The first time I went to Art of the Table (1054 N. 39th St., 282-0942) was to interview chef/owner Dustin Ronspies when the restaurant first opened. The second time I went was this past Sunday, to celebrate the birthday of AOTT's co-owner and photographer, Laurie O'Donnell. I have yet to go there for dinner.
The party was an all-day affair, starting early in the afternoon and going well into the next morning. When I arrived, several hours after the party started, the tiny restaurant was packed. It was elbow-to-elbow, people gathering around the booze, the buffet, and even in the kitchen, helping to shuck oysters.
Harissa chicken wings
Guests included: Seth Caswell of Emmer & Rye, "Oyster Bill" Whitbeck of Taylor Shellfish, Madame K's owner Kirsten Burt and Catherine Reynolds of Queso y Vino. Dustin was in the kitchen drinking, cooking and being his usual charming self while helping to replenish the buffet that seemed to disappear as soon as a crumb of food or drop of sauce hit the table.
Chef Caswell making the ceviche pretty
Dishes were simple and delicious, and made me contemplate what type of mental disability I have that keeps me from dining at Art of the Table. There was a nice cheese board, baked beans, harissa chicken wings with preserved lemon cilantro yogurt, scallop and calamari ceviche (courtesy of chef Caswell) and duck liver pate. A separate table held the birthday cake and cookies. Someone was nice enough to write "Happy Birthday Laurie" in the frosting with their finger.
A couple of hours later, when the dining room started to burst at the seems, the party moved outside onto a patio with a wood burning grill acting as a makeshitf heater and bountiful cans of Rainier and beer straight from the tap.
I left before sundown, which would prove to be my biggest mistake of the evening. I learned that a sit-down family meal was enjoyed later that night. I can only imagine the killer food that Dustin served -- food that I once again missed.