annotations: sweet heat…

Amuse Bouche

Other than nice knife work, I suppose the best thing I can say about this is: good texture on the beets – any sturdier, they’d be too hard; any softer, they’d be mushy and disappear into the whipped goat cheese feta.  I liked what the orange zest did for the flavor.

1st Course: Wild Salmon Tartare

The salmon was excellent (look at that color), bound with “cooked egg” (perhaps like an emulsified sauce gribiche without the seasonings?),which gave it a touch of richness and “milkiness.” I could see a bit of chive in the binding.

The diced celery and toast provided some texture. The capers provided some saltiness. I wish there was just a bit more salt in this plate – perhaps on the toast, or more capers?

Overall, a beautiful and light start. The texture of the chopped salmon was blissfully silky and luxurious.

2nd Course: Local Okra Salad

Perhaps my favorite dish of the evening, the roasted okra fennel had a tender meatiness to it that was immensely satisfying. The dressing was very tart – bracingly so – which helped to cut it all with a really bright shock of flavor.  Gorgeously composed, lovely textures – satisfying.

3rd Course: Wood-Grilled Pork Belly

The pork belly was perfect. The collagen and fat were meltingly soft, the meat was moist and tender, and the skin was very crispy.  The best part of this pork belly were the accompaniments – a mix of greens and what appeared to be kimchee-like vegetable salad dressed with a Korean-gojujan dressing. The radish slices were very crispy.

Palate Cleanser: Celery-Fennel Juice

Served tepid.  I *think* it was celery-based.  I’m sure that it had fennel in it. It did accomplish its job – neutralizing the rather strong flavors from the okra salad and pork belly courses.

4th Course: Sweet Herb Risotto

The risotto was very nicely cooked – a creamy, hot porridge with tender rice studded with sturdy little crumbles of cauliflower florets. I’m not sure I got the “sweet” herbs, but I must say that the risotto was very flavorful – the beet greens not at all muddy or earthy. The cheddar frica was light and added a bit of salty richness to the risotto – I almost wish there was a bit more of it, since there was no cheese mounted into the risotto.  Overall, a simple, but satisfying dish.

(Supplement) Fried Local Okra

The tempura shell was very light, very fresh, and very good. The okra inside was perfectly cooked.

The pickled tomato underneath helped cut the richness of the spicy “bacon aioli,” which was very delicious – a great dipping sauce.

The chipped cabbage slaw was naturally sweet, which did help to lighten the dish. I thought the Kansas City reference was the chipped cabbage, but the server explained that its “Kansas City”ness was due to the vinaigrette dressing instead of a mayonnaise dressing.  Overall, a very nicely executed, very good flavors and textures.

(Supplement)  Wood Oven-Roasted Sweetbreads

This was huge. At first, it looked like an over-cooked filet of salmon. I’ve never seen sweetbreads in such a large block. The sweetbread has been nicely roasted – evidently basted with a lot of fat of some sort.

The best part of this dish, however, was the smoked apple and parsnip hash. Enrobed with a roasted chicken jus, the vegetables had a wonderfully schmaltzy richness to it. There as a kick of heat from cayenne in the hash.  This was a very rich and heavy dish, though it was not cloyingly so.  Very good.

5th Course: Smoked Pork Tenderloin

I noticed some pork loins sitting above the grill on a shelf. Surely they had dried out, I thought. They had not. These slices, cut from those tenderloins sitting above the grill, weremoist, tender, and flavorful (brined, I’m fairly certain). Actually, they were quite salty. The smoke flavor was not overwhelming – perfect, I’d say.

The sweet corn grits were very creamy and surprisingly sweet, with a kick of heat from chile flakes in the mix. The chile oil also contributed some additional heat. This was my favorite part of the dish.

I loved the roasted cauliflower, which gave it all a good, charred flavor.  Next to the arugula and okra salad, and the risotto, this was probably my favorite course.

6th Course: Wood Oven-Roasted Leg of Lamb

The lamb leg meat was extremely tender and very musky, which I loved. The kale had been rendered completely silky and was quite delicate (reminded me of mustard greens, actually). The beets were clearly roasted and basted with fat, as they were slightly blistered on the surface.

The ham with the long beans was a clever take on the traditional, Southern green beans with ham hock. The ham here might have been just a bit too aggressively salty, but otherwise, it did evoke the traditional Southern flavor profile intended. Overall, a very solid dish.

(Supplement) Gabriel Coulet Roquefort

A lovely, lovely blue cheese – extremely creamy and lucious, and nicely cubed. The figs were nicely burnished, caramelized and gorgeous.  The honey had been caramelized. The flavor was extraordinary, but unfortunately, in order to caramelize it, they had let the honey heat too far in the hardball stage; the honey had solidified and stuck to the plate, making it impossible to eat. I got one bite of it before it hardened. It would have been great with the cheese had they executed it correctly.

Pre Dessert

The raw peach (cube) was a little under-ripe – crunchy, firm. But the whipped peach puree, together with the candied citrus and the yogurt panna cotta was good.

7th Course: Peach Streusel Cake

The best part of this dessert was the whipped mascarpone that had been infused with almond extract. It went really well with the peach flavor – not surprisingly given that peach is a stone fruit and that almonds have that stone fruit pit flavor (benzaldehyde).

The streusel cake was a touch dry, but it was moistened by the ice cream and mascarpone. There was a good amount of cinnamon flavor, which gave it more of an autumnal feel, instead of a summer peach feel.

The peach puree was excellent.

The ice cream wasn’t grainy, but it was more watery than creamy. The caramel swirl had all but dissolved, so it wasn’t as rich and thick as most caramel swirls.

Overall, good flavors, and good textures (there were also crunchy bits of pastry about).

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