How to Cook a Wolf

>>  Wednesday, August 21, 2013

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This is one of only a couple posts that will focus briefly on Seattle, Washington. Bryan and I took a whirlwind weekend trip there earlier this summer to celebrate (and play music at!) our friends' wedding. I wish we could have stayed longer, but alas, we only had a couple days. Outside of wedding festivities, we managed to squeeze in just one restaurant and an unforgettable visit to Pike Place Market. 

The Pacific Northwest is blessed with abundant access to a huge variety of incredible produce. It's no surprise that Seattle has one of the oldest and most famous farmers markets in the U.S. The locavore movement in this area is well established and still going very strong. There are many, many restaurants that serve this sort of Northwest local ingredients-driven cooking.

I love it - especially during the summer, when farms are exploding with produce.

How to Cook a Wolf is a tiny, charming 30-seater restaurant in the Queen Anne district of Seattle. It focuses on Italian small plates with an emphasis on local and seasonal Pacific northwest ingredients. Chef Ethan Stowell, a three time James Beard Award nominee who never went to culinary school, is the chef co-owner of this restaurant, along with his wife Angela Stowell.

Chef Stowell's food philosophy is about "keeping it simple, using fresh ingredients and allowing the food to do the talking."

After sampling some excellent small plates at his restaurant, I couldn't agree more.
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The restaurant is named after a well-known book written by M.F.K. Fisher written in 1942 during times of famine and war. Her book focused on the idea of taking simple ingredients and, according to Chef Stowell, "transforming them into culinary splendor."

The dishes at the restaurant most certainly reflect this principle. A quick scan of the menu reveals seasonal ingredients such as morel mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and spring garlic. Local ingredients are all over the menu as well, such as Dungeness crabs and bing cherries.

Our table of four decided to share a bunch of small plates, which (in my opinion) is the best way to enjoy this menu. Seriously, all the items will look so good to you, it will be hard to pick just one or two. That's why sharing a bunch of plates is the best of all worlds.
_DSC2648.jpg Soft Cooked Egg ($12) was a simple yet delicious first bite. Barely cooked soft-boiled eggs were generously topped with Dungeness crab, chili aioli, a Pimenton potato chip. The Dungeness crab was tender and sweet, adding a fantastic richness to the soft boiled egg.
_DSC2651.jpg The Roasted Beets ($11) were fantastic, simply tossed with fresh ricotta, almonds, endive, and pickled red onion. The pickled red onions added a bright zing to the sweet beets, and we loved the light and creamy ricotta.
_DSC2649.jpg Similarly, the Burrata ($12), which was served with an arugula-pine nut pesto and toasted crostini, was delicious. The burrata cheese itself was soft, creamy, and had that beautiful, fresh milk taste.
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We loved the Campanelle ($19), thick, slightly curly pasta sheets tossed with sugar snap peas, morel mushrooms, and Pecorino Romano with a splash of black pepper. I like the pure simplicity of the dish, which allowed the inherent flavors of the ingredients to shine. The morel mushrooms gave the dish a gorgeously fragrant and earthy depth, while the crunch of the sweet snap peas served as the perfect counterbalance.
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The Scallops ($22) were seared so that they were barely cooked, still complete with a buttery-soft center. These came with cranberry bean, shaved fennel, and Castlevetrano olives. This dish was strongly recommended by the server, and we all agreed that it was perfectly executed and tasted fantastic.
_DSC2657.jpg Because we were in Seattle, we felt compelled to at least try one salmon dish. The Neah Bay King Salmon ($26) was good, though overall I preferred the scallops slightly over the salmon. The salmon was lightly seared and served with grilled squash and Walla Walla spring onions.
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We ordered two desserts to share. The special - a chocolate terrine - was absolutely phenomenal. I am not typically drawn to chocolate-type desserts, but even this one I found myself wanting more. The chocolate terrine has elements of both peanut butter, chocolate mousse, and a gorgeously crunchy peanut-buttery cookie-like layer that really brings the dessert to another level. 
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The second dessert, a Lemon Olive Polenta Cake, came with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and was topped with a yogurt gelato. It was also very good, but I think everyone preferred the amazing chocolate terrine.
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All in all, our dinner at How to Cook a Wolf was fantastic - an all around perfect experience. The staff was very friendly, all the food was fantastic, and we were with fun company. The closest thing I can think of on the East coast that reminds me a lot of this restaurant is Torrisi Italian Specialties in New York, which we also love.

I would highly recommend seeking this place out if you are in Seattle. I haven't eaten at too many restaurants in this city, but I can already assure you that this is my new favorite.

How to Cook a Wolf
2208 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
How To Cook a Wolf on Urbanspoon

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