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Gourmet Restaurant Tasting Menus - Are you going to eat that?

posted by janice on Monday May 13th 10:41pm

I tire of eating with children. They complain about the food, refuse to try anything new and dine and dash without really appreciating the dining experience.


On Mother's Day my request was granted that I should get go to a grown up restaurant on a "date" with my wonderful husband Ben, where  I would find myself doing all three of the childish behaviors I detest.


Ben and I were very excited, he had made reservations for the Saturday before Mother's Day at Suzanne's in Lodi, which is a very grown up place. They serve gourmet food in a beautiful location, and they have gotten some excellent reviews from prestigious places.


The menu was as follows:

First Course -Three-Cheese Souffle Gruyere, Chevre and Blue Cheese Souffle with Mache and Fig Sauce


Second Course-Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup with Poached Lobster, Braised Leeks and Brioche Croutons


Third Course- Day Boat Scallop with  Sweet Onion Puree, Mushrooms, Peas and a Bacon-Infused Maple Foam


Fourth Course -Jurgielewicz Duck Breast With Baked Polenta, Sugar Snap Peas and Michigan-Dried Cherry Red Wine Sauce


Fifth Course -S'Mores Tower, Graham Cracker Crust, Dark Chocolate Mousse and Toasted Homemade Marshmallow, Finished with Candied Walnuts and Cinnamon Ice Cream


Naturally, I starved all day in preparation for the five course meal we planned on eating in the early evening so that we could be back home at a reasonable hour. I had worked hard on my garden all day until that afternoon when I showered and began to plan how I would indulge my farmhand-size appetite on this fabulous meal. Ben was hungry too.


But I hadn't been out to a restaurant for a while and didn't realize that the title of the menu "Tastings" was more than accurate, and all we would be getting that evening. This is a fairly new concept and we had not yet had this dining experience.Wikipedia says "Restaurant tasting menus offer small portions of several dishes as a single meal." We hadn't checked Wikipedia before going.


After we were seated our waitress brought a "present" from Suzanne over to our table. Oooh an extra we thought. Wonderful! It was a delicious little brioche topped with a sharp cheese and homemade strawberry preserves. Now we were really getting our appetites revved for what was to come.


She came back some time later and asked in a tone that reminded me of myself back when we were trying to get our kids to try broccoli, "So did you like it?" Yes! we said. Ben added "I could eat a whole plate of these."


After another 20 minutes our first course arrived, Three-Cheese Souffle Gruyere, Chevre and Blue Cheese Souffle with Mache and Fig Sauce. Ben and I looked at the beautifully, nay artfully arranged plates. A golf ball sized souffle with six, maybe there were seven (odd numbers make for better design) clover size leaflets of Mache, a French lettuce, and a dime size swirl of fig sauce.  We woofed it down. It's hard not to when you’re this hungry and things taste so good. But I thought, we are failing to appreciate the complex flavors and time and thought that had gone into these precious offerings.


The second course came after another 20 minutes. Two bowls were placed in front of us. In the bottom there was a piece of lobster and some, oh so crispy, bread crumbs. Our waitress made a wonderful show of pouring the orange carrot soup over the lobster. Fancy to be sure, and useful to prove that there actually was lobster in the soup. It was gone in seconds flat. We were beginning to get the idea.


We should have savored it. We should have relished and experienced it (I would not be making this at home.) But in our condition we could not make these little servings last the 20-30 minutes between each course. Soon we found ourselves struggling to make conversation as our minds inevitably drifted to our stomachs, and the unlikeliness that they would be filled by what was to come.


We referred to the menu: Day Boat Scallop. Scallop. Right singular. Damn. It came. It was good. It was alone.


Each time the waitress would return like a needy child asking for praise "So did you like that?" And we would reply "Well. its gone isn't it?"  - Not very grownup. She must have noticed. She began to improvise, and we were given a roll.


Ah well, the main course was next - Roasted Breast of Duck. I had just caught the waitress telling me when we ordered that the chef prepared the duck medium-well. When it she placed the next over-sized plate in front of us, I fully conceptualized what this meant - under-cooked poultry. Umm Okay, I guess, if you think it's alright. There's not a lot of it there anyway. You would probably have to eat more than 3 little strips to get sick, right? I tried to eat it without making a face. Once again I liked it, but this time I was glad there wasn't more of it and I took my time and tried to make the 5 sugar snap peas, and Laughing Cow size wedge of polenta last.


Desert was still to come. Where would we put it? We started to dream of calories. The person who named the S'Mores Tower was someone with a really sick sense of humor. The movie Oliver came to mind. "Please Sir, may I have some more?" Another golf ball sized disc with homemade I guess marshmallow atop a creamy, dreamy chocolate mousse. The cinnamon ice cream served with it was, I swear, a half teaspoonful size serving in a little ball next to the s'more. Where did they get the little tiny ice cream scoops from? Not to mention the tiny souffle dishes. Wait, is this all about the fancy dishes? we wondered.


We were starting to get rather punchy, and whispering about the tiny servings when the waitress wasn’t around. We glanced at the other very serious customers wondering if they could hear us. Ben had left some of the S’more crumbs on his plate and I asked “Are you going to eat that?”


I was very glad I ordered coffee. It came with real cream and raw sugar. I don't usually use cream or sugar, but this evening I poured huge amounts of both in the cup. “Latte!” I declared.


Back came our waitress with one last "present" from Suzanne. Awesome, a marble sized creampuff with more ice cream in the middle. How does the waitress do this without even a single smirk? - a real professional.


We paid our bill, tipped the waitress like grownups and left. I threatened to Ben that we should visit the garden on our way out and sample some of the produce. He offered to stop for ice cream on the way home, if I was good.



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