasting like bacon or pork chops, the candy is some unidentifiable fruit flavor – strawberry? cherry? some mix of the two?
as so often happens, my first impression was wrong. rather than being creepy, the texture is actually charming – each piece can handle a good long chew without getting stuck in your teeth. personally, i eat one ear at a time before going in for the face.
“hi!” the tiny hostess exclaimed, “you’re here for spaghetti night?”
uh…i guess we were. we had taken the bus all the way to west seattle, after all, and if experiencing spring hill meant bolognese instead of black cod, well, so be it.
the open kitchen runs the length of the restaurant, making both for views (tonight lots of parmesan sprinkling and garlic bread cutting) a wonderfully warm room, though the décor is somewhat less so. it’s not as chilly as poppy, but i still couldn’t shake a mental comparison to a mall pizza parlor; the heat lamps, the thin mirror running the length of the room, the unpadded booths. i had to remember i was there for spaghetti night, though, and that the room might seem more fitting were i eating the upscale northwest cuisine i’d crossed the bridge for.
spaghetti night is simple. it’s a way to get people in the door on an otherwise iffy night (monday, that is), and a way to underline it’s reputation as a neighborhood place. there’s ceasar salad for two (light croutons that won’t break your teeth, tangy and savory though anchovy-free dressing), minestrone soup, spaghetti with red sauce, spaghetti with white sauce, and giant three-dollar meatballs.
first, though, i had a cocktail the same price as my entrée ($9). with food this affordable, splurging on drinks seemed a natural thing to do. the smith included green apple water, apple sorbet and sparkling wine. it was clean, refreshing, and visually notable, the layer of sorbet melting seamlessly into the foam of the wine.
the salad, one order of red pasta, and two meatballs was easily enough for two. they’re truly big balls – also succulent and more than enough to satisfy a meat craving. thick white rafts of garlic bread clung to the side of the bowl, patiently waiting to help with the dregs.
there wasn’t much lingering over the wine list – the special, simple $6 glass of chianti would do just fine. the dainty scoop of spumoni ice cream was just enough dessert.
this wasn’t the night we’d expected (i couldn’t believe i was only spending $80 on a dinner for two, the mysteriously $9 campari and soda included). and yet, isn’t that supposed to be the fun of dining out? had i wanted a predictable night, i could have stayed home and gotten pagliacci or made oatmeal. i’d expected a multi-course, paco-jetted meal and gotten meatballs. why do so many diners thing that that kind of surprise prevents them from having a good time?
perhaps i’m feeling overly sentimental and fortunate after watching blood diamond last night, but flexibility is truly an integral part of dining out. get your steak cooked more if you must, have another cocktail if you have to wait for your table. then get over it and enjoy yourself.