June 19, 2008

12 Courses @ WD-50

1st Course – Fluke, kaffir lime, peach, black vinegar; Cava Reserva ‘Rosat’ Avinyo NV (Pendes, Spain)

One of the first things that struck me with this course was the lack of anything that could be called black vinegar. There were very dark crumbs on the plate but I couldn’t see how they’d equate. Of course, it was Mr. Dufresne’s first trick of the night - vinegar is baked into a cake recipe, dehydrated and crumbled. To be completely honest, I don’t remember recognizing the flavor of the vinegar but that may have been because I was so in love with the tiny squares of glazy peach topping the fluke bathing in lime. Maybe I can chalk that up to the strength of my cocktail. I liked the dish as a starter for both its textural qualities and its overall subtlety.

2nd Course – Pizza pebbles, pepperoni, shitake; Cava Reserva ‘Rosat’ Avinyo NV (Pendes, Spain)

Imagine a pizza Combo. Now imagine it dolled up for a black tie event and you’ve got Mr. Dufresne’s pizza pebbles. Small, baked tomato-and-Italian-seasoned balls of dough accompanied by thin, dehydrated slices of shitakes and oregano, all sitting atop a pepperoni infused cream sauce. The sweet flavor of the dough balls was offset nicely by both the spice and saltiness of the sauce but their texture was a little off-putting; as I chewed them, they disintegrated and clung to my teeth much like the inside of a Whopper.

3rd Course – Knot foie; Tedorigawa Arabashiri ‘Rippling Stream’ (Ishikawa-Prefecture, Japan)

Ah, the wonders of chemistry. While Mr. Dufresne’s fried mayonnaise no longer graces his tasting menu, this course certainly shows off the chef’s penchant for gelatin and making substances do what they can’t do naturally. Like tying a “rope” of foie gras into a knot, for instance. After pureeing the pate and mixing it with some type of binding agent (gelatin or otherwise), it’s pushed through a piping bag and cooled until it becomes malleable. It’s then knotted and brought back to room temperature. The tube of foie gras is then coated with rice cracker crumbs which add a light crunchiness to the plate but, in combination with the sake, gave me an almost popcorn flavor I didn’t think worked well with the plate; Mary Beth didn’t agree and absolutely loved the dish.

4th Course – Hamachi tartar, wakame, sake lees tahini, grapefruit-shallot; Chardonnay Cotes du Jura “Les Chalasses’ Gavenat 2004 (Jura, France)

Jake warned us that the hamachi would have a gamey/fishy flavor and he was right. It wasn’t overpowering but it was noticeable. The wine pairing, however, did wonders to balance the flavor.

5th Course – Eggs benedict; Pinot Noir O’Reilly’s 2007 (Willamette, Oregon)

We’d heard a lot about this course during the recent Top Chef episode where Wylie sat in as the guest judge and, being huge fans and ardent critics of the dish, we were excited to experience Mr. Dufresne’s imaginative take on this classic brunch fare. We were not disappointed. All of the classic elements were there – Canadian Bacon, hollandaise, egg, English muffin – just not the way they’re usually plated. The hollandaise sauce was (you guessed it) mixed with some sort of binding agent, rolled into balls, breaded in crumbled English muffins and deep fried. The egg got a more “traditional” treatment, at least in the sense that it was poached. The yolk was positioned by itself opposite the ball of Hollandaise in a squat little cylinder. As for the Canadian bacon, there was nothing particularly bizarre about it but the super thin slice was as crispy as regular bacon.

6th Course – Crab tail, soybean noodles, cinnamon dashi; Pinot Noir O’Reilly’s 2007 (Willamette, Oregon)

The cinnamon in this dish was borderline over-powering and definitely strange but overall, I liked both the flavor and the heat it added to the dish. Otherwise, I wasn’t overly wowed by this bowl of wontons and broth but I think that was due to the sheer number of plates (and glasses of wine) we’d seen up until this point.

7th Course – Chicken liver spaetzle, pine needle, radish, cocoa nib; Grenache ‘Old Vines’ Tir Na N’Og 2005 (McLaren Vale, Australia)

Mary Beth felt the liver was too overpowering but I thought the flavor was balanced well with the greens and pine. Still, it was a strong dish and I could see where, 7 courses in, MB thought it was tres fort.

8th Course – Beef tongue, cherry-miso, fried quinoa, palm seeds; Grenache ‘Old Vines’ Tir Na N’Og 2005 (McLaren Vale, Australia)

This was the last dish I remember in its entirety. Based on the almost veal-like texture of the beef tongue, I can only imagine it was tenderized in some sort of acid bath for hours, then cooked and cut into long ribbons with a deli slicer. The meat was plated over a swipe of sweet cherry-miso sauce and paired with a crunchy quinoa and palm seed “cracker.”

9th Course – Yogurt, olive oil jam, rhubarb

10th Course – Jasmine custard, black tea banana; Riesling Eiswein ‘Mainzer Godmerr’ Rudolf Muller 2004 (Rheinhessen, Germany)

11th Course – Toasted coconut cake, carob, smoked cashew, brown butter sorbet; Cerdon du Bugey ‘ Methode Ancestrale’ Renardat-Farche NV (Bugey, France)

12th Course – Yuzu ice cream-marcona almond


Anonymous said...

What, no tasting notes for the wines?

Alan Maginn said...

I have some notes from the wines but i gave up on them even faster than the food. There was simply too much to cover in such a short span of time. I'll get it yet, though.