Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spoiled rotten

Marrying a cook has its perks. Sure, the hours are unforgiving and after his slow Monday and Tuesday we pass like ships in the night most weeks, me trying to stay up to see him when he gets home and him waking up earlier to have some coffee as I bolt out to work.

But sometimes, he pulls out all the stops and cooks for me. And a girlfriend. At his restaurant. I'm talking a multi-course fiasco here, complete with sorbet palate cleanser and full wine pairings.

How 'bout a course-by-course review of last Saturday's epic tasting menu to end all tasting menus?

Like an idiot, I forgot to take pictures of the first two courses, so you'll have to use your imagination...But here is a nice sunset one overlooking the putting green and the rest of south Huntsville I got before I was distracted by our first glass of prosecco:

Course one:
Six fresh shucked oysters on the half shel
l - three Island Creek (tiny and fatty and briny - in a GOOD way, these were my favorites) and three Savage Harbor (also delightful, larger) - with a champagne mignonette, which is quite possibly my favorite condiment ever. Can I call it a condiment?

Course two:
Butternut squash soup, drizzled with a lemon agrumato and garnished with fresh parsley. Hey - this was a learning dinner as well... Did you know that agrumato is made when olive oil presses are cleaned with fresh citrus and the cleaning oil? Well it is.

Course the third:
A lovely, palate-cleansing lemon sorbet with mint leaves.

(Hey, guess what? I finally remembered to take photos starting... now!)

Course four:

Warm purple cabbage salad with goat cheese, walnuts and chicken sausage. I had a version of this salad at Mezza Luna last fall and let me tell you, it embodies everything that is the best about fall. Perhaps Mezza will feature it again this fall? You should definitely go check it out if this is the case. Purple cabbage reminds me of this Norwegian side dish my Grandma used to make (and my mom does now... surkal
... better believe I had to look up the spelling on that one. Amazing dish.) The goat cheese/walnut combination added some delightful creaminess to the dish and the chicken sausage tasted homemade. Mmmm.

Course five:
The most amazing fried fish I've ever had in my life. This course reminded me of a fish fry, but the best possible fish fry ever. The flounder itself was everything I love about fried food (crispy, lightly bread-y, crunchy) but underneath the crust was amazingly cooked fish. Like, perfectly cooked. With the amazing fish was a honking hunk of grilled cornbread (the hush puppy), some super tart slaw with julienned granny smith apples and shaved fennel keeping the green cabbage company and some surprise sugar snap peas hidden under the flounder. This may have been my
favorite course. Maybe.

Course six:
Braised short rib with fried gnocchi (which, as it turns out doesn't have to be made of potatoes can in fact be made of any sort of starch... who knew?) and roasted root vegetables, including turnips, parsnips, carrots, rutabaga and some other rooty veg. The whole thing was topped off by an amazing gremolata (another new food term for me) and the best, most concentrated jus you've ever tasted. The jus was everything that made the short rib amazing, combined with red wine and reduced down to its most intense form and drizzled all over the plate.

Remembered to take this photo before I demolished the short rib. Not in the most pristine state, but Kris give it thumbs up nonetheless.

Dessert course (course seven):
Pumpkin cheesecake. I'm not gonna lie. For me, sweets are typically an afterthought. If I get to eat an amazing meal, I'm usually so stuffed by the end that I don't have an intense desire for dessert. But as they were only six courses into a seven-course tasting, the dessert was inevitable. And wonderful. The cheesecake was incredibly light and airy and whipped. Not like the heavy brick-like ones you find sometime smothered in cherry goop. We got tiny little pieces and ate every last bite because we had to be polite. Naturally. The final glass of prosecco made those last bites go down quite nicely.

Hello there, Kris (and pumpkin cheesecake). The bubbles were the best.

I concur.

Since J will graduate in December, we hope that he will transition from cook to some sort of 8-5 food scientist position. I will miss the restaurant ambiance and J in his starched white chef coat (complete with embroidered name... le sigh), but I hope this will bring about a new round of experimentation in his free time that he's never been able to attempt previously due to a rigorous work/school schedule... I'm thinking charcuterie
, bread making, at home canning and pickling. If all goes according to plan, there will still be plenty of ways for me to remain fatter than I would like to be. But happy. Yum.

Here's one of the man in action, making ravioli (not from tonight, but some other time. See what I mean about the starched white coat?) He's on the right.

Thanks J!

And because ALL I have been doing this fall is eating, stay tuned for my Taste of Atlanta recap.

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