Ally
1531 14th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122. (206) 251-7673  www.spinasse.com

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco but I think I may have left mine in Seattle this past weekend.  Mr. S. and I went for an early holiday getaway and the foodie in me just fell head over heels for Seattle’s food scene. We hit up a few well touted casual food places like Salumi and Paseo (which I will review soon, I promise!) but the highlight of the trip was our dinner the first night at Cascina Spinasse. It was truly a magical night.  Although the trattoria was a bit difficult to find (it’s quite inconspicuous) and parking in Capitol Hill was a nightmare; once we stepped out of the rain and through the doorway, we were transported. The restaurant reminded me of a warm hunting lodge or a rustic cottage that you’d find tucked away in a European forest. I fully expected a staff member to greet us wearing jodhpurs and carrying the night’s game in one hand.
What appealed to me most about Spinasse’s ambiance was that although it’s high end, it’s a no muss, no fuss place. Simple plank tables, dark wood shelving and wrought iron serve as the foundation for the décor. Most shelves showcase the various bottles of wine they offer; although, every so often you’ll find the odd quirky knick-knack wedged in. There’s something about the place that makes it feel charming and cozy rather than cluttered. We had made reservations ahead of time and were lucky enough to score seats at the chef’s table where we could have a front-row view into the farmhouse kitchen. It was quite interesting to be able to watch all the hustle and bustle and interworkings…not to mention that I loved how “authentic” the kitchen looked. Hanging cast-iron pans, butcher block islands, a blackened range—all utilized…it was truly a beautiful rustic kitchen. Now, reservations are not required but more than likely you won’t get in without one. We watched several patrons get kindly turned away throughout the course of our night as the dining area was full. Spinasse has quite the reputation in town! Anyhow…Jason Stratton, Spinasse’s chef, was voted Food and Wine’s Best New Chef for 2010 and we were eager to experience everything Spinasse had to offer so we went with the Menu Degustazione ($90/pp), a “family style tasting of every antipasto, primo and secondo” on the night’s menu. Instead of small bite sized portions, you receive one full order of every dish on the menu to split between the two of you. It’s a lot of food, so be prepared to be there for several hours.
So, Mr. S. ordered his customary sparkling water and I went with a nice dry chardonnay that Ana, our server recommended and from there we got comfortable and began our culinary adventure.

Antipasti

For the first course, we were brought:

Insalata di pera (Asian pear with aged pecorino and celery)

‘Pio Tosini’ prosciutto di parma (prosciutto with marinated apple)

Insalata russa (Russian salad “winter variation’ with roasted celeriac and delicate squash with tuna maionesse, caper and pickled carrot)

Insalata de barbabietole e radicchio di Treviso (beet salad with local Treviso, crushed egg, breadcrumbs and parmigiano-reggiano)

Sformatino di porri (roasted leek flan with fonduta)
All of the dishes were wonderful but my favorite was the beet salad. They used these tiny baby beets that were so flavorful that I almost didn’t want to swallow and instead just roll them around in my mouth, savoring the taste. I think the highlight for Mr. S. was the leek flan, it was delicate and luscious and seemed to slide across your tongue. One of those dishes that makes you want to close your eyes in bliss after you take each bite.

Primi

For the next course, we were brought three dishes of handmade-in house pasta:

Tajarin al ragu o burro e salvia (fine cut egg pasta with ragù)

Mezzalune di carote  (carrot mezzalune with cumin and caper butter)

Tagliatelle con maiale all latte (tagliatelle with pork shoulder braised in milk)

All three pastas were superb but the tagliatelle and the tajarin really stood out. The pork shoulder served with the tagliatelle was so tender, it literally melted in my mouth. The tajarin was so wispy and the ragù, oh the ragù! It was so scrumptious that even as my stomach was saying, “No more!” I couldn’t stop twirling another bite onto my fork. All of the pastas were made perfectly. Stratton knows his pasta, there’s no doubt about that!
And just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, out came the…

Secondi

Pulcino con cavolini de Bruxelles (roasted young chicken with shaved Brussels sprouts and toasted pinenut sauce)

Polpette di coniglio (rabbit meatballs wrapped in caul fat, with caramelized turnip puree, pickled horseradish and crisp rosemary

Capriolo al forno (roasted venison with lentils and salt-roasted persimmon)

Good god! All of these dishes were mind-blowing. I’m not sure where we put away all the food but we couldn’t resist the tender rabbit meatballs, crisp young chicken and I’ll be honest I was quite enamored with the Brussels sprouts. Each dish you could tell was made with care and skill. Undoubtedly, each and every dish that came out from Stratton’s kitchen to our table was perfect…every component was in harmony with each other.  They’re such simple dishes made from local, organic ingredients but offer up such complexity in taste.
Now, don’t think I’ve forgot about the service. Ana, our server, was engaging and attentive not to mention knowledgeable and passionate about the food. Our dinner was flawlessly paced and we were never in want. Water was constantly filled and our needs met without a word uttered. She did talk us into dessert and as we were still basking in the afterglow of our meal and not ready to venture back out into the cold, wet evening, we agreed. We chose a Gianduja semifreddo with dark chocolate and feuilletine. The semifreddo was sinfully creamy (thank you Lactaid pills) and the feuilletine added a nice nutty taste. Mr. S. also requested an Italian coffee (which arrived in an adorable mini-Bialetti) and I opted for a glass of Moscato to cleanse my palette. The Moscato was the perfect finishing touch—slightly sweet and effervescent.
Much like a fairytale, every great meal must come to a close. As we donned our coats, Mr. S. smiled and stated that he was pretty sure that this was one of the best meals of his life. I whole-heartedly agreed. We took one last look at the candlelight dancing atop the wax-covered candelabra on our table, clasped hands and made our way back into the rainy, Seattle night.
Spinasse, you surpassed our expectations…thank you for a memorable evening.
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