Friday, May 11, 2007

A Tale of Two Eaties

It's Friday, so we hit the town. The usual happy hour group hopes to try the new Downtown Brewing I've written about, mostly because I send out the happy hour email and the place is within walking distance of my house. Now, Downtown has only been open since Sunday, but still, you'd think they'd bother to hire some professional waitstaff. Or even better, enough waitstaff for their large lay-out. Or maybe decide it's not good customer relations to brew every pint to order (and sometimes deliver that beer in a cracked pint, too, but the receiver won't complain about some glass chips in his beer because it took so darn freaking long for the thing to show up in the first place). They mean well, they apologize for their incompetence sweetly, but I'd rather just go to the place that's competent. Plus the two folks who ordered food were not happy--a lukewarm hamburger, a chicken wrap that was dry in a wrap yet drier. The beer is good, but when you need to wait so long for each one to show up, you begin to expect they're a front for MADD and not really in the beer-selling business.

After that, Amy and I went downtown (not to be confused with Downtown) to hit the benefit for Frameworks, and missed buying a Tony Askew at a very good price at auction by this much (just getting you ready for the Get Smart film with Steve Carrell). Since Indigo is mere blocks away from The Hungry Cat, and since we hadn't eaten there since two Wednesdays ago....It's 8 pm, and we get a table instantly. Bevergage Manager Tim, who's fast becoming my favorite restaurant professional in Santa Barbara, quickly says hello and informs us of off-list wine specials. The waitress, who served us before, also recognizes us. It's like we're with family (ok, a family less dysfunctional than mine), not the sweet incompetents at Downtown Brewing.

Of course all the food is terrific. Oysters are great, and do go for the ones from Maryland if they have them, big and briny and with a finish a wine would kill for. Makor Pinot Blanc is a perfect steely complement. This time Amy went for the great braised clams I had the first night and that we made in the cooking class and I went for the crabcake, which only has enough of something to bind it but otherwise tastes totally crustacean, topped with sunnyside-up quail eggs that ooze their richness onto the crab and frisee and lift the dish from excellent to ecstatic. Our off list wines by the glass this time are a Tensley Lea Rose, made from Syrah and on its way to a sparkling shiraz from Australia, almost.

Of course of course we had THE dessert (the only one) as bread pudding from brioche, with a brulee topping and a chocolate bed, can never be bad. Tim also comped us some killer dessert wines, but I don't want to sound like I was bought off to write this. But ask for the orange-infused cognac if you want a treat.

What have we learned? The Hungry Cat is still all that. But Downtown Brewing will leave you stewing.

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