July 23, 2007

A kinder, gentler, wetter Bite

Enza serves at Bite of Seattle.JPG Ravioli at Bite.JPG

How easy it is to poke mean-spirited fun at Silverman Festivals, aka Bite of Seattle. The family-owned commercial enterprise, enabled by the City of Seattle in the guise of a community festival, symbolizes so much of what's wrong with America today: greed, exploitation, overweening appetite and tons of just plain crappy food. A cheap and easy target for the smug and self-satisfied. (For one such potshot, see Cornichon's own "Blah of Seattle" post a year ago.)

And still. Working undercover this year, behind the booth, Cornichon comes away with a different perspective. The view is not of the Space Needle or the expansive Memorial Fountain lawn but of that little courtyard behind Key Arena, where celebrity chef Tom Douglas hosts a mini-Bite dubbed "The Alley." A single $8.50 ticket buys tastes from six restaurants.

(Does this sound like the old Kathy Casey's Alley? Indeed, a close look at the URL shows it's still called "Kathy." Gulp.)

Tom's chefs work the first station, serving up grilled steak and lamb, with Queen Anne's six-month-old Sicilian trattoria Sorrentino the only permanent member of the visiting team. Among the others: usual suspects Union Square Grill (pulled pork sandwiches), Troiani (pasta), Salty's (gazpacho); indies Volterra (panna cotta), Crush (sweat pea soup).

Issaquah's Iris Grill shows up on day one with tasty Moroccan lamb chops, topped with a blob of something they keep calling "riata" that's actually a dilled yoghurt raita. (Get it right, guys!) Despite the Friday's rain and sparse crowds, by mid-afternoon they run out of food...so they pack up and go home. For shame, for shame.

Impressive camaraderie: Tom Douglas himself takes turns grilling and slicing when he isn't checking on his crew at Serious Pie; USG's GM Josh Anderson is on hand Friday and Saturday ("This is the fun part of the job"); Jason Wilson of Crush brings wife Nicole and infant son for the day on Sunday. Enza Sorrentino pulls full shifts all three days, dishing out her labor-intensive gnocchi with truffle butter, handmade spinach & ricotta ravioli and sweet Amorosa tomatoes lovingly filled with rice and tuna.

Stuffed tomatoes at Bite.JPG

As for Al Silverman, he stops by regularly to thank both vendors and volunteers from Food Lifeline, the designated beneficiary of the 5,000 or so overfed eaters who come through the Alley. He plants a kiss on Enza's cheek. "If I were 15 years younger, I'd marry you," he says.

She recoils slightly. "Che ha detto?" What'd he say? Alas, at that moment, no one else speaks enough Italian to explain.

Friday rain.JPG Sorrentino serving at Bite.JPG

Posted by Ronald Holden at July 23, 2007 7:57 AM

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