Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Date Night 3: Salts

(the photo above is from Salts' website)

One of the best meals I have had was at Salts in Cambridge in July of 2007, just after the chef, Gabriel Bremer, was acknowledged as a great chef by Food and Wine Magazine. Although I hesitated in returning to the same restaurant for my birthday dinner, memories of the place brought us back.

We were not disappointed. Our pleasure began with phone calls to make reservations. Analia Verolo is one of the kindest, most considerate hosts I have encountered. As an example, she called us at 7:30 to say that a table would be available at 8 (earlier than our 8:30 reservation) because she knew we wanted a table at an earlier time. Once we arrived her warmth settled us and made us feel truly welcome to the restaurant. The space itself is small (just about 15 tables) and elegant without being pretentious. From the moment I walked in, I left my “mommy world” behind and could just enjoy the meal.

Although so many possibilities tempted us as we reviewed the menu, we decided to once again have the Tasting Menu. Although it is described as a chance for the chef to create small versions of 5 courses, by the end of the evening we had eaten 8 (!) fabulous dishes. Needless to say I was full for the rest of the weekend.

What struck me again this visit was the preparation and artistry that goes into each course. As only a distracted mother would do, I left my camera at home, so I can’t do justice to the beauty of each dish. (The photo at top is from the Salts’ website.) But each element is clearly crafted over time and thoughtfully put down on each dish. And the reality is that each plate tasted as glorious as it looked.

I also appreciated how many of the items were from the Salt’s farm (owned by Gabriel Bremer’s father and located in New Hampshire), especially when the vegetables were so delicious even on a chilly November night.

I have listed each item below, using the original Salt’s description with extra details from my memory.

1. Amuse bouche of cauliflower soup with crushed cashews and raisins. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The soup was comforting and smooth, but the cashews added a wonderful contrast.

2. Heirloom beet and artichoke salad with toasted almond, preserved lemon, wild honey, and homemade farmers cheese. It included beet “paper” and amaranth micro greens. This was a nice starter and a nice twist on the ubiquitous beet salad. The Marcona almonds added a great saltiness and texture.

3. Truffle poached Pacific Sturgeon with heirloom potato gnocchi, pickled beets,
black truffle "caviar", and creme fraiche dill emulsion. It came with celery leaf microgreens. My husband loved this riff on a Slavic dish. It was perfumed with the truffle oil and was moist and flavorful.

4. Ballotine of free range Chicken with Salts farm honey roasted sunchokes,
baby carrots, artichokes, and candied lemon. This is one of Salt’s signature dishes and it is just delicious, capturing the essence of chicken with the most incredible crispy chicken skin. I particularly enjoyed the candied lemon peel which was a nice twist on lemon juice itself.

5. Painted Hills beef Sirloin with Salts farm heirloom potatoes, foraged grand trumpet mushrooms, and roasted onion soubise. This was served with Salts signature selection of salts (this time from Australia, France and Hawaii). The beef was moist, lean and wonderful. It was not as complex a dish as the others, and I am not sure I am a new fan of the trumpet mushrooms, but the meat was lovely.

6. Date semi-freddo/parfait; apple sorbet, apple/white chocolate mousse and a sugar cookie sable. This was fantastic. The apple sorbet tasted of the most delicious apple pie…without the pie. It wasn’t too sweet and was a nice transition from the beef.

7. "Chocolate Truffle" with texture cashew, coffee gelée, apricot, and cashew curry ice cream. This sounds odd, but was one of the best dishes I have ever had. The curry ice cream completed changed the taste of the truffle. The subtle spicing smoothed the richness of the truffle while bringing out the depth of the chocolate itself.

8. Mulberry pate a fruit and a macadamia nut and curry chocolate truffle. We ate this at home…we were just too full!

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