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
but for some reason we found our way there one night. And we were happy
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).
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 -
(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
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.
Hyun Joo Paek
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,”
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
The book will be
www.tastingmenu.com/AllAboutApples on Monday, September 13, 2004.
Preview CDs will be available early upon request for press review under
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.
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.
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
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)
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).
Michael pointed us to this article
in the New York Times (free registration required). He somehow
knows of my fascination with "illegal" restaurants. Apparently
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.
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 -
Globe and Mail, and
Public Radio (audio).
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.
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
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
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 -
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
Encrusted with Herbs, Baby Brussels, Garlic Soufflé, Tomato, Butter Sauce with
Ginger and Garlic. and
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
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
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
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.