Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Southerners at Aquavit

January 16

I can be a selfish man, so when a publicist representing the fine city of Charleston, S.C., wanted to take me to dinner this week, I suggested Aquavit, which is very convenient for me as it is across the street from my office.
There are many restaurants in New York that I’ve been meaning to try. Some, such as Monkey Bar, newly under the helm of Chris Cheung, are nearly as close to my Park Avenue office (between 55th and 56th streets, thank you very much), but I can never think of them when people ask me to dinner. I really should make a list.
But yesterday was my first day back in the office after a vacation in Denver, where I attended the Bar Mitzvah of my second cousin once-removed Micah Levi. Nice kid. The event was certainly worth a blog entry, and maybe I’ll post one later.
At any rate, I knew I would have a boatload of work to do upon my return and did not feel like a long commute to dinner. So, Aquavit.
Of course, Aquavit also, even as a 20-year-old restaurant, continues to maintain a distinctive character and interesting cuisine, and for the past year-and-a-half Johan Svensson has been in the kitchen, and I don’t have a single mean thing to say about the guy.
To the right is a picture I took of him from last year’s C-CAP gala.
I was eating with publicist Melany Mullens and a little puppy dog of an executive chef, 25-year-old Aaron Deal (favorite color: Cobalt Blue), who just recently took over the kitchen at Tristan in Charleston.
There he is on the left. I didn’t take that picture. Melany sent it to me.
He’s in town to cook at the Beard House tonight with a bunch of other Charleston chefs, including crazy molecular gastronomer Sean Brock of McCrady’s, whose food I’d had at the Beard House back when he was a chef in Tennessee.
While Melany, Aaron and I were eating in Aquavit, Sean was of course downtown eating at WD-50.
The other Charleston chefs cooking tonight, just for the record, are Marc Collins of Orca 1886, Frank McMahon of Hank’s Seafood Restaurant, Fred Neuville of Fat Hen (which actually is on John’s Island) and pastry chef Kelly Wilson of Cypress. I think some of them were eating at WD-50, too, but I can’t say for sure.
And when I call Sean crazy, he’s not really, I don’t think, and Aaron tells me he’s moved away from the molecular gastronomy and more toward the local and seasonal stuff, which is in fact more trendy at this point anyway.

Being with a chef, it seemed necessary and proper to have a tasting menu, paired with beverages. Johan sent different things to Aaron and me, but of course we shared, because that's what you do, as we talked about what we liked about our jobs, and other things.

What we ate and drank:

For Aaron:
lobster roll with trout roe and egg dressing
2006 Claar Cellars Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington)

foie gras ganache with smoked duck tartare
2003 Alois Kracher Auslese Cuvée (Burgenland, Austria)

hot-smoked trout with sunchoke and horseradish broth
2003 Tenuta di Arceno “Primavoce” Merlot/Cabernet/Sangiovese (Tuscany, Italy)

venison with lingonberry sauce and horseradish dumplings
2006 Barrel 27 Syrah (Central Coast, California)

Fourme d'Ambert cheese with apple and date bread
Samuel Smith Imperial Stout (Yorkshire, England)

vanilla-yogurt sorbet with candied beats

ginger-chocolate mousse with glogg poached pear
Fonseca Bin 27 Port

For me:

yellowtail with sea urchin, lime and duck tongue
2006 Karl Fritsch Grüner Veltliner (Wagram, Austria)

octopus with smoked avocado and persimmons
2005 Navarro Gewürtztraminer (Mendocino County, Calif.)

seared tuna and scallop with fennel brûlée
2004 Louis Jadot “Le Vaucrain” Côte de Nuits Pinot Noir (Burgundy, France)

ribeye and (beer-braised) short rib with parsnip purée (sweet, and I think flavored with vanilla)
2005 Sirech “Deux Terroirs” Merlog (Libournais, France)

Constant Bliss cheese with apricot mustard chutney and walnut bread
Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest White Ale (Ibaraki, Japan)

vanilla-yogurt sorbet with candied beets

squash bread pudding with lingonberry sorbet
2004 Oremus Late Harvest Tokaji (Tokaji, Hungary)

Melany had a vegetarian tasting, and I didn’t note all of the items

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