lark collage

Usually when I threaten to order half the menu at a restaurant, I’m joking.  But at Lark, I was quite serious.  Located on an easy-to-miss block of Capitol Hill, this gem specializes in intricate, small plates with bold flavors and surprising combinations.  For example, the roasted eel with saba and new potato salad ($12, pictured above, left) paired a predictably sweet and sticky eel fillet with a most unlikely and delicate (you guessed it) potato salad.  This was one of my favorite dishes – my only regret was sharing it with three other people. 

Lark’s menu is designed for family-style ordering, but with more than 2 people at your table, each plate portions out to an amuse-bouche or so.  As a result, we nearly ended up ordering most of the menu!  Every dish was delectable and I appreciated the variety of our dinner, but I couldn’t help feeling unsatiated.  I respect the “small bites” philosophy and I enjoy that manner of eating, but with flavors so compelling, there was a discord between my stomach and my wallet.

Even so, I would recommend Lark for foodies and adventurous eaters. Of particular note were the Carpaccio of Yellowtail with preserved lemons and green olives ($15, pictured top right), the Crispy Liberty Farm duck leg with watercress and pomegranate salad ($11, pictured middle right), and the Valrhona chocolate hazelnut mousse with cocoa ladyfingers and candied hazelnut ($8, pictured bottom right).  You may want to consider ordering two of each!

Lark on Urbanspoon

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I had the recent privilege of attending a “Farmhouse Dinner,” a sort of underground dinner club hosted by a Seattle-area farmer and prepared by a local chef.  Underground dinner clubs are neither new nor rare in Seattle, but I will remember (and rave about) this meal until I’m old and senile. 

Usually terms like locally grown, organic, hormone-free, hell, even fresh have a distant, intangible relationship with the foods we normally eat.  When I stand in front of a pile of organic grapes at Whole Foods, I’m not necessarily moved by the extra care and attention paid to the grapes in order to earn that badge of superiority.  But, when you eat a meal knowing that all of its components were grown, raised, picked or slaughtered within a triangle bell’s ring from the dining room… there is a tangible relationship. 

Anyone could, presumably, go to the farmer’s market and grab a dinner’s worth of locally grown ingredients and invite some guests over – I’d even recommend it.  But that is child’s play compared to the dinners served at the farm.  Literally everything except salt, pepper, flour, coffee beans and wine came directly from the farm.  Everything.  That includes butter, cheese, pancetta, pickles, chilies, and of course all the meat and vegetables you can shake a fork at.  And if you’ve ever doubted that freshness makes a difference, I hope you get an invitation.

We ate 10 or so courses, beginning with thin crust, wood oven fired pizzas eaten casually with a glass of wine as the evening’s guests arrived.  We moved to the table to enjoy a divine beef broth and pea soup.  Next we tasted thinly-shaved pigs heart with pickled shallots, braised ox tail, tomato jam, fresh pickles, and an assortment of homemade cheeses.  Then there were several vegetable courses: the freshest, most vibrant carrots I’ve ever seen, a slaw of brussels sprouts and roasted peppers, and a superb roasted squash.  The main courses (yes, there were multiple) included handmade pasta with braised lamb shoulder and what I declare to be the best roast beef I’ve ever tasted.  I guess it helps when the guy cooking the beef knew the cow personally.

So, what’s the message here, that we should slaughter our own cows and only eat carrots that we’ve personally removed from the ground?  Of course not.  For most of us, its infeasible – both economically, and practically.  However, if you have the opportunity to experience the staggering impact of really fresh ingredients in a place where you are one degree of freedom away from the person who grew your food, don’t let it pass you by.  I guarantee it will be an meal to remember!

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Candy Spread
Fran’s, the beloved, family-owned chocolate shop has opened their third location just below the Four Season’s hotel in downtown Seattle.  The new store, situated directly across the street from the Seattle Art Museum, hopes to attract some of the area’s foot traffic.  Chocolate, after all, is not always a premeditated purchase. 

 

I had a chance to chat with Fran about the store and the Seattle chocolate business in general.  It’s easy to tell why Fran’s customers adore her – now a grandmother, Fran exudes such warmth that, just for a minute, I forgot she wasn’t my grandmother!  For the past 26 years, she has been pursuing her passion for perfection, a theme that is especially prevalent in Seattle artisans.  The business is run by her daughter (CEO) and her son (Chocolatier), who was recently invited by the Valrhona company to make his own blend of chocolate for the store. 

Fran's Mosaic PortraitThe first thing you’ll notice when you enter the new Seattle location is an absolutely giant pointillist portrait hanging on the wall. The subject is Fran’s granddaughter, but it is the medium of this image that is fascinating.  The picture is actually a life-size photograph of a collection of chocolate truffles, ranging from dark to white.  Mmmm, chocolate pixels… That’s good geek food!

Fran’s Chocolates
1325 1st Avenue at Union Street
Seattle, WA 98101 
www.franschocolates.com

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