As a newcomer to the American West Coast, after one week spent in food-heaven New York, I was happily surprised by Poppy, a Seattle-based restaurant. Its owner, Jerry Traunfeld, masters the application of herbs and spices on the level where he challenges everyone who claims to know his bit about spicing up a meal. At least, that’s what I think.
Jerry spent a long time of his working life at the HerbFarm, a restaurant around 100 km south of Seattle. As a complementary to his alchemistic approach to cooking with herbs, he traveled India to find out what spices could add to that. He returned with more than knowledge on spices – he decided to introduce the Indian thalis in Seattle.
A thali is a selection of different dishes, served in small bowls on a round plate. Exactly, just like the picture. At Poppy’s, they sometimes compare it with the Dutch rijsttafel, a selection of Indonesian dishes, shared among the dinner guests. This turned out to be a faulty comparison, since Jerry admitted that the best thing about the thali is “that you don’t have to share your food!”
At the back of the restaurant, you find Jerry’s impressive herb garden – this is where the Japanese herb is grown that finishes off the half-shell kushi oysters, the burdock and sunchocke that truly made the carrot pickle rock and the lavender in the dessert shortbread. Although some herbs were familiar, most of them seemed exotic. In summer you can have dinner in this oasis of floral perfumes.
After our dinner, we bought his book The Herbal Kitchen, wherein Jerry not only shares his recipes from Poppy (his personal favorite is on page 155!), but also tips and tricks on how to grow the herbs yourself. After Poppy, you really only want to go herbalicious.