Lot's of changes here at the LC. With the departure of Nicole Pedersen, much-missed sous-chef, the staff and I were on tenterhooks to see what Mike, brand new Lula Sous in Nicole's place (and would-be winner of Sweetest 'Stache Ever Award) would debut for his first-ever Farm Dinner. Duncan took Course 1 (as evidenced by another play-on-a-classic--tuna melt and tomato soup), and Mike took Course 2 and boldly went straight for the gusto. Melissa, naturally, hit another one out of the park with a much-anticipated cheese course.
Course 1: Late summer heirloom tomato bisque with smoked trout, green beens, and brioche
Preliminary Pairings: 2008 Big Fire Pinot Gris, 2005 d'Antiche Terre Greco di Tufo, 2006 Buglioni Valpolicella
As we've been hearing in increasingly exasperated tones from anyone who cares all summer, this year's tomato crop has been disappointing. The lack of hot weather and heavy rainfall has resulted in slightly watery, slightly bland fruit. What better way to play up the positive qualities in this season's unfortunate offering than to turn those tommies into smoky, tangy, earthy, slightly peppery soup? City Farm tomatoes were roasted and pureed with cream--some of the tomatoes were smoked, as well. The inspired addition of house-smoked Rushing Waters trout lent another dimension to the aforementioned smoky aspects of the dish, as the fish was folded with Neal's Yard Ogleshield ractlette-style cheese and spread on little toasts to be dunked into the soup. Pickled Nichols Farm green beans added the usual zip and tang, and Sweet Earth parsley, plus City Farm celery and ramps added explosions of bright green flavors in each mouthful.
We liked both Big Fire and Greco, but for different reasons. Big Fire, with all of its peachy fruit and stony minerality, not to mention high, food-friendly acid, stole the show and stood out as a tasty counterpart to the soup. Greco di Tufo is all about almost-effervescent acidity, briny minerality, and light, citrus fruit. The staff and I were of two minds again, some of us enjoying the fruit-forwardness of Big Fire while others (myself included) thought Greco's subtle elegance was a better match.
We all agreed, however, that good old Buglioni truly did itself proud, with its juicy fruit qualities and slightly chewy mouthfeel nicely complementing the flavors and textures of the bisque.
Favorites: Big Fire, Greco, and Bugs!
Course 2: Handmade orecchiette with Gunthorp Farm rabbit, black kale, braised olives, pumpkin seed oil, and rosemary
Preliminary Pairings: 2006 Buglioni Valpolicella, 2007 Tenuta Garetto Barbera d'Asti
Mmmmm, rabbit. Greg Gunthorp's tenderly raised bunnies were braised in Belgian beer and picholine olives, and the braising jus served as the base for the sauce on the hand-made orecchiette. Pan roasted chanterelle mushrooms and pumpkin seed gremolata lent depth of flavor, spice, and a little sweetness, while City Farm black kale balanced with acid and earthiness. Reduced sherry vinegar throughout supported the sweetness and acid.
I wanted to go Italian, so I kept Buglioni as a contender and brought out Tenuta Garetto, one of our favorite pairing wines and an all around awesome barbera. TG exhibits uper subtle, fragrant dark fruit and spice, which I thought would pair nicely with the rabbit and pumpkin seeds, and velvety tannins and a background of earth and funk which would stand up to the richness of the orrechiette and the earthiness of the kale. As TG is a more complex wine than Buglioni, it seemed to contain the X-Factor for Course 2, but Buglioni didn't go down without a fight. A truly enjoyable wine, Bugs (the wine, not the bunny) still tasted delicious, if a little simple, with the wabbit dish.
Favorite: TG Barbera, but Bugs is always a favorite (the wine, not the bunny, but he's great, too)
Course 3: Prairie Fruits Farm Roxanne with financier, Klug Farm grape sorbet, and candied almonds
Preliminary Pairings: Vinhos Barbeito Madeira Boston Bual, Warre's 10 Year Tawny Porto
Oh, finally a cheese course! Having never tasted Barbeito Madeira with a Farm Dinner, I was excited to have a chance to test it out (especially because the staff and I started comparing dessert wines during some of our preshift meetings). What can I say? Super nutty and light with slight hints of caramel, the Barbeito was perfect with Prairie Fruit's raw sheep's Roxanne and Melissa's innovative uses of Klug Farm jupiter grapes (sorbet, financier filling, and a little salad), not to mention candied marcona almonds. The delicate sweetness of the Madeira matched up to the Swan Creek Farm honey dressing on the grape and almond salad. Deeeelish. Warre's Tawny, a staff favorite, was a bit too big and powerful for Course 3 and we were all proud to say Barbeito finally made an appearance for a suggested pairing.
Th-th-th-that's all, folks, until next Monday. Tune in and see what those loony sous do next!