Remembering Thierry Rautureau, Red-Sauce Joint Manhattans, Apple Cider Doughnuts, Baked Alaska, Whiskey Sours...
Welcome to The Lowdown, an expanded edition of what I’m drinking, eating, reading, writing, watching, and listening to. It is also a space to spotlight a few of my favorite things. This paid subscriber exclusive is sent out on select Fridays.
Thierry Rautureau (1959-2023)
Before we dive into all of the food, drinks, and usual shenanigans, I wanted to pause to take a moment to remember beloved Seattle chef Thierry Rautureau, who died on October 31 at age 64 due to complications from pulmonary fibrosis.
Rautureau, whose trademark fedoras were behind his moniker of “The Chef in the Hat,” had been part of Seattle’s culinary landscape since the 1980s, first with his Madison Valley fine-dining restaurant Rover’s and later Loulay and Luc. He was the author of the 2005 cookbook, Rover’s Recipes from Seattle’s Chef in the Hat (Ten Speed Press), written with Cynthia Nims, and was co-host of the weekly “Hot Stove Radio” podcast alongside his longtime friend and fellow chef Tom Douglas.
The son of farmers, Rautureau hailed from the Muscadet region of France, where his appreciation and respect for the seasonality of sourcing ingredients and cooking was born. He moved to the U.S. when he was 20 with stints in Chicago and Los Angeles before finally settling in Seattle in 1987 where he purchased Rover’s at the age of 28.
“For Seattleites of a certain era, Rover’s was the very epitome of fine dining—the fanciest, hautest, most white-tableclothed restaurant in what was then still a mid-sized blue-collar town. The menu combined French classics with PNW ingredients, focusing on local seafood and produce, and went super hard on the wine pairings. But thanks to Rautureau’s friendly, flirtatious personality, dinner at Rover’s was far from stuffy. The Chef in the Hat, as the city soon knew him, took great pleasure in schmoozing with his diners, and it seems like just about everyone in the industry has a lovely, charming anecdote about him as a result.“
As a longtime regular at Tom Douglas’ Palace Kitchen, I got to know Thierry by frequency and proximity, as he would often walk in to warm greetings from the host and staff before making the rounds with a glass of wine in his hand. I had the good fortune to eat at Rover’s several times and attended a special dinner to celebrate the launch of his cookbook.
And later he and Tom would invite me to join them as a guest on their podcast where, in my role as the senior editor for the cookbooks category at Amazon, would talk about some my favorite upcoming new releases for their listeners. And I even got the tap to join them a couple of times when, after the show but before returning to their own restaurants on a busy Saturday night, the duo had a ritual of escaping to an unassuming restaurant near KIRO radio station for a cocktail and what they lovingly called “trashy” food like fried coconut shrimp with sweet dipping sauce.
I still listen to the podcast each week, but I hadn’t seen Thierry in a while. In the past, whenever I was back in Seattle I would see him at Loulay or he would stop by at one of my book events and give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and have me sign a book for him. Beyond his incredible talent, his sense of humor, smile, mischievous nature, and charming accent, he never failed to make anyone near him want to be in his immediate circle.
Sending all of my love and condolences to his wife Kathleen Encell-Rautureau and his two sons, along with his family, friends, and colleagues around the world. Rest in peace, Chef…
I’d been long overdue for a return to Bamonte’s, the historic Williamsburg Italian-American restaurant founded in 1900, but when my friend Mike was in town from St. Louis we visited the bar for a late-night dinner of Chicken and Pork Chop Parmigiana, washed down with (very) strong but setting-appropriate bourbon Manhattans with cherries.
Whiskey Sour (Gage & Tollner)
Most readers know that a shaken, on the rocks, egg white Whiskey Sour is one of my favorite drinks and one that I hope will be served at my memorial service, and the version shaken up at Gage & Tollner would make Rick Dalton proud. I promise I didn’t have eight, but I may have had two
Bartender Phil Ward knows a thing or two about Martinis, and when he’s behind the bar at The Long Island Bar it’s wise to let him come up with something of his own creation. He never tells you what’s in the glass until after you’ve tasted it, and the first time he made me the Riddler (named because no one can seem to nail down the exact ingredients) it seemed something with cinnamon was in the mix. I was close. It turns out the equal parts of gin and Cocchi Americano with five hearty dashes of Angostura bitters. Ward was one of several well-known bartenders who were part of the book launch party for Robert Simonson’s The Encyclopedia of Cocktails at Porchlight, so for one night only, the Riddler could be found outside of LIB.
Bicicletta (Caffe Dante)
The last couple of times I rolled up to Caffe Dante, unprompted, I’ve been presented with a Bicicletta. The spritz-like aperitivo is made with Campari, dry Italian wine, a splash of S.Pellegrino sparking water, and what the bar calls “violent carbonation” as its topped off with ice cold soda water.
White Slice (Fini)
Last Thursday’s VinePair Next Wave Awards party promised “light bites” but to fortify myself I stopped by the original Williamsburg FINI Pizza outpost on Bedford Avenue to grab a slice. I’m a fan of their white slice with fontina, Parmesan, mozzarella, and lemon zest, served on a paper plate with a lemon wedge to spritz over the surface to, well.. cut the (rich and creamy) cheese. I’ve adjusted to the price points of the modern boutique pizzeria slice so $5.50 a slice doesn’t phase me these days, but something seems off charging four bucks for a can of Diet Coke. Just saying..
Anyway, my associate Conor had attended a birthday party in the back room of FINI and was raving about the squeeze bottle of Catalina dressing they offered to adorn your pizza, something he claimed was quite common back in his home state of Mississippi. Though I don’t endorse it, I know that ranch dressing has been a common pizza add-on since my undergraduate days at SUNY-Oswego (I feel like its roots have to come from the common duo-order of pizza and wings, which arrive with ranch or blue cheese. I hadn’t had Catalina dressing in decades but I was intrigued and whenever I saw a bottle of Kraft Catalina at the supermarket I’d text Conor a pic.
So imagine my surprise when I asked the young woman behind the counter for a side of Catalina. She had no idea what I was talking about and didn’t have time to discuss the situation with a long line of customers waiting behind me, and instead suggested I try the hot honey (which I wholly endorse as a pizza accompaniment). And when I hit my slice with a zig-zag pattern it was indeed the bold orange color of Catalina, but was clearly in the hot honey family, though thicker with an almost pepper jelly consistency.
Despite Conor being occupied down South getting married and taking a well-deserved vacation I’ve been razzing him nonstop asking what other common condiments he may be misidentifying. But on the plus side, I am now hooked on FINI’s housemade Calabrian Chili Honey, which I’m glad to know they sell by the bottle at the new FINI Pizza location near me at the Barclay’s Center.
Lamb Barbacoa Flautas (Superbueno)
Yesterday, just after I wrapped up a long day at my desk in front of my laptop, my associate Benny shot me a “WYA?” text and soon I was downstairs waiting for him to scoop me up in an Uber for a quick stop by Superbueno.
They had a few drink and food specials in honor of Dia de los Muertos and the Slow-Braised Lamb Leg and Flank Belly Flautas with Lettuce, Crema, Salsa Tomatillo, and Consommé was so good that we ordered another one midway through eating the first plate. Not pictured was a “boilermaker” they sent out featuring a copita of Chamomile-Infused Tequila Ocho served alongside Pan de Muerto and a piping hot cup of Mexican Drinking Chocolate. The move was to have a sip of tequila, then tear off a hunk of the sweet bread and dip it in the hot chocolate. The vibes were strong at Superbueno last night but I was back home in my club chair by 8:30 p.m. ready to watch Southern Charm. But one of these days I’m going to stick around for the late-night conga lines that break out there (though I may need to take a disco nap to stay up that late).