Dawn and I are quite the high-class people these days… or, more like, Dawn is… and I’m just that guy who is often seen with Dawn. If not for her, I wouldn’t go anywhere fancy or eat anything nice. I’d be stuck in a rut of hamburgers and hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese and pizza… mmm… hungry now…
When Dawn heard about this thing called the “Tuesday Tasting Menu” at Nightbell, she was all about it. She looked it up on line, read the reviews and such, and told me that she wanted to go to one. I was like, “Sure! I’ll do that!” Actually, I probably said “I do that,” because that’s the way I talk half the fucking time now. Like an idiot. Constantly making fun of teen-speak has resulted in the unfortunate reality that I now talk like that even when I’m not intending to. Soops annoying.
Okay, so Dawn talks to our friend Anita — who just happens to be the Assistant Manager over at Curaté — about joining us, and even though it was a little late in the game, Anita managed to squeeeeze us into one of the last Tuesday Tastings of 2014! Whoop whoop! Sorry to our good friends Kelly and Henco Billy, who got squeeeezed out of the mix due to a shortage of seating. :( We should have planned this thing well in advance, which is my advice to you all for the future: When the tasting season starts up again in 2015, be sure to book your rez well ahead of time, especially if your party consists of 3 or more people.
Here’s the menu for the night we were there…
This was, like, a tiny starter cocktail that they called “snow.” It was exactly the consistency of a very light fluffy little ball of actual snow. From the sky. It had gin and lemon zest, and other stuff I think, and was light and bright and tart and refreshing. Even though I don’t drink alcohol, I ate my wee snow ball because it only contained a miniscule amount of booze. It’s copious amounts of booze that I avoid.
We each got two crispy blue prawn heads on a dollop of remoulade sauce as an amuse bouche. This might have been my fave part of the meal. The flavor was incredible. If you’ve ever sucked out the head of a crawfish, it was like that, only about 1,000 times better, because the idea here is to eat the whole thing like a soft shell crab. Holy shit. I friggin’ loved these. I could have eaten a bucket of them.
This picture does ZERO justice to the potato leak soup, which was fan-fucking tastic. Our server, Lisa Marie (who rules), brought out a wee bowl that had the clams, pancetta crumble, and parsley puree in the bottom, and then she poured the hot leaky-potato goodness on top. I shot a video, but it’s as crappy as the pictures. The flavor, temperature, and consistency of this soup were all excellent. Yom. Soup.
This was a contender for my fave dish of the night. The tails of those blue prawns we ate the heads of earlier were cooked to perfection and served with parsley leaves, parsley puree, and a sauteed mushroom side that was very savory and earthy and comforting. The whole meal had a comforting, autumnal quality to it. Blue prawn taste sweet, like lobster, to me, and these were beautiful, served warm, they went just exactly right with the fresh, familiar flavor of the parsley. I friggin’ loved this dish.
This is roasted cauliflower with curry and raisins and such. It was really great, but was definitely the least favorite thing among us. Which is kind of like saying that one puppy in a litter is the least cute. They’s all cute! It’s just, y’know, one has to be least cute. The cauliflower was the least cute puppy.
Dawn and Anita made me take a picture of this drink. I don’t remember why. A big part of these tastings is the “wine pairing” and “cocktail tasting” aspects, which I did not partake in. Dawn got the wine and Anita got the cocktails and they shared. They both more or less oooh’d and ahhh’d over 90% of the drinks that came out from behind the bar. I thought the Bartender had a very soothing voice and pleasant manner that made me wish he would describe each drink forever. I smelled the drinks, like I do, and they smelled fucking awesome! They have “mocktails” at Nightbell, and I really wanted one, but some part deep down inside of me thinks that it’s just a royal pain in the ass for a bartender to make me my special virgin drinks, so I stuck with water and coffee. Next time, for sure!
This is duck, with braised endive, pickled cherries, and stuff. I love braised endive. It’s one of my favorite vegetable preparations. I’ve even made it at home and it comes out great. This braised endive was excellent, and I loved it! It was tender and succulent, and went well with the duck which was prepared very nicely, so that it was likewise tender and juicy, without coming anywhere near being “greasy,” the way that people often describe duck. I have to admit that I do find the layer of fat on duck to be a little hard to take after a while and I left a teeny tiny piece of it on my plate. That was literally the only morsel of food that went back to the kitchen from me that night. If chef Katie Button had a dog that lived on scraps, it would starve to death. The entire meal was stupendous, from start to finish, and we ate every ort. Then out came dessert… holyyyy…
Dessert was in-fucking-credible. Just LOOK at this masterpiece… Do you see that little green curly-Q thingy-ma-bob? It was edible, and made of pine needle squeezin’s or some such! It tasted fucking great. The sorbet was toasted coconut, which is one of my all-time fave frozen-treat flavors, and it had a bunch of awesome crumblies underneath it. The truffle was completely amaze-balls. The top was a hard, sugary crust, and underneath was a small, rectangular… dream. That’s what this dish was. A dream. The pomegranate gumdrops were, like, “whoa.”
I’ve been known to say that the pastry chef at Nightbell — Chef Carmen Vaquera — is second only to Chef Karen Donatelli in this town as top pastry chef, but after eating this thing, I had to rethink my thoughts.
Here are my new new thoughts: Chef Karen and Chef Carmen are like Wonder Woman and Super Girl. They are both so awesome, it’s literally impossible to say which is more awesome. In a crazy universe where they might have to fight each other, I’m not sure who would win.
Wonder Woman has got a lot of experience, but Super Girl is part of that whole “Super” family, which is pretty hard to beat, although, technically Diana is a God, so that’s gotta count for something… Then there’s that invisible airplane. What? Oh yeah… Nightbell… It fucking rules.
If you haven’t been there yet, go do that as soon as you can. Chef Katie Button has never once served me a bite of food that wasn’t fantastically delicious. True story. You’re probably S.O.L. when it comes to the Tuesday Tastings until next year, but I’m pretty sure I heard more than one person say they were going to add the blue prawn heads and tails to the regular menu soon, so, yeah, get that.
In the meantime, here’s two minutes and nineteen seconds of this guy…