12 days: on the fifth day of christmas: sukle… (2017)

– In 2015, I was photographing a road trip through New England when I stopped in Providence, Rhode Island for a couple of days to visit Ben Sukle at his small, counter-seat restaurant birch.  Sukle’s (pronounced soo-kohl) cooking focuses on the products of his region, which he is quick to point out, is surprisingly diverse. […]


In 2015, I was photographing a road trip through New England when I stopped in Providence, Rhode Island for a couple of days to visit Ben Sukle at his small, counter-seat restaurant birch.  Sukle’s (pronounced soo-kohl) cooking focuses on the products of his region, which he is quick to point out, is surprisingly diverse. The smallest state in our American Union happens to encompass both farmland and sea coast, so both fresh seafood and farm products are available within an hour’s drive of his restaurant.

As a visitor, this means that I was able to cast a relatively wide net in a short amount of time.  In just a little over 48 hours, Ben and his wife Heidi took me on an eating crawl that included chowder, lobster rolls, and vintage Italian-American cookery – pizzas at Il Forno, and baked polenta and cold snail salads at Mike’s Kitchen inside the V.F.W. hall in Cranston.

In the years since, I’ve had the pleasure of Sukle’s company at events around the country. He’s ever-curious and highly intelligent, both of which are evident in his approach to cooking.  The fact that he’s also extremely articulate, with an admirable alacrity both in and out of the kitchen, also explains why I was particularly excited to see him on this year’s roster at the Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood.

Updates from the garden.  Canapé: Aged Beef

There was a lot of synergy among Sukle’s and Christopher Kostow’s dishes on this fifth night.  As a result, I think it was one of the stronger dinners in this year’s series.

Sukle applied his east coast perspective to west coast ingredients.  He spread Dungeness crab brains on toast, with brown butter and rose petals; a canapé.  The crab meat he picked out and served in a cold dish with sugar kelp and mustard.

Kostow’s pasta dish – a whelk farce inside of pasta shells shaped vaguely like the sea snail, with agretti and sea beans – approximated the brinier Atlantic waters, and reminded me of the cold seafood salad I had with Sukle in Cranston.

This dinner was also particularly strong because, on this night, Kostow’s team produced some of my favorite dishes of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas.

There was a canapé of brioche dough fried in a crispy shell of sunchoke skin, piped with sunchoke purée.  That was delicious.

Deboned chicken was rolled into logs, wrapped in its own skin, and fried.  Sliced, the chicken was served with a creamy abalone sauce and fat porcini mushrooms.  That was a great dish.

And The Restaurant at Meadowood also presented a dish of raw, aged beef, chopped into tartare, and served under a thin veil of seaweed and black trumpet mushrooms. It was warmed with a table-side pour of beef broth.  The beef practically melted away.  It was fantastic.


6th Course: Aged Beef

Sukle made fresh cheese curd, similar to soft ricotta. It was strained during service and served warm with local persimmon compote and caramelized bread crumbs.  The top of the cheese was drizzled with onion syrup, which was torched for a brûlée top.

For dessert, he plated a variety of last summer’s stone fruits (all local to The Restaurant at Meadowood) – among which were fleshy peaches that, having been preserved, tasted strangely like apricots.  The fruits were dressed in their own syrup, and plated with candied mix of pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds.  Over all of this was spooned an aerated custard infused with beeswax.  This was one of my favorite desserts of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas.

Below, you’ll find the menu from the fifth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas with Ben Sukle.   To see all of the photos from this dinner, CLICK HERE.



200 Day-Aged Beef
Kohlrabi, egg yolk cured in aged beef shoyu.

Crab Brains on Toast
Brown butter, rose, fennel


Oysters on the Half-Shell


(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

First Course 
Dungeness Crab
Sugar kelp, mustard, almonds.

Second Course
Whelk Shell Pasta
Agretti, sea beans.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Third Course 
Basil, caviar, fennel.

Fourth Course 
Abalone, corn, porcini, and white truffle.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fifth Course 
Cabbage, Apple, Sweet Potato
Toasted seeds.

Sixth Course
Aged Beef
Nori, black trumpet.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Seventh Course
Fresh Cheese
Persimmon, preserved fruit leaves,

Eighth Course
Beeswax Custard
Last summer’s stone fruit.

Herman Weiner
Magdalena Vineyard, Finger Lakes, 2012

Fort Ross
Fort Ross-Seaview, 2011

Casa Viticola Avondo
Gattinara Riserva Especiale, 1968

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Domaine Huet
“Le Mont”
Première Trie, Vouvray


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)


Mark Lundgaard Nielsen (Kong Hans Kælder; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Manish Mehrotra (Indian Accents; New Dehli, India; New York, New York; London, U.K.)
Jeremiah Stone & Fabián von Hauske Valtierra (Contra & Wildair; New York, New York)
Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon & Tallula’s; Santa Monica, California)
Ben Sukle (birch & Oberlin; Providence, Rhode Island)

Photos: A canapé of brioche in crispy sunchoke skin; Sukle, Kostow, and cook David Guilloty live updating the night’s menu from The Culinary Farm; a canapé of aged beef and kohlrabi; Sukle, Nathaniel Dorn, and Kostow at the pass; Guilloty plating celeriac “aligot”; chicken and porcini; a tableside pour over rolled cabbage, apple, and sweet potato; aged beef with nori and black trumpet mushrooms; a scene from The Restaurant at Meadowood; Sukle plating a dessert of stone fruit; Kostow and Sukle at staff line-up.


Categories 12 days 2017

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