Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stella! Tasting

The weekend got off to a great start. After work on Friday, headed over to Le Bucket's to sample his latest homebrew. A Lemongrass wheat ale. Awesome beer. Unfortunately Le Bucket stayed behind during Gustav and survived solely on this beer, so there was only enough for a glass. Would love to try this beer with Indian/Thai food.

Saturday night Lindsay and I tackled the tasting menu at Stella! This meal turned out to be an absolute stunner. Both of us remarked that at least culinarily, and lets face it that is why we eat, this was the best meal we had eaten in New Orleans.

Amuse Bouche: A fried wanton filled with goat cheese and jalepeno surrounded by a coconut curry emulsion. A very elegant and very delicious take on the jalepeno popper. This was a prelude of things to come. One focused flavor ( heat) and a delightful blend of textures (crunchy and creamy). There was a wine as well, but I forget to remember it. Fault me.

1st Course: Crab, Gulf Shrimp, and Avocado Salad with grilled corn and roasted red pepper salsa, 100 year old balsamic, and sweet corn emulsion. In this dish the kitchen relied on the sweetness and almost butter flavor of the crab and avocado. Many restaurants that do a similar dish, attempt to overburden the components with acid to cut the fattiness. The flavors blendedd together and spread throughout one's mouth in a brilliant way. The wine was a 2006 Salomon Undhof Gruner Veltliner "Von Stein Reserve." The sommelier did an excellent job of not only explaining each dish but also why he chose each wine for each dish. And he did it all without lecturing us.

2nd Course: Summer Kabocha Squash Puree with Applewood Smoked Bacon and Valrhona Xocopili. I have made pureed soups before, but no matter how many times I strain it they never come out this smooth. This soup was almost like squash water, yet the soup wtill had an amazing body. The bacon added saltiness which contradicted and enhanced the sweetness of the chocolate. Yes, you read that correctly; chocolate soup. It worked. Lindsay's favorite dish of the evening. Wine was a 2005 Lieser Riesling Auslese.

3rd Course: Louisiana Gulf Shrimp and Lobster Mushroom Risotto with English Peas, Local Scallions and Virgin Olive Oil. Creamy, briney, with a hint of parmesan this risotto was cooked perfectly, dressed simply, and presented beautifully. The sommelier warned us that the wine would be rather minerally (to me on its own it had more of a rust flavor), but that with the risotto it would work very well. And again he was right. The 1997 Kalin Cellars Semillon, Livermore Valley had a copper tint but did a great job of cutting through the creaminess of the risotto. Maybe not a great sipping wine, but a great wine to pair with this dish.

4th Course: Fish and Chips. Did not love this dish. Tempura beer battered redfish with sweet potato puree, taro root chips, and spicy red chili caramel. This dish was too sweet for both of our tooths. But then again that may be because we were thinking main course not dessert. wine was a 2007 Clos Ste. Magdeleine Cassis Rose. Personally I find roses to be a great wine, and I really liked this one.

5th Course: Porcini Crusted Rack of Australian Lamb with Potato Galette, Sweet Red Onion Confit, Caramelized Baby Shittake Mushrooms and Micro Heirloom Root Vegetables. This dish knocked me out of the chair. The lamb had just the right amount of tooth to give it an explosion of flavor. The crunchiness and saltiness of the galette got the saliva working which in turn helped to draw out more and more of the lamb flavor. "These are more like fetus root vegetables," Lindsay said.

If you read this blog, you already know of my affinity for wines in the style of the summer house of the pope. Not our Pope, the Catholic one. The sommelier paired this dish with a 2005 Tablas Creek Vineyard, "Espirit du Beaucastel" which is an American wine made in the style of the Papal French Red.

6th Course: L'Amuse Fromagerie Signature Gouda with Dried Bing Cherry Compote and Candied Pistachio. Lindsay loves cheese almost as much our 5,000th fan. And she really liked this one. I did too, but I liked the wine more. A 2000 Chateau Camplazens Premium La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc. A very cherry intense front with a tobacco finish. That made me happy.

7th course: Bananas Foster French Toast with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Spicy Candied Walnuts and Crisp Plaintains. If you like sweet things, this dessert will challenge you. That being said, what a great concept. Toast, the French, and New Orleans all coming together. Sommelier chose to pair this dessert with the best overall pairing wine: champagne. Hubert Clavelin et Fils Brut-Comte was dry enough to let you go back for more dessert.

Finally, some mignardaise. A vanilla marshmallow and a mint meringue. A glass of vintage port at the bar and a disussion with Chef Boswell and we were on our way.

The entire experience was wonderful. We left full and content but not stuffed. Each dish was so well thought out and focused that one really felt as if the kitchen was having a conversation with you. I know that sounds weird, but it made us feel very special.

It was very expensive. So save this for a special occasion. However, read back over each of those dishes. Look how many elements each dish has; yet, each dish tastes very focused. That is an amazing trick to pull off. Service is engaging and educating without being snooty.

Numerous components, perfectly executed, and artfully presented; perfection, or the pursuit of it, comes with a price. To sum it up, a hell of a f*cking meal.


No comments: