The longest running reading, tasting or cooking group I have ever participated in is loosely titled "Savoy". Originally named after Harry Craddock's book of prohibition era cocktail recipes served at the Savoy Hotel in London, we've since moved through that and on to The PDT Cocktail Book or any other reference that suits the host, but the concept is the same. The host announces three cocktails and two or three small plates in the invitation. Each guest brings a small plate to share with the crowd that fits with the theme. Meeting quarterly and rotating the host makes the event very reasonably priced for the participants most years. It is fun to look forward to swank and somewhat excessive evenings and keep a folder of ideas for my next turn as host whenever I spot interesting recipes.
For hosting a Savoy I had my heart set on the theme of Le Mary Celeste, a Parisian restaurant that my blogging hero, David Lebovitz, thoroughly enjoyed. The food and the cocktails sounded so sophisticated and the service was worth writing about too. And then we went to Lark to celebrate owning the cookbook and the app to see if it was still all that after ten years.
It is. Every aspect of the experience is impressive, particularly since it is ten years after opening. There are so many new restaurants in Seattle pushing the envelope on local food and nose to tail processes that hanging in for the long haul is noteworthy. John Sundstrom is continuing to take Pacific Northwest products to a delicious, aesthetic and sumptuous level that so many aspire to, but few accomplish with such seeming simplicity. Going beyond saying seasonal, he has invented his own three seasons that better describe our life and produce here. Lark is still ingredient driven, not stressing exotic techniques but handling the food minimally and the service is sweet. The wine and beverages are keeping up too. Lastly, there is elbow room, which I really appreciate and find essential to enjoying the experience at this price point.
So our invitation went out under the heading of A Lark Style Savoy with three cocktails made with products from three local entrepreneurs: Rachel's Ginger Beer, Sun Liquor Gin and Woodinville Rye. The cocktails to be served: Gin Buck, Frisco Sour and Toronto. (The Toronto is a personal favorite at our house and also the punch line in Lebovitz's experience at Le Mary Celeste. Do take a look at the LMC cocktail menu here as a PDF file or as featured on the restaurant web site which is oh, so stylish and features Brooklyn Lager, IPA and Brown Ale!) On the invitation we also committed to serving Lark’s Pork Pave, (hot rillettes, more or less, with pork shoulder purchased from Horse Drawn Farm on Lopez island) and Bluebird Farm Emmer Farro, the brand used at Lark, which is sold at Ken's Market in my neighborhood. The invitation suggested it was not essential to use a Lark recipe, if you didn't have the book or app, just be inspired by Lark's handling of the local bounty. The response was enthusiastic, even for this group of food lovers.
Lark's geoduck ceviche
Lark's guanciale wrapped dates with cheese
Lark's pork shoulder pave with radicchio and cherry garnish
Lark's farro with mascarpone and arugula
Hazelnut, Washington pear and Rogue Creamery blue cheese Madeleines with balsamic syrup glaze
Wild mushroom soup
Delicata squash with rosemary, sage glazed with fresh apple cider
Home made chocolates
The evening was fabulous in every way. Good food and drink bring out the best in people. The cookbook and the restaurant will bring pleasure for many more years to come.
A few cook's notes about the recipes: With any restaurant cookbook I find you need to read carefully with common sense as the most frequent mishaps come from reducing restaurant quantities to home quantities and an ingredient or two gets left out of the math calculation. I did not stumble in that way with the Lark recipes I have cooked so far. I felt the pork rillettes step of the pork pave, a separate recipe in the book, was too salty and ended up re-balancing by adding more pork that turned out to be a good thing as it was so popular I didn't end up with any leftovers.
One valuable insight to share from a marvelous meatsmith, Brandon Sheard, I consulted with about remedies for over salting: rillettes are served cold and the amount of salt necessary for flavor would be unpalatable if served hot. Not only is he a good instructor, it's worth it to take his butchering class to have him in your contacts.
The app is great to have in addition to the book as you you can view step by step photos of the recipes being prepared. That is handy -- and comforting. The Kindle version is getting some harsh reviews for digital displays that us Mac users aren't troubled by. Hopefully that will be resolved in the future, another plus for the app version is relatively easy updates.
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