Ravenna’s best kept secrets, local music on a farm and a chef’s love of it all tying it together.
Unless you are a resident or are looking to become one and yet still keep your “city lifestyle,” the general vicinity of Ravenna/Bryant/Laurelhurst is somewhat of an overlooked and underrated neighborhood(s). Just a hop, skip and five exits away from downtown Seattle, the northeastern hoods exists in their own nook of culinary secrets, private Whole Foods, exclusive chic professor hangouts and lots of stroller-walking moms.
Veterans to the Ravenna/University District game, Felix and Sarah Penn opened their debut restaurant, Pair, in 2004. With random smatterings of love from the press mostly for their happy hour, Pair has been able to upkeep its solid social status without pissing off locals that have become accustomed to getting their regular seats (there is only 40-some in the modest cafe).
The couple’s second go was a bit further west (a hair over three blocks) with the hood’s beloved oysterhouse, Frank’s, that is eccentrically praised for its top-notch fried chicken. So there, north Seattle nay-sayers, Ravenna has two trip-worthy spots within walking distance.
Sarah Penn says the focus of the food isn’t necessarily on the title of small plates. “Some people stay away from the ‘small plate’ idea thinking it is like tapas,” Penn says. “We like a la carte better.”
The bistro-style, Euro-influenced and generously portioned fare of Pair (and Frank’s for that matter) are ideal for, say, a music festival just outside of Chehalis. Pair and Frank’s chef-de-cuisine, Kymberli Goheen, and front-of-the-house guru Mrs. Penn are heading out to the Helsing Junction Sleepover Musicfest this weekend, put on by Olympia-based K Records.
Helsing Junction Farm has been holding it down as a certified organic farm since 1992, with 35 acres of vegetables, fruit and flowers in Rochester, Wash. The chefs will head up a nosh table featuring baguette sandwiches that highlight the season’s best, inspired by whatever they are able to harvest that morning from the farm, but are promising prepared herb butter, radish, prosciutto, arugula, roasted vegetables and goat cheese. Lady Penn and her team are no strangers to Helsing Junction products – they are featured on the menu each summer (currently in a sauteed veggies plate) and the farm’s co-owner, Annie Salafsky, is an Evergreen State College alum alongside of Sarah.
Bring your own booze, food and camping arrangements, the Helsing Junction Sleepover is running seven years strong, parked riverside and accommodated with a swimming pond. The farm will host an indy and alternative line-up including Olympia favorites like Craig Extine & the Exiles, The Hive Dwellers, Portland’s Nucular Aminals and many more (full line up here). Tickets are offered for chump change ($40) for three days of camping and blissful jam sessions under the stars.
The Dish: Grilled Lamb Steak ($14) — Two words: Saffron. Butter. Never mind the precisely prepared lamb slices, the sweet caramelized carrot sticks or the natural jus sweating off the meat, the delicately dabbed saffron butter accents the spice of the dish and downplays the game characters of the lamb. You will lick it off the plate just like a completely unassociated-to-this-story writers might do…
The Variety: Syrah — The seventh most planted grape variety in the world is #3 in Washington state. Although it is a somewhat newcomer to the vineyards in this region, Syrah is growing exponentially by the year to now more than 3,000 acres. It is robust, rich and piquant, stretching its flavor profiles and aromas at the whim of the winemaker. But in weight – speaking to how it sits in your mouth – is distinctly Syrah – big, dark and concentrated.
Why It Works: I’m not that innovative – this is a classic pairing. Both a little meaty, both a little spicy, the inherent pairing is sultry and savory. Altogether the experience is somewhat pornographic and extremely enticing. You know you wanna.
The Recommended Match: Ross Andrew Winery 2008 Boushey Vineyard Syrah ($34) — Beefy, dense and grown on one of the greatest Rhone-varietal vineyards of the state (Yakima Valley is money for Rhone varieties due to its cooler climate nights for acidity), this Syrah shows some swagger in the glass with smoke, tobacco and tar as well as dark berry fruits like currants, blackberries and the earth the vines grew from.
Pair | 5501 30th Ave NE, Seattle| (206) 526-7655