What good things happen on Mondays? Tuesdays? Going back to work doesn’t necessarily warrant a celebration, and so many great restaurants take a day off on Tuesdays, it almost makes us want to just sleep until Wednesday. But that early week avoidance has met its match in the best thing to come on a summer week starter: Bastille Rooftop Dinners.
For four years, the folks from the French restaurant in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood have welcomed diners up the (several) stairs to the rooftop. There, with a specially prepared cocktail in hand featuring rooftop herbs, Chef Jason Stoneburner tells a rapt audience about the garden he and his cooks tend for Bastille and kitty corner Stoneburner restaurants. Guests are invited to wander through the converted kiddy pool planters and check out what’s growing that day, since it’s always changing — after all, “summer” is a season that encompasses an ever-evolving series of microclimates, each of which bring different garden goodies to the plate.
And it’s that inspiration, that week after week change, that allows Chef Stoneburner to keep things interesting and experiment with new techniques and dishes you won’t find on the Bastille menu. “The rooftop dinners change every week, and they’re always dictated by what’s growing on the roof and what’s in the farmers market,” the chef says. But while that could be said of his constantly-evolving, veggie-celebrating Stoneburner restaurant, things are a bit different a few stories up.
At a recent dinner, Stoneburner experimented with a dish inspired by a Japanese technique of curing salmon in salt and sugar for 12 hours. The cured wild king salmon was then grilled and served atop yogurt blended with rooftop-grown lovage, young fennel, pickled radish and asparagus. “Something like this, it’s not normally associated with French cuisine, so playing around with new techniques, keeping things fresh, it’s a fun way to make a special experience — even for our regulars who dine with us pretty often,” he says.
With a small group — mine was six strangers who became very well acquainted by the end of the meal — there’s not only an opportunity for the chef to communicate his inspirations and visions, but also a time to connect with the knowledgeable sommeliers who curate Bastille’s excellent wine list.
Sommelier Alex Stang presented each of our paired wines during the dinner I attended, talking through a bit of the winemaker’s story, the inspiration for the pairing, and even comparing two wines back to back. While a 2016 Delaporte Sancerre from the Loire Valley was poured with the crowd favorite dish, a porcini cru, a second Sauvignon Blanc was nestled alongside it: the 2014 Avennia Oliane, from Yakima Valley.
“The two styles are totally different, though both Sauvignon Blanc,” Stang says. “It was a great way to graduate from the lighter, fresher, classic style of the Sancerre to the fuller, richer one in the second course.” Because the latter was barrel-fermented and aged on the lees, the wine stacked up against the salmon and its green, lightly smoky yogurt, cutting through the fat and matching with the more complex herbal notes of the dish.
Stang says she enjoys bringing forth wines that “might not sell themselves.” With a long wine list at Bastille, and knowing that wine can seem intimidating or pretentious, Stang finds it an exceptionally fun way to communicate her passion to guests. Telling the producers’ story, introducing wines from places people aren’t familiar with, and bringing forth wines made with lesser known grapes are all commonplace in the unique setting.
The rooftop dinners at Bastille run most Mondays and Tuesdays through September 19, with a ticket price of $165 per person, including all wine, food and a cocktail to sip while wandering the garden. Tickets are available here.