Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Joy of Octopus and Memories of Pudding at the Bastille

Bastille Cafe and Bar
5307 Ballard Avenue NW
phone: 206.453.5014

I didn't actually sassy anyone at Bastille. I almost did. The timing wasn't right. I didn't want a bite of the neighbor table's food.

I just didn't.  I was perfectly happy with my octopus.

Grilled octopus with argan oil marinated chickpeas, preserved lemon and harissa
Having sampled a mere three dishes at Bastille, I have no place giving an overall assessment of the food, but I can say unequivocally, the grilled octopus is incredible.  My little companion is more adventurous than most.  Here she is...examining and enjoying an octopus.

A Nod to Jewish and Muslim Foodways in Paris
Interestingly, and, in a rather ethnically inclusive gesture, this menu includes Parisian specialties that are not necessarily "French" in origin. Included are foods that have become native to Paris via Jewish and Muslim immigrant populations. For example, the Jewish section of the Marais in Paris is famous for its falafel and this is reflected in Bastille's tempting falafel with goat's milk yogurt (which I'd like to try on my next visit).

And we see a generous nod to Moroccan cuisine in the dish I am still dreaming about, the grilled octopus. Argan oil is produced in small batches, as far as I know, only in the southwest of Morocco. Of course, chickpeas, preserved lemon and harissa are ubiquitous in Moroccan cuisine.

Argan Oil Goats
I have personally seen the goats climbing argan trees just outside of Tafroute, Morocco. I never would have believed that goats climb trees unless I had seen it with my own eyes. Kitty Morse has a nice article in Saudi Aramco World that includes photos of argan trees and the goats that climb them, here. Traditional argan nut collection methods are rather shocking: precious nuts are collected from the goat-expelled waste on the ground (yes!). But apparently, such traditional methods have since been replaced by direct-from-tree picking rather than from the goat waste. A bit of a relief for those of you who want to RUN to Bastille for a bite of the amazing grilled octopus.

The Atmosphere at Bastille
Yes, as so many reviews say, Bastille is cacophonous, but it is also bustling. It's alive! The owners envisioned a neighborhood hang-out, Parisian style, and have succeeded. Adorning this beautiful space are fixtures and  objets d'arte gathered locally and from France. The bar was packed. The tables in the dining section were almost all occupied on a brisk autumn Wednesday evening.  Indeed, this was a neighborhood nexus of activity.

The non-Sassy
I did strike up a lovely discussion the neighboring table.  We discussed my food. We discussed their food. They took our pictures with my camera. We also discussed non-food related topics, such as public and private education in Seattle, and we even found friends we had in common.

The mother's silver sequins tank top hung seductively off her shoulders as she fingering her pink phone. I couldn't tell of those were false eyelashes or just really effective mascara. The father was wearing a nice suit, and looked neat, lithe and smart. They ordered a sweet bread stew and a flat iron steak with marrow butter. Reports all good. I just didn't feel like sampling their food.

Duck and Greens
We also tried the Duck leg confit with French lentils, bacon and Jerez sherry vinegar. It was rich and hearty. The sauteed greens with garlic (kale, chard, and mustard greens) was intensely lemony. It was good but overpowering. I prefer a taste bitter along side sour, in my greens.

My little companion wanted to try a dessert. We ordered a house-made ice cream and the special of the day: chocolate cognac trifle (chocolate cognac cake layered between whipped cream in a glass).

Both were pretty wonderful, but the trifle brought back a flood of childhood memories. I hate to admit it (and I mean no disrespect to the trifle or its creator), but its flavor was reminiscent of a jello chocolate pudding and whipped cream trifle that my mom used to make back in the 1970's. She layered whipped cream and chocolate jello pudding in tall wine glasses, then stocked them in the fridge.  I used to savor every little bite while watching cartoons. The Bastille trifle threw me right back to age four. 

Instant Jello Pudding Trifle
I couldn't stop thinking of this sensory bliss, so I had to make some jello pudding trifle at home.

First I whipped the whipping cream and added a little vanilla and sugar.

I wasn't sure if I should use the super instant Jell-O pudding (just add cold milk), or the Cook & Serve Jell-O (just boil a little with milk) variety, so I tried both.

The instant Jell-O flavor was what I remembered. It was much more chocolate-y. Both are a little too sweet, and not nearly as rich and delicious as Bastille's rendition.

I ditched the Cook & Serve version (I burned the bottom anyway) and layered the cold instant pudding alternately with the whipped cream. I used glass drinking glasses because I have only two pretty wine glasses and one of them was in use.

Be forewarned, the chocolate pudding contains red dye. After a day in the fridge, the whipped cream was tinged red.  But it all tasted wonderful, nonetheless.  Now, go to Bastille and have some octopus and trifle.

Bastille Café & Bar on Urbanspoon


Tom Hart said...

I admit I always miss the real Sassies but your "little companion"'s sass and adventurousness totally makes up for it.

Dorothy Cheng said...

oooh, duck leg... I wish I was in Seattle so I could try this place.

Admin said...

Your little companion is a cutie! I love it when kids are not afraid to try the less common foods. Octopus is delicious. Ive never had it cooked this way, though, but the mention of preserved lemons and harissa make me hungry.

Leslie E. Young said...

Good God this food looks good!! And I'm so loving that your fab girlie is joining you on these adventures!!