I have a confession to make. I had Christmas dinner at The 5 Point Café, quite possibly the only place open for a meal (besides restaurants in the ID) on December 25th. It was packed. We waited 20 minutes for a table at the Belltown dive bar.
Some context: this year was a quiet holiday. I’m visiting my folks down south in a few days. Still, that didn’t stop me from cooking madly for the few family members that were around. Christmas Eve dinner was a fillet of beef from A&J Meats and Seafood, which I prepared using one of my favorite, most simple recipes, Balsamic Roasted Beef from Ina Garten. Besides an arugula salad with tomatoes and goat cheese, I tried a new dish from the River Cottage Veg cookbook, which I’d been flirtatiously eyeing for over a month: A sweet potato peanut gratin. Like a typical gratin, you layer potatoes (in this case, sweet) with a cream mixture (this one had a chile pepper and garlic in it). Instead of cheese, also layered in dollops among the slices of potatoes is a peanut “sauce” made with peanut butter, the zest of a lime and lime juice, which brings an Asian satay-like dimension to the dish, undercutting the sweetness. It was delicious. Dessert: homemade sugar cookies.
Christmas breakfast was no less ambitious. A sausage sage strata (a recipe from my mom), blueberries and strawberries tossed with fresh mint and homemade orange vanilla syrup that I got from The Pioneer Woman (I think I may actually have become a bit of fan to my chagrin) and homemade cinnamon rolls (family recipe). Pate and cheeses were also involved.
After the flurry of cooking and baking (particularly time-consuming with a 6-year-old helping), I was ready to leave the kitchen and my cookbooks behind. I was also ready for food that wasn’t festive, rich, or in any way “gourmet.” We all have our “trashy” food favorites (pizza aside). Mine is nachos.
So with a sense of accomplishment as well as a desire to leave behind my decorated home, I entered the always interesting world of The 5 Point, where I got a $3 Guinness and an $11 plate of nachos with a jerk-like blackened chicken (I needed an extra side of sour cream to cool my mouth). Though you might have thought the place would be filled with a whole lot of drunks on Christmas night (and there certainly were some), there were just as many regular folks, families even, filling up the space where stickers like “I Fuck Nuns” held court with pictures wrapped up in holiday paper and stockings hanging from the wall, the jukebox alternating between Joy Division and Guns & Roses.
To my left was a mother and her 20-some-year-old daughter having a drink and a plate of fried cheese curds before heading off to a movie, to my right a dad and his teenage girls chatting and laughing with the kind of ease and familiarity that often doesn’t accompany big holiday dinners, plagued as they so often are with expectation and bottled up family dysfunction. In fact, the whole place had an air of conviviality, a sort of collective sigh and shared sense of really being in control of your big night. People were “dining” with who they really wanted to be with – even if that was just one special person, eating whatever made them feel good, even if it was just a plate of nachos. It was refreshing to see people out celebrating the holiday with loved ones--sans all the fuss. While the Christmas lover and foodie in me could never make this my regular tradition, I appreciated it just the same.
All that said, I didn’t order dessert: a choice of apple crisp or pumpkin caramel pie. I ordered pie once at The 5 Point. Key Lime. It glowed in the dark. Enough said.