On the first day of the Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood, Christopher Kostow gave to me Scott Anderson from the restaurant elements in Princeton, New Jersey.
Our day started early and ended late, especially for Kostow, who boarded a plane in New York yesterday morning after cooking at the Bon Appetit “Do Your Part” Hurricane Sandy relief dinner at City Grit the night before. He made it to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone just as I took the podium to introduce the other three guest chefs – John and Karen Shields and Scott Anderson – for an hour-long question and answer session with students.
What followed thereafter was an intense afternoon of preparation for a nine-course, tag-team dinner bookended by canapés and goodie bags, and lubricated by some amazing wines from Realm Cellars. This was the first in a series of twelve dinners at Meadowood Napa Valley, all of which will take a similar form – multiple courses, talented chefs, cult vintners – and all of which I will attend, photograph, and recap here over the next two weeks.
When I asked Scott Anderson to explain to the students at the Greystone his approach to this dinner, he told them about his childhood and adolescent years in Japan, and the influence that experience had on him.
There is a decidedly Asian coloring to his food. And, in this meal, he explained that he specifically wanted to explore the meeting of sea in land, both in flavors and in concept.
I won’t walk you through the entire meal in detail. Instead, I’ll just mention a few highlights, and attach for you the menu and a slideshow of the day’s events.
I want to talk about four dishes.
Christopher Kostow presented a beautiful plate of suckling pig in all forms, including a rib chop, tender and juicy, and blood sausage with a bread crust. To help thin the fattiness, there came acid from quince and bitterness from greens.
Scott Anderson shaved 100 day dry-aged beef (marbled with veins of delicious fat) and tucked them among turnips in all different forms and finished with a froth made from 20-day fermented scarlet turnip juice. The meat melted away, and so did the turnips. Together, they formed a stack of flavors that I enjoyed peeling away with each bite.
Both desserts were fantastic. Kostow put up a pretty verrine of citrus curd capped with a pastel-pink granité of grapefruit and decorated with tiny sprigs of rue. Together, it tasted like a grapefruit creamcicle, a bright and refreshing break between cheese and Mike Ryan’s (Anderson’s chef de cuisine) flavor-packed finalé. It was so good, in fact, that I caught both Kostow and John Shields, breaking mid-sentence, turning one away from the other, to consider the dessert in silence.
Mike Ryan, chef de cuisine at elements, brought a spice market to a plate of beet leather, “sweetAztec sponge” (beet and ash), and Saskatoon berry mole ice cream. Together, they created a deep, rich, meaty flavor, full of heat and smoke. Allspice, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, pasilla, and guajillo: they all sang loudly, but in concert. It was a truly stunning dish.
A forager, Scott Anderson taught me a lot about botany, bringing to the dinner vegetation I had never met before. He bruised a leaf of bay rum and held it to my nose, a shortcut to explaining the plant’s name. Indeed, it smelled like bay, but it also had the beautiful, lush fragrance of dark rum, spicy with allspice and clove, and round and rich with vanilla.
He showed me fleshy leaves, so thick and tender I thought that they must be from a succulent. Thought it’s called Cuban oregano, it’s not really oregano. But with one taste, you wouldn’t know the difference. He dipped these in tempura batter and fried them, serving them with nothing other than a dash of salt.
And, thankfully, Anderson brought with him white truffles, which he shaved, generously, over an acre of fluffy focaccia strung with caramelized onions. That was definitely a highlight.
The entire menu, with wine pairings follows. And the photos thereafter.
Spiny Tail Lobster
Coal-roasted avocado seeds, avocado.
Realm Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, 2011
West coast oysters, seaweeds, mustard greens, rice.
Winter Squash Consommé
Monterey abalone, chicken skin, broccoli.
Realm Cellars “The Tempest” Proprietary Red Blend, 2009
Black Trumpet Pudding
Apple, chipped venison.
Realm Cellars Farella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007
Quince, green juniper, bitter greens.
Realm Cellars “The Bard” Proprietary Red Blend, 2007
Turnips in Various Forms
100 Day Dry-Aged Beef
Realm Cellars Beckstoffer to Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005
Wild and cultivated radishes, seaweed,
Cream and Citrus Granité
Saskatoon Berry Mole
Dried beets, sweet Aztec sponge
Apple-Whiskey Pâté de Fruit
Hoisin Caramel Chocolates
(For those of you browsing on a mobile, click here, for the photos)
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