Quick background: I wrote a piece a bit ago about newly opened Mother restaurant. It was one of the few pieces in town that didn’t sing its praises like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir all hopped up on whatever Mormons are allowed to drink. It had its share of snark (that is our mainstay y’know), its critical moments, and positive moments as well.
A few people who felt close to the project, as diners and partners, derided the piece as ignorant, unprofessional, and poopy-headed. Some made disparaging remarks that bordered on personal attacks. Many of these people didn’t realize that they knew me IRL which made for entertaining if not awkward reveals. Thankfully, no feelings were actually hurt in the making of that blog post.
So, after much encouragement from friends and other writers, I returned to Mother recently and gave it a second shot.
First, I came with backup. I brought a fellow food writer, her husband and their adorable daughter to round out the party. For sake of ease, we’ll refer to them as “The Coolworths.”
The Coolworths and I got a nice table by the kitchen (honestly, every table is by the kitchen) and were waited on by a super-friendly staff member. It wasn’t long before the the chef. Michael Thiemann, dropped by the table to say hi, see if our beer was ok, and make it very clear, I mean Riedel crystal clear, that he knew exactly who we were. There was no avoiding it. It was a, “Hey sac-eats, thanks for coming back, I hope everything winds up being to your satisfaction” kind of conversation. Except that he didn’t call me sac-eats. He knew exactly who I was, no internet handle required. However, rather than being a dick, he was kind of lovely about it.
Well, cover blown, we decided to leave.
I’m kidding, that would have been the height of pomposity. We actually decided to enjoy ourselves and accept the extra attention as a bit of whimsy. And whimsical it was. Each plate was a fun and flavorful exploration of a traditional dish. Instead of a plate of ribs, I received a mess of beautifully done mushrooms over a spill of decadently rich cheese grits. The housemade barbecue sauce was smokey and none too sweet, the mushrooms hearty enough to provide a texture contrast to the plate of creamy grits.
The Coolworths supped on lighter fare featuring spring garlic and roasted vegetables, the young Coolworth opting for an off-the-menu grilled cheese (daughter of a food writer indeed) that was everything you’d want in a simple GC.
The table split an absolutely phenomenal fresh masa quesadilla. Stuffed demurely with queso and served alongside a beautifully delicate avocado puree, it was the standout of the evening. It was the epitome of fine country (for country, read Mexico) cooking in the hands of talented chefs. It was, at its roots, a goddamned quesadilla. But, with a few smart tweaks in the kitchen and the inclusion of lovingly-treated, quality ingredients, it transformed into an ethereal dish fit for the finest tables in the land.
Dessert was a split of butter cookies and “deconstructed carrot cake.” The cookies I had had before 0n my previous trip. They had been crumbly, dry, and frumpy. This time around, they nailed it. That perfect mix of salty/sweet, that perfect cookie texture, a little bite, a little tooth, a little squish. Absolutely nailed it. The “carrot cake” was a nice try, but unnecessarily complex. It was a mess to eat, being crumbled cake in a dish with a snake of gloopy frosting squeezed over. An overreach indeed. Not flavorless, just not appealing.
Overall it was a phoenix-like second trip to Mother, almost every dish a beautiful presentation that held its own in the flavor department. The skill in presentation, preparation, and recipe manipulation showed through. It felt like the consistency from dish to dish was there, but one more return trip in the future might seal the deal on that one.
Mother - 1023 K St