While attending college, I had the illustrious job of houseboy at a local sorority. Really, that's what they called us: houseboys. Once a month, we wore special white jackets and stood on the perimeter of the dining hall, glazed over with the heady rush of so many perfumes battling in one room, until beckoned to replenish the whipped potatoes. The rest of the time, we were dishwashers. Besides being distinctly male, all of my fellow houseboys were decidedly Christian. I assumed these righteous young men tolerated the crappy pay for the mild erotic charge of changing the light bulb in the inner-sanctum bathroom (the one closest to the sleeping porch). Myself, the mildly odd, heathen female, I was there for the terrible, but free, hot meals.

Everyone has horror stories about what they have eaten to survive certain low points in life--the Top Ramen, the Nalley's canned chili, the dumpster-diving behind the grocery store--and perhaps many of us are still recovering from the trauma and deprivation. I remember having near-erotic dreams about chocolate cake, luscious, dark, chocolate cake, when I was feeling the cumulative effects of my bland, budgeted, vat-created diet. Perhaps these experiences are why people obsess about the tiny details of food--er, cuisine. Certainly it may explain my own detailed fascination with tastes and textures and how good they can make me feel. Christ, isn't that what food lovers do--explain everything that other people simply do and enjoy?

This truth was painfully embodied in a recent dining episode at Supreme, a real sweet spot of a restaurant in Madrona. While I sat enjoying the wash of sun moving across the bare concrete floor and the glow of the white, white walls contrasted with a wall painting of green grass by artist/illustrator Whiting Tennis (which one person venting on Chowhound.com described as exerting the feeling of "eating in a cafeteria in a Kansas hayfield"), the minimalist dining room began to fill up with enthusiastic, ravenous diners. These folks' enthusiasm is well-won, as I have discovered each time I've nestled up against the lime green cushions lining Supreme's pewlike benches for some buttery carrot gnocchi flecked with crisped sage ($16), or grilled lamb brochette ($21) with stunning flageolet beans and fresh mint. Built like an airy chapel, Supreme is comfortable in that good-fitting white trouser way, a place where contemplative pauses between sentences are to be savored.

My reverie was dashed, not by the noise of a full dining room, exactly, but by the slowly creeping horror of the content of these blasted conversations. Once one tunes into a neighbor's conversation, there is no going back to one's own untroubled table. Eavesdroppers, beware! Supreme is chock full of lascivious foodies, gagging each other with giant spoonfuls of culinary trivia: "My stay in our Italian villa" stories, and other dull blattings about accomodating wine cellars. So full, in fact, that the initially exciting Italian anchovies and toasted almonds plate ($8) soured in my mouth; our table couldn't finish all of the briny steamed Penn Cove mussels in their delicate white wine, fennel, and saffron cream ($12); and the grilled New York striploin ($25), with its fan-fucking-tastic pommes frites, turned tough. Even the big ol' gingersnap and homemade lemon ice-cream sandwich ($5) I was gnawing on became overwhelmingly huge and chewy, a rare experience for me indeed.

One dish in particular appeared to be an elaborate joke on every foodie in the room: Tova's House Salad ($7), which was the very definition of understatement with its pale green Bibb, watercress, and endive enhanced by an extremely hushed whisper of truffle oil. As they sat with their streamlined, worked-out bodies and microscopic eyewear, the foodies fetishized simple food into oblivion.

But Supreme, its foodies and über-cool hostess aside, affords a welcome relief from the usual restauranty shite of overdone condiments and overupholstered furniture. I wouldn't mind eating in a Kansas hayfield, especially when the food is as great as Supreme's, if it weren't for the stink of the field animals around me who talk about cud without ever actually tasting it.

Supreme

1404 34th Ave, 322-1974.

Sun-Thurs 5-10 pm, Fri-Sat 5-11 pm, Sun-Sat 9 am-2 pm. $$

Price Scale (per entrée)

$ = $10 and under; $$ = $10-$20; $$$ = $20 and up

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