Monday, February 23, 2015

Out for Inlander Restaurant Week 2015: Central Food with Sharma Shields

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 3:28 PM

Sharma Shields is the author of The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, and the subject of the Inlander cover story of Jan. 22, “Monsters and Demons.” She dined at Central Food on the opening night of Inlander Restaurant Week, Friday, Feb. 20, and shared her impressions with us.

Shields writes: 
As a kid, ribs were my favorite food. No kidding. I loved them all: beef ribs, pork ribs, but most of all, lamb ribs. My parents raised sheep, and the lamb we ate was our own. Today, I’m extremely health conscious. I try to eat nine cups of vegetables or fruits per day, so I drink a lot of smoothies and eat a lot of salads. I have multiple sclerosis and am controlling it not only with medication, but with diet and exercise. I’ve lost a lot of weight and feel more fit than I have in years.

I went to dinner at Central Food with my husband, the handsome, brilliant hunk, Simeon (Sam) Mills. I stuck to the vegetarian menu, while Sam eyeballed all things meat-and-potatoes. I was glad for this, because then I could sneak bites of his meal, too.

I was delighted to find that most of the items on the vegetarian menu were vegan. Right on! Usually I have to tweak an order to render it dairy-free, but I didn’t have to do that in the slightest here. I almost felt like the meal was designed for me personally.

Sam and I have been blown away by Central Food for a couple of years now — the Kendall Yards location can’t be beat. We were given a table alongside the row of windows facing south, and despite the inky, cloudy night, the view was as tantalizing as ever. My eyes kept returning to the river, where it lay twitching and curling and slithering darkly westward, a muscular, glittering serpent. There is a lot of power in that river, and it’s a feast of its own to witness.

I ordered the Sriracha baked cauliflower, the broccoli spinach bowl and the rhubarb sorbet. The first two choices were easy: I salivate over anything drenched in Sriracha, and the spinach bowl promised fresh carrots, beets and sunflower seeds in a gingery sauce. Say the word “ginger,” and I’m there.

Sam ordered the mushroom mousse terrine, the Woods Ranch beef cheek Bourguignon and the pineapple upside-down cake. Sam loves mushrooms and eggs, and while he wasn’t sure what Bourguignon was, I promised him the meat would be tender beyond belief. That was enough. He also ordered a Jam Session IPA, from local brewery 12 String.

My Sriracha-baked cauliflower was the star of my evening, with a depth of flavor that kept expanding in my mouth long after I had swallowed. Sam’s appetizer, the terrine, was equally delicious, a heavenly texture of poached egg and mushroom mousse that Sam said he wanted to eat for breakfast every day of his life.

My second course was as fresh and colorful as I’d hoped, with the beets and carrots carved into whimsical, graceful curlicues in my bowl. Sam and I both loved his second course: The beef cheeks sent us back to childhood, where he recalled a similar dish from his mom (an excellent cook, herself), and I was reminded of my Grandma Kay’s melt-in-your-mouth roasts, meat so succulent and tender that the knife becomes completely superfluous. This, to me, is such a beautiful aspect of food — the nostalgia it can introduce, the long-dormant memories it can rouse and refresh. It not only sparks memories but also conversation, inviting intimacy and affection. The ability to bring people together through taste alone is a sign of a great chef — and a great restaurant. Chef David Blaine and Central Food do this for us over and over again.

I loved the unexpected freshness and sweetness of the rhubarb sorbet; I also broke my no-dairy rule to enjoy some of Sam’s pineapple-tinged ice cream, which was so delicious that I laughed out loud. I hadn’t had ice cream in a long time, and I’d forgotten how frickin’ good it could taste.

As we finished our meal, Sam and I spoke of how happy we are to live in Spokane. Out in the dark night, the cathedral towers of Our Lady of Lourdes shone with a light that reminded me of the lit-up architecture in Europe. We might as well have been sitting on the banks of the Guadalquivir in Spain. Spokane has become its own lovely city of light, and Central Food is one of its gems. 

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