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Anyone would be happy, and lucky, to have a third birthday dinner a full 22 days after her actual birthday.  I was extra-lucky to have mine at Poppy with two of the best ladies in the whole wide world.

The three of us have a tradition of going out to dinner to celebrate our birthdays; for me, this has become a highlight of my otherwise ho-hum aging process.  (I am not going for sympathy points here, and I am not someone who refuses to acknowledge that I’m getting older, but let’s face it: I am beyond the stacks-of-presents-at-my-huge-party years.)  As an added bonus, it is Seattle Restaurant Week and we love to try new places that might otherwise be out of reach.  During Restaurant Week, a number of local places put together three-course menus for $28– there’s usually three or more options to choose from for each course.  After a fairly involved narrowing-down process that took us through Carmelita, La Medusa, Nell’s, Staple & Fancy and others, we chose Poppy, and truthfully, it wasn’t that hard to choose because the menu looked awesome.  Inspiring.  Delicious!  I have wanted to try Poppy for some time now, and this was the perfect time to give it a go.

After wading through ridiculous Seattle rush-hour traffic, we got to Capitol Hill a little behind schedule and fairly hungry.  Poppy is on Capitol Hill, at the Roy end of Broadway, in a brick building with lots of windows.  The interior is fairly nondescript, with a cement floor, blond wood tables and clean, modern furnishings.  There are hints of orange throughout.  (This is very good.)  We got a nice window table near the bar and set about oohing over the cocktails.  Hello!  So many creative combinations, it was hard for me to choose, but I settled on the Loveless: gin, chartreuse, st. germain, lime & orange bitters.  CJ had the six twenty-two with rye whiskey, angostura bitters & rhubarb and M had arguably the most interesting drink: the artifizz, with cynar, blackberry liqueur, lime & soda.  Happy girls with cocktails.  We moved on to the dinner menu.

Poppy serves their meals as thalis– round plates with many small bowls to try.  The flavors are similar and complimentary but give you a tasting menu-style tour.  I love it!  We had five to choose from, as well as a starter and dessert.  To start, I had a salad with frisee, avocado, grapefruit and shiso; there was supposed to be heart of palm in it, too, but I either didn’t get any or couldn’t identify it.  My salad was very tasty, but a bit over-dressed.  The first few bites were really good, though!  M tried the signature batata wada, little potato fritters with cilantro-lime sauce: crispy outside and soft inside.  I think my favorite starter was CJ’s bleu cheesecake with hazelnuts and greens.  It was light, creamy and delicious.  My thali featured duck leg with lavender, pomegranate and red cabbage, which was perfect in every way.  I had tomato soup with vanilla, which was dessert-like and very different (in a good way); fig, radicchio & pumpkin seed salad; pickled Asian pears; nigella-poppy naan; corn & basil spoonbread; and a root vegetable, maybe parsley root?, with a spice I am unsure of.  The combination of spices, flavors and acidity was awesome.  M and CJ both got coho salmon thalis, with many of the same sides I had.  I would say we were all quite pleased with our meals.

And then the desserts.  Oh!  I would go back just for cocktails and dessert.  M had Guinness ice cream with a little cookie, and it tasted like Guinness.  CJ had a coffee-avocado ice cream sandwich with rum dipping sauce.  I chose the chocolate orange caramel torte with cocoa nib crunch.  Goodness.  One bite and I almost stood up or shouted out loud, or both.  It was mind-bendingly good.  (I don’t even know if that is a word.)  I told our waitress (lovely Madeline, of RN74 fame, which was an awesome surprise) that it was the best dessert I have ever had in a restaurant, and I stick to that today.

Poppy was a great experience.  The thalis were fun and different, the spices we encountered were a great change from the norm.  We were lucky to have a great Restaurant Week menu to choose from, and I was lucky to have awesome company to celebrate with.  And so, my birthday celebration is officially concluded for 2011; it has been a fun three weeks.  I will say it again: I am a lucky girl!

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