Sunday, August 23, 2009

The bar crawl. Tavern Law/Licorous/Café Presse.

I never really got into drinking cocktails. There were daiquiris in Mexico on a school trip and piña coladas in college, but I grew up with a father who drank beer and red wine, and I did, too. Well, not beer, which I thought was disgusting. Later I studied Russian with people who would get together and knock back shots of icy-cold vodka and eat bowls of pelmeni (meat dumplings) with sour cream. Much later, living alone and reading Bukowski in the bathtub I learned to drink single-malt scotch, or chilled rosé on hot summer evenings before the sun went down and with it, the temperature.

Mixed drinks were something else, a foreign country. That changed when I discovered the pleasures of Campari with ginger ale, and the one time when I was early to dinner at Poppy and the bartender handed me something with the coolly floral sweetness of St. Germain and Framboise. It was time to do more than just dip a toe into mixed drinks. I heard about slick new cocktail lounges popping up around Seattle - or maybe they'd always been there, I just hadn't noticed - but never actually went to any. Then I heard about Tavern Law. The owners had a bar in Belltown, but I don't ever go to Belltown. But Tavern Law would be in that crucial triangle between work and home, and boy was I gonna head there the minute it opened.

N. was just as eager as I was to check it out, so the second night it was open I just about ran down the hill, grabbing one of the few remaining tables for the three of us. We excitedly flipped through the menu, scanning the glamorously named drinks (each description labeled with a provenance and year of creation). We each chose a drink and bounced a little in our seats with anticipation. At least I did. This is not my usual kind of place - I think it's a little, maybe a lot, too cool for me - but it's fun, all dark wood and leather-covered books. Soon, the bar is packed, people waiting by the door, craning their necks to get a glance at the action.

I start with a Morning Glory Fizz. With a hint of anise (it contains absinthe), weighted with scotch and lightened with a creamy froth of egg whites, it is pure pleasure in a glass. We pass our drinks around, counter-clockwise; I try some of the Earl Grey Fizz, a sip of The Gun Club. All are excellent. We order a second round: mine is the Dead Before Sunrise, sweet with maraschino cherry, but not too much so; the first sip develops into a beautiful complexity. I try the North Sea Smash, clean and grapefruit-y, and something else that seems to be mostly mint. We order food, fried oysters, a perfect foie gras terrine (with a tart Angostura bitter gelée on top), hot Padrón chiles grilled, with a smear of tangy cheese, a small block of pork belly on caraway-scented sauerkraut.

When we leave, after a few hours of drinking and nibbling at snacks, I still want something more. N. and I head down to Licorous, where her friend has just gotten off shift (he is a bartender) and is eating his dinner. He hands me a taste of his food - a spoonful of tomato soup, with the surprise crunch of diced cucumber, a lamb riblet, sticky and rich and sweet. I order a creamy foie gras bon bon with crunchy bread crumbs outside, the sweetness of peaches within, and a pretzel dot, a perfect little sandwich of what is most likely housemade sausage on a tiny pretzel ball. I want something sweet, but by now Lark is closed, so we head over to Café Presse. We chat with the bartender while N. has a nightcap and I savor a perfect, ripe peach, sliced and doused with cream.

No comments: