One of John and my first date-like activities was going to the Arts Alive! open galleries (and pseudo galleries). We've been nearly every month since then, sometimes accompanied by friends who can help us make good wisecracks, always now with the kids in toe.
We were planning on eating at Thai Cuisine, conveniently located across from the Morris Graves Museum. We got there nice and early in order to beat the crowds, but for some reason they are closed for the weekend (you know how important Independance Day is to the Thai people, what with the royal family and shaking the Brits from their feet and all). Sooooo... We started naming places. Mexican? Mazzotti's? Smug's? Avalon? Mmmmm... Hurricane Kate's?
Hah! Right! The wait at those nice places is insane on these first Saturdays. However, with all the noise, our kids will go largely un-noticed. And we've been meaning to go back to Hurricane Kate's since a former student of John's bought it (Matt Yadley, he's also the chef). So we figured we'd check out their wait-list. Turns out a big table, tucked in a corner near the open kitchen had just opened. Perfect. They cover the tables in kraft paper and provide us with lots of crayons. Even better.
Hurricane Kate's ("Dining with a twist") is one of the local places that actually gets some press. It's not my favorite, but they do try harder than most around here. The menu is much as it was when Kate Chadwick was the chef (she's now in Hawaii--and who can blame her?): some interesting salads, small plates that pretty much span the globe, wood-fired pizzas and a couple of more traditional entrees. There is a strong focus on fresh, local foods in fairly straightforward, yet interesting preparations. With some fusion cuisine to keep it interesting.
I was immediately drawn to the grilled Farmer's Market vegetables with braided string cheese and harissa (a spicy Moroccan condiment). We went back and forth about the pizzas, none of them jumped out at me. We wound up with the grilled veg, chicken satay (we had been planning on Thai after all) and caribean shrimp tacos. Everything was yummy, beginning with a selection of breads and spreads. Highlights: the spicy peanut sauce that came with the satay, the fresh, lightly grilled greenbeans, the string cheese dipped in harissa, the shrimp. Hannah loved the whole roasted garlic cloves that came with the bread--she ate them like candy--and the mango salsa that came with the tacos (she recognized the flavors of both cinnamon and allspice, how awesome is my kid?). Jonah loved the shrimp and the crispy flatbread with lots of butter.
We watched the kitchen for a few minutes. Busy place. We chatted with Chef Yadley who told us he can't handle being in a busy dining room and that's why he's in the (extraordinarly busy) kitchen.
A good meal on a whim with people you love, there's not much better than that.
Oh, we also looked at some art.