On the second day of the Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood, Christopher Kostow gave to me two turtle doves, one named John, the other, Karen. Husband and wife, John and Karen share the last name Shields. Not only are they two of the most exciting and forward-thinking chefs in America right now, but also two of my good friends. So, I was particularly thrilled when Kostow told me that they would be a part of this year’s dinner series.
Last night, the Shieldses and Kostow served six courses paired with Failla wines: two chardonnays (one from Combsville, the other from the Sonoma Coast, somewhat in the style of a Puligny Montrachet), a pinot noir, and a delicious syrah (also an estate vineyard wine from the Sonoma Coast).
What is particularly wonderful about the Shieldses’ is their ability to think outside of the box. They are almost fearless in their pursuit of flavor. Unafraid to taste everything, they have an incredible way of making ingredients out of the most unlikely things.
Last night, for example, Karen served a dessert with geranium leaves. Fresh, they’re overpowering with the flower’s fragrance, almost inedibly so. But, dipped in an egg white and gelatin mixture, coated in sugar, and dehydrated for 24-hours, the leaves become drained of their punch, left with only a hint of perfume. Frosted, as if bitten by winter, they were an elegant garnish for parsnip ice cream topped with cucumber ice and orbited by a halo of marshmallows, a slightly evolved version of one of the desserts I had at Town House, the restaurant where the Shieldses cooked up until the beginning of this year.
Among many other unexpected ingredients (like using fried sunchoke skins as the shell for a “cannoli”), John used deer hearts in one of his dishes. He had smoked the hearts until leathery, and then grated them over a plate of aged venison carpaccio veiled in lardo and sauerkraut. Tented with baked cabbage leaves, the dish evoked – both visually and in flavor – like an autumn walk in the woods.
Karen’s dessert and John’s venison dish were two of my favorite dishes last night.
I’ll write briefly about two other dishes and then leave you to read the menu and flip through the slideshow of photos at the bottom of this blogpost.
I had Kostow’s kohlrabi stew when I ate at the Restaurant at Meadowood in September, and I had it again last night. It remains an incredibly comforting bowl of tender kohlrabi and ham set in a viscous ham shank broth, its richness pierced by mustard seeds. Last night, it was a crowd favorite.
I also loved the second course, in which John put dungeness crab meat next to a porridge of sprouted wheat berries. Ringing them with a wreath of young chickweed, he finished the dish with a spoonful of chicken drippings. As flavorful as this dish was, what I loved most about it was the texture of the sprouted wheat berry porridge, velvety with warmed egg yolk. It too was immensely comforting.
I wish the Shieldses the best of luck in opening their new restaurant. While they told me that they are leaning towards settling in Washington, D.C., they have also admitted to being open to other possibilities as well. Regardless, wherever they go, I’m sure they will find success.
Pumpkin custard, smoked eel, kale, brown butter.
Seasoned with chicken drippings,
sprouted wheat berries bound in egg yolk, chickweed.
Rye, ham, and mustard.
Samp, truffle, choys.
Broken Vanilla Marshmallow
Parsnip milk, preserved cucumber, lemongrass.
Ricotta, chocolate, sunflower seed.
(John and Karen Shields)
Failla Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay, Coombsville, 2010
Failla Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2010
Failla Occidental Ridge Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2010
Failla Estate Vineyard Syrah, Sonoma Coast, 2010
(For those of you browsing on a mobile, click here, for the photos)
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