Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hot Waiters and Bones

On the day the snow hit Seattle, my college pal Geeber and I had a date to get food and drinks on the 'Hill, and I'm happy to say the snow did not deter us, although maybe it should have. It was a lazy Saturday night, me sitting at home watching Take The Lead on my ancient computer monitor and he playing World of Warcraft. The original plan had been to meet at 7; when we touched base at 7, I was watching a touching waltz scene and he was trying to kill a zombie. "Let's meet at Quinn's at 8:30", I said, and we agreed we would.

About 8:20 I jumped up from the computer, put on everything warm I owned, and stepped out into the slush and fresh snow with a styrofoam cup of red wine for warmth, getting to Quinn's about 8:45 with no reservation, one drink in on an empty stomach. Geeber was already there, and right as I arrived, the host said he could seat us, which was awesome. They tucked us upstairs in a little corner by the servers station and a gorgeous Spaniard with a bandana tied around his head, maybe all of twenty years old, lean and dangerous and passionate, showed up to wait on us, never mind that I would have happily waited on him. He referred to the menu as HIS menu, and all the food as HIS food, something I found adorable, and talked me into the braised lamb shoulder on polenta by saying it was cooked in the French way. We got a bottle of wine, Geeber got some chicken dish, and for an appetizer I ordered the gruyere gougere, as that glass of wine was sloshing around in my stomach looking for something to pair with.

The wine: great. Geeber's chicken dish: excellent. My lamb: divine. The gougere: cold and heavy. I had heard good things about it and I love gougere normally, so maybe I just got a bad batch? Anyone else gotten the gougere? What did you think?

My friend K and I talked about getting the marrow bones, pushed nicely by the gorgeous Spanish server, but we decided that was a little too adventurous for us at that time. Which was a good thing, as after Quinn's we traveled half a block and ducked into the new Cha Cha for warmth. And yes, we got warm--and drunk. I nursed my red bull and vodka while he chugged jack and coke after jack and coke, made just as strong as they were at the old Cha-Cha. It was maybe ten percent empty, a tribute to the terrible weather and also to the Cha-Cha, that it could drag people out such a nasty night. In one of those extremely random Capitol Hill Moments, we were joined at the bar by a raucous crowd of young men, one with short hair and even, half-inch sideburns, which usually means "military", but being watched over in his extreme drunkeness by the rest of his crew, all with long hair, fedoras, hoodies, and 150 dollar jeans. It was really odd, especially when Military Haircut told me he was Paolo Escobar's son and complained how many girls were after him just for his money. "But I feel like you really CARE about me," slurred the man I had just met. At least I got a tequila shot for my efforts, hard to collect because half the crew kept ducking into the bathroom and sniffling a lot when they came out.

Out on the street, Geeber hurled his guts out into the snow while I roamed the streets looking for the Falafel Truck, the best falafel ever, but not finding it--and, failing to flag down a taxi, walking home back along Broadway, already showing signs of melting snow.

Summary: Quinns is about ten steps about your normal "neighborhood" restaurant. French-quality food and cooking with no attitude.

Good for: Dates, people you want to impress, people who want to learn about good wine and food from friendly and knowledgeable staff, people who are trying to pretend they already KNOW about good wine and good food.

Only down side: It's dark and sexy, not as intimate as Machiavelli's but certainly dark and sexy like Smith. It'd be hard to convince anyone you took there that you weren't into them.

Cost: About 10-20 dollars an entree.

ALSO: The new Cha-Cha serves just as strong drinks as the old Cha Cha and has just as many ferocious characters. If you've been avoiding it because it's in a new location, don't bother; it's just as fabulous. Fabulous in a new and different way, but it has the same magic.

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