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It was our turn again for Can’t Talk, Eating, our quarterly dining club. Due to the host rotation this was our first winter meal, so we planned on heartier fare. We settled on a theme of “smoke” for all the courses, in both obvious and subtle presentations.

Charcuterie

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Baguette, fig and butter spread, Serrano ham, brie.

Lamberti prosecco

Penicillin

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Lemon, ginger, honeycomb, lapsang souchong tea, Laphroaig and Johnnie Walker Black whiskys.

This cocktail was infused in Portholes, which are used at Aviary in Chicago (next door to Next).

Cauliflower

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Cauliflower soup with bacon and scallions.

Scallop, Dill

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Smoked scallop crudo with meyer lemon salt, dill crème frâiche, rice cracker.

2012 Peer Lauer Riesling “Stirn”

Haggis

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Oat-crusted haggis, pommes purée, hakurei turnips in brown butter, lamb reduction.

Ardbeg Supernova whisky

This is a more refined version of the traditional Burns Night meal.

Duck, Fennel

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Spice-brined, seared, and glazed duck breast, smoked duck hearts, smoked fennel confit, duck reduction.

Ravenswood 2008 Icon “Mixed Blacks”

This recipe can be found in Heston Blumenthal’s Historic Heston cookbook.

Currants, Cheese, Cedar

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She Who Must Be Obeyed made Eccles cakes, which we served with Lincolshire Poacher cheese and cedarwood vanilla ice cream.

Taylor Fladgate 20 year old tawny port

Prep for all the dishes was simple, with the exception of the duck, which required a week’s worth of work to get from whole birds to a cup of reduction. Our Smoking Gun also got a serious workout.

A friend, after seeing the dinner photos, commented “You seem to be working in the beige-to-ecru palette.” That’s true, but not intentional. Even though we’re living with spring weather, it’s still February, months away from the first spring vegetables. There’s only so much I’m willing to add to a plate just for the sake of some color. We’re starting our lobbying now to host the fall meal.

First composite photo by Cecilia Tan.

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Tasting Counter

Deciding where to have dinner on my birthday is a process that can begin months before the actual meal. After all the planning that went into last year’s wd~50 dinner, I wanted to limit this year’s choice to the Boston area. After reading this review in The Boston Globe, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I decided to try Tasting Counter. A few days later, the latest issue of Boston magazine arrived, with a gorgeous photo of plated dishes on the cover. They had named Tasting Counter their number one pick of the 25 best new restaurants. She managed to get tickets before the system was overwhelmed by people who had read the review.

The restaurant couldn’t be in a more hip place: It’s sectioned off from the Aeronaut brewery and pub, down the hall from a local chocolatier, adjacent to the Brooklyn Boulders climbing center, and on the same block as Artisan’s Asylum, the largest maker space in the northeast. Step through their door, however, and you are met with this quiet oasis:

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The counter seats up to twenty guests and surrounds a central kitchen area:

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There is more support staff in the back, but for the next two hours we would watch and be served by four chefs, two servers, and the general manager who handled the drink pairings. Once all the guests arrived, the meal began.

Welcoming Bites

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From left to right: Cured hake, orange sesame crisp, lime juice; almond macaron with foie gras and black olive filling; sea bream wrapped in sake gel, rice cracker. Served with  a 2014 Domaine de la Bregeonnette Gros Plant.

Sea Urchin

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Egg shell filed with bonito custard, truffle sauce, uni, and crispy nori. Served with a 2013 Sicilia Grillo.

Sea Scallop

I was so excited by this dish that I failed to take a photo. We were served a scallop shell filled with avocado oil cream, topped with sliced diver scallop, black olive, cured roe, and crispy preserved lemon. Served with a 2013 Biano di Baal.

Parsnip & Pear

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Roasted parsnip and fresh pear soup served over blackcurrant purée wth pine mushrooms and sweetbreads. Served with a 2013 Sergio Mottura Civitella Rosso.

Ocean Trout

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Ocean trout with shallot sauce, fermented soybeans with basil, and orange blossom gel. Served with a 2013 Philippe Badea la Foulee des Zinzins.

Monkfish

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Roasted monkfish on the bone, fennel frond sauce, cucumber in brown butter, and milk-braised fennel. Served with a 2013 Rocco di Carpeneto Róo.

Schisandra Berry

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A palate cleanser made from “five flavor berry,” this drink was simultaneously salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter. It was accompanied by a pine nut biscuit.

Miso Cured Duck

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Miso-cured duck breast with apple and daikon gelée, soy sauce, and celery foam. Served with a 2013 Tripod Project Deep Probe pinot noir.

Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Cap

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Beef, pomegranate marinated beets, and madcarpone horseradish cream. Served with a 2011 Chateau Lestignac L’Ancestral.

Lime Curd

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Lime curd over molasses cake, topped with ginger meringue, garnished with passionfruit sauce and torched lime. Served with a 2014 Caseler Dominikanerberg Spätlese Riesling.

Chocolate & Yuzu

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Chocolate and yuzu mousse made with chocolate from neighboring Somerville Chocolates, accompanied with persimmon ice cream and lime leaf custard. Served with a 2012 Les Pins Monbazillac.

Parting Morsels

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Lavender chocolate truffle, strawberry almond cake, and plum vanilla chew. The card was a copy of the evening’s menu.

I loved everything about this meal. The progression of dishes was flawless, each a perfect composition of flavor combinations I hadn’t tasted before. There was the extra thrill of watching the quiet choreography as each dish was assembled in front of us, followed by an explanation as it was presented by the chef. The wine course was an education in pairings with bottles that were completely unfamiliar to me. And the relaxed atmosphere drove home the idea that this meal was being cooked for us.

Rather than gush any more about how much I enjoyed the meal, I’ll end with this: As soon as we walked out, I looked at She Who and said “We have to eat here again.”

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Dinner At Damon Baehrel

November 16, 2015
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I have a lot of foodie friends. We cook for each other, share recipes, trade restaurant info, and sometimes arrange to eat at some of the country’s (or world’s) best restaurants. One friend in particular, Scott Edelman, has a knack for wrangling “impossible” reservations, which has resulted in amazing meals at Alinea, The Fat Duck, […]

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Introducing Reading While Cooking

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Two weeks ago I saw this post from Rose Fox in my Twitter feed: Intrigued, I replied: Rose answered: Rose and I have worked together before, so after a few email exchanges we divided up the tasks. We grabbed a domain name, set up a WordPress blog, launched a Patreon campaign, and within 24 hours Reading While […]

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Meet Meat

July 9, 2015
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During last summer’s London trip, we ate at two of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants. The first, The Fat Duck, was reported here. The second, dinner at Dinner, was an evening that I preferred not to document. The restaurant bases its menu on updated recreations of historical recipes researched by Blumenthal and recorded for his Heston’s Feasts series. […]

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Tenth Annual Birthday Dinner

May 4, 2015
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  It’s hard to believe I’ve been cooking a birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed for ten years. This year I decided the menu would include some new dishes she had enjoyed over the past year, which would present some interesting technical challenges for me. Charcuterie I changed up the traditional charcuterie starter by […]

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Carrying a Torch

March 23, 2015

I have devoted a lot of time and effort into arriving at a consistent perfectly cooked steak. A combination of sous vide cooking and a high-heat final sear works every time to produce a medium rare result with a good crust. But there’s always room for improvement, which I found in the form of a new […]

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Birthday Dinner at wd~50

December 14, 2014
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When chef Wylie Dufresne opened his restaurant wd~50 in 2003 he unwittingly sowed the seeds of his eventual demise. Choosing Clinton Street in Manhattan’s lower east side was a clever move, in that the rent was cheap due to the sketchy neighborhood, but the restaurant was so good that the area improved due to the […]

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Pasta My Prime

September 28, 2014
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I‘m something of a Kickstarter junkie. I’ve backed projects as diverse as interacive fiction games, immersion circulators, titanium collar stays, graphic novels, music, and more. When I saw the campaign for Pasta Flyer, I practically screamed SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! How could I not contribute? I would get a chance to work with chef […]

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Lunch at The Fat Duck

September 21, 2014
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Our August trip to attend Loncon 3 was a thinly veiled excuse to get together with overseas friends, visit three countries, and, of course, eat. Thanks to the efforts of gourmand extraordinaire Scott Edelman, one of our eating destinations would be The Fat Duck. To say that I was excited about the meal would be […]

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