Friday, November 16, 2007

Seventh Heaven

For weeks now, Teddy has been sitting on a secret. A menu so well thought out, the phrase, "I'm going to blow you mother f*ckers away" became commonplace whenever food was mentioned. A menu so special, it came out a day earlier that usual just because he couldn't possibly keep it under his hat for one more iota. Mental note.....don't ever tell Teddy secrets. As boisterously advertised, it was indeed a stellar menu.

* Calabaza and Vanilla Soup

* Chicken liver - cognac parfait, pickled Concord grape jelly

* Artichoke and ricotta tart, dandelion and radish salad

* Wild salmon with dill and Pernod

* 'Hill & Mountain' - Duo of wild boar, truffled potato mousseline, haggis cream/spiced apple butter

* 'Potted' Cheshire cheese

* Caramelized bananas, bacon ice cream, salted peanut brittle

We were immediately greeted to the sound of popping wine corks, the smells of cooking food, and news of a late addition to the menu. The amuse bouche in this case being the soup. Warm and vibrant in color, it had a slight sweet taste due to some vanilla and an almost meaty aftertaste because of cumin. Unfortunately, I didn't have (and maybe could never have) enough of this creamy goodness, but with quite a ways to go, a small cup would have to do.

Preserved in a shell of hardened butter, this rich, creamy parfait/spread worked exceptionally with the 'right off of the vine' sweetness of the Concord grape jelly. Often the individual tastes in a spread like this get muddled and dulled in the mix of ingredients. However, the chicken liver taste was very prominent and reminded us what we were eating.....which was a good thing.

A touch of sea salt on top was all it needed to create the ultimate bite. This ever-elusive bite was duplicated again and again until the serving bowl was empty and there was nothing left but four grown men fighting for the right to scrape the remnants from each others' knives. When food reduces us to these childish tactics, you know it’s good.

The courses were spaced out at pace that only made my hunger increase during the down times.....good thing there was plenty of wine to keep me busy. Next was the tart. Our forks glided seamlessly through the egg and artichoke mixture until it hit the delicate bottom crust. The small salad was welcome at this point of the night too. The lightly-dressed greens were a great accompaniment to the buttery tart. It was delicious and kept with the light start to this daunting meal.

The salmon dish was a model of simplicity and spoke volumes to the importance of good ingredients and balanced flavors. As it rested in the Pernod and dill, the thin round of salmon became infused with a beautiful herbal taste and seemed to cook and soften ever so slightly in the acidity. If it weren't for Teddy's intended purpose for this thin piece of fish, I bet the dressing would act as a terrific marinade for a thicker filet. Uncomplicated, straight forward in preparation and plating, and one of my favorite dishes of the night.

As we hit the halfway point of the meal (don't check my math), my hunger was like a freight train, gaining momentum and strength as the night wore on. Perfect timing for the main course, which just happened to be the meat course. When the boar roastette was unveiled from its swaddling cloth, I was instantly impressed with the color and lack of fat. Man was it beautiful.

After ooohing and aahing at its brilliance, Teddy rolled it liberally in salt and pepper then pan roasted to a textbook rare-medium rare. To be honest, I thought the whole process took a bit too long, but my impatience is well documented and yet again, the chef was correct. Maybe it was just my grumbling stomach talking.

The meat balls were formed together with bacon fat, ground boar shoulder meat, and pepper then shook around in a scorching hot pan to cook through and form a little textured crust on the outside. The duo was plated on a smear of truffled mashed potatoes. It tasted as stunning as it sounds and looks. Both preparations were perfectly juicy and had a unique taste that only wild meat can deliver. A sweet and rich apple butter was a last-minute substitution for the ambitious and head-scratchingly odd haggis cream. Confession: I did give the haggis more than a few tastes before siding with a sauce that did not make our chef’s face cringe with horror. I think that’s a safe rule to live by.

The stop-gap course after the main event and before the highly anticipated dessert was potted Cheshire cheese. The cheese was whipped with butter and sweet port wine and molded with a walnut crust to form a dome. It was more than satisfactory for the sixth frame of a lengthy meal, but I selfishly had my eyes on the next course….Teddy’s tour de force dessert.

First of all, I love bacon. I love it by itself, on things and in things. When I saw bacon ice cream on the menu, when others might furrow their brows in skepticism, I was overcome by intense feelings of curiosity and unbridled joy. It more than lived up to all of my expectations. However, the ice cream did not steal the show. It was an integral part of the three pronged attack:

1) Halved bananas – lacquered with a sweet, almost candy coating that gave way to a warm, soft filling.
2) Bacon ice cream – extremely creamy, infused with bacon flavor and sprinkled with ground bits of crispy bacon within. I probably couldn’t eat a bowl of this by itself (I’m just downright lying to myself about that), but when mixed with the other 2 components, created the quintessential sweet-savory dessert.
3) Peanut brittle – delightfully crunchy and became lodged in your teeth if chewed quickly, or melted slowly with a smooth peanut flavor.

I enjoyed the hell out of this meal (all 4 hours of it), and look forward to the next bar-raising evening for the Thursday Club.

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