We went to this back on August 18th with my wife's sisters, Lindsay and Erica, who were in town visiting from NJ and it was too good not to post about. Expect a lot of these better-late-than-never posts this week.
It's funny how you can live somewhere for four years and never hear of some of the cooler things that go on. We're reminded of this pretty often it seems. Fortunately, one day while flipping through a copy of "Men's Journal", I came across an article about summering in Seattle and there was mention of an annual event called "Sunset Supper". It's a fund-raiser event where about 75 of the area's top restaurants, wineries, and breweries gather at the Pike Place Market for a night of good food, drinks, music, and dancing. Tickets aren't cheap - $75 for general admission with limited seating or you can spend thousands of dollars and reserve yourself a table for eight. We went the cheaper route and found ourselves far too busy eating to bother looking for a table.
Upon entry, you are given a neat pallette-shaped plate (we debated whether the hole was for your thumb or for wine glasses all night long) and some plastic utensils and are then free to roam like corraled cattle, among the endless arrays of sampling tables. It's basically like a flea-market, but in place of a gypsie hawking fake gold bracelets, each booth is manned by workers from one of Seattle's best restaurants, serving up some gourmet goodies. And some of the food was absolutely amazing. We started in the back row first and got on a long line of people that shuffled along, bumping and grinding our way past the first 16 sampling tables. This brought us to the north end of the Market. We then turned south, and descended past another 16 or so restaurants worth of food, stopping only to explore the side-area containing roughly another 18 booths filled with wine, beer, and exquisite carmel chocolates. You'd think this was enough, but oh no! We still had the entire outside to get through. We were obviously starting to fill up by the time we reached the outside, but we couldn't say no to anything. The portions were obviously little more than a bite or two, but it adds up fast! The outer row contained another dozen or so booths serving up some great food and desserts and I can easily say that we were forcing the food down by the time we were done. It was an awesome night and easily worth the $75.
That said, I didn't think it would be. I wasn't exactly too excited about going to Sunset Supper as the list of items on the menu seemed dominated by breweris and wineries (it wasn't) and I was not only worried about them running out of food (only one restaurant ran out by the time we reached them -- and it closing time anyway) but I was worried about the serving portions. I didn't expect to fill up eating so much of so little. I did. In fact, the pace of the crowd allowed us time to eat the serving from one booth in the time it took so shuffle along the eight feet to the next booth.
If there is anything to complain about Sunset Supper it was that too many of the restaurants were serving variations on Dungeness Crab. Which is fine, but there are only so many things you can do with it and it all started to become very similar. There were at least eight or so restaurants serving it. The only chain restaurant in attendance -- the ubiquitous "McCormick & Schmick's" -- had by far the worst offering with their Dungeness Crabcakes. Not sure how they screwed up such a simple item, but they clearly didn't belong in this crowd. Back to the mall for them!
As for the others, there were of course some reall oddball creations (cold Pea Soup with Dungeness Crab and Chervil Cream from "Rover's") but there was also some really memorable creations. Among the four of us, we all definitely liked the following the best:
"Racha" - Tamarind Duck (a nice surprise since I always eat here and never had this item).
"Cutter's Bayhouse" - Smoked Salmon Chowder (much better than Ivar's, which is saying something).
"Etta's" - Doughnuts with mascarpone and seasonal jam (we saved these for last and they were great).
"Lark" - Lime-basil soda float, mascarpone sorbet and white nectarine (sounds odd, but it was awesome).
"Cascadia Restaurant" - Smoked salmon with alpine martini sorbet (another odd but delicious creation)
"Ten Mercer" - Smoked sturgeon on crostini with spicy avocado spread (by far our favorite item of the night. This was superb!)
Then, lastly, I have to give a nod to the Barnes & Watson iced-teas as they were awesome, and to whoever it was that introduced us to "White Merlot". It was awesome. I mostly drank beer -- much of which is often found in my refrigerator -- but this white merlot wine was great. I'll definitely be looking for it the next time I buy wine.
Next year will be the Pike Place Market's 100th birthday and I expect this Sunset Supper will be even bigger for the special day. If you're due for a visit to Seattle and looking for a time to do it, definitely consider the weekend near August 17th, as that's the market's birthday and sure to be when they schedule the next Sunset Supper. It's worth it.