If I learned anything from The Sound of Music - other than how to yodel and outwit Nazis - it was that it's worth polling the group when assembling a list of favorite things. Maria may have liked cream-colored ponies and schnitzel with noodles, but it was up to Louisa, Brigitta and Kurt to remind her of chocolate icing, pillow fights and telegrams.
When I was assigned the task of compiling 100 Favorite Dishes, I asked every Voracious contributor to nominate list candidates. While many of the writers mentioned dishes which were already assured a spot on the roster, a few writers pointed me to dishes I hadn't tried - or hadn't considered as favorite dish material.
That was the case with the baked potato at Wedgwood Broiler, which won Mike Seely's unqualified endorsement. I couldn't imagine how a potato could possibly outrank every other foil-wrapped spud, but when I visited the restaurant last week, I stanched the impulse to ask for onion rings with my slab of prime rib.
Most Seattle diners are as familiar with the Wedgwood's potato as its cottage cheese plates and three-martini limit. The potato is capped with a cascade of oily butter, and served with plastic ramekins of sour cream, minced green onions and bacon bits. As much as I liked my prime rib, I initially couldn't figure out why anyone would declare the potato better than 276,433 other dishes (give or take a few pad thais) served in Seattle.
But by the end of the meal, I was swayed. "You really like that potato, huh?," my dining companion asked as I forked up the last nubbins of potato flesh. Seely was right: the potato was "cooked perfectly." But it became even better as I tinkered with the toppings. Like Wedgwood Broiler, the potato isn't meant to be enjoyed passively. It's a local dining tradition which requires active engagement - at least until the double martinis kick in.