How to Hate a Wolf

Renee McMahon
Super annoying name, unbelievably delicious food.
Sitting at the summit of Queen Anne Hill is the most pretentiously-named eatery in the history of restaurants.

And as if that weren't bad enough, the staff at Ethan Stowell's How to Cook a Wolf is eye-rollingly earnest. Working in a semi-open kitchen under the direction of chef Matt Fortner, one cook lovingly contemplates a sunny-side-up egg before gently laying it atop a chilled soup. He then produces a baked chocolate loaf from its pan by gently tapping into each side and gingerly removing it with his hands. But before tossing it onto a cutting board for slicing, he pauses for a moment, holding the loaf, "communing with it," a friend observes.

Everything from the name to the unflaggingly sincere staff to the one-with-our-food aura makes me want to loathe HTCAW. Unfortunately I can't. The food is so damn good.

I've now crossed the restaurant's threshold three times. On the first I enjoyed perfectly sliced beef carpaccio, bright and flavorful arugula salad, and some kind of custardy dessert thing that felt like noshing on sweetened clouds.

The second visit was devoted to tender chicken liver pate and spicy spaghetti made with anchovies and noodles so delicious I didn't mind the homemade-pasta markup in price. A soft, creamy cheese rounded out the meal. A friend recently returned from Italy claimed the cheese dish wasn't as delicious as a similar version she'd had abroad. Her loss. I was more than happy to eat her share.

The third and most recent dinner at HTCAW featured equally exquisite tender-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside pork belly and butter-soaked gnocchi. But the most impressive dish was a half chicken. I've baked or fried many a chicken in my day and I feel quite comfortable saying there is no way to do it whole without ending up with part of the chicken a little pink and underdone or another section too dried out. Clearly Stowell made a deal with the devil. It is the only way to explain how each bite, whether leg or wing, was both thoroughly cooked and still delectably moist.

Stowell is opening a new restaurant in Ballard with, as if it were possible, an even more annoying moniker. But if the food is half as good as his Queen Anne restaurant's, I will absolutely be sitting my cynical ass down at a table at Staple and Fancy Mercantile (barf).

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