Friday, June 29, 2012

Why We Go North: Hudson Public House

My husband and I are always looking for a good reason to find ourselves in Lake City at dinnertime (seriously). The rush hour traffic between where we live on Capitol Hill and Lake City is atrocious, so although we are highly motivated by food, that's still not enough to get us on the highway. But yesterday I hung out at the Readers to Eaters booth at the Lake City Farmers Market, and since one of us was already up there, it just made perfect sense for the other four of us to battle the traffic.

When we first moved to our neighborhood twelve years ago, we discovered that the only restaurant (besides the take-out pizza, the delivery pizza, and the bar) within a mile of our house just happened to be absolutely fabulous. Before we had kids, we used to eat at Cassis at least once every other week, and for someone who loves to cook at home and try new restaurants as much as I do, that is a lot. When our son was born, we didn't miss a beat. He was 11 days old the first time he visited Cassis (although he did sit under the table). Sadly, Cassis closed before we could introduce the rest of our family to some of the best French food we'd eaten outside France.

Ever since, we've been big fans of the chef at Cassis, Charlie Durham. Charlie helped me immensely with Washington Food Artisans. Before I ever pitched the idea to my editor, I asked Charlie if he thought that chefs would be willing to share their recipes for dishes using their favorite local ingredients. He gave me the confidence to pitch the idea, and then to start asking favors of people I didn’t know. As the recipes starting coming in, Charlie answered all my questions, and even helped me test the most complicated recipes (those, by the way, are not in the book).

Long story short, Charlie is now the chef at Hudson Public House, just off Lake City Way, in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle. He’s actually been there for a while, and has slowly changed the menu to the food he loves to make, and we love to eat. His dishes are inventive and seasonal, they pack a punch of flavor, and they’re always beautiful. Last night we started with fried Padron peppers with fingerling potatoes, aioli, and a spicy piment de espellette sauce that I’m still thinking about. He’s introduced Hudson to one of his signature dishes, a most surprising salad of Rainier cherries, Walla Walla onions, and fresh basil with balsamic vinegar. It’s crisp, tender and sweet, and it’s how I know it’s cherry season. Then I had sweetbreads with lentils, almonds, and apricot that I’d put at the top of my list of “gastropub comfort foods I want to eat”. My husband had salmon with spaetzle and peas. We cleaned our plates, but we also had dessert of course. Our kids know that Hudson always has a list of house-made ice cream that rivals the best ice creameries in Seattle. Last night the list included rhubarb caramel swirl and chocolate chip cookie dough, among others.

Charlie is such a low-key guy, and he’s tucked away up on Lake City Way, so I don’t see much press about him. I may regret spreading the word when Hudson gets so busy I can’t get the big booth for my family, but Charlie is a truly talented chef and he deserves his accolades.