Friday, November 16, 2007

Sunflower: an impromptu review

The last couple of days have been spent at a meeting with about a hundred scientists to discuss a new research program and potential field campaign. It was lovely to see friends from out of town for a couple of days. Rather than rant about the stubbornness of individuals to recognize the interesting problems, the ability of certain session chairs to push forward their own agenda, or the overly sweet continental breakfast, I should focus on what's really important: this evening's meal.

Jen is in town for the meeting, and we celebrated the end of the meeting by dinner on the town. We tried Sunflower, the very Boulder organic restaurant that I've been jealously eyeing for a few months:

The table settings are simple and chic, the service attentive but not effusive, and the ambience elegant, but friendly. The tables were well spaced, avoiding the echoy cavernous feel that so many eateries exude.

The food was, in an understatement, fabulous: we shared the 'breads and spreads' appetizer: I think Jen's favourite was the Israeli goat's cheese Feta, while I just couldn't get enough of the smoked baba ghannouj. But really, you can't go wrong with mushroom spreads, fresh bruschetta, or marinated olives. Though the sugar pumpkin (? it was orange and unidentified... but sweet and vegetably) spread they provide with rolls was... odd... As for the entrees, Jen tried the Buffalo Sirloin (with goat's cheese-mashed potatoes, a red wine-cherry sauce and spinach on the side), while I went for the bamboo steamer option: steamed vegetables, a piece of salmon, and a peanut-coconut sauce on the side. It sounds like such a simple idea, and yet steamed vegetables are so often poorly cooked: the asparagus left with too much crunch, zucchini too mushy. But this chef's seemed to hit the appropriate balance of crunch and mush for a nicely textured - not too mention beautifully coloured - meal, highlighting an interesting blend including kale, bok choy, asparagus and broccoli. And a pepper-crusted hunk of beautiful King salmon. Finally: a piece of salmon in this country that hasn't been covered in a sickly sweet glaze, but provided with a pungent coating that complements the flavour.

It is easy to forget what a good piece of salmon is: not oozing fat from fish farms, no falsely tinted pink dye... It is almost impossible to find a piece of fish that neither racks one's environmental conscience, nor invokes a sense of chemical enhancement. For the last few years, I've waffled on the wild versus farmed fish issue in terms of environmental concerns - flip-flopped, as you will. It seems that everyone has a strong opinion: there aren't enough fish stocks to sustain wild fisheries, yet fish farms are accompanied by a whole host of water quality problems. There are too many finer points to debate the issue in detail here - and frankly, it's become a bit tedious. If I didn't just love the taste of fish, I would abstain entirely, but I have finally come up with a compromise. Since I find the wild-caught fish tastes better, I at least eat seafood according to the eco-friendly guide handily provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A compromise, but one I had to make.

But Sunflower takes all those concerns away, by having gone to extreme efforts to make sure that everything served, from the humblest potato to the most noble chunk of meat, was treated with respect and harvested sustainably. So a guilt-free meal. And, more importantly, a tasty one too.

So back to the important issues: Dessert. Melted chocolate cake. I won't waste your time with superlatives: there aren't enough to describe it. I am left searching for the excuse to go back just as soon as I finish digesting, feeling rather like a Burmese python after a large meal...

Brunch, perhaps?

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