Just days after proclaiming Hitchcock as my top pick for a meal in Winslow on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, chef Brendan McGill was voted The People's Best New Chef in Food & Wine magazine. I recently returned to Hitchcock to see if the food is as good as I remember, and I was not disappointed. Following the recommendation I always give to others, I agreed to a tasting menu, then sat back to enjoy dishes that showcase pickling, fermenting, preserving, roasting, grilling, and all the other creative techniques of the kitchen.
McGill always maps out an adventurous meal, with fascinating ingredient combinations and flavors from start to finish. Take, for example, the intermezzo of lemon-rosemary sorbet with fermented chili powder that came in the middle of my dinner, bringing a little heat beneath refreshing coolness. The surprises would continue through to dessert.
To start, McGill sent out a surprising dish for dessert: a vegetarian charcuterie of sorts. From the "Cold" section of the menu came Sweet Potato and Yam Terrine ($8). Last year I had a similar dish early in my dinner. This year, pickled scorzonera took the place of pickled watermelon pith, while saffron was added to the cardamom crème anglaise. Scorzonera is black salsify, a root that is reminiscent of parsnip, though certainly more subtle, especially when pickled. The terrine looked like a vegetable millefeuille, with alternating layers of sweet potato and yam offering natural sweetness. The crème anglaise pulled the plate together as a dessert. Still, it wasn't as sweet as a traditional Western dessert, which was fine by me.
Going the more traditional route, my second dessert was Sticky Toffee Pudding ($8). The little round steamed cake came sitting on a swirl of salted caramel. It was extremely moist and rich—truly sticky and gooey with earthy, intense flavors from dates and molasses. I wouldn't have minded some of the previous plate's crème anglaise with this dish, but then I'd have missed the most surprising element of the second dessert: ginger sorbet. I was surprised how well this went with the sticky toffee pudding, especially since it had the most profound ginger flavor that I've ever experienced in sorbet or ice cream. Putting a punctuation mark on the intensity were bits of crystallized ginger sprinkled on the plate. A powerful end to another provocative and pleasurable meal at Hitchcock.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.