Like any pilgrim-awed patriot, I embrace the heroic gluttony and focused sloth practically demanded from every American on Thanksgiving Day. What I don’t like is that even before the first post-Macy’s-Parade bites of tryptophan hit my wine-primed blood stream, the frenzied holiday gift-buying season will already be in full swing. I mean at some sale-crazed stores, Black Friday starts on freaking Wednesday, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love shopping in all its forms — for about 20 minutes. After that, I desperately need something to refill my energy tank and to help battle off growing feelings of commercial manipulation and misanthropy. Good food and drink will usually do the trick. Enter Easton’s Cafe Bistro at Nordstrom, a holiday shopping mall oasis.
To say the unfairly generically named Cafe Bistro makes the best food you’ll eat inside any local department store is selling this place short. A better description might be this: I wouldn’t be surprised — or disappointed — to be served Cafe Bistro’s food at, say, Rigsby’s during lunchtime.
Take, for instance, a recent Artichoke and Parmesan soup du jour ($5). Served with a propeller blade-shaped slice of toasted baguette — a crunchy, garlicky, cheesy and irresistibly salty one — the soup arrived steaming hot (a veritable rarity). Hooched-up, tangy and with a sharp cheesy creaminess offset by bits of hacked-up veggies (sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and carrots), it was like a sophisticated take on beer and cheese soup.
A potentially mundane trio of beef, bread and potatoes delivered relatively dynamic textures and flavors in the terrific Bistro Flat Iron Steak Sandwich ($13). Arriving on a comforting toasted focaccia roll, the impressively tender and lean meat received flattering detailing from melted gruyere cheese, crispy leek straws and a dynamite aioli with a lemony bite that, along with peppery arugula, also helped allay the richness. On the side were excellent shoestring fries paired with one of my new favorite condiments: a salty and whimsically purple kalamata olive aioli.
Along with accomplished soups and sandwiches, Cafe Bistro offers a few nice entrees (like French-style roast chicken and fries or seared salmon with a gazpacho salsa); medium-thick crusted brick oven pizzas deserving of the adjective “artisanal” (try the caramelized onion, herbed ricotta and wild mushroom for $10.25); and a longish list of tricked-out entree salads.
From the latter category, the Cilantro Lime Shrimp ($13.50) was a big winner. Five good-sized and good quality shellfish were expertly sear-crusted and set around the rim of a large and properly chilled salad bowl. The excellent innards were fresh lettuces, tortilla strips, tomatoes, charred corn sliced right from the cob and a refreshingly tart cilantro and lime dressing.
Lingering over that revivifying meal with a second generously poured glass of wine here should ably arm you for your next bargain-hunting attack. Good luck with that.