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My Seattle Bites: Eating Local at Tilth

January 16, 2012

While I was in Seattle over the holidays, I thought I would embrace my inner Seattlite and dine out organic and local.  I first heard about Tilth from my dad.  The restaurant by chef Maria Hines is only a few blocks away from my dad’s office in Wallingford and specializes in local organic cuisine.  On Tuesday night during the last week of 2011, LZ and I braved the rain without umbrellas in typical Seattle fashion and ducked into a cozy residential house that hosts Tilth.

The house looked nothing like its former self, with tables set up throughout and an open kitchen to the back.  However, they retained some of the original structure to give the space a homey feel with it’s lowered ceilings and wood paneled walls.  I chose the bar so we could have a good view into the kitchen and started off with a little amuse bouche from the kitchen and a local sourdough with homemade butter.

We were enticed by too many dishes on the menu so in order to cover as much ground as posisble, we decided to split half portions of five items.  To start, a refreshingly velvety plate of grass fed steak tartar.  I have only started to fully embrace steak tartar after a slightly horrifying experience with beef tartar in Paris 4 years ago.  The version at Tilth is nothing novel but the steak was very tender and I savored the sweet taste left after the tart capers and punchy dijon mustard hit the palette first.

The next appetizer was our favorite of the evening.  Just as we finished up the steak tartar, a shallow bowl piled high with clams in shell arrived.  The Taylor shellfish clams were cooked with a stew of spicy pork sausage and herbs.  The large clams were plump and the shells made for a perfect vessel to gather some of that smokey broth all in one bite.  We swooned bite after bite and used up the rest of the sourdough to clean up every last drop of the broth.

The Sylver Fishing Co’s sweet prawns put up quite a fight for the best dish of the night in my opinion.  The prawns were unbelievably sweet and was served slightly chilled.  The best part is that once you get a bite with all the elements, it really came together in a refreshing brightness.  While I am not normally a big fan of fruits in my savory dish, the citrus segments worked well here with the grilled fennel and butter sauce.

And now, for one dish that we had looked for all evening, the signature mini duck burgers.  Both LZ and I had read about these morsels of duck so the anticipation was very high.  The two sliders were quite petite and a bite revealed juices that soaked into the buns.  However, two bites into our four biter, we both found ourselves reaching for the water.  All of a sudden the at first well seasoned burgers became very salty.

Our main course for the night was a melt-in-your-mouth Skagit River Ranch pork belly on top of farro with raisins and black garlic.  We both adored the pork belly but spent a good amount of time trying to decide our feelings about the dish as a whole.  The more I ate, the more I came to appreciate the salty and slightly sweet combination of the farro and pork belly.  And who knew black garlic existed?  It was my first time having this unusual ingredient and I wish it could have been featured more prominently in the dish.  We also ordered a side of kale to accompany the pork belly which was unfortunately dosed with just a hint of too much lemon juice.

We were craving something light and refreshing to finish the meal so we settled on the eggnog panna cotta.  I personally love eggnog so I was really excited about this particular dessert.  Unfortunately, once again, I set my expectations too high.  While the dish was light on sugar and well spiced, the texture of the panna cotta was more like jello than the chilled creaminess that I was looking for.

Two cute little gingerbread men arrived with our check.  I chewed on these crunchy cookies and thought back to our meal.  It really started off on such high notes and went through a few ups and downs.  Even though the dessert was a flat note to an otherwise well orchestrated meal, I think the combination of the cozy atmosphere as well as the attentive waitstaff left me feeling pretty satisfied with my meal at Tilth.  I know I will be thinking about that bowl of delicious clams and those tender sweet prawns for a long time coming.

Tilth | 1411 N 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98103 | http://www.tilthrestaurant.com

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