Dining Out For Life. Quinn's Pub.
Tonight is the fifteenth annual Dining Out for Life event, where participating restaurants across the nation donate a portion of the day's proceeds to benefit AIDS charities. In Seattle's case, today's event benefits the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, a local organization that helps people living with HIV/AIDS. Lifelong's headquarters are in my neighborhood; I walk past every day on my way to and from work (and often buy books at their thrift store). When I pass the poster in the window at Quinn's Pub, I know that on April 24th I will go there for dinner. I don't really need any excuse to eat there, but knowing that a portion of my bill will go to Lifelong is just a little extra incentive.
When I walk in just after five, there seems to be a bit of a buzz in the air; usually it's still quiet when I have an early dinner. Most of the tables downstairs are filled; by the time I order my dinner all the tables are taken, and there are only a few seats open at the bar. I order a pretzel with a Pétrus rarebit sauce and fish and chips, the fish and chips I've been craving for more than a week now. As I wait for my dinner I see plates coming out to other tables, laden with mysterious things I don't recognize, many involving little haystacks of salads and piles of toast, white porcelain bowls filled with pâtés and dips, heaps of house-made chips. My pretzel arrives, resting atop a small dish of rarebit sauce, cheesy and slightly alcoholic. I break off bits of pretzel and dip it into the sauce, although the pretzel is so good it doesn't really need the sauce. On the other hand, the sauce is so good I could probably eat it straight from a spoon.
I see that the woman a few tables away has also ordered the fish and chips, along with a dish of sautéed spinach, which seems like a good idea to me, so I order one too. The fish and chips arrive, one huge piece of golden-crusted fish lightly sprinkled with sea salt. There is malt vinegar, and aïoli sauce (which disappoints me, because I like tartar sauce with my fish and chips), and ketchup for the fries. I eat all my fish and spinach, and some of my fries, because I have reached that horrible point in my twenties when I can no longer eat fish *and* chips, much the way I can no longer have a burger and fries, which is a very sad feeling indeed. One of the servers tells me that the fries stand up pretty well in the fridge, and boxes them up for me - that's lunch for tomorrow sorted - but I think I have a little room left for dessert.
I order the panna cotta, and when my server brings it, she says that she told the chef that plated it, This looks like an 80's Trapper-Keeper! The panna cotta anchors a white rectangular plate swirled with a lime-basil balm and a rhubarb sauce, bright green and rosy pink, scattered with tiny cubes of intensely bright mango; the flavors of the sauces and fruit against the creamy panna cotta are as vivid as the colors. I think I did have a trapper-keeper that looked like this plate. Pink and green were the colors in the late eighties. I do remember a sweater patterned in pink and orange and green, possibly hints of aqua and black, that I wore with black leggings and Keds.
Those were the days.