There are spaces and experiences I encounter in life where it is possible to feel the bones of venerablity and simultaneously appreciate the harmonic enhancements of current day excellence. Last night, in the same spot the family started back in 1950 on a Seattle cliff, Canlis glistened with energetic respect for its history and a nod to its new iteration.
Because my visits to Seattle are sporadic, I am late to the news that Jason Franey from NY eatery Eleven Madison Park (a highly recommended personal top pick ) had taken over the kitchen nearly six months ago. The seven years he spent working under Daniel Humm was in clear evidence as the menu and service combined the warm elegance of the traditional space and long time Canlis menu favorites (Canlis Prawns) with an upgraded venue and menu that achieved new heights without violation of its history. Zipping through to the wine, I will leave it to the foodie bloggers to rave about the pork belly starter, the fresh local cherry gazpacho, the foam enveloped halibut, and the ultimate cup of coffee made by a $40,000 coffee machine found in no other restaurant in the entire country (it is Seattle after all).
The fairly priced list was powerful and complete offering Washington State bottles just not seen on East Coast menus, a significant number of verticals from select Oregon and California Pinot producers, an admirable Rhone selection, and enviable California, Burgundy, and Bordeaux sections. Ignoring anything to do with proximity, I started in Spain with the 2008 Bodegas Laxas, Rias Baixas, comprised of 100% Albarino fruit. It was a good complement to the Black Cod wrapped in squash blossoms. The wine’s themes were summer white fruits and tangerine citrus while the nose moved from hints of stick gum to sweet taffy as it lingered in the glass. There was brightness to the wine with enough acidity to work well with the rich candy on the nose. The Albarino was serious, lively, and fun all at once.
Assistant Wine Director Phillip Dunn suggested the 1999 Soter Beacon Hill Pinot Noir from Willamette, Oregon was ready to go and drinking famously. He was right. Still with enough lasting acidic backbone and fruit to support a few more years of cellaring, the initial nose was dominated by earthiness and mushrooms. Behind that, the wine was silky and balanced on the attack providing richness followed by a notable and lasting finish. The earthiness blew off after 15-20 minutes when cola, tea, and rosemary/thyme aromas took over. The wine was sitting in the Canlis cellar for 7 years and just recently made it to the list. It has developed into a classy wine that is supporting the benefits of age quite handsomely.
As good as these wines were and as much of the dining stage they attempted to steal, each component of the evening at Canlis came together from the moment we walked through the front door until our end of meal kitchen visit to witness a break through brew of the “most perfect” cup of coffee by a new $40,000 George Jetson-like counter-top appliance. The last time I stepped into hallowed grounds and similarly concluded that an important structure’s historic essence had been seamlessly layered with world class upgrades was in the Bronx last month at the New Yankee stadium. Hold my table on the cliffs of Seattle because as sure as a triumphant October return visit to the new house that Ruth really didn’t build, I will be back soon for more from the next generation Canlis family and the Eleven Madison Park trained Franey.