Saturday, April 3, 2010
A Rare Night Out
Last night was Friday. I had plans, small ones. Catch up on email, walk the dog, clean the kitchen, and spend a good long time with my book. I was only on the first step when I heard a strange noise--the rattle of the lock on the front door.
Miss Chef stepped in as I got up to say "hi." We looked at each other a few seconds, and she said, "I love that look on your face." Obviously, I couldn't see it, so can't describe it to you, but I was definitely perplexed, a little worried, surprised and delighted! Imagine that on a face, if you will.
It turns out there were hardly any reservations on the books that night, and the whole weekend is looking to be slow. When Chef Adam decided he only needed one other person with him in the kitchen that night, Miss Chef pulled rank on Mike, the pantry cook: "I worked Christmas Eve, so..."
So...here she was! And, as ever when she has a surprise night off, she wanted to visit one of our favorite restaurants: Passion8. I've written about this place before; we went there for our early Valentine's dinner last year. They have exactly the same schedule as Miss Chef's restaurant, so we've rarely had the chance to eat there, but each visit has been remarkable.
This meal was destined to be a little different, though. You see, the owners--Chef Luca and his wife Jessica--are, well, passionate about supporting local farmers. So Miss Chef has run into him several times at the famers' market and even at Bosky Acres (they brought their staff out to visit the farm on one of her work days...all the strands of her patchwork career are starting to meet up!). In addition, Miss Chef had to turn down a caller to the restaurant who wanted to make a reservation when they were going to be closed--but she knew Passion8 was going to be open, so she sent the caller there. Jessica was apparently quite effusive in her thanks.
As a result, we got extra-special treatment last night. As I told Miss Chef, it's finally paying off to be hooked up with a chef! We were warmly welcomed, seated at a great corner table, and were warned that a few extra treats might show up on it.
That did not stop us from ordering well...though we opted to split a single appetizer. Which we probably would have done anyway, for we ordered the foie gras trio. Some was brûléed, some was seared, some was in a fried won-ton. Yes, a won-ton. Chef Luca and Josh, his sous-chef, are eternally creative. Anyway, the foie gras was as foie gras is wont to be: unbelievably rich. Variously served with sauces like sweet/tart lingonberry, or dressed with microgreens, it was almost enough to call a meal.
Aha, but we knew there was more to come. We had ordered the duck breast--served with bok choy, a red lentil croquette and licorice sauce--and pork loin injected with 12-year old balsamic. It took a while to get them, though. For first we were presented with a small cheese plate, courtesy of the kitchen. Soft gorgonzola with orange marmalade, firm pecorino with sun-dried tomato sauce, and a stinky-socks fontina with honey.
I hereby reaffirm my inexplicable attraction to stinky-sock cheeses. Though they were all delicious, the fontina was my favorite by far.
Well, we were feeling nicely sated by now, hoping to have enough room for our main courses, but Chef Luca wasn't done with us yet! Next to be placed in front of us were small portions of a dish we'd both been eyeing on the menu--handmade pasta with proscuitto, fava beans and porcini mushrooms. The pasta was perfection, cooked just right, with a heavy, thick chewiness that forced you to actually taste it, rather than use it as a ride for the other ingredients. I love pasta like that.
At that point, we were finally rewarded with our entrées, which were equally delicious. As always, we had to swap bites of everything. The injected pork was incredibly flavorful, and the duck was...well, I love duck, and I was not disappointed--though I was full enough to leave a bit for a small take-home box.
We were not surprised to find small dessert spoons of tiramisu delivered to our table next...complete with chef & sous-chef in tow. Josh introduced himself and quickly retreated, but Luca stayed for a while to quiz Miss Chef on the cooking demonstrations at the Matthews Farmers' Market. He's doing the demo opening week, and was eager for details of what was provided, how much to prepare, etc. We were both more than happy to supply him with all the information we had. It was small repayment for what we had just enjoyed.
A spoonful of tiramisu was the perfect portion after our generous meal. We sat for a while, chatting, even after we'd paid, and eventually Jessica came by to see how we'd enjoyed our meal. Our conversation quickly moved beyond our dinner to local food, whole food, slow food... Jessica's a fervent supporter of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Neither one of us had heard of it, since we don't watch tv anymore, but it sounds like something we'll have to look into. We had quite a long chat with Jessica, to the point that the staff was sitting at the bar, waiting for one other late table to finish.
I don't remember what time it was when we finally hauled ourselves out the door of the restaurant--I think I remember Miss Chef saying something about 11:00. That may not sound impressive to most people, but since I spend most of my Friday nights at home, catching up on my blog and the dishes, this was quite an adventure!
Before we left, Jessica made sure to get Miss Chef's phone number...and she somehow ended up with my blog address. So it's a little weird writing a review of her restaurant, knowing she might be by here soon (hi there..), but what the hey? This is my journal, that was my night, and it was definitely worth remembering!