Taste at SAM – Where the focus is always local

A few days ago, I (along with fellow Metbloggers Samantha and Zee) were fortunate enough to attend a preview of Taste’s new fall menu.

Italian Sausage Calzone

Italian Sausage Calzone at Taste

I’ve been a fan of Taste ever since my very first visit. We went during happy hour, and ordered several of the specials. I think our entire bill (including drinks) was under $30. We were only there for 30 minutes. Yet I distinctly remember the manager on duty at the time coming over to our table and asking us if we’d had a satisfactory experience. That sort of care and attention to detail, especially during happy hour, impressed me.

One of the things I love about Taste is that they are very focused on local and sustainable food sources. Danielle Custer, the General Manager of Taste explained that since they opened, on average, they have sourced 69% of their food locally. That’s over a million dollars worth of food. In the past fiscal year, ever since Craig Hetherington took over as Executive Chef, they have raised that number to 89% local. All of their wines are from the Pacific Northwest. The wine that we were treated to this night was actually developed by Danielle Custer, in cooperation with Townsend Winery.

The feel of Taste is open and a bit daunting at the same time. Samantha told me: “Taste knows how to sucker me in, with all of the local and sustainable food sources and compostable take out boxes and their own wine , although I didn’t think the high ceilings and the feel of the room itself were very welcoming. It’s a weird thing, to think of a museum cafe as a destination restaurant, rather than somewhere that you get a damp sandwich and overpriced apple juice to rest your feet after leaving the impressionists.

Now that I’ve rambled on about the philosophy and the atmosphere, let’s get to the food!

We started off with a pairing called Flight & Bite. Three small plates were paired with three beers from Pike Brewery. The pulled pork was perched on bit of bread with cucumber, olives, and a bit of orange all mixed in a type of remoulade. Very tasty, spicy, rich, with the cool remoulade contrasting the pork. Unfortunately, the physical balance of the dish was off and it fell over quite easily.

The second dish, a fried calzone with sausage from Skagit River Ranch, was even better. It wasn’t your standard Italian calzone, being served with a fennel tomato ketchup, but it was crunchy and flavorful. Unfortunately I couldn’t really taste the curds.

Third came a ‘grown up’ mac and cheese. Gruyere cheese and thyme were mixed with chanterelles. I am not a big fan of mushrooms, but while the flavor shone through, it wasn’t overwhelming. This was Samantha’s favorite dish of all and I would rate it a close second.

Farro Risotto with Chanterelles

Farro Risotto with Chanterelles

Next came two standalone courses. The first, pictured at right, was a farro risotto. The farro was supplied by Bluebird Grain Farms, one of my favorite market vendors. I make risotto with pure farro all the time, but this risotto was a mix of farro and whte rice. It was delicious. I don’t know that I can even do it justice describing it. Samantha talked to the chef, Craig Hetherington, about the broth that accompanied the risotto and he replied that the broth was from soaking a batch of dried chanterelles for the risotto. It was fantastic.

The last main course was seared halibut. Honestly, while this was tasty, it was probably the most bland of all of the dishes. The potato galette, with Olsen Farms potatoes, was very flavorful, but the halibut was seasoned with just a small amount of salt and pepper. Tasty, but not a standout.

Apple Tart with Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Apple Tart with Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Dessert was a treat. Before it was served, we were introduced to the new pastry chef – Lucy Damkoehler. It was her first day on the job! You could tell she was nervous speaking to the crowd, but her passion for her job really came through. She spoke about taking childhood memories and using those to create her desserts. The apple tart was very good, and it was served with peanut butter ice cream. This was both tasty and a bit odd at the same time (in a good way). Tasting peanut butter with the texture of ice cream really confuses the taste buds. I would order it again in a heartbeat though.

All of these items, and many more, are available at Taste now.

Seattle Art Museum
TASTE Restaurant
1300 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Reservations: 206.903.5291

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