Let's Eat: Ballard's Belle Clementine is perfect for adventuruous locavoreson July 22, 2012 @ 9:45 am (Updated: 4:23 pm - 10/4/12 )
"I call it a supper club for gregarious locavores," says Providence.
The restaurant, run by David Sanford, has a set menu and is only open a few nights each week for dinner at 6 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. on weekends, as well as brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on weekends.
Belle Clementine only accepts dinner reservations in advance in order to prepare a family style meal served at large group tables.
"It's communal seating, so there are three large beautiful fir tables that I think he made. So you'll be sitting with strangers," says Providence.
While the serendipity of communal seating can intrigue some adventurous guests, it certainly isn't for everyone. Co-host Terry Jaymes prefers a more private dining experience and says group tables make him feel like he's in a cafeteria - especially if, as with Belle Clementine, the meal is served family style and guests pass dishes back and forth.
"I just clam up thinking about it. I don't know why, I feel like I'm in a cafeteria. I feel like I'm forced to meet people and I may not be in the mood for that. It drives me crazy," says Terry.
Providence, on the other hand, likens the experience to a dinner party: different groups are at the restaurant every time and create their own flow of conversation. Sanford encourages this kind of informal atmosphere by inviting guests into the kitchen to see what's cooking and to talk about the food.
Belle Clementine, in an effort to grow a feeling of neighborly intimacy, offers subscriptions to its restaurant. Regulars buy a set of six or twelve meals at a time, offered at a cheaper rate, and note food preferences and allergies when they sign up.
"I dropped in a few times, over several weeks. Which is a very good way to do it because it's very, very seasonal food," says Providence, "And he'll go to the market and he may get inspired and he sends out an email every week: 'This is what we're thinking of cooking' so you really never know."
For dinner, Providence was served a striking, yet simple, pasta with fresh morel mushrooms, fava beans, and slices of roasted pork shoulder. The salad was raw kohlrabi, Tokyo turnips, and radishes that made "a beautiful bowl of crunch" topped with sesame vinaigrette.
"The food, on the whole, was beautiful. It was the kind of food that you can eat every night. The kind of food that, if I had a personal chef, this is what I would imagine my personal chef would make me every night, really fresh, kind of simple food," says Providence.
Brunch at Belle Clementine is equally gourmet, though it doesn't require a reservation. When Providence stopped by, they served salmon cake topped with a fried egg, as well as some of their fresh salads and crusty, soft brown bread that tasted slightly sweet, with hints of molasses.
"The bread alone is worth the subscription," says Providence.
In all, Providence paid an average of $33 for each of the
three-course meals, which included tax and gratuity as
well as dessert and a beverage.
Listen to Let's Eat with Providence Cicero and Terry Jaymes:
By Jillian Raftery, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Let's Eat can be heard on 97.3 KIRO FM on Saturday at 4 p.m., Sunday at noon, and anytime ON DEMAND at MyNorthwest.com.
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