Even though my friends took better pictures, gave thorough course by course descriptions, and already revealed the biggest surprises from our recent visit to Solace and The Moonlight Lounge. I still wanted to write about a few of the reasons that made this one so memorable for me personally.
For starters, we were given the story behind each dish. Take for instance the Sea and Smoke inspired by Chef Gordon’s high school track days when he and fellow pole-vaulters would head to the nearest convenience to make their own post-meet canapes. Now I like smoked oysters, mayo, and wheat thins as much as the next guy, but I’ll give the nod to this slightly more refined version with duck fat clam dip, lemon shallot chutney, and squid ink crisps alongside.
There were also a few ingredients, or rather forms of those ingredients, that I haven’t seen before – like chive crusted bone marrow in the Offally Interesting. I’ve had the traditional fat-jelly scooped from the bone, or crusted atop a steak, but these airy crisps of chive flavored marrow were completely new and my favorite by far. Confit sweetbreads, white onion-gruyere purée, and a consommé presented table-side completed this take on French Onion soup..a really, really, rich take that I hope I’ll see again.
Chef Gordon wasn’t the only one responsible for the evening’s menu. Sous Chef Billy Gieger came out to introduce his Curds and Whey which gave new meaning to “using the whole cow.” Gieger made a caramelized reduction from the whey left over from the housemade ricotta roulade. Then paired it with a cayenne candied kombocha Squash, honey jelly, and vegetarian osteria on top…or diced olives if you’re boring. This is how to do a composed cheese course.
Yes this really happened, Uni-Laterally Banned. It would have been easy to rely uni and foie alone, but the shrimp corn fritter highlighted the sweetness from the two star players and took this one from being simply decadent to complimentary and composed.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the pairings from the other half of the Solace empire, beverage director Young-Mi Gordon. I only heard praise from a group notorious for bringing (and spilling) their own wine. My wine palate is amateur at best, but I did particularly like the Alameda Cream Sherry which was paired with the first dessert course, the Popper Bonilla
..as in surprise guest pasty wiz Jeff Bonilla. The only guy I absolutely trust to make a cauliflower pot de creme with brown butter cake, jalapeno caviar, whipped vanilla bean, bacon dust and a cheddar crisp taste amazing. The sweetness of the browned butter cake cut by the gelled jalapeno spice, texture and salinity from the cheddar crisp to contrast the rich custard base. The ingredient list may appear busy, but the overall dish was focused and delicious.
It would be hard for me to do anything but commend such a generous and thoughtful menu, and that’s all I plan to do. I only hope the Solace team had half as much fun putting it together as our party did tasting it, and that maybe, just maybe we’ll see something like it again.