I just got back from a visit to the town of Leavenworth, Washington, and will be writing more about that in the next few days, but I had to start by telling you about the absolute best place I found in that beautiful little town: The Watershed Café.
I’m not one to pamper myself very often, but this restaurant drew me in with its website. The first phrases you see there are, “Chef Owned – Locally Sourced – Farm to Table Pacific North West Cuisine.” How could anyone resist such promises?
When I walked into this tastefully appointed restaurant, I felt instantly at home. So many restaurants today seem to feel the need to visually overstimulate you, but not this place. They keep it simple, and let the food be the visual art, and I have to say that every plate I saw coming out of the kitchen was a creation that was almost too beautiful to eat.
My waitress, Brittany, was very pleasant and helpful, and was extremely knowledgeable about the menu despite the fact that it changes every day and in fact was still warm from coming off the printer. She told me she was from California, and came here to work on a farm. She started working at the café because they support local farmers. This impressed me greatly. It’s very unique to have a waitress who has actually had hands on experience in harvesting the food that is about to be presented to you.
And the menu itself was a delight to read. I wish I could have tried everything (especially the dessert), but I could already tell I was going to be exceeding my budget a bit.
So it was a hard choice, but I started with the Watershed Cobb Salad, which was described on the menu like so: “Tierra Farms heirloom tomatoes, spring mix, avocado, Hempler’s ham and Applewood bacon, Mad Hatcher egg, garlic croutons and house ranch.”
I have to say with absolutely no exaggeration that this was the best salad I had ever eaten in my life. First of all, freshness has a flavor all its own, but the marriage of different flavors showed that the chef (Brian on this night, but the restaurant is also owned by chefs Dan and Joey) has a sophisticated knowledge of contrasts and harmonies. Just the delicious tang of the tomatoes combined with the smoky flavor of the bacon was enough to make me want to swoon. I could hardly wait for the entrée.
For the main course I chose the Almond Crusted All Natural Oregon Pork Tenderloin, which came with “warm smashed baker’s potatoes and spinach salad, Leavenworth onions, and Cabernet bay leaf glaze.”
All I can say is… wow. If the plate had come out with just the potatoes alone, or just the spinach, it would have been delicious. But all those elements combined were stunning and immensely satisfying. My mouth is watering again as I write this.
They have an open kitchen, and patrons are encouraged to come watch as they create, but I suddenly felt kind of shy in the presence of such talent. That, and I was afraid that if I caught sight of the Sunny Pine Chèvre and Wenatchee Pear Butter with fresh pears and candied walnuts, I wouldn’t be able to resist and would be kicking myself when I got the credit card bill.
If you ever find yourself in Leavenworth, Washington, if you do nothing else, you owe it to yourself to visit the Watershed Café. It’s a culinary treat that shouldn’t be missed. I have no doubt I’ll be back.