Well, I am sitting here writing this as CNN and MSNBC are streaming all the Osama Bin Laden coverage. I am jubilant and relieved, and I am hopeful that despite it being one man’s death, perhaps our global conversation might change because of what he represented.
On a different front, I went downtown on Friday evening for date night with the missus. First stop, First Avenue. Attended a fundraiser for the great organization Baby Space, and I hope those of you who are disposed to do so will visit their site and get involved. Baby Space provides for at-risk children in crisis and the stories I heard that night were inspiring. What was not inspiring was walking the three blocks from the event to Haute Dish for dinner, or the subsequent cruise I took down First Avenue after dinner. I was stunned. What’s happened to our downtown in the last few years? It keeps getting worse. Cops on every corner, police vehicles cruising alleys. The vibe was increasingly uncomfortable and unpleasantly tense. Anyone else not enjoying the scene?
I'm glad my son's cold the month before meant we gave up our Globetrotter tickets. What would it be like without the police presence? And what goes on at Karma and Epic? Well, driving by on Friday night I can tell you it looked like a bad scene and that was before the knifing. Anyway, it sucks and someone better do something about it before this summer (if it ever gets here). Warm weather means more people, more drinking, and more violence.
Dinner at Haute Dish was great. Landon and his team are boldly experimenting and succeeding. It’s the kind of restaurant I really like to eat in. Portions are a little too big for my taste (first and second courses shouldn’t be the size of entrees), and someone in the kitchen gets a little sloppy with salt (our soup and one of our terrine offerings were inedible due to salt) but everything else was killer and I can’t wait to go back.
The charcuterie plate was original and skillfully executed, a dynamite whipped liver mousse, hot dog, and macaroni terrine with a spicy ketchup packet was kitschy and tasty at same time, a ham and chicken forcemeat was our fave, a spicy head cheese was dense and rich, and I wish I could have eaten more of but the House terrine, but it was way too salty. A “Med Plate” was studded with way too many olives, which I kinda think at an ambitious tavern should be eschewed in favor of something more interesting. The feta offering on the plate was done as a panna cotta, and I thought it was a superb reimagining of the typical fare. Head in that direction folks. I thought the General Tso sweetbreads with foiegras fried rice were guaranteed to underwhelm. Too much hype, too hard to execute, seen it, done it done, etc. . . . but I was way wrong. That might be the dish of the year for me in a lot of ways: so rich, so good, and the quick tossed egg was just perfection. It’s a great foil despite the apparent obvious reason why it might not work. I want to eat more of that dish right now. Steak tartar with oyster shooter was really well turned out on the plate and the egg-in-the-hole it came with was a really nice way to work crispy bread and egg into a dish that traditionally gets both. Loved it.The kitchen sent us out a plate of rooster balls, quickly seared and set up with some scrambled egg, sticky rice, and an avocado palette (think terrine like mosaic) that I gotta say was a brilliant dish. It could’ve used a little more acid on the plate, but it was excellent. Landon later told me it was one of the first times he worked with that setup and seemed pretty nervous serving me a plate of balls, but he killed it. We had the duck in a can tribute to Martin Picard, an obvious hero of the chefs. Last month I spent a few days with Picard who has become a really good friend over the years, so I was prepared to be underwhelmed again, but no: perfectly cooked duck, divine cabbage, nice foie ‘chunk,’ all spilled over a wedge of brioche topped with buttery celery root puree. The duck breast needed a bit more contrast (crisp!) with the rest of the dish but it was delish. Martin would love it. Desserts were mango habanero sorbet on caramel banana crisp and about 45 other elements, and we also had a pineapple cheesecake that was almost too insane to describe and it’s my job to do just that! Moussey cheesecake, graham cracker cream on the plate, pressed pineapple in a micro dice, garam masala . . . it was all there and we licked the plate.
Anyway, with a little restraint, a touch of prudence on portions, and a little more editing, this would be an important little gastro-pub. As it is, it’s a superb tavern serving some of the boldest food in town and it deserves your attention and patronage. I promise to get to Heartland and Meritage soon, I am making my way down my list now that I am not globetrotting (still on hiatus till the end of June or July), and I am enjoying going to restaurants I haven’t been to yet, ones that are in their stride, so to speak, and not brand spanking new. I am off to do some speaking gigs this week, and then Friday night I hit the James Beard Foundation Media Awards and then Monday are the Chef/Restaurant awards. I am presenting at both, nominated twice, and am already nervous. Obviously will keep you posted on all.