Monday, September 5, 2016

Pineapple and Pearls - A lot of talent in a little place

Pineapple and Pearls
715 8th St. S.E.
Washington, DC

I finally had the time, luck, and wherewithal to hit one of the most talked-about restaurants in the country. Above is the first cocktail of the evening created by legendary stick-man Jeff Faile. Jeff has worked with NRG, Fiola, and Frank Ruta. This spin on what would normally be the second cocktail of the evening is a non-alcoholic version of the Fennel and Absinthe Bonbon. You don't have to be a drinker to have a good time at P&P. All of the cocktails you'll see in this post are crafted specifically for the non-tippler.
The first bit of the evening was pineapple and country ham over asparagus. While very pretty to look at, it was not my favorite of the evening. The flavors/textures didn't meld. They were there, but didn't complement each other and it was difficult to eat without the topping falling off.
Dish number two was a little more playful. Baby elotes with some smoke coming up from underneath.
There were many NA bevs served to us over the course of the dinner. Some better than others, and I can't remember them all. However, what I do remember is the care taken in their crafting and the presentation. Look closely and you'll see this is a bud with tiny flowers all over it. Very cool.
Caviar with horseradish and avocado was beautiful. I should have asked for seconds of this. This is where things started to get interesting for me.
This was the bread presentation. Note the fruits to the left and the fois gras mousse on the right with hazelnuts. It brought to mind Michel Richard's faux gras plate.

Summer garden egg drop soup was a punch in the face of beautiful umami. Awesomeness in a bowl.
Fluke Veronique was very pretty and the fish was perfectly done.
Sweetbread stuffed chicken wings were interesting. I loved the presentation. Not my favorite dish, but it was fun to eat.
Another of Jeff Faile's booze-less creations. Yes, we ate some of the coconut too.
This was the condiment portion of the Summer Red Curry and Coconut Rice dish. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the finished dish as I was enthralled with the process when chef Scott Muns prepared it table-side. It involves a using a high-school science lab vacuum that some over-the-top types now use to brew coffee. It was very entertaining and Chef Scott is always a pleasure to chat with. I'm not sure how much of the flavor of the dish is developed during the process, but it's fun to watch. The dish itself, once composed, is excellent. The curry broth is creative and just spicy enough to keep your taste buds entertained while not ruining them for what's next.

Blueberry Shortcake and Brillat-Savarin was a lovely start to the end of the meal. Brillat-Savarin is a triple-cream cow's milk cheese named after the 19th century epicure who's quote was the basis for the name of my blog...little factoid for you there.
This is the Crispy Buckwheat and Honeycomb Ice Cream presented with the chocolate soufflé below. They stick the landing after this dinner.

The chocolate soufflé was a 10. Bitter chocolate to go with the honeycomb ice cream. We didn't leave anything for the porter to clean up on that one.

Closing thoughts are that this place is like Disney World for foodies without having to leave your seat.  It's definitely a good choice for any birthday or special occasion.
The talent here is undeniable and well-sorted. I recommend taking the time to score a reso here (do your research long before you try) and get thee an Uber. The cocktails flow, and there is no financial penalty involved for enjoying them to the fullest.
Well done Aaron Silverman & team. Well done.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Return to The Shack - New Impressions

The Shack
105 S Coalter St, Staunton, VA 24401

An opportunity to eat at a good restaurant shouldn't be passed up. This is especially true when the restaurant is hours away from your home. As fate would have it, I had the opportunity to drop my son off at Boy Scout camp in Goshen, VA, which happens to be very near to a restaurant that holds a favored position in my book - The Shack.
If you'd like to read my previous post about it here's a link.
I'll start by saying that the pictures are much better in this post because I actually at there while the sun was out! Normally I'm travelling through there late at night, but this time it was around 6:00pm and the patio was open. Al fresco was the choice.
We got the 4-item tasting menu...because you should.
Cheryl started out with the pimiento cheese and benne biscuit crackers. I've never heard of them, but they were perfect with the cheese. Yes, that is a lot of cheese.
 I had the corn with queso fresco. It was slathered with spicy mayo and scallions. It was as good as it sounded. Note: this is not first-date approved food. I was only one course in and asking for extra napkins.
 From there we moved on to the starters. Fried green tomato with burrata and garlic confit. The garlic and cheese were excellent slathered on the crispy tomato. I would like Chef to mail me a mason jar full of that garlic please. Thx.
 This dish knocked my socks off. This was the first time I had been at The Shack during the summer. Chef has a way with fresh, local produce that you have to experience yourself. The dish was fresh pea salad with Esmontonian cheese (made at a farm not too far from The Shack), soft egg, and pickled onions. Great combination of flavors.
 Cheryl's entree was the crispy pork confit with creamed corn, leeks, morels, and sweet peas. There was a very Asian-vibe to the pork, but Southern to the sides.
 My entree was a work of art. Shrimp and fermented grits with pickled chilis and soft egg. The grits were a little too wet for my liking, but that's a personal thing. It had heat, and the twang from the fermented grits was stupendous.
Dessert was off-the-hook, as I've come to expect here. Last time I had an apple hand-pie that brought me right back to my childhood, but with a much higher level of gustatory finesse. This marvel was caramelized banana ice cream with miso banana bread and chocolate pudding.  The banana bread and pudding were both dark and bitter, while the ice cream was as sweet as could be. When you got a spoon full of all three ingredients at once it was heaven. Seriously. This ranks in the top 5 desserts I've tasted. That's saying something as I've had more than my share.
 Last, but not least, was Cheryl's dessert: Whipped cheesecake with Bing cherries, cucumber/lime granita and spruce syrup. These cheesecake wasn't overly sweet and played well with the granita. 
So what's the lesson learned? Eat at The Shack while there is fresh, local produce available. It's in a beautiful part of the state and isn't far from the highway. If you go be sure to tell Chef I said hello and that you read about it here.