Brian and I first tried Blue Duck on our 11-month anniversary (yes, we celebrate every month) and loved it. He’s been back, and Alison went Thursday, so as a surprise for our last date together before he left for London for 2 months, Brian took me back for a
wonderful (and romantic) dinner.
This review has both Alison and my impressions of a city favorite, Blue Duck Tavern
Ashley: Blue Duck is in the Park Hyatt Hotel, and that may have something to do with the setting not matching the cooking slightly. I’d expect French or American upscale bistro food if I just saw the high ceilings, imposing front doors, and abundance of marble. Touches like wood-paneled walls to create dining nooks and 19th century farmhouse rocking chairs give you a better idea for what’s in store on the menu. The kitchen is completely open and in beautiful order with glass jars filled with pickled fruits and vegetables. Giant platters of fingerling potatoes, garlic cloves, and dates functionally decorate a counter, and walking to the bathroom through a hall that begins in the apple pie cooling center is a treat.
Alison: While the main perimeter dining area’s high ceilings offer a modern and chic vibe, I have to say I prefer the smaller interior section of the restaurant with the lower ceilings. The seats are more comfortable, the acoustics far better, and the overall feeling cozier. PLUS, you get a prime view of the open kitchen. I would definitely recommend requesting a table in the interior section when making your reservation.
Ashley: The servers here are a little cocky, but understandably so. Our server, Alexander, started by asking if we’d been to Blue Duck before, and when we told him we had, he responded, “Then you know how good it is already.” Service here is friendly in the way you would expect a fellow foodie to be – they want to help you through your dining experience.
Alexander recommended we only get one appetizer to share when we picked the delicious but heavy crab mac and cheese, and told us the duck fat fries wouldn’t travel home because of the blanching process. (Which was such a bummer – I wanted to eat them all but could only manage 2 during the meal!)
Alison: Our service was great- attentive, but not cocky. Our server gave us great recommendations that were spot on.
Ashley: The menu at Blue Duck focuses on local ingredients, listing the farms from where everything comes. Food is served “family style” but out of smaller, silver serving pieces.
Brian and I started with the Dungeness Crab Macaroni and Cheese – it was heavy, but not uncomfortably so. Add a side of something green and it could be a meal unto itself. The crab meat was plentiful and wonderfully salt-water briny, and the little bit of crunch on top of the cheese was a nice texture juxtaposition to the velvety cheese, pasta, and crab.
For our main courses, Brian had the vegetarian option of a spinach, artichoke, and trumpet mushroom gratin. He said it was wonderful (and that means a lot given that this man will eat the heck out of some steak). I had the small portion of scallops and couldn’t finish all three. The seasoning of cracked pepper, thyme, and lemon was strong, especially given how little seasoning actually appeared on the scallops. We also split the sweet potato goat cheese grits (oh are these good – always get the goat cheese grits at Blue Duck) and the duck fat fries. I personally thought they needed just a dollop of ketchup, but think this is more of a reflection of being conditioned to want ketchup with fries than an actual need of the frites.
For dessert, Brian and I split the cheesecake with poached pears and cherries, although the pears were a little heavy on the cinnamon and neither of us touched them after an initial taste.
As always, we ordered too much and will plan to scale back next time, splitting an appetizer, entree, and 2 sides – and will save room next time for the famous apple pie and hand-churned ice cream.
Our table started with the escargots, the field green salad, and the fois gras. The escargots were absolutely fantastic! I’ve noticed several places recently serving them out of the shell, and they were presented as such here as well. The salad really shone due to the freshness of the ingredients- a variety of lettuces, beets, blue cheese, walnuts and green apples. The foie gras was different than what I’ve enjoyed before- presented more as a mousse, but still delicious for fans of the (un-politically correct) delicacy (which I unabashedly am.)
Two of us ordered the chef’s recommendation of the stuffed quail and they were truly fantastic! Each of us only finished one of the two birds- we are all seemingly guilty of ordering more than necessary at Blue Duck it seems! Matt got the crab cakes, and while they were good, you can get great crab cakes at a shack on the shore, so I tend to personally steer clear of this menu staple and favorite when I am at a place like Blue Duck.
We too ordered a side of the goat cheese grits (natch) and decided to try the vegetable of the day, Salsify, which was something that none of us had heard of before. Whole Foods’ website describes it as a long firm tapered root with black or white skin, unlike other root vegetables, salsify has a delicate flavor, described as a cross between asparagus and artichoke hearts. This is the type of place where I would definitely recommend going out on a limb and trying something you are unfamiliar with, as it always seems to pay off. Their commitment to locally raised and in-season products is one of my favorite aspects of Blue Duck.
Our table finished up with various teas and coffees, as well as the pineapple huckleberry almond cake crumble, which was similar to a cobbler. I am generally not a huge dessert person, but Blue Duck does dessert right- they are subtly sweet and the focus remains on the natural sweetness from the fruit rather than heavy syrups and loads of sugar.
Overall, this was one the best meals I have had in a very long time. Each time I go to Blue Duck it climbs higher on my list of favorites, and this visit was no exception.
Best For: Locally grown and always fresh ingredients, the goat cheese grits. Seriously, just order them.
Worst For: Those seeking a light bite. Prepare to walk away stuffed and completely happy every time.