12 days: on the eighth day of christmas: mchale… (2015)

~ One of the three guest chefs at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas whose restaurants I have not visited is Isaac McHale and his Clove Club in London, England.*  I know of him, of course, from his short stint with his merry band of Young Turks, which included James Lowe (now chef of Lyle’s in London) and Ben […]



One of the three guest chefs at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas whose restaurants I have not visited is Isaac McHale and his Clove Club in London, England.*  I know of him, of course, from his short stint with his merry band of Young Turks, which included James Lowe (now chef of Lyle’s in London) and Ben Greeno, who left the group to become head chef of momofuku Seiobo in Sydney, Australia (Greeno has since left Seiobo to become head chef of The Paddington in Woollahra, a neighborhood in Sydney).  But neither did I eat at their pop up at the Ten Bells, nor had I met any of them, nor had any of their food.

So, I very much looked forward to this eighth night, when McHale cooked with Christopher Kostow at The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Canapé: Buttermilk Fried Chicken


McHale cooks full-tilt with flavor.  With the exception of his scallop dish – which I found cloying and heavy with truffle oil (probably magnified by hazelnuts) – most of it was great.

I loved his buttermilk-fried chicken nuggets, dusted with pine salt.  These were served piping-hot out of the fryer on a bed of pine boughs as a canapé.

I loved his “little blood pancake,” which he used as a mini tortilla for a delicious morsel of pork belly dusted with what McHale called “devil’s spice.”  This was great.

And I even loved his “flamed mackerel,” to which I hesitated at first.  I winced when it landed in front of me, the flesh looking raw and the skin blackened by a good torching.  Fatty fish, especially the skin, often give off a metallic, fishy flavor when prepared this way.  And I hate that. Perhaps the jarringly hot English mustard McHale served on the side was meant to bring relief, I thought.  But not in this version.  The fish was surprisingly clean, particularly the skin, which tasted much more of char than fish. And the only relief the mustard provided was the thin line it cut through the delicious, flavorful fattiness of the mackerel.


5th Course: A Little Blood Pancake of Pork Belly


The best thing that McHale served, in my opinion, came in a glass.  First, he had servers pour 100-year-old Port into our glasses.  We were asked to sniff and taste it.  A few moments later, the servers came around with steaming carafes of duck consommé, which was poured into the madeira, fogging up our glasses and producing a wonderfully fragrant smell.  I was surprised how the meatiness of the broth chased away the sweetness of the wine, each enriching the each other.  It was perfect for a chilly, winter night.


4th Course: Cod


Kostow presented two truly stunning courses this night.

I’ve had his cod with crispy sunchoke skin before.  And I didn’t mind having it again.  It’s one of my favorites.

He also served a tender cut of lamb topped with a dried plum. All of this was sauced with a minty lamb jus table side. Together, it was a simple, but extraordinary course.


6th Course: Morel & Duck Consommé


After McHale’s dessert of warm citrus and fennel, he served a couple of petits fours.  One was an ode to Dr. Henderson, who loved Fernet Branca with crème de menthe.  McHale mixed the two according to Henderson’s recipe, made them into liqueur-filled bon bons, and served them on trays lined with pages from the Dr. Henderson’s son’s cookbook, whence the recipe: “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.”

The other petit four was a tribute to McHale’s Scottish heritage (which can be detected in the slight lilt in his accent).  He served mini barley cakes, redolent with peat. They weren’t very sweet, and even a bit salty.  I especially loved this warm little ending to the night.




Below, you’ll find the menu from the eighth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas featuring Isaac McHale.   To see all of the photos from this dinner, CLICK HERE.


Buttermilk-Fried Chicken
Pine salt.

Oat chip.
Cod roe.


Potato & Matsutake

(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

First Course 
Flamed Mackerel
Chrysanthemum, English mustard.

Second Course
Périgord truffles, hazelnut, mandarin.

Third Course 
Chestnuts and Oyster Broth
Local seaweed and caviar.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fourth Course 
Brown butter, sunchoke.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fifth Course 
A Little Blood Pancake of Pork Belly
Devil’s spice.

Sixth Course 
Duck & Morel Consommé
One-hundred year-old Port.

Seventh Course 
Dried plum.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Eighth Course 
Quince, peppers.

Ninth Course 
Warm Blood Orange
Sheep’s milk yogurt, wild fennel granité.


Dr. Henderson’s Bon Bons
Peated Barley Cakes


Stony Hill
White Riesling, 2014

Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay, 2012

El Molino
Chardonnay, 2011

Brick and Mortar
“Cougar Rock Vineyard”

Pinot Noir, 2013

Lazy Susan Ranch
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012


Dr. Henderson's Bon Bons


Below are links to my posts and photos from all of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended over the past four years at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Each chef is listed with the restaurant with which they were cooking at the time they participated in the event (some have moved on to other projects and restaurants).


Scott Anderson (Elements; Princeton, New Jersey)
John & Karen Shields (Formerly of Townhouse; Chilhowie, Virginia)
Phillip Foss (EL Ideas; Chicago, Illinois)
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions; San Francisco, California)
Jason Franey (Canlis Restaurant; Seattle, Washinton)
Matthias Merges (Yusho; Chicago, Illinois)
Mori Onodera (Formerly of Mori Sushi; Los Angeles, California)
James Syhabout (Commis; Oakland, California)
Nick Anderer (Maialino; New York, New York)
David Toutain (Agapé Substance; Paris, France)
Josh Habiger & Erik Anderson (The Catbird Seat; Nashville Tennessee)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon & New York, New York)
Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó; Santiago, Chile)
Carlo Mirarchi (Blanca and Roberta’s; Brooklyn, New York)
Tim Cushman (O Ya; Boston, Massachusetts)
Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner; Raleigh, North Carolina)
David Chang (Momofuku; New York, New York)
Matthew Accarrino (SPQR; San Francisco, California)
Mark Ladner & Brooks Headley (Del Posto; New York, New York)
Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine; San Francisco, California)
David Kinch (Manresa; Los Gatos, California)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Matthew Orlando (Amass; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Frank Castranovo & Frank Falcinelli (Frankies 457, Prime Meats; New York, New York)
Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)
Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère; La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn; Lummi Island, Washington)
Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s; Portland, Oregon)
Virgilio Martinez (Central; Lima, Peru)
Grant Achatz (Alinea; Chicago, Illinois)
Corey Lee (Benu; San Francisco, California)
Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo; Oslo, Norway)
Ignacio Mattos (Estela; New York, New York)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad; New York, New York)
Nenad Mlinarevic (Focus; Vitznau, Switzerland)
Christian Puglisi (relæ; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil; Mexico City, Mexico)
Joshua Skenes (Saison; San Francisco, California)
Matthew Wilkinson (Pope Joan; Melbourne, Australia)
Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan ([One]; Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Isaac McHale (The Clove Club; London, The United Kingdom)
Kyle Connaughton (Single Thread; Healdsburg, California)
Atsushi Tanaka (A.T. Restaurant; Paris, France)
Justin Yu (Oxheart; Houston, Texas)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


* Since Kyle Connaughton, who cooked on the ninth night of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas, has not yet opened his anticipated restaurant Single Thread, I am not counting it as a fourth.

Photos: Dusting oat cakes piped with creamy cod roe; buttermilk-fried chicken dusted with pine salt; Isaac McHale dusting little blood pancakes with “devil’s spice;” Christopher Kostow piping sunchoke purée onto his cod dish; Frederico MacMaster pouring vintage Madeira; the wine pairings; and petits fours trays lined with pages from Fergus Henderson’s “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating” cookbook.

Categories 12 days 2015 dining restaurant restaurant review travel

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