Never before have I had the opportunity to cook with so many fresh ingredients on a daily basis. Running out back to the garden to pick herbs for a dish about to head out to the dining room: doesn't get much fresher than that. Due to this years unusually warm weather, the produce in Jamesport and surrounding areas has been outrageous. Beautiful sweet peas, gigantic zucchini from our garden, and blueberries so flavorful you'd think they were fake.
Our own Peconic Bay sea salt. Taken from water just steps from the house. About 50 gallons of water yielded us with 2 cups or so of sea salt. Good stuff!
The coolest baby fennel I have ever seen. These guys still had the roots attached which ended up being more tasty than the bulbs!
Cooked em sous vide at 85 degrees Celcius with butter, peppercorn, bay, champagne vinegar, and olive oil. Sooooo tasty! Served them with first of the season striped bass, saffron farro, and sweet corn.
Got some beautiful whole yellowfin tuna the other day. We're doing this on the tasting menu: a tartare with yuzu glaze, salt cured loin, cucumber, Peconic Bay sea water gel, and tempura fried shiso.
Check out the color on this stuff. Mmm mmm GOOD!
Being so close to the city, I've had the opportunity to eat at some really cool restaurants over the past couple of weeks on my day off. So far I've checked out Dovetail, Corton, Blue Ribbon, and Momofuku Saam. Each meal better than the one before it. Momofuku ROCKS. Go there. Please.
Being the most prestigious restaurant by far, I figured I would do a quick review of Corton. Chef/owner Paul Liebrant has a long history of working with the world's best chefs and restaurants including Marco Pierre White and Pierre Gagnaire. He has finally come to open a place he can really put his mark on, make the food he wants to make, despite what people may think of its lack of normalcy.
No, this isn't Corton. Had to make a quick stop at this Brooklyn taco truck before our meal. Two people making nothing but great authentic Mexican tacos everyday. Ain't nothin' better. Haven't had tacos this tasty since Providence...
Beef tongue and goat!! Yes!
Ok, on to the restaurant... The dining rooms and entire staff were decidedly stiff and stuffy - to a point where it made us uncomfortable. No bueno! When you're eating food like that (already out of ones comfort zone), the last thing you want is some snob nosed server standing over you like a Roman soldier - complete with grim expression. Food made its way to the table through the dining room like a funeral procession. Ugh...
Our trio of amuse bouche arrived soon after we had placed our wine order (they have one of the most insane wine lists I've ever seen by the way) and were quite possibly one the most delightful parts of the meal. Each was a little surprise in and of itself but grounded in good traditional French cookery.
Some kind of piping hot fried cheese ball. Simple and delicious.
Creme fraiche gougeres and seaweed financiers. All perfectly executed.
Next arrived a verrine of tomato and cucumber. Various textures (mostly foams and gels) or those two ingredients flooded our palates. The flavors were true, pure, and fresh. A really nice (and fun) starter.
This next course was all presentation and no flavor. Beautiful? Yes. Tasty? Not at all. It was a Kusshi oyster that had been set in a gel of its own juices. The texture of a raw oyster is already kind of jelly-like. Why in the world would you put it in a gel that tastes just like it? It's the same flavors and textures right on top of each other. They did it because it looks cool. No other explanation. It was served with raw razor clam and oesetra caviar as well as candy cane beet. This one was lovely to look at, but a real snoozer for your mouth. Almost would have been happier with a fresh oyster and a little lemon (ok, and some of that caviar). Would have been a more direct and honest approach for sure.
This one was just weird. And not in a good way. It was a kendai kampachi served raw with compressed apricot and apricot leather. Wasabi was involved, as well as a goats milk chantilly. All the salt for the entire dish was contained in the chantilly (ridiculously salty). The subtle sweet apricot was nice with the raw fish, but the leather just ended up stuck in my teeth - not melting on my tongue. Just a strange dish. I can see where he was going with it - I mean, everything here should work in theory. I feel like Liebrant didn't see this one through though. I can almost say with certainty that if he had been served that dish with us that night, he wouldn't have been happy with it either.
This was by far the smash hit of the evening. The Long Island blowfish had been coated in an aromatic tandoori spice and was served with grilled fava beans and combava or kaffir lime. The blowfish was surprisingly tender like nicely poached lobster or shrimp and one couldn't help but pick the little tails up between fingers and suck the flesh from the bones. I'm sure we weren't the first to do that because the servers soon presented us with hot towels for cleaning our hands.
This loin of lamb with tarragon crust had been presented to us raw two courses prior. Now it sits before us, perfectly medium rare all the way through. Sous vide? Me thinks so. Lamb was tasty, the herb crust totally made it. Super refreshing - not the heavy lamb dish we were all expecting. It was served with a blueberry extraction sauce that was out of this world. Haven't tasted true blueberry flavor like that ever. The loin came with a single cylinder of yogurt gnocchi. There was definitely some chemical play here, probably gellan and methycellulose. You could tell. It tasted and felt very manipulated.
The lamb was served with a side course of it's belly. Cooked slow and nicely glazed. Served with compressed asian pear. Totally superfluous. Just gimme a piece of that belly with the blueberry sauce and some yogurt (not in space pod form) and I would have been the happiest guy in the world. Jeeze.
Cheese course was up next. It included Le Chevrot, a rhubarb gelee, sour cherry, and milk crisps. The milk crisps offered a surprisingly different take on a crostini and the rhubarb was by far the most flavor packed gel we had all night. The cheese was nice, but nothing to write home about.
Dessert course one: Pine nut palette, cassis sorbet and gelled (I know, I know) orange blossom. BEST DISH OF THE NIGHT. The flavors and textures here were so spot on and harmonious. The palette had been seasoned with just enough salt to make the tart berries really sing and the orange blossom offered a perfumey aroma that transformed the drab dining room into a bright summer scene.
Next up was a royal of bitter chocolate creme, muscovado caramel, and yogurt crumbles. Just as fun to eat as it looks. Really really tasty. The varying textures made this dish work.
Next to follow was a parade of petie fours that included pate de fruit, macaroons, and a great assortment of chocolates. The chocolates alone were almost worth the price of the meal. Very well done.
*All in all: was it a good meal? I'm not sure... The dishes were certainly intellectually challenging, but did they have soul? I don't think so. It made a difference. You could tell. I don't think I've ever felt so far removed from what a dining experience should be. Some things were spot on, others were so far out in left field it didn't even matter. It was all way too inconsistent to call it a great meal. Good, maybe. Will I give Corton a second chance? Most likely. I have a soft spot in my heart for food that surprises me.
Next post: Mecox dairy farm. Moooooo!!
Just eat it.
Bone marrow and oxtail marmalade. Approximately 2 am at the Blue Ribbon. Now THAT my friends, is food.