Monday, March 24, 2014


1752 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Happy Hour Wishlist

Disclaimer: Our meal was complimentary but our opinions are always our own. Thanks to the lovely ladies at Watershed Communications for the invitation.

This morning I'm headed downtown to my first photography class. I've learned a lot about my camera since we started the blog, but I haven't done anything "official" since I completed that 4H photography project when I was still in high school. I'm sure that we will head outside at some point and take pictures of the cherry blossoms or the Benson Bubblers. (I assume this, of course, because I always encounter photography classes when I'm running the esplanade...and almost always they are in the way when all I want is a quick sip of water.) What I really want to learn about, though, is how to get better pictures of food.

Below are pictures of a tasting meal I enjoyed at Castagna thanks to Watershed Communications. The food is gorgeous. The presentation beyond aesthetically pleasing. Everything seems as close to perfect as humanly possible. Except the shadows. And that glare. And the way the color seems just a bit off. I want to be able to fix all of those things. I know it won't happen overnight. But for a meal like this, I think it's a must.

Castagna is most definitely a special occasion place. The Cafe next door is a great option for the rest of the year. (The side-by-side offering reminds me of the stacks of everyday dishes resting next to the fine china in my own kitchen cupboard.) Both restaurants offer delicious food prepared by Chef Justin Woodward. At Castagna Cafe you can order oysters, pasta, sautéed rockfish, or a grilled New York steak with truffle butter. At Castagna, you can choose between the Prix Fixe ($65) or the Chef's Tasting Menu ($110)--both available with wine pairings. Knowing now how amazing the flavors and textures of every plate served at Castagna can be, I'd be willing to pay the full price. It's just that I am going to have to wait until my birthday or my anniversary to enjoy these flavors again. Sure, there are some people who can afford this type of meal on any Friday night--just like there are some people who eat every meal on their fine china--but for me it's just a little (no, a lot) too pricey.

The bites below are offered as snacks on the regular tasting menu at Castagna. The current menu starts with snacks, but then is followed by oysters and dungeness crab and razor clams before moving on to sweetbreads and then elk served with wild rice and chicory. With a few more plates in bewteen, it all ends with THREE different dessert offerings. And it's not as though you have to choose between number one, two, and three. You can taste them ALL. Things do rotate quickly as Chef Justin does his best to work with in-season local ingredients. Although some of the items are available year round, it's best to go in ready to taste something brand new.

My favorite of the snacks was the Onion Terrarium. Topped with pea vines, sunflower sprouts, wintercress, and fresh garbanzo beans, this encompassed all that I love about spring in the Northwest.

Although we were there to sample the snacks available on the tasting menu, Chef Justin thought it best that we also enjoy one of the current entrees available at Castagna. Like with all of the snacks pictured above, mine was the vegetarian version. The textures of this mushroom dish were phenominal but what has lasted the longest (and what I wish I could recreate) was the parsley puree. It was sharp and clean and buttery in feel. I tried to pair it with every bite and still leave some to enjoy on its own.

We enjoyed two desserts before parting that evening. The first came with a cake that had been blasted with freeze dried berry dust.

The second dessert paired meyer lemon with brown butter ice. I was still talking about that brown butter ice cream days after enjoying the last spponful.

Although it doens't seem likely in the near future, we hope that Castagna will someday consider offering happy hour in both the Cafe and the main restaurant. We love the discounted food and drink menu available at the Cafe but don't really want to wait until the next special occasion to order another Onion Terrarium.

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