700 Virginia St - 206-267-6210 - www.farestart.org
Fare Start is a cooking school for the homeless. I suppose that description is misleading, because although they teach the homeless to cook, they don't teach them to prepare traditional hobo fare such as an open can of baked beans, or half- eaten Chinese takeout found in a dumpster. Which is good because I don't think they'd make much money that way, since the only customers they'd get would be other winos. Instead, they school the homeless in fine dining.
To draw the crowds, Fare Start features a weekly "guest chef" night, where the three course prix fixe is prepared by a locally famous chef. This week was Chef Gabriel Claycamp, proprietor of the Culinary Communion cooking school.
The first course was "Handmade Stuffed Caramellos: Duck Confit, Roasted Pumpkin, Parmigiano Brodo, Sage Emulsion." The description is in quotes because I'm pulling it from the menu verbatim. And don't feel bad if you can't understand exactly what this menu item is supposed to be, because I sure as fuck couldn't. I know some of those words, but they don't make sense together. The title of this dish reads like a stroke victim wrote it.
Luckily the handmade stuffed caramello was as tasty as its name was confusing. A mound of roast pumpkin, tender and sweet, floated in a pool of pumpkin puree, which was heavily muscled with pumpkin pie spice. Delicate sage foam crowned the whole affair. The menu promised duck confit; unfortunately, it failed to make an appearance. In fact, I didn't have ANY duck confit in my handmade stuffed caramello. Maybe there COULD HAVE BEEN confit in there, but if there was it was purely incidental. Statistically there was also probably at least one arsenic atom in the handmade stuffed caramello, but I didn't see arsenic listed as an ingredient. For all I care they could've listed cheeseburgers, pizza, and Leonardo Da Vinci as ingredients, and the result would have been exactly the same: me, pissed off, with NO duck confit working its way through my digestive tract. Plus I thought Caramellos were candy bars, and I sure as fuck could detect neither chocolate nor nougat.
The entrée was a roasted lamb roulade with flageolet beans, shallots, trotters, crumbs, prunes. Again a random assortment of items. And in fact, those items might seem disgusting if mixed together, but this roulade was defiantly tasty. However, I question the inclusion of "crumbs" as a description. After all, crumbs are what you're left with AFTER you're done eating. By this logic, McDonald's should just rename the Quarter Pounder "Heart Surgery." The Hyundai Accent would be called "Birth Control." Internet service would be marketed as "Annoying Pop-Up Ads and a Handful of Jizz." Retarded hyperbole aside, the roulade really was delicious. Lamb shoulder was butterflied and rolled up with a prune stuffing. A telltale pearly webbing on the surface of the roulade indicated that it had been wrapped in caul fat before being slow cooked. The lamb was rich, flavorful, and very tender. The beans were creamy and perfectly cooked. The roulade was topped with a crispy breaded patty of shredded trotters. The breading on that crispy breaded trotter patty, I suppose, is how they justify listing "crumbs" as a key ingredient for this dish. Jesus, there weren't THAT many crumbs. If the roulade were served on top of a pile of crumbs the size of a sand dune THEN I would agree that they should list "crumbs" as an ingredient. Every sand dune-sized pile of bread crumbs should come garnished with a dune buggy, so you can drive up to the top and eat your way down. If I ran Fare Start that's what I'd do for sure.
Dessert was a cinnamon roll with mascarpone, espresso cream, and bacon frosting. Yes, you read that right. I've extolled the saintly virtue of bacon enough times that I won't go into its praises again right now, though I WILL say this: I overheard someone at a nearby table who ordered the vegetarian meal specifically request the cinnamon roll JUST SO THEY COULD HAVE THE BACON CREAM. Such is the power and the glory of bacon, cleanser of all wounds, soother (and clogger) of all hearts. VEGETARIANS can't even resist it. That's because bacon isn't really meat, after all. It's more like a really hearty condiment that can stand alone as a meal, the way a jar of sweet pickle relish seems when you're stoned. The cinnamon roll was flaky and cloyingly sweet. The espresso flavor was rich without being overpowering. The bacon frosting was a golden color flecked with black dots. It tasted as though they'd fried up some bacon and then deglazed the pan with cream to capture the bacon essence. When you got a spoonful of cinnamon roll, espresso, and bacon frosting together the effect was like mainlining breakfast.
Fare Start is a very good deal. It's $25 for a three course meal. The portions are big enough, although a triathlete might complain about it. It's so goddamned, motherfucking cheap because the waiters are volunteers. The kitchen staff are homeless. The ingredients, recipes, and techniques used for the meal are all donated by the guest chef. Fare Start isn't perfect, but the whole fucking place is so virtuous it's completely review-proof. After all, what kind of a raging asshole would write a bad review of a fucking CHARITY? Only a total ruthless dick would do something like that. And if you think I'M that ruthless dick, think again: I'm turning over a new leaf, you fuckfaces. Fuck you.
Rating: 7 hobos out of 10