We'd heard about a Bellingham business that combines catering, cooking/food classes, and monthly dinners by reservation only.
It's called Ciao Thyme, and the homonymic pun on "Chow Time" doesn't detract from the serious intent of the owners.
They title their monthly dining sessions Incognito. The name seems suitable as most of the advertising is by word-of-mouth (speaking of puns). We made a reservation for last night's event.
The operation is located in a remodeled building with a pleasantly decorated interior, dinner seating for about 50, and a magnificent open kitchen at one end.
Arriving a few minutes late, we were fortunate to snag the only two-top table in the place with highback chairs, offering us a great view of the food preparation and plating, with the husband-and-wife owners and now fewer than six employees functioning very efficiently and with good humor throughout.
Last night's menu was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the New Orleans Mardi Gras...
Popovers with peach-ginger jam
Pork belly benedict on butter fried brioche with poached local pullet eggs and hollandaise with pickled relish and fried parsley garnish
Arugula and kale salad with blood oranges, ruby grapefruit, tangerines, and cara cara orange supremes with shaved coconut, pomegranate meringues and mint-grapefruit vinaigrette
Fried oyster with sunchoke-celeriace remoulade and red pepper jelly
Dirty 'farro', chicken thigh and livers, fried okra, and prawns with seafood-tomato broth and fresh-made smoked andouille
Black (ened) Cod
Cheesy grits with collard greens, charred tomatoes, and sauteed black trumpet mushrooms
Coffee & Doughnuts
Caffe Du Monde chicory-coffee ice cream with Louisiana grown pecan tuiles and fresh fried beignets
AT $55 Prix Fixe, we'd call it good value. The meal stretched over 3 1/2 hours and was an evening of entertainment as well as of creatively prepared high-quality food.
We'll definitely plan to return.