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Il Fornaio Risotteria (Seattle)

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Every day of CFP2005 started with an early walk through downtown Seattle from my hotel to the conference site. Along the way, the exterior of Il Fornaio caught my attention. (Any establishment in that neighborhood that is neither hotel nor Starbucks -- not just coffee shop but specifically Starbucks -- stands out.) After a week of being at a conference and trying to keep up with the action back in the office, I was ready to relax over dinner and to take my time doing it.

The dining ritual began easily enough, being led through the restaurant to a small, rectangular table for two along the outer edge of the restaurant, the sort of table that is one in a long succession that could be pushed together to accommodate large parties. Unfortunately, I was expected to take the seat built against the wall, looking in toward the restaurant, rather than out the window into the street. It likely would have been a reasonable choice in many cases, except that my table was in a curious location, near a leg of the restaurant floor that follows the wall connecting the restaurant to a mall. In fact, the location made the seating business seem a touch silly since I entered that way, walked through the whole restaurant to the other door, found the hostess, and was shown right back to where I started. In any case, there wasn't much of the restaurant that could be seen but the spot where servers fetched drinks. Rather than flipping around to give myself a view of downtown Seattle, I stayed put, since I'd also give myself a strange view of a neighboring solo diner.

Next up: bread and selection of the wine. I was pleased to find several varietals available by half-bottles, though I believe only one label of each varietal was available. I selected the Sangiovese, not realizing until after the server's return that I managed to perpetuate a ritual of my own: ordering bottles of wine whose supply the restaurant has exhausted. Selection number two was Adelsheim Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir 2003.

Tasting the wine after uncorking the bottle is always a fun part of the whole experience. The very first thing I noticed as a bit was poured into my glass was its intense red color. Neither its nose nor palate were particularly powerful, making it a good match for a meal that's neither especially heavy nor especially light. What came through was fruity -- cherry and raspberry -- in a curiously spicy form that I wasn't able to identify. The more subtle flavors turned out to be light gingerbread, rose petal (of course), anise, and cassis.

For dinner, I had the house salad and ravioli. The ravioli was stuffed with spinach and a few other bits of consequence, including pine nuts of all things. It came in a light tomato sauce, making for a nice meal that was not too heavy and paired well with the wine.

Conversation, typically a highlight of what I would call a good meal, was sorely missing. Not only was there no conversation happening at my own table, but the bits of conversation that floated my way from neighboring tables were uniformly mundane and lacking in any noteworthy sense of style. I was able to collect my thoughts on several pieces that I needed to write and to develop some of those ideas further.

Dessert was lovely, "Torta alla foresta nera." The whole concoction is a chocolate sponge cake, rum chantilly cream, amarema cherries, and shaved chocolate served in crème anglaise. I had it with an americano. My server clearly approved of my choice, for reasons that made themselves obvious.

All in all, it was a good experience, and made for a good way to unwind at the end of a very long week.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2005-04-25 09:00 AM
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