My New York parents
Okay, chowhounds, I need a little advice.
My parents are coming to town from New York for some work obligations. They'll be here Sunday night (ie, in a few days) and then away for the work week, and then back for the following weekend (ie, dinners Saturday night). They're very familiar with Seattle; we spent summers here when I was growing up, and they lived here for a few years back in the early 70s. They've visited a few times in the last few years.
We're different in some ways: they're very much planners-in-advance (ie, they're freaking out that here it is Wednesday and I haven't made reservations for dinners yet). They do have good taste in food, though they're a bit more oriented to the fanciest restaurants than, say, quality hole-in-the-wall ethnic foods that I enjoy as much as fancier food. Sadly, I think they'd automatically assume that a place like Tamarind Tree isn't as good as a more expensive restaurant, just based on price. They like fresh, local, ingredients prepared in creative ways. Ironically, despite some of the things I've written that might suggest otherwise, they're not much into showiness or certain kinds of stuffiness. And, finally, my father likes to find things wrong with something - particularly if he's not the one who came up with the idea. Oy.
On past visits, they've insisted on picking everywhere we go out for dinner, based on their Zagat bibles, and ignoring my suggestions. They love Le Gourmand (though they've known the chef for years), and like places like Etta's and Campagne too. However, after such experiences as a 3 1/2 hour, not-terribly-great meal at Cascadia, they've finally suggested this time that maybe I could pick places (as long as they like my choices).
Sooo... what do we do for the dinners? We have 1-2 still to schedule. For one, we're going to Nishino, which my father suggested but I happen to love. For Saturday, we may cook at home with ingredients from the farmers' market, but we may go out for food, since they love to go out.
I'm toying with going to one of the places I've heard talked up on this board and which would fall more within their budget than mine. I thought of Sitka & Spruce and they liked the description, but some of the discussion lately has made me worry that either they'll find too much to complain about there or it won't work for various dietary restrictions (I don't eat pork and shellfish, my boyfriend doesn't eat any meat except fish, and my parents don't eat ducks). Other ideas? Crush? Carmelita (which I've always wanted to try)?
Ideally 1-2 places involving:
- Creative, maybe Northwesty cuisine
- Fresh, local ingredients
- Some vegetarian and non-duck options
- Nothing that feels like a cliche (ie Italian-American food or, as Calvin Trillin puts it, La Maison de la Casa House, Continental Cuisine)
- While dinner won't be rushed, it won't be, say, 2-4 hours long. I like my parents and all, but... that would be a little stressful and I don't wish it on my boyfriend
- Won't inspire my critical, New Yorky father to say "Well, it was perfectly adequate, but [insert negative comment here]."
Thanks for any suggestions!
Okay, a report back: Success!!
My parents loved the food we had throughout their visit; my mother said the food has been a "home run." On the first night, last weekend, we went to Nishino for omakase. They said it was some of the best food they'd ever eaten and I have to say I agree; really creative and mind-bogglingly delicious. They left for the week for a meeting and came back this weekend -- yesterday we cooked local ingredients and they were happy with the results (not hard with so many good ingredients at the farmers' market right now) and then tonight we went to Carmelita. Again, they loved Carmelita and so did I - it was right up my alley for food styles. They loved everything they ate. Between us we had such things as watercress soup, meyer lemon risotto, curried cous cous with morels and pea shoots, a dessert with rhubarb and strawberries and cracked pepper filo... it was so delicious.
So, my hard-to-please parents were very pleased, boyfriend was happy (and said he likes my parents and wouldn't even have minded if the meals were long), and I've eaten really, really well.
I took my New York parents to Rover's, Serafina, Ray's Boathouse, Cafe Flora, the Hunt Club, among others. This is going back a number of years. If they were still around, I'd take them to Brasa, Oceanaire, Union, Lola, Zoe, Palace Kitchen, Tulio, Ponti's, Crush, Metropolitan Grill, Il Terrazzo Carmine, Nell's - and back to Rover's. And if Matt's in the Market is open - there.
I wouldn't take them to Lark and I know my parents would not like Sitka and Spruce - but maybe yours would.
You might consider Palisade for lunch or brunch for a great view with ok food.
Awesome, thank you for the suggestions. I'm leaning toward Carmelita for dinner #2, and have sent my father the menu to see if it meets with approval, so to speak.
What do you all think of Madison Park Cafe? I've eaten there a few times and had good experiences. Maybe as a backup place for Saturday if we don't cook? I'm also considering Crush and Harvest Vine since they're in my neighborhood.
As to whether my parents would disown me if I took them to the Old Spaghetti Factory, let's just say I'm not about to test it :).
Definitely NOT Sitka & Spruce. Whatever you think of the food, its unconventional service offers too many opportunities for complaining.
It's hard not to like Zoe, Lark, Sazerac, and Crow. And if your parents are OK with the concept of no meat, they should love Carmelita (and Cafe Flora for that matter). All of these places always seem to be friendly.
I think they'd also like Crush. It's a little fancier and more hip than the others -- especially on a Saturday night there will be lots of beautiful people in black. But your NY parents should be used to that, and the food is excellent.
Matt's won't be open till late June, according to their website. :(
Finally, don't sweat it. They're your parents; they won't disown you even if you take them to The Old Spaghetti Factory, will they? They probably served you some bad meals in your childhood, and you still love them.
Seattledebs, Steelhead Diner. It's not New York and its not really classic Seattle. The chef is from Lousiana so there are some kick ass flavors in every dish. I was very impressed with the food, service and overall experience. Calvin Trillion was right about the La Maison (read Le Pichet) syndrome. Normally I would never recommend Italian for someone visiting from New York or Chicago, but Il Terrazo Carmine offers a wonderful dining experience and can hold it's own. Nell's at Greenlake is another option that might delight them.
My New York parents quite enjoyed Crush when they visited earlier this month. (If your New York Dad is anything like mine, he won't care for Lark -- my dad still doesn't 'get' the small plates thing, unless it's actual tapas.)
If it's *finally* open (website now says end of May), you could also take them to Matt's in the Market.