October 16, 2009
Wednesday night is usually when CF and I watch Top Chef on Bravo. We collect the cats and then delight in the hardships faced by this collection of rag-tag misfits.
Well, they’re really not rag-tag or misfits for the most part. Many of the chefs on the show are actually owners of their own restaurants or head chefs at various venues around the world.
This knowledge made is so fun when we made a departure from the rote Wednesday festivities to dine on a tasting menu at – coincidentally – Tastings at Patriot Place in Foxboro, MA.
Full disclosure requires that we didn’t have to pay for our food and that we were guests of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the restaurant.
But that disclosure doesn’t mean we have to whale upon the food. It was 92% fantastic. Four courses of dishes made with coffee ingredients or techniques made me wonder why I don’t eat like that every night.
The only failure – I felt – was the dessert. It was nice to look at but didn’t make me want to ever order it again. That’s part of my criteria for doing food reviews. If a meal is something I’d clamor for, then it makes the cut.
But the way, the next morning I wondered why in the world I wasn’t jacked up on the caffeine. I may send a note to Green Mountain to see if the coffee used was decaf or if the chef used such a small amount that it didn’t affect me.
That’s neither here nor there. Here’s how I detailed the dishes on a review blog I write for…
Let’s eat…menu was created by executive chef Richard Garcia
Course 1 – Live Sea Urchin Cappucino
Served in its shell, the sea urchin was pureed and infused with parsnip and vanilla. I gobbled it up. There was coffee used in the puree.
What I tasted most was a spicy, velvety and fresh dish that had just a hint of coffee and a hint of the vanilla. I remember trying urchin as nigiri at various Asian restaurants and this dish had none of the bitterness that sometimes accompanies urchin.
The wine was a Hamilton Russell Chardonnay that brought out the vanilla more after I had a sip.
Course 2 – Coffee Cured Hamachi
Served on a plate with a vanilla citrette, this dish was by far my favorite. I could have eaten this all night. The subtle citrette and the texture of the fish was perfect.
I’ve had sashimi right off a fishing boat in Hawaii and this was as good. Delicate, tasty and outstanding.
There was just a breath of coffee essence on the hamachi and it was decorated/garnished with a few nuts and leaves. The photos I took don’t do it justice.
The wine for the hamachi was a Georg Albrecht Schneider Spatlese Riesling. I found it just sweet enough to offset the citrette.
Course 3 – Duck Two Ways – Coffee Smoked Lola Duck Breast; and Lola Duck Confit
The duck was excellent. I’m not sure I would be able to survive if I had to dine regularly on the portions we enjoyed…but it was a tasting menu. But I digress.
The duck breast was perfectly seasoned with French roast duck jus and was set in a Rhode Island turnip puree.
The puree tasted light and airy and the duck was perfectly cooked. *I was one of the only people at the table who preferred the breast to the confit.
The confit was two pieces of duck that could have passed for mini filets. They were also set in the French roast duck jus.
Course 4 – Coffee & Cardamom Infused Dates
Ergh. The chef admitted that the dessert was thrown together and it played that way. The dates were done perfectly, but the yogurt & coffee fluid gel remained on everyone’s plate – including mine. It was like a bad Knox blox that tasted like coffee. A mousse of some sort could have been created as easily and would have been a better feel in the mouth.
This was paired with Barros “La Grima” White Port. I don’t know enough about port to know if this was good. It was definitely sweet and had a gentle burn at the end. I’m not positive that it paired correctly with the gel, but as I admitted, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this course.
Finally, we had a post-meal coffee cupping and got to compare Kenyan and Sumatran coffee from Green Mountain. I can say I’ve never tasted coffee in this manner. Usually I just sweeten it up and load it with cream. This time I took the time to let it roll over my tongue like wine and I noticed flavors that have been absent in my coffee-drinking life.
This wasn’t something I’d attribute solely to the Green Mountain brand, but was pleased to now have a new technique in my arsenal when trying different blends.
What’s the verdict? Well, wow. I was surprised that you could put coffee into so many dishes. I was also surprised by what I learned about Fair Trade items. *Tastings tries to use as many FT products as possible, including vanilla and coffee.
So, I’m still a bit puzzled over the lack of buzz from the coffee, but I’m definitely pleased with Tastings, the meal and the way coffee flavor made the whole meal unique.
More to come…