Last night I finally, finally, finally went to The Walrus and the Carpenter, after pining for the place for truly almost a year. Beautiful Ballard oyster bar, tucked behind Staple and Fancy and a bike-slash-coffee shop. Went with my dear new friend Madeline, a smart oyster-loving gal with a bourbon drink named after her. We kicked things off with a dozen oysters, all tiny and perfect and tasting of the not-so-faraway sea.

Four each: kusshi, malispina, and effingham. From not-so-briny, small and soft, to big, brackish, and just chewy enough. Shallot vinaigrette or fresh horseradish (or nothing at all) on top. Delight. We slowly ate them, savoring and discussing the goodness, making it all the better. (And deriding those who have dismissed the oyster…)

After the oysters, duck prosciutto with pickled huckleberries. You had me at duck, you really had me at prosciutto, you really truly had me with huckleberries, the sweet gem-berries of my homeland. See-thru-thin prosciutto, bright sweet berries; a great earthy counter to the icy oysters. Then a mound of swiss chard marinated in lemon and mingled with feta, topped with a soft sunnyside egg. Hearty in the exact right way. Then the very best bit of all: white anchovy tartine. What is tartine? We don’t know. A baked thingy? Anne suggests. The toast and jam French kids eat every morning? says Madeline. Yes, toast. Thinnest of the thin rye toast, with a slab of butter (served like cheese– see, I’ve been saying butter is a cheese and should be eaten in quantities as such all along), one perfect anchovy, more of that buzzing fresh horseradish, and a few glowing orbs of salmon roe. Pure Scandinavian-ish bliss.

And long, leisurely savoring and sharing of it all, chatting with our Vancouver table-neighbors about the restaurants I loved (and the ones I sadly missed out on). Chatting about the weird girly joy of putting dry goods in mason jars and being poetry-reading college students and all the good things we love to cook and eat and share.

It seems like a good many of my posts are half about food, half about loving food and loving people and loving eating with those people. Which is kind of the more important part anyway. Food is great, people are better. At the magazine we have a grammatical policy of referring to restaurants as singular (Canlis’ new pastry chef, not their new pastry chef) and that just feels a little odd to me. Plates don’t materialize from some mystical place, they aren’t brought to the table by some silent force, the whole thing isn’t a self-sustaining concept–-a restaurant is a big bunch of people making something happen. And we’re a big bunch of people enjoying it. In my interdisciplinary degree-carrying way, I’m finding myself more interested in the spaces between us and food, in the ways that we understand food and invite it into our lives, than just the food or the eater itself.

Advertisements