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Welcome to tastingmenu.com. My repository for thoughts and notes on my eating experiences. Hopefully you'll find something enjoyable, entertaining, or informative. Click here to see where I'm coming from.


Monday, August 30, 2004, 8:02 AM

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Green Papaya, Seattle, WA, February 14, 2004 — I am surprise by how people into food can sometimes not be aware of or into Vietnamese food. The combination of the Southeast Asian ingredients, the freshness of those same ingredients, and the bright and vivid flavors (lime, cilantro, mint, peanut), all make for a delicious cuisine. This would be enough, but often as not, Vietnamese food is also super inexpensive. I love Vietnamese food. I'm by no means an expert, but I do eat it quite a bit.  There was nothing particularly unique looking or sounding about Green Papaya, but for some reason we found our way there one night. And we were happy we did.

They offered a Valentine's day "Pre-Fixe" [sic] Menu which I thought was cool. Not many Vietnamese places would do that. We ordered a la carte but grabbed a few dishes from the set menu as well. It was nice that they were flexible that way. Things started off with Goi Cuon - steamed Tiger prawns, sliced pork, mint, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, and lettuce rolled in thin rice paper and served with peanut and hot sauce. This is a classic, often called Fresh Rolls or Salad Rolls at Vietnamese restaurants. And I love it dearly. I was a little nervous as they called them White Tiger Rolls (my interpretation was that they were reaching out to the non-experienced Vietnamese food eater - this worries me as they might try to bridge the gap not just in name but in their cooking). For all I know Goi Cuon may actually mean "white tiger" but I don't think so. Either way it wasn't an issue as the rolls were right, fresh, beautiful, and yummy.

We also got Lemongrass Shrimp Skewers - minced shrimp, chili, onion, and lemongrass wrapped around lemongrass skewers. These were also quite good with what tasted to me like a sugary flavor (I thought the skewers were sugar cane, not lemongrass, but maybe I was wrong). DebDu and Peyman had one nit that the peanut sauce came cold instead of room temperature. I honestly don't know what the right thing is, and in fact I think I prefer it cold. So, who's to say... (Peyman was also annoyed at the Opera playing on the sound system, so he really was having some kind of issue that day.) We also had some beef on sticks which had a soft flavor, and a nice texture - not overcooked.

(The following is a bit of a generalization but still rings true.) Vietnamese salads (and Vietnamese dishes in general) are a lot like Mexican dishes in that you often see the same ingredients in slightly different combinations. When you have incredible ingredients this doesn't bother me in the least. Why wouldn't you want to come up with every possible combination so you could keep eating the same great stuff. We ordered three salads total: The Green Papaya Salad, Auntie Dung's Hand Shredded Chicken Salad, and the Green Apple and Mango Salad with Angus Beef (from the Valentine's menu). The first two were sort of bland and disappointing. I won't even comment on the unfortunately named Auntie Dung. But the Green Apple and Mango Salad with Angus Beef was truly special. The beef was tender and delicious. The accompaniments were tangy, sweet, and fruity. Great.

Again we ordered off the special menu, this time Shrimp Wonton Soup. The soup was a ginger consommé. The soup had a warm flavor with a really nice oily quality. The dumplings were soft, tender, and delicious. The onions in it were a nice touch and the broth had complex flavors on the finish. Really more than I expected from shrimp wonton soup.

A few more dishes rounded out the meal. These included: Tiger Prawns with Tamarind Sauce - Tom Rang Me; Saigon Beef Rolls - Bo Cuon Hanh Huong; Beef Stew - Bo Kho; Ginger and Onion Sea Bass. I realize this may expose me as uncultured or narrow-minded, but I really am not into eating shrimp shells. And yes, they warned me the prawns would come in shell. But they're just too crunchy for me. I feel like I'm eating  cartilage. (For all I know those shells are some form of cartilage - ok, they are, I checked.) That said, the shrimp did have a nice flavor and tasted really fresh. The beef rolls were neat and interesting - beef wrapped tightly around green onions. They came out crunchy and flavorful. The beef stew was a mix - the broth was complex and flavorful, but the beef itself was bland. The sea bass was tasty, even though the sweet sauce overwhelmed the delicate fish. More balance would have been good. The coconut sticky rice on the side had an awesome coconut-y flavor. Yum.

In my head, my dream Vietnamese restaurant is authentic, likely a Pho restaurant, downscale, and delicious. Having never been to Vietname, Green Papaya seemed authentic. And in fact I liked that they had such a variety of dishes. One of them wasn't Pho but that shouldn't take away from their delicious soup. The restaurant wasn't hyper-cheap like most Vietnamese places, but wasn't expensive by any means. And it really was delicious. Though it didn't conform to my vision, it was actually really good. I need to go back soon.


Monday, August 23, 2004, 12:00 AM

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Hyun Joo Paek
Lampreia Restaurant
(206) 443-3301


Debra Weissman


Monday, August 23, 2004, Seattle, WA -- Chef Scott Carsberg of Lampreia Restaurant and Hillel Cooperman of tastingmenu will be publishing a new cookbook on Monday, September 13, 2004. Both have been nominated for a James Beard award, twice for Carsberg in the northwest chef category and once for Cooperman in the Internet writing category. The cookbook, called All About Apples, is the first to come from the restaurant and the website. The book is 100 pages, and contains an almost unprecedented 291 photographs, all focused on Carsberg’s eight-course Washington state apple-themed tasting menu.


In a sea of restaurants that adhere to fads, fickle restaurant critics, and the advice of consultants, Lampreia has slowly and steadily built a loyal, almost religious following who value its unique, minimalist style. Carsberg operates outside the growing legion of homogenized “celebrity chefs” while maintaining standards as high as the most famous and accomplished of culinary artists. Carsberg’s food is fresh, seasonal, refined, luxurious, and yet deceptively simple. Meals at Lampreia are special but not formal. Dishes are exciting and challenging, but approachable. Carsberg’s cooking is grounded in the northern Italian style gleaned during his many years cooking in Europe. He combines this with the fresh ingredients of home – the Pacific Northwest.


“Growing up in the northwest, and cooking here every day, it’s impossible not to feature the bounty of Washington state’s apple harvest on my menu,” said Carsberg. The eight dishes in All About Apples are a tour of many of the apple varieties grown in Washington state and of other local and seasonal ingredients like Dungeness crab and chestnuts. “What I love about this cookbook is the freedom to really show what goes into making each dish. While Lampreia doesn’t have the luxury of an army of cooks, our dishes are still more involved than the average food made at home. The details in All About Apples capture the truth of how Lampreia’s food is really made. And the only way we could have done a project this ambitious and special is with the passionate people at tastingmenu,” said Carsberg.


The web journal tastingmenu.com documents the eating experiences of a group of food lovers in unprecedented detail. The food is lovingly described and documented with beautiful photography. The site makes the hundreds of thousands of readers who’ve visited it over the past couple of years salivate, laugh, and rush to eat at the restaurants described. Most importantly, readers value tastingmenu.com for its authenticity and commitment to the flavors it describes. The stories aren’t polluted by trends in ingredients, culinary fads, or restaurants that are “happening.” They just report on wonderful eating experiences with humor and honesty. The food isn’t fawned over by food stylists applying chemicals under expensive professional lighting to make the food look perfect. The descriptions and photographs are of the actual food served, and of the actual ingredients used. You see exactly what they ate – from street food to haute cuisine.


All About Apples will be released in an electronic format readable on any home computer. It will be distributed over the Internet at a cost of $14.95 per copy. “State-of-the-art cookbooks require a huge capital investment, as well as established physical channels of distribution. The Internet has allowed two modest enterprises like Lampreia and tastingmenu.publishing to create a strikingly beautiful cookbook and get it to customers at a price that’s accessible by just about anyone. The electronic format has also allowed us to focus on just one tasting menu and document it in obsessive detail, something that’s not typically viable in traditional formats,” said Cooperman.


For the first two weeks of the release, tastingmenu.com will feature one dish per day on the website, getting tastingmenu.com readers acquainted with the quality of the book and other menu items featured in All About Apples. “No electronic cookbook published to date has come even close to approaching the quality of this first publication from tastingmenu.publishing. The photography rivals that of any print cookbook out there today. And the beautifully detailed presentation is unmatched by any cookbook on the market,” Cooperman added.


“We hope that the focus on innovative food, obsessive detail, and stunning photographs and design, will strike a chord with the growing food-savvy public, and plan on doing future versions based on additional tasting menus,” said Cooperman.


The book will be available at www.tastingmenu.com/AllAboutApples on Monday, September 13, 2004. Preview CDs will be available early upon request for press review under embargo.


Lampreia was opened on April 15, 1992, by Scott Carsberg. He opened Lampreia with the aim and desire to devote himself to recipes in which each ingredient is clearly identifiable and to pay homage to the knowledge he acquired during his tenure in Europe. At Lampreia he has been able to realize in full the goals of his philosophy as a chef in true European tradition. He is free to apply in the smallest details his continuous search for perfection, whether in the selection of the most appropriate seasonal ingredients such as herbs, a local fish or cheese, the perfect wine to accompany each serving, or in the attentive, refined, courteous, but never pretentious service. www.lampreiarestaurant.com.


tastingmenu was founded in 2001 as a web journal focused on chronicling the global eating adventures of a group of friends. When these friends found themselves going out to restaurants and forgetting which ones they really enjoyed, they needed a place to write down the details of each experience. Posting these write-ups on the web was a natural thing to do – as was photographing the food. Since then, hundreds of thousands of readers have visited tastingmenu.com. In 2003, the site was nominated for a James Beard Award for an article about searching for, not finding, and finally creating from scratch a decent batch of bagels. While based in Seattle, tastingmenu.com reports on food from all over the world, including New York, London, and Tokyo. www.tastingmenu.com.


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Thursday, August 19, 2004, 7:10 AM

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Walter and Mary Alice, not to be outdone, pointed out this article from the Seattle Times about another underground restaurant - Gypsy. This one is in Seattle where I live. I admit I'm fascinated by this stuff. Part of it's the clandestine nature, and the excitement of breaking the rules. But part of it is that many of the trappings of the modern restaurant (menus, choice, etc.) are forsaken for the privilege of eating at these places. I think many of these qualities should be reintroduced to regular restaurants. Fixed menus, fixed prices, the personal touch, the feeling of being privileged to get this special treatment, even sitting with strangers.

I think cookbooks are like multi-purpose exercise machines. Some people buy them because of the promise they hold. It doesn't matter if you ever do those crunches, or make that risotto. It's nice to know that you can if you want to. The Los Angeles Times (free registration required) lists the current top 10 in the country (cookbooks, not exercise machines). Anthony Bourdain's first book is still in the top 10. Amazing. He must be raking in the bucks (or at least his publisher is).



Tuesday, August 17, 2004, 9:25 PM

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Michael pointed us to this article in the New York Times (free registration required). He somehow knows of my fascination with "illegal" restaurants. Apparently Hong Kong is filled with unauthorized restaurants in people's homes and the authorities look the other way. I need to go to Hong Kong, and I need to eat at people's homes. I can't decide where I'd rather go on my next trip to Asia - Thailand vs. Hong Kong vs. Shanghai. The truth is that I really want to go to all three and spend a few days in Tokyo as well. Oh well, that's not for some time I suppose.



Monday, August 16, 2004, 8:01 AM

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My mom tells me that I started watching Julia Child cook on tv when I was only three years old. She said I could watch it endlessly. I guess there were signs early of my obsession with food. Here are some of the more interesting articles around the web about Julia Child - The Oregonian, Globe and Mail, and National Public Radio (audio).



Thursday, August 12, 2004, 9:35 PM

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Nibbana, Bellevue, WA, February 14, 2004 — It's amazing how many little Thai restaurants litter the east side of Seattle. On this day Alex and I decided to stop by another one - Nibbana, A Thai Cookery. I'm not sure if you can use the word "cookery" that way, but I got the message - Thai food inside. We were in a hurry so we just ordered a couple of dishes - Deep-Fried Spicy Chicken, Garlic Prawns, and some Chicken Satay. The food was decent - fresh flavors, spicy and not overdone. We also had some chicken soup which had a hint of flavor that was similar to my grandmother's chicken soup. (My eternal quest to replicate my grandmother's chicken soup is a story for another time.) The veggies at Nibbana were also crunchy. Nibbana was decent, a fine place for lunch, but I still am hunting for world class Thai somewhere within driving distance of where I live.



Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 11:15 PM

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Cheese, August 10, 2004 — My three-year-old son who is a super picky eater (this is someone's idea of a joke) for some reason loves cheese. Not just any cheese but expensive cheese. He'd been eating Uniekaas Dutch Parrano which is delicious and several bucks for a wedge for some time when for some reason I decided to bring home slices of orange American cheese for him to try. I don't know what came over me. I think that food is such a key part of our culture that many food decisions in our lives really have very little to do with the food itself. I think that I had some idea in my mind that little kids are supposed to eat American cheese. Never mind the fact that I find it limp, flavorless, and off-putting (unless it's melted on a tuna melt). And lucky for me, he took one look at it and said, "no thanks".

I've since thanked my lucky stars that my choosey eater at least loves good cheese. Tonight we brought home several to try from the new Wholefoods market on the way home from work. (There is an upscale healthy supermarket chain battle happening in the metro Seattle area between Wholefoods and Larry's. And I am the unique benefactor of their escalating war.) Anyway, we got several cheeses. These included: Swiss Cave Aged Gruyere - milder than I like, I missed the tang of typical Gruyere; Swiss Cave Aged Emmentaler - this was a little better, had a not bad chalky quality, but still was a touch mild for me; Borough Market Farmhouse Cheddar - which was an odd cheddar for me, there was almost a bitter quality to it, Debbie didn't care for it much either; and Dutch Five Year Aged Gouda - this was surprisingly good, orange, and had some crystal structures almost like a Parmesan, but with a deep almost caramelized and nutty flavor on the finish, like alcohol in a way.

We also got one of my favorite triple creme cheeses from France - Explorateur. I've been searching for awhile for a reliable triple creme that I could fall in love with and call my own (is this how I really spend my time? yes) and I think Explorateur is it. It starts off simple and particularly smooth, creamy, and almost drinkable. The taste is unobtrusive and lulls you into a false sense of security, and then after a few seconds it starts to build and build until you get the sharp edge of the ripeness cutting across your tongue. And while some people have a hard time with this flavor, once you acquire it, it's addictive.

Finally, we got Boschetto al Tartufo. I saw the word "tartufo" and knew I had to get it - whatever it is. I am definitely in love with truffles. White Italian truffles to be exact. This cheese is an unassuming firm cheese with mild flavor made from a mix of sheep and cow's milk. But studded in the cheese are a generous number of truffle bits. There are many products that claim to be somehow connected to truffles. Most often the truffle-ness of them is so fleeting that the product is simply disappointing. A tease basically. But that's not so with this cheese. The truffle flavor is strong and clearly present but not overpowering. The balance of the mild cheese and the truffles is perfect. I'll confess a soft spot for Thomas' English Sourdough Muffins toasted with something on top - Plugra, yummy Lebanese cheese spread, delicious tangy Ikra Tarama fish egg cheese spread, and even (I'm embarassed to admit) Miracle Whip - which I love. That said, this evening's toasted muffin topped with melted Boschetto al Tartufo was absolutely fantastic. The cheese melted quickly on the toasted muffin in the microwave. It became almost liquidy. Truffle Muffin. Delicious.



Wednesday, August 4, 2004, 7:18 AM

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Readers have sent in various tidbits, including the fact that farmers in Australia are starting to produce truffles that they hope will rival those from Europe. This one is courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald (free registration required).

Ever wonder about how mass market food products are created? Ever want to do it yourself? Try this article about food science from the Seattle Times archive (free registration required). This type of science, and an understanding of intricate chemical interactions is even being used at restaurants like Fat Duck, where it's chef, Heston Blumenthal has a six part series airing on the BBC called Kitchen Chemistry.



Monday, August 2, 2004, 12:32 AM

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04-Whipped Cream Rises to the Surface.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA, February 6, 2004 — We were already going out to the Washington, D.C. area for my sister's graduation from high school. Since my parents live outside DC in the Maryland suburbs, going to visit them does not typically involve going out for great food. We don't tend to have time to go to D.C., and Rockville, MD has a thick coating of strip malls with mediocre chain restaurants and lousy sushi places. But as always, I'm determined to have at least one interesting food experience on every trip outside Seattle. I figure it's my only chance to make sure tastingmenu.com stays interesting to people who live outside of the 206 area code. The Inn at Little Washington had crossed my radar a few times. Situated 72 miles west of D.C. it's one of those cute little olde towne bed and breakfast type places in a tiny little town in the low rolling landscape of Northern Virginia. The only difference is that this little inn belongs to the high end Relais and Chateaux affiliation of super fancy hotels and houses what's commonly mentioned as the best restaurant in the D.C. area, and one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Our choice was clear.

We rolled in during a rainstorm that for some reason had almost shut down the greater Washington D.C. area. They're not used to inclement weather there apparently. After a tour of the adorable premises, we got a pair of glasses filled with sparkling wine and passionfruit. Sort of a passionfruit mimosa which was yummy, and got to hang out in our room until dinner.

Debbie loves room service, so even though we were going to eat a big meal soon she had to order something. A few minutes later some of the best hot chocolate I've ever had arrived at our door. Served in a small teapot alongside a cup that already had a dollop of whipped cream and two little cigarettes of dark and white chocolate respectively. We poured some of the hot chocolate into the cup, watched the cigarettes dissolve, and marveled at the creaminess that was forming in the cup. After filling the cup and setting the pot down, the dollop of whipped cream surfaced like a submarine after a long dive. it was fully coated in the thick liquid of the hot chocolate, but seemed to have survived the ordeal more or less in tact. The faint traces of the dark chocolate cigarette were just visible on the side of the cream. Then we tasted it. It was pretty much the best hot chocolate we'd ever had. It had a thickness which was almost disarming. As much as your enjoying the creaminess you're almost distracted wondering how they got the texture to be so luxurious. Then, after a moment, the core of chocolate flavor hits your tongue. The only thing we might wonder about is that the hot chocolate wasn't quite  hot enough. Turns out (after refilling the cup) that in fact it was quite hot, but the whipped cream cooled it down a bit in that first draught. Maybe they could have made it even hotter to compensate for the whipped cream. Though I asked for the whipped cream so I'm not sure they make it that way by default. Then again, hot chocolate wasn't on the room service menu so maybe they just made it for us on the spot anyway. Knowing how hard it is to find special food experiences, I tried not to get my hopes up, but couldn't help thinking how nice it would be if the hot chocolate was a sign of things to come.

After a little rest it was time for dinner. We headed down from our room  to the lobby and were escorted towards the kitchen. Before we entered, our guide stopped us at a set of double doors and said "Robert Mondavi once referred to our chef Patrick O'Connell as the Pope of American Cuisine". On the heels of his introduction the doors opened to reveal a short hallway occupied by a waiter dressed in what I can only describe as an altar boy outfit. He swung a lantern-like incense burning container back and forth as he led us into the kitchen. There we were greeted by the kitchen staff all standing at attention in a row. We started laughing a bit as the whole thing felt a little bit silly. Though as we made our way to our table (there are two tables for 6 in the kitchen) I ended up thinking that the shtick was cute after all. They seemed to have a sense of humor, and that's always nice. I did feel a little bad for the cooks having to wait for us to make our entrance before they could go back to work. The kitchen is a busy place where timing is everything. Neglecting their cooking for 60-90 seconds while we make our way in is no small sacrifice. The incense, the recording of monks chanting playing over the kitchen sound system, and the Catholic-ish motif reminded me of visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This is the church that is built around the spot where Jesus is supposed to have been buried. I remarked that the kitchen smelled like church, but nobody seemed to know what I was talking about. I suppose when the only church you've really been to is one of the originals, located in Jerusalem, and filled with incense and ancient monks then your scope of reference is not that relevant for most other folks. Still, the effect was complete for me. Debbie too was affected as she said that if they tried to baptize us next, we'd have to skip out before the food arrived. When the copper bowl and pitcher arrived filled with rosewater we started to wonder. But the waiter informed us that there was a Moroccan tradition of washing your hands with rosewater before a meal. (Also, don't forget the large silver water goblets on the rustic table, made me feel like Henry VIII wanting for an enormous bone to gnaw on.) A little corny? Yes. But how can I begrudge them showing a little character. You want that in the food, why not in the ritual surrounding the food.

The kitchen (in which we ate) is only 4 or 5 years old as we were told. And it was quite beautiful. Brushed aluminum, brass and green everywhere. There was some sort of a quote or motto printed on the walls just below the ceiling: "Anticipation + Trepidation + Inspection + Fulfillment + Evaluation". The "+"s are mine, sort of. They were just icons between the words in the shape of plus signs, and I'm not sure they were supposed to imply some sort of addition. I kept wondering what this meant. I hypothesized that it might be directed at the staff reminding them what goes through the minds of customers out in the dining room as their food is being prepared in the kitchen. Kind of like a permanent exhibition of one of those "inspirational" management posters you sometimes see in businesses. Whatever it meant, I can only assume it was important to the Chef. And ultimately it's the food that will determine whether the motto was helpful or not.

Without missing a beat some pre-meal snacks showed up. First a cylinder filled with Tempura Green Beans with Thai Dipping Sauce. The tempura were seasoned nicely, and the fish sauce based dipping sauce was an unexpected (non-traditional) and tasty touch. Next to the beans was a a basket of Parmesan Tuiles. We got a generous number of them, they were tangy, and just a touch oily, but very good.

That wasn't enough apparently to get us warmed up for dinner as a tray of amuse bouche showed up in short order. These included a falafel-like (in appearance) fried ball filled with delicious red wine risotto and black pepper on a long long finish; a lox, herb, and capers on rye morsel that was good; some ham on a creamy textured corn muffin; a yummy thick slice of bacon atop another canape; a fried tuna cake with capers on a cracker - salty goodness; and some kind of what tasted like tomato preserve with capers, and parmesan, all sitting on a puff pastry. The preserve was really juicy, had a beautiful texture, and was bursting with flavor. All in all things were shaping up nicely. The yummy crusty bread that arrived didn't hurt either.

The menus had a wealth of choices. Tasting menus, vegetarian tasting menus, and a large a la carte selection. There really wasn't any question that we would get the tasting menu. But we wanted even more diversity. And sure enough they were happy to accommodate our request. We ended up with two completely different tasting menus with Debbie and I each trying from both sets of dishes in each course. We ate tried a total of 17 items not including the 8-10 desserts. It was very nice of them to do that on such short notice for us.

Soup was first. Debbie got Rutabaga and Apple Soup and I got Duck Consommé. The apple rutabaga soup was creamy warm, a little bit sweet, a little bit savory, and its texture was like a warm milkshake in a good way. The consommé was pretty much fantastic. It looked like a cup of coffee with its dark color. The flavor was rich and almost gamey. It was a quality that wasn't Debbie's favorite, but one that I found special and unique. Really memorable. (I wonder if they clarified the consommé with duck meat. I would assume so.)

Next up was Shaved Virginia Ham with Parmesan and Apple Shavings and Olive Oil. I was excited to see the local ingredients. But in fact the ham was kind of boring. Luckily, the ham was followed by Tuna Sashimi with Daikon Radish Coulis and Cucumber Sorbet. The tuna would have been very good on its own but the cucumber sorbet made it special. Tuna sashimi on a non-Japanese menu has pretty much become a cliché. But the cold combined with a touch of sweet and sour in the sauce and wasabi on the daikon was great.

After the tuna we got Charred Kauwai Shrimp and Onions with Mango Mint Salsa. This was pretty much the best shrimp/avocado/mango dish that can exist. It was like Vegas - the perfect archetype of a cliché dish. The balsamic was a nice touch. Good but not special. It was almost a pattern, but the following dish again raised the bar - Sorrel Jelly with Crème Fraiche and Oscietra Caviar. There were creamy sour bursts of herby jelly and more bursts of salty ocean. Super good. They also gave us two spoons so we could split the caviar. Sweet.

Next up: Fricassee of Maine Lobster with Potato Gnocchi, Clamshell Mushrooms, Grapes, Pearl Onions, and Curried Walnuts. The lobster was high quality and interesting like a piece of art. I'm glad I saw it though I didn't quite love or hate it. It was just interesting. We also got Maine Diver's Scallop Encrusted with Black Sesame Seeds on Cauliflower Puree with a Veal Stock Reduction. The scallop was great. The sesame flavor was fresh new and interesting. The veal stock was warm and smooth, and the puree was also super smooth. Yummy.

Foie gras was up next - times two: Marriage of Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Homemade Pickled Cherries. First was Pan-Seared Foie Gras and Duck with Raisin Gastrique. Next was Chilled Goose Foie Gras with Sauterne Aspic and House Marinated Cherries. The foie gras dish (I would have written the plural of foie gras but I'm not entirely sure what it is) hit all the right notes and were well executed. We also got the Pan-Seared Lobster with Lobster Stock, Rosemary Cream, Garden Vegetables, and Garlic Flan.  The Lobster was good but the garlic flan was special and made the dish great.

The dishes kept coming: Barolo Red Wine Risotto with Aged Parmigiano and Shaved Black Truffle; Squab with Blackberry Garlic Polenta, and Blackberry Sauce; Duck braised with Asian Spices with Foie Gras, Wilted Watercress, Duck Consommé, and Mandarin Orange; and Colorado lamb Encrusted with Herbs, Baby Brussels, Garlic Soufflé, Tomato, Butter Sauce with Ginger and Garlic. and Parsnips au Gratin.

The risotto had a strong (and tasty) wine flavor. The Squab reminded me of Thanksgiving with the smooth/mashed starch and sour fruit components. Regarding the duck, Debbie thought the duck itself was very good and the oranges were a nice touch. The foie gras was excellent as well though to be honest the combination of ingredients in this dish didn't quite hang together as a complete plate. The lamb was very good and its sauce was special (no surprise as it was made of butter). the brussels sprouts were crisp and fresh, and the . parsnips were like a crunchy though not really enjoyable macaroni and cheese. Debbie pointed out that the parsnip just wasn't cheesy enough.

For those readers who have made it this far, a bit of self-pity. If you're feeling full just reading about this meal, imagine what it was like to eat this much food. But this is the extent to which we go to help you the reader experience these meals vicariously. Not a true sacrifice you say? Ok, I guess we have nothing to complain about.

Dessert was a blur. A tasty blur. For Debbie's birthday we got Mint Ice Cream with a Chocolate Marzipan message; Warm Chocolate Cake, and Crème Anglaise; Lemon Meringue with Raspberry Sauce; Passion Fruit Panna Cotta; White Chocolate Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Sponge Cake and Chocolate Sauce; an Apple Tartlett; Butter Pecan Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce; and Coconut Ice Cream with Chocolate Coconut, and Macadamia Coating. Much of it was quite delicious.

Overall the meal was a mix of some really delicious dishes, some decent dishes, and kitsch. There are many restaurants with a shtick. And ultimately it doesn't bother me, even if it's cheesy as long as the food rocks. And when the food isn't good, then the "traditions" become an affectation. I'll admit the "traditions" at the Inn at Little Washington sometimes bordered on a little wacky, but the food did come through in the end. For example, the proprietors apparently love their dogs. Maybe it's that I have a pair of cats, but there was a Dalmatian theme all over the place. The aprons had spots as did all the chef pants. The combination of the dogs, the motto on the wall, the church-like entry scene... ...it ended up being character as overall there were several dishes we ate that were really memorable. The fact that the kitchen did two separate tasting menus for us so we could try double the dishes was really generous and flexible as well. And even if the chef was on premises though not in the kitchen, the meal was excellent. Though given the several hundred dollar premium they charged us for eating in the kitchen, you'd think the chef could at least have put in an appearance. I've never eaten at a restaurant where they charge extra for this. Not cool. Still, the food was very good. And to be quite honest, I'd recommend the trip out to the Virginia countryside for the hot chocolate alone. Luckily, there's a lot more than great hot chocolate at The Inn at Little Washington.










Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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