The Sweets Issue
Tor Størkersen is a tuxedoed penguin of a fellow who sports a golden pompadour. He's Swedish, is 79 years old, and works as maître d' at Metropolitan Grill on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. If you're going to get cherries jubilee in Seattle, you should get it from him.
For $19, Tor will trundle out dessert service for two people that begins as a platter of cherries, a perfect dome of brown sugar, two oversize pats of butter, a tub of ground spices, a copper pan over a gas flame, and two expertly wielded forks.
Tor wears a very ornate gold watch. Festooned with filigree, the timepiece is cradled by two massive golden king crabs, each roughly the size of a wolf spider. Tor ran 17 crabbing boats for 40 years in the Bering Sea, he says, which explains the watch. He left his home north of the arctic circle when he was 18 and lived in Seattle in the off-season, working in restaurants. He tells stories—about crabbing, about the military, about the ski school he ran at Stevens Pass, about walking through nectarine orchards in Eastern Washington.
Back to the subject at hand: Tor is making a caramel. This isn't your typical cherries jubilee. Invented in the late 1800s for the Queen of England, the dish traditionally involves cornstarch and a reduction. But in Tor's concoction, the syrupy quality results from the caramelization of the brown sugar, which he tosses in next. Then in go the cherries, followed by a spoonful of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. For the finale, Rémy Martin cognac and Chambord liqueur.
"You're not going to see any of the flames," he warns just before orange fire explodes everywhere. "Heh heh... you don't have to trim your eyebrows if you do this."
A couple bergs of ice cream come out on two ovoid dishes. The syrupy sauce and the warm berries get poured on top, creating the best of cherry pie without the cumbersome crust: a goop of melted white ice cream marbled with crimson berry juice.
"I am retired," Tor says. "If I didn't do this, I would go crazy." Tableside service, he explains, "is just a specialty, you have a feeling for it. You have to love people to be in this business, or you won't make any money." Can we tip him directly? "You can, but don't think about that, you just relax."
We left him an extra $10.