A few days ago, Alexir informed me that we had a reservation at Radiator Whiskey with his coworker, Sophie. I had never been before, but had always wanted to try the place out. And Alexir had worked with one of the cooks last month. When Alexir’s chef and other cooks had been on a research trip in Malaysia, they had opened up their space to a “pop-up” german restaurant (Called Dackel, and owned by Josh from Radiator Whiskey).
Dackel obviously is the true german work for Dachshund or weiner dog. Dackel’s main focus was some amazing german sausage.
The concept behind a pop-up being mostly self-explanatory: the restaurant “pops up” occasionally at one or more locations throughout the year, borrowing or renting kitchen space to cook their food. This accomplishes two things.
1.) It saves the pop-up restauranteur from the long process of picking a location, buying or renting, employing a full staff, etc. Pop up creators often have full time cook or chef jobs at other restaurants, and the pop up is simply an outlet for a type of food they love.
2.) It often makes use of a restaurant’s kitchen while the restaurant would typically be closed, so it is utilizing the electricity, gas, and so on that is being paid for. And is often generating at least some money for everyone involved.
So pop-ups are essentially re-purposing restaurants that would be closed. It feels like a very Seattle concept, restaurant space recycling.
Unfortunately, yesterday (the day of our reservation) Sophie let Alexir know she was stuck at home with the flu. We decided to keep the reservation, but contact some friends for extra company. Alexir called up his buddy, Kevin, and his girlfriend, Brittany. We carpooled down and popped in just a few minutes after our reservation at 7:30. I had been skeptical about the need for a reservation on a Thursday night, but the wandering crowd by the front door shut me up right quick.
Our table was a nice four top right in front of the kitchen “window”. The kitchen itself was almost completely open, and the restaurant was built/lit in such a manner that it made the kitchen the focal point. As we walked to our table, Josh eyed Alexir and said “hi”. We were greeted by a very nice, mellow, competent server. When we were handed the two menus, it took me a second to recognize which was which. Typically, a restaurant offers a normal 8.5″x11″ menu and a half sheet with a wine and spirit list. Considering the name of the restaurant had “whiskey” in it, I should not have been surprised that the small sheet was the food, and the oversized paper was a list of whiskeys, bourbons, ryes, and other mixed drinks. Brittany noticed, and voiced her shock at the massive booze list, especially since she isn’t much of a drinker. We eyed both menus while nibbling the bowl of popcorn each table received in place of a standard bread basket.
Alexir is notorious for picking cocktails at the last moment, and often letting the last-minute pressure cause him to make a terrible decision. That being said, I was gifted the opportunity to choose for him. Which really only meant I picked something I knew I’d like and ordered him the same thing. Enter the “Phil Collins” – a play on a “tom collins” (gin and lemonade) made by mixing grenadine, bourbon, lemon juice, and soda water. It was darn tasty in my opinion. Alexir was only a few sips in before a male server did a drive by and dropped a cup with familiar dark colored alcohol by the table. It ended up in front of Kevin, who was completely confused. Alexir smirked and took the glass as I made a disgusted face. The mystery drink was fernet: a digestif (after dinner drink) that has permeated the cook/chef drinking culture. Many a cook has bought a round of fernet for the group. However, the anise-flavored drink has people on extreme opposites about it. You either love it and order it anytime you go out drinking, or you have been sick off of it and have vowed to avoid it for the forseeable future. I’m a member of the latter. The cool thing is that seeing a cup of fernet appear, we already knew it was from Josh before our server leaned in and said “that’s from the kitchen”. Alexir sipped away at both his drinks as we continued perusing the menu.
Our central focus was the smoked pig head. Let me stop all of you naysayers right here who may have strong objections about the concept of eating a head or face. Anthony Bourdain wrote a whole article about American fear of this part. The American world is so deluded that people want to convince themselves their ground beef just comes from a little plastic package or between astroturf dividers in the meat department at the grocery store. I’m sorry to break it to the world of meat-eaters, but here’s a little secret: All that meat you eat, comes from an animal, that used to have a head. Every animal we eat used to be alive and breathing. So it is equally as, if not more respectful, to the animal and its sacrifice to eat as many parts as one would allow.
While Kevin’s girlfriend had strong reservations about a “head on the table?!”, the three of us decided it sounded fun. But alas! Our server informed us they were sold out. Blarg! We ordered equally as tasty sounding items and nursed our drinks some more. What’s this? Our server returns and says “the kitchen just informed me that you guys reserved the last head”, you’re fine. Ha-HA! Thank you, Sophie, for adding that to our reservation. Score. Brittany still wasn’t convinced she could eat it, so she ordered the brisket.
As the whole set-up takes about 25 minutes, we ordered a few small plates to keep us busy. A bowl of tater-tots lounging in a mustard sauce with a sunny side up egg on top. A salad of thinly sliced apples with flora’s cheese, pickled raisins, celery, and a sherry vinaigrette.
Soon, the appetizers were swept away and a large kitchen towel was placed across the center of the table. The main course was brought out by Josh himself, who kindly explained each piece. It was so impressive, I bent my “no food pics in restaurants” rule and snapped one.
Eat ALL the bits!
I numbered everything so you lovely readers would have a reference. Let’s break this tastiness down:
1.) Spicy fried strips of pig ear. I’d guess they were tossed in some Frank’s Red Hot or similar spicy hot wing sauce. I’m pretty sure we convinced Brittany to try one of these. She was too busy being assaulted by spiciness to freak out about eating some ear.
2.) What immediately became the best blood sausage I’ve ever eaten. There is no way to describe it, you just have to get brave and try some.
3.) I want to say parsley aioli. Some sort of green herby aioli. Perfectly balanced with the other parts of the platter
4.) A fat stack of Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers, fresh parsley, and chives. Fatty, rich meats should always be eaten with briny, fresh, and acidic flavors to balance.
5.) Stone ground mustard. In line with my statement about flavor balance. Pork and mustard are good friends.
6.) Roasted pork loin. Obviously not from the head, but a nice lean contrast from the other pieces on the platter. Also great for appeasing fellow diners who might not be adventurous enough for the other parts.
7.) Brined pork tongue. As I’ve said before, I fell in love with beef tongue after Alexir made it for his Chef of the Day project. Pork tongue is no different. Prepared just as well, it is dense and rich, but still tastes like a piece of meat. Roast beef is the most similar comparison. Pretty sure Brittany was brave enough to try a little bite of it.
8.) The obligatory toasts. Every soft, meaty, pickled platter needs some good toast for textural contrast. These were not only tasty, but I think drizzled in a little garlic oil. They tasted great with everything.
9.) Last, but not least, the Pièce de résistance: the head itself. Technically, it’s half a pig head. This makes it sit nice and flat on the platter. Not to mention you have more than enough to eat with it. The skin is smoky (from being smoked), but a bit elastic. This was the first piece I went for. I just dug my fork in and twisted to get a nice combination of the skin, some melty fat, and the bits of fall-apart-tender meat.
There were occasionally moments that were a bit weird. Eating enough bit for us to start seeing teeth. And when Alexir ate they eye. Yuuuuup, they left that little treat in place for us. It was smoked however, so it tasted soft and squishy like the other bits of fat according to him. A neighboring table of five or so people kept turning around to look at the head jealously. I was pretty sure they’d arrived before us and been told they were out of heads. One of the men at the table asked if there was any chance his wife could try a piece. Being cooks, food sharing is never weird for us. We welcomed her over and suggested she dig into whatever piece she’d like, we were happy to share the experience. She cut a tiny piece off the top of the head, and thanked us profusely as she was chewing.
They thanked us again as they were leaving. Apparently, they were tourists from Toronto, but came to Seattle twice a year. They’d be calling ahead next time to reserve their own head.
We were so full, I think we only made it through half to 2/3 of our platter. The menu may say “feeds 2-3 people”, but I’d say that could feed 4-5 easily. We saved a little room for dessert, and each couple shared an ice cream sandwich. Just as with the rest of the meal, it was worth every bite. Josh came by and asked how things were, and we tried express our appreciation for everything. The meal was great!
When our waitress brought us the bill, she let us know the neighboring table (the one with the woman who tried a piece) had bought our drinks for us. Talk about returning the favor a hundred time over! We thanked Josh once more, it was truly a memorable meal.
We left stuffed, happy, and accomplished for exposing some friends to new parts of the animal. Interested in joining us for something like this? Let me know, I’m sure we’ll be going back again for more.
What was my favorite part, you may ask? All of it, of course.
These are a few of my favorite things