Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Relax and savor Walla Walla’s Creektown Café

My father and I have a tradition of patronizing one of Walla Walla’s many elite eateries every fall, and after much consideration settled on Creektown Café as this year’s venue of choice. We soon learned why it is a local favorite.

Creektown Café is located at 1129 S. Second Ave., a five-minute drive or 15-minute bike ride from campus. The restaurant is situated in what I could only describe as a strip mall, but once inside its doors, you can forget about its somewhat-pedestrian surroundings. Booths and tables are mixed on the efficiently spaced dining floor, and a charming patio under a vined arbor awaits outdoor diners. You won’t find any white tablecloths at the café’s unembellished tables, but they won’t be missed in the restaurant’s friendly bistro ambiance. While my party was sitting nearby other tables on two sides, we still had adequate privacy and felt free to laugh above mezzo forte. The place is, in a word, accessible.

Accessible, too, is the cuisine of executive chef Michael Kline‘s establishment. The menu changes seasonally according to what’s fresh, and some local farms even grow crops expressly for Creektown plates. Kline’s café also contracts with dozens of local providers to provide the freshest (primarily organic) produce to be had locally. The restaurant, he says, has a simple ethos: to provide superb food and great memories.

As we mulled over the menu offerings, we were delighted to receive a basket: and then another, and another: of complimentary artisan bread, baked in-house. Turns out, Kline knows a thing or two about bread; he is also the owner of Walla Walla Bread Co. on Main St. My group rapidly reached a consensus that the still-warm, crispy-chewy crust and moist, substantial quality of the baguette made it the top gratis bread we had ever tasted.

Once our server Nikki succeeded in distracting us from the bread: she may have realized that free bread of such quality is a dangerous business model: we finally made our meal and appetizer selections. Our hors d’oeuvre, maple-seared scallops ($12), arrived quickly, but this rapidity was by no means reflected in the taste. The maple sweetness permeated the scallop, but did not obscure the natural meatiness of the shellfish. It was certainly enough to rouse my appetite.

The juncture after appetizers gave the group of oenophiles an opportunity to ogle wines the   and make a selection. Creektown’s wine list reflects its homey, comfortable ambiance and is especially strong in wines from the Walla Walla region and Washington wines generally. The restaurant rotates local selections on its wine list, so a return visit is likely to provide new gems to sample. With help from our server, we settled on the Walla Walla Vintners  Merlot, whose intensity proved to be a great match for the variety of flavorful dishes we sampled. We also appreciated the fact that many of the wine list selections were available by the glass as well as the bottle, giving the opportunity to sample the local specialties in smaller quantity.

While the wines were sampled, our entrée sides of clam chowder ($4) and house salads ($6) were served. The soup, while lighter than many chowder recipes, had an enjoyably subtle spice and hearty nibbles of clam, red potatoes, bacon and celery in every spoonful. House salads also impressed; Walla Walla sweets combined with soft feta, frisée, red and yellow halved pear tomatoes and a bed of romaine lettuce to create the freshest course of the evening.

Next came the moment we had all been awaiting: entrée arrival. The earlier run-in with the Café’s scallops had led me to order the seared prawns and scallops ($27) and my antipasto research proved fruitful. A generous amount of scallops and prawns were served, arrayed in a Pernod-cream sauce circle around a central tower of fried potato cake, topped with thinly-sliced honey crisp apple. While this round of scallops was a fraction underdone for my taste and the amount of potato was more than necessary for the dish, the flavor combination of the velvet-rich sauce and potato crunch were agreeably married to the seafood by the sweet-tart honeycrisps.

All of the entrée portions were substantial, especially for a restaurant of Creektown’s caliber, and two of my party generously offered to share some of their dish. To my right, I sampled the cook’s special, sturgeon served with saffron broth and root vegetables ($26). Its sauce had a strong seafood character, but stopped short of overpowering the firm, succulent fish. On the left I was offered the roasted pork shoulder paella with brussel sprouts ($27). This dish was a total surprise. If sprouts still send a juvenescent tremor through your stomach, then this dish may well prove their redemption:   featuring smoky-sweet pork, well-textured tomato prawn rice, and cippolini onions, the bitter tang of the feared green balanced figured perfectly into the paella’s overall savor and consistency.

Dessert seemed for a moment out of the question, but the list of toothsome confections offered by our server was too much for our loosened willpower. My huckleberry icebox pie was adequate for sharing, but I did so only grudgingly. Prettily garnished with heavy cream and a halved fig, the pie’s eponymous fruit superseded all my previous notions of the huckleberry. I guessed even before Kline told me that they were picked locally.

Needless to say, I left stuffed. The atmosphere, helpful staff, and excellent food of Creektown Café completely won over my group. From seating, it was obvious to us that Creektown does not cast itself as an ivory tower of cuisine; rather, it is a place where food is a means and an end. Enjoyment of your dining evening is paramount: and virtually guaranteed.

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