For a quarter century, Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, artistic directors of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, stood at the summit of Seattle's cultural elite. Russell founded the company's ballet school and still travels widely as a consultant. Among his many achievements, Stowell choreographed Seattle's holiday favorite Nutcracker before stepping down three years ago. So what's he going to do for an encore? Hold that thought.
Meanwhile, the Stowell's son, Ethan, had became a self-taught chef, opening Union four years ago and Tavolata back in January with his business partner, Patric Gabre-Kidan. Then a tiny space atop Queen Anne beckoned, too small to be a restaurant, just right for an intimate wine bar. The designers of Tavolata worked their magic (stone, light woods, cork counters) and created a 10-seat bar with tables for 20 along the wall.
The name, How to Cook a Wolf (website to come), is the title of a book by food writer M.F.K. Fisher. Not exactly tripping off the tongue, but easily shortened to Wolf. Ethan himself plans to spend a couple of nights a week in the kitchen; his wife, Angela, will run the wine list; the sous-chef from Tavolata moves up the hill as chef de cuisine. That leaves dad, who's still looking for something to do. Inspirtation! Dad can be the Maitre d'.
With fond memories of Tavolata's agnolotti with calf brains we tried Wolf's version, stuffed with caramelized cauliflower. Delicious, if expensive ($14 for six or seven bites). A plate of Vitello Tonnato ($13) substituted marinated chunks of tuna for tuna mayonnaise and lacked capers, no doubt an oversight.
A surprise drop-in at the informal opening last night was Enza Sorrentino, who has her own Italian trattoria a block away. The vitello tonnato? Not really, she says. The veal should be cooked, not raw; this was carpaccio. Still. "Welcome to the neighborhood," she says to Ethan and Angela. It's Queen Anne's new restaurant row, what with Vuong Loc's Portage right across the street and Orrapin Chancharu's Opal on the corner. As Wolf's doorman, Kent Stowell will have little more to consider than choreographing entrances and exits.