Getting Back to Ground Zero: Redemption Song of a Cooked Wolf
October 22, 2010
I feel compelled to point out that while this post might at first seem scathing and a bit bitter, bear with me. Just like our evening, it’s a bit of an uphill battle… but it gets better.
I’d looked forward to Ethan Stowell’s How to Cook A Wolf for weeks (B says months). We rescheduled it a couple of times, but this week, I was unwilling to budge. It is also Seattle Restaurant Weekand How to Cook a Wolf is participating. The problem B and I have with SRW is that we always go intending to take advantage of the 3 courses for $25 special, but end up seeing something that looks better than the 3/$25 offerings. I do understand that this is the whole idea, by the way. In any case, last night, we arrived at the unmarked restaurant just before 6PM.
We tend to eat early. I can only imagine what we’ll be like in our 70’s. While our peers will start eating at 5PM, we’ll have dinner at noon. In our defense, we normally go straight from work to dinner on days when we drive to the restaurant to avoid getting in the car twice. This usually serves us well for places that either don’t take reservations or when we’ve forgotten to make one. We’ve also become what some might call Happy Hour Whores. I DO love a good happy hour.
Anyway, when we arrived at How to Cook a Wolf, they were already packed and are well known for not taking reservations, so I knew we were in for a wait. The hostess said an hour. I really hate waiting for a table, so I was ready to leave. B knew how much I’d been looking forward to it, though and suggested that we wait it out. Besides, we’d already paid a dollar for parking and that’s big money for Queen Anne parking! We put our name on the list and they said they’d call us when our table was ready. There was a cute little clothing store/gift shop/shipping depot called Queen Anne Dispatch next door where B bought me several new nail polishes, a candle and a tin of mints because I might have been acting a tad cranky about the wait…
From there, we wandered over to a little wine bar, Flow, around the corner. By the time I finished my glass of Malbec, an hour and ten minutes had passed and still no phone call. I know the restaurant business isn’t exactly precise and wasn’t too worried. I walked back to How to Cook a Wolf while B closed out our tab at Flow (incidentally, the worst name EVER for a bar). The hostess informed me that it would be another 15 minutes as our table was just finishing their dessert. Add sixty more minutes to that estimate and she was just about right. OVER 2 hours after we arrived, we were still standing outside in the cold, waiting for a table. I was irate (and also freezing, exhausted and STARVING)… not so much because of the wait, but because we were constantly being given such false and inaccurate estimates of the wait time. She came outside several times to tell us it would be just a few more minutes. If I’d know when I got there it was going to be well over two hours, I probably would have just gone to the brew pub across the street. I’m big on setting appropriate expectations.
Over two hours after our arrival, when we were finally allowed past the doorway of the tiny space, I had mentally rated How to Cook a Wolf a -5 on a scale of 1 to 5. It was going to take some serious work just to get me back to a 0 or 1 out of 5. As soon as we entered, though, they gained back a couple of points. The warmth and light that radiates from every corner of the space was overwhelming. I calmed down a little bit. I reminded myself of the many years I spent in customer service and the many times I had an angry customer take their frustrations out on me for something I had nothing to do with. I calmed down a little bit more and vowed not to take my anger out on our server (who was very sweet). Then came the moment that brought them back to ground zero.
Most of the 100 restaurants in Seattle who participate in Seattle Restaurant Week have a very prescribed, very specific list of menu options from which to choose. How to Cook a Wolf, on the other hand, allows you to choose anything (one each) from each of the three sections of the menu (essentially appetizer, main and dessert) for $25.
For starters, we chose the Beef Carpaccio and Lobster Mushrooms. As main courses, we had the Pork Belly (with Chantarelle Mushrooms, Onion and Fried Egg) and the Octopus (with Corona Bean, Fresno Chili and Taggiasca olives). For dessert, we had the Pancetta and the brownie with walnut ice cream. It was very dark, so the photos are abysmal at best, but nonetheless, here are a few.
A bite of the Octopus
I think Pork Belly might be both my and B’s new favorite food and this is dangerous. Dangerous, but delicious.
The food was excellent. The space is warm and beautiful with the distinct feeling of being in a cozy cave. This is coming from one of the world’s more clautrophobic people. I don’t typically equate cozy and cave. The staff was friendly (even the hostess who kept lying to me) and I liked the overall feeling that they ran the restaurant in a very collaborative fashion. They felt like a team. How to Cook a Wolf redeemed themselves in my mental book. I might try them out again when it’s not Restaurant Week and maybe on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, but one thing is for certain. I will be standing at their door when the clock strikes 5:01PM and won’t arrive even a moment later.