Well this is kind of embarrassing, but here I am. Politics still driving me crazy, but one must eat, after all.
Food. Of course I have been eating all through this ordeal (though there have been a few moments when I actually lost my appetite.) Some highlights really stand out.
Started with 3 oysters on the half shell for the oyster eaters, with citrus mignonette and tiny julienne radish and candied tangerine peel. (I had the green salad with fines herbes and cabernet vinaigrette.)
Cobia carpaccio with Thai peppercorns on a small heap of shredded cabbage with rice vinegar and sugar.
Oysters poached in olive oil with picholine olive tapenade, garlic, and shaved fennel with a crisp toast. (I had a poached egg yolk and rapini, poached garlic and olive oil.)
Gulf hopper shrimp sautéed in their shells in smoked paprika oil with green garlic and preserved lemon.
Carrot soup with curry scented crème fraîche.
Chevre agnolotti with roasted beets and a beet reduction.
Octopus in casuela with chick peas and chorizo (I had risotto with cabrales and apple.)
Roasted grouper in Benton bacon on lentil du puys with sauce Robert
Beef on pomme de terre puree (I had wild mushrooms, sautéed.)
Cheese – Rocastin (French sheeps milk cheese), pecorino noce, sweet grass dairy Georgia gouda, sweet grass dairy ripe goat with vegetable ash, Epoisses, cabrales, candied pecans, quince paste, apples, sherry soaked golden raisins.
Butterscotch crème brulée with pecan sandies; olive oil cake with chocolate sorbet and bitter orange sauce; crepes with almond mousse and strawberries; some kind of chocolate pave with tangerine sorbet.
Oh my God it was good!
Two great side benefits of that Florida trip – cooking with Dave which is always the most fun, even in my tiny Apalach kitchen and Dave going out with David Carrier to meet his seafood suppliers and arranging to get FRESH GULF OYSTERS, SHRIMP AND GROUPER OVERNIGHTED TO BLOOMINGTON!!! As a direct result we had fried grouper cheeks and chips with a smoked paprika remoulade one night at Restaurant Tallent and I can’t even tell you how good that was!! One of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
Another highlight of the last weeks (months?) has been a couple of wonderful meals at FARMbloomington. One was breakfast – amazing biscuits and gravy even I can get excited about (that's them in the picture above.)
Now, remember, here in Indiana, “biscuits and gravy” usually refers to a white sludgy flour concoction full of sausage and tasting strongly of black pepper, slathered over biscuits. I am not saying it doesn’t hit the spot every once in a while, but mostly that’s because it’s one of those white comfort foods that kind of puts you into a refined starch coma.
But the biscuits and gravy at FARMbloomington are eye-opening. First the biscuits are really something – flakey and rich and wonderful. But it’s the gravy that really turned me on – it’s actually light and flavorful, full of red and green peppers and chunks of kielbasa. A vibrant (and much healthier) cousin to the usual Hoosier fare.
And then there was dinner. I was invited to a departmental dinner there recently (old I.U. colleagues) that had every single one of us doing back flips.
We started with a couple of “welcomes from the chef” – a salmon tartare that was herby and spicy and just superlative (I have had these excellent raw fish preps from Daniel Orr before and they are always knockouts) and a wild rice pancake with goat cheese that I’d have been content to have as an entrée.
For a first course I had the tuna ceviche in white balsamic and coconut water – more raw fish wonder, this one crunchy with bits of coconut (tiny chunks, not shreds) – just super. Jer had the butternut squash banana bisque that is becoming legendary around here – it was garnished with crab meat and fruity chiles. Elsewhere around the table, out of reach of my questing fork, were Caribbean prawns on a bed of tropical slaw and soup made from house-corned beef. I did snag a bite of pizza with shitake mushrooms, ricotta and truffle oil, which I have had before, and which I love.
My main dish was the best thing I think I’ve ever had at FARM: a vegetable plate with spinach and basil risotto in the middle, butternut squash with blue cheese and hazelnuts, grilled veggie and mushroom ragout, tofu with curry and sesame, fried leeks, mixed grain pilaf, and broccolini in garlic oil. Every component was perfect and an adventure to boot. (And, just because I love them, I had a side of Daniel’s fries, covered with chiles and cheese.)
Jer had duck in a barbeque sauce on a bed of warm potato salad, which he said was great, and others had the tandoori salmon, the skirt steak and frites, and the chicken with black vinegar and chile paste.
We managed dessert – barely. Jer and I split a berry tart full of lemony pastry cream.
And while I am on a FARM roll, I should mention a recent meeting with farmer friends that ended up being a bar snack feast – soup (tomato), edamame with dipping salt, fries (natch), pizza, white bean hummus, and I can’t even remember what else, but really, really good stuff!
Lots of other good stuff going on here (foodwise) but tons of deadlines and the relentless beat of the primaries. I will post again soon.