When chef Linda Hampsten Fox opened the Bindery at 1817 Central Street in LoHi last October, her vision included more than just a dinner restaurant. With an awe-inspiring exhibition kitchen loaded with state-of-the-art baking ovens, glass-front refrigerators and other high-tech equipment, the Bindery was geared up from day one to turn out breads, pastries, roasted meats and prepared meals for neighbors on the go.
But the rollout of the complete culinary program took time. Hampsten Fox added cafe-style breakfast early on, where customers could stop in for morning buns, espresso drinks, pressed juices and breakfast sandwiches. Brunch came next, and in the spring the chef revealed her first sweeping seasonal menu change.
The one thing that was missing from the original plan was a market menu of meals and packaged foods designed and prepared specifically for takeout customers. More than just boxed-up selections from the dinner menu, the Bindery's new offerings are built to be carried home in eco-friendly packaging and eaten warm. There are also picnic-style options and lighter fare for something fresh away from the restaurant. With these additions, Hampsten Fox's full plan is finally in place, turning her restaurant into an all-day, European-style neighborhood stop for every kind of dining need.
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Along with the market selections, the chef is rolling out a new summer menu beginning tonight (Tuesday, July 24). There are quite a few holdovers from the spring menu, but even those have been given a touch with the seasonal wand to introduce hot-weather produce and refreshing bites. The pâté on the shared-plates roster comes with "carta de música," housemade Italian flatbread thin and crisp enough to earn its comparison to sheet music. Adventurous eaters will gravitate toward the geoduck (pronounced "gooey-duck") crudo e fritto, raw and fried preparations of a large species of Pacific-coast clam, brightened with a sorrel emulsion and tarragon tartar sauce. "What could be more fun than fried giant clams?" the chef muses. Thankfully, the foot-long geoducks are sliced into delicate and manageable bites.
A lighter version of the smoked-pecan rabbit pie is back, still with its crown of mustard gelato. Chilled soup is a summer treat; Hampsten Fox offers a Spanish ajo blanco — a white gazpacho made primarily with garlic and almonds. It's rich and smooth but contains no dairy, although a side scoop of tahini gelato adds a boost of nutty sesame flavor. The "elotes" soup gives a taste of Mexican street corn, complete with the delicate fungus known as huitlacoche.
New on the entree list is an imposing Florentine-style steak — either rib eye or T-bone averaging about two pounds — big enough for two. It comes with a plum salad, arugula, lemon and the Bindery's own Worcestershire sauce. Add in a handful of housemade pastas and you've got an expansive menu far more diverse than those on standard bistro chalkboards. Even before digging into dinner, just reading the menu is a delight, since you'll encounter phrases like "lifeguard-style calamari," "kabocha pâté," "charred corn husk dressing" and "my mother's chilled cucumber salad."
To further celebrate summer, the Bindery is hosting a rosé wine-pairing dinner from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, titled "Sea, Romance and Heat," which will stroll through five courses from the new menu, each matched with a different pink wine. The cost is $130, but that includes wine, tip and tax, and tickets are available in advance at eventbrite.com.