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Madison Park Conservatory, the subject of this week's review, serves Dungeness crab deviled eggs that many of the restaurant's devoted fans consider a must-order. I hate to knock a Madison Park dish, since I think the restaurant is wonderful, but I wasn't wowed by the eggs. Nor did I much like the deviled eggs I tried at Luc or Brave Horse Tavern.
As Seattle food chroniclers noted as far back as February, the city is in the throes of a deviled egg frenzy. Deviled eggs--called dressed eggs by mountaineers and stuffed eggs by Francophiles--are increasingly showing up on high-end menus alongside raw oysters and radish salads.
Here, finally, is a trend which makes sense. I first discovered deviled eggs in a Nancy Drew cookbook, which attributed the recipe to Nancy's father's secretary. I'd never seen a deviled egg, but my 8-year old mind was fascinated by the adjective--and all that mayonnaise.
Deviled eggs are one of those great polarizing foods, but for those of us who love them, the appetizer is the ultimate expression of the egg. They're rich, they're portable, and they're protein-packed. What other ridiculously cheap food item can be so easily transformed into a meal with its own handy holder? (OK, besides a banana.)
Sadly, though, most of the deviled eggs I've tried in Seattle have suffered from the same problem: The yolks are dry and the whites are atrociously overcooked. Check out this shot of the eggs at Brave Horse Tavern: Reviewing a restaurant means not calling attention to myself, so I have no idea whether the eggs would have bounced had I dropped them on the floor, but they sure look rubbery. They certainly tasted as though they'd spent too much time boiling over very high heat.
The dry-yolk problem is also easily fixed. Nancy Drew would advise extra mayo; Virginia Willis, the Southern food authority and author of Bon Appétit, Y'all! Three Generations of Southern Cooking, recommends butter. Either way, deviled eggs should be luxuriant, inside and out.
Seattle's deviled eggs aren't uniformly bad, though. Matt's in the Market's eggs are spectacular. They're variously trimmed with sardines and pickles and salmon, but the correctly cooked whites, with just the right amount of give, and the satiny, mustard-spiked yolks don't need any garnish.