Friday, January 5, 2018
I suppose everyone has a bucket list in their mind if not written down. Many have places they would like to visit or things they would like to see. I do too. But one of mine was to eat at an honest to goodness restaurant where I would be served a four course meal. So after dumping my mother-in-law and kids off at the hotel, my wife and I went on a date to Affare and I had my first four course meal ever, complete with wine pairings.
The experience was heavenly and worth every penny. I've been to plenty of nice restaurants and eaten lots of very outstanding food but the quality of the food I ate here were several notches above any that I have eaten previously. Although outstanding, the venison pate was probably my least favorite of the four courses. The red (I assume Cumberland) sauce was tasty enough I wish I had a bottle of it in my back pocket for special occasions.
Black squid ink pasta in a dimly lit restaurant is hard to capture and I was feeling ashamed as it were to be photographing my food like a tourist that I didn't want to call even more attention to myself by using the flash. It was my first experience with squid ink pasta (and venison pate for that matter) and I enjoyed it immensely. This was my second favorite course of the evening. The mussels were perfectly cooked and had been detached from the shell so one could easily eat them with the utensils. One of my biggest gripes is being served mussels still attached to the shell with only a spoon and my fingers to scrape them loose so I can eat them.
The star dish for the night was definitely the third course of duck breast and vegetables but oddly the star of the dish were the oyster mushrooms and orange gastrique. The duck breat was quite good but just kind of sat in the background of the tastes of the mushrooms and sauce. I told my wife at that point that had they just served me four courses of the mushrooms, I would have been just as happy. I thought it was kind of unique to be served on a piece of slate which ended up being quite messy as the juices ran down onto the table but the staff didn't seem to mind.
Our final course was a "traditional cookie plate" which didn't seem very traditional at least where I come from. The various cookies served with fruit and cream were all very tasty but if given the choice of this or the venison pate, it was have been a hard choice. I'm glad I was given both but I had to give this one the edge as my third favorite dish of the night.
I'm not a wine drinker by any means. I drink some and like a few that I drink but for the most part feel that I'm choking most of the wines down to just be polite. I just don't have the taste for it I guess, especially the dry wines. It seems the fruitier the better for me which doesn't lend itself to sophistication among the wine lovers. Up until this experience, I never really believed pairing could make food taste better. While I still don't believe that, I am now a believer that the food can make the wine taste better. Two of the wines I didn't particularly enjoy when taking a sip when it was served to us but when drinking it after eating some of the served course, both tasted much much better to my palate and were quite enjoyable. I'm learning, little at a time.
Being this was my first four course experience, I wasn't sure what to do with my silverware between courses. During our gourmet club meals, we use the appropriate utensil for that dish and then clear it away before the next course but we start with enough utensils for the entire meal at the beginning. Here we just had a knife and a fork. I saved my utensils after the first course but then noticed all the other people in the restaurant were getting new utensils given to them between courses and so I let mine be cleared from then on out. I immediately felt guilty going through three sets of utensils in one meal (you can take the boy from the farm but not the farm from the boy) but I set my mind at ease by telling myself that the washing of extra utensils was covered in the price of the meal, which was worth every penny and then some.
I hope to experience something similar again someday even though it is now off my bucket list. Maybe next time I will go for a similar meal at a place with a Michelan star... or three.