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Category Archives: Chef’s Tasting

Oh, You Fancy, Huh? : Birthday Edition

I’ve finally awakened from my food coma so that I can recap the amazing dinner I had this past weekend at Zahav’s chef’s counter; a must-try culinary experience of 10-12 courses crafted by Chef Michael Solomonov himself. Here are the rules: The chef’s tasting is only offered on Friday & Saturday nights, there’s only one seating at 7:30 PM, and there’s only 4 seats available; you must purchase 2 seats at least a month in advance (It’s only $90/pp & they go like hot latkes!). You can also opt for a $50/pp beverage pairing when you arrive. DO THE BEVERAGE PAIRING! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

I apologize in advance for the lack of details on some of the dishes, as there was no written menu. But just sit back, relax & enjoy the food porn!

Course 1: Potato Chip starter, topped with chives & bottarga

Course 2: Zahav’s infamously delicious hummus, served with fluffy pita bread, lamb’s tongue & pickles

Course 3: Dried figs topped with feta

Course 4: Beet “tartare” with an Avocado crema & Salmon roe (I know lots of people are not keen on beets, but this was tasty & creative!)

Course 5: Lentil Soup with Bone marrow & Challah (This was featured on Zahav’s Instagram page earlier in the day before our dinner, so I was super psyched!)

Course 6: Lamb crudo with Eggplant & fried artichokes (One of our favorites of the night)

Course 7: Sage & brown butter “dumpling”

Course 8: Branzino sashimi with baba ganoush (Our least favorite dish of the night; it was incredibly salty.)

Course 9: The Entree – Short rib with brussel sprouts, radishes & carrots (The short rib cut like butter!)

Course 10: Dessert #1 – Poached apple & Quince

Course 11: Dessert #2 – Dates & Turkish coffee crema

The whole entire dining experience was amazing, start to finish. Chef Solomonov even came out halfway through service to check in on us and see how we were doing. I’m glad to finally add myself to the list of people who have lived through the Chef’s Counter and can now brag/rave about it to everyone else I know! Since there isn’t a pre-set menu, they do ask you in advance if you have any allergies or dietary restrictions. They also ask if you are down to eat anything; just say yes – don’t be a baby about it! I highly recommend it for your next big special occasion – or if you just feel like having a fancy, adventurous dinner. Just dress comfortably, reserve all  your daily calories and prepare to have one of the best meals of your life.

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Oh, You Fancy, Huh? (Philly Edition)

A friend and I went out to celebrate my very belated birthday with dinner this weekend and found ourselves at Rittenhouse Tavern, which is very much un-tavern-like and very underrated. It’s located inside the Philadelphia Art Alliance building, so if you blink you’ll miss it if you’re walking down the street. I joked that I was going to get the burger (a special LaFrieda dry-aged blend, topped with Ed’s special sauce and sharp provolone on a brioche roll), but since my friend knew the chef (the very talented Nick Elmi), we got a little bit of VIP service.

Chef Elmi put together an amazing tasting  featuring a few of their menu items, as well as some special treats (like a rosemary smoked marshmallow for the dessert course!). I didn’t want to take pictures of everything and distract my dining companion or the other patrons since the lighting was pretty low, but once the table next to us cleared, I was able to capture some of my favorite dishes from the tasting.

Amuse Bouche: Truffled jelly-crema duck egg.  It was rich with truffle flavor, great texture, and it came in an adorable, hollowed out egg! This was sinfully delicious and produced the quote of the evening: “I’m a slut for truffles.”

Main course: Sweetbreads – It was my first time having sweetbreads so I didn’t have anything to compare them to. But they were amazing, beautifully plated (accented with cute little flowers!) and delicious; buttery smooth. They are not currently on the menu but hopefully the Chef will bring them back soon!

Dessert: Panna cotta – OMFG. This was ridiculous. So rich and velvety. I wanted to basically stick my face in the cup and lick it clean. That’s how much I loved it.

There was also a chocolate marbled foie gras that was part of the terrine plate that was out of this world. (Who would have thought that foie and chocolate pair so well together?) A veal and shrimp ceviche -part of the amuse bouche – brought back memories of my ex-bf’s love of fried veal cutlets, but this dish was certainly above his “refined” culinary palate. A chilled soup with salmon roe was tasty, but not really my cup of tea. (Although the roe was much on par with roe I’ve had in Japan and far less salty than the kind they use in local sushi joints.)

In a city rife with top chefs and award winning restaurants, Rittenhouse Tavern is definitely an overlooked gem. Why they didn’t make any “Best Of” lists was something we spent a good while speculating over in between courses (money and favoritism being some pretty obvious factors), but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for an amazing tasting menu experience. Every dish was elegantly prepared and wonderfully delicious.

Five courses will run you $60/pp, with an additional $40 wine pairing option.

Oh, you fancy huh?

Now that I have awakened from my Seattle/PDX food coma, the time has come to share all the delicious bites with you in various installments. I figure I’ll get the biggest and best part of the trip out of the way: a seven-course tasting menu that we enjoyed at Le Pigeon in Portland. (We originally went in foolishly thinking we would only do the five-course tasting, but the motto of this trip was go big or go home, so we went for the full seven.) Manned by James Beard award winning chef, Gabriel Rucker, this bistro requires reservations made well in advance for table seating, but also boasts a chef’s counter for walk-ins – if you’re lucky enough to snag one. The menu changes weekly, but also features a lot of dishes that are in regular rotation like Beef Cheek Bourguignon and their signature Pigeon with liver toast, grapes and white anchovies.

I apologize in advance for the low quality of some of the pictures; we didn’t want to distract from the other patrons around us with flashes and crazy camera angles.

Course 1: course one: rabbit & eel terrine (peaches, avocado, foie-miso vinaigrette)

Course 2: course two: pork tongue (refried lentils, poblano cream, radish)

Course 3: course three: pigeon (liver toast, grapes, white anchovies)

Course 4: course four: sturgeon au poive (bacon, roasted cipollini, dates, port mustard)

Course 5: course five: beef cheek bourguignon
(atop some kind of mashed potato thing with a side of cold roasted potatoes dusted in rosemary & thyme)
Course 6: course six: lou bergier pichin toma (raw cow’s milk) (blackberry scone, cardamom, creme fraiche)

 Final course: Dessert! – foie gras profiteroles (caramel sauce, sea salt) & honey, bacon, apricot cornbread (maple ice cream)
[Thank you, Oregon for not banning Foie! This was out of this world!]

I paired my dinner with a Riesling flight from one of the Willamette Valley’s oldest vineyards, Brooks, featuring an ’07, ’08 and an ’09, as well as a Pinot & Auxerrois Blanc from the Walter Scott vineyard. I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but they were all beautiful and crisp. Plus, they were local! (I was afraid the Portlandia Gods would shame me for not doing the whole local/organic thing)

Le Pigeon was well worth the trip, and the tasting menu price tag was nearly half of anything you would get here on the East Coast and just as beautiful and well-conceived. I would go back in a heartbeat! Definitely make it a priority if you’re planning a trip to the PDX.
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