New Year 2010 Off to a… Start!


Happy 2010, everyone!

On December 30, 2009, Wendy & I were enjoying a day puttering around, doing errands, chores, and the like. I had to run out to Kroger to pick up some items, and Wendy suggested I pick up a couple sandwiches for lunch.

I grabbed a couple pre-made sandwiches – one turkey, one corned beef – from Kroger’s deli. I checked the expiration date (always a good idea) and saw that it wasn’t until 1/2/2010, so I tossed them in my cart, picked up my other items, and finished my shopping trip before heading home.

Since we were hungry, we tucked right into the sandwiches. We split them – each of us had half a turkey and half a corned beef sandwich with some chips.

Within a few hours, we were both feeling bad in our stomachs. Something we ate did not agree with us! I am fairly certain that it was salmonella enteritis  poisoning, based on onset, symptoms, and duration (of course, without a fecal smear and lab tests, this is just an educated guess).

It was so bad that we left early from the annual New Year’s party that our friend Tracy hosts, and were both in bed & asleep before the ball even dropped.

orchids The next couple days were pretty rotten, too (worse for Wendy than for me, I’m sorry to say), but things started looking up on January 2, so we decided to keep that evening’s reservations at Orchid’s at Palm Court, in the Hilton Netherland Plaza Downtown Cincinnati. We were there to celebrate our 6-year wedding anniversary, and the entire staff took great care of us. What a beautiful dining room! It was great to reconnect with Steven M, former colleague at Pigall’s, now serving at Orchids. After practically tackling us when we entered the hotel lobby, he led us to our banquette in the corner of the fabulous room where a lovely bottle of champagne was waiting for us.

Amuse: Asparagus Mousse, Paprika, Micro Cabbage

Maine Lobster Salad, Organic “Fried” Egg, Parsley, Creme Fraiche Caviar Cream
Duval Leroy Rose, Champagne, France, N.V.
The “fried” egg on top of the Maine Lobster Salad is a humorous play-on-words. I won’t say more, to avoid spoiling for you the surprise of the dish. Though not a beauty on the plate, this dish was a wonderful contrast in texture (soft and crunchy) and temperature (cool and warm). A great start.

Seared Scallops, Celery Root, Quail Egg, Mirin Glazed Pork Belly, Baby Organic Carrots, Almonds, Curry Oil
Hugel Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, France, 2007
When the scallop course was delivered, the server rattled off the giant list of components (seared scallop, curry oil, quail egg, pork belly with mirin glaze, celery puree, heirloom carrot, and grapefruit – that’s eight main components!) and my head started to spin. However, taking a bit of everything in one bite revealed a truly marvelous flavor. This approach of deeply layering ingredients is counter to the way I cooked for the last four years (and the way I’m cooking now), and it was a refreshing reminder of the cumulative effect provided by thoughtful laying of flavors.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Arugula, Lady Apple Tart Tatin, Cider Vinegar Gastrique
Grand Maison Monbazillac, Southwest France, 2005
The foie course was a nice contrast to the complex course before it, and a small riff on traditional accompaniments. The tatin was great, and fried fine julienne of carrot added a nice texture counterpoitn to an otherwise soft dish.

Veal Sweetbreads, Swiss Chard, Braised Artichokes, Madeira Sauce
Louis Latour Marsannay, Burgundy, France, 2006
Gosh, I love properly prepared crispy sweetbreads! I don’t use them often, so it’s a rare treat to eat them. I speculated last night that sometimes I love crispy sweetbreads as much – or more – than foie. Wendy, Steven, and Sean (maitre’d) disagreed with me. I contend that it was speculation only, made in the heat of the moment… But the substantial, meaty flavor of sweetbreads satisfies in a different, equally pleasurable, way than foie gras.

Jamison Farms Rack of Lamb, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Lamb Sausage, and Polenta Fries
Chateau Cantenac, St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France, 2006
The lamb was delivered en cloche and presented dramatically. It was cooked to a perfect mid-rare. The caramelized brussels sprouts lent a touch of bitter coutnerpoint to the flavor of the lamb. I think the dish would have been well-served to be sauced tableside with the lamb demi, but that’s a minor point with an otherwise excellent course.

Duet of Frozen Passion Fruit Souffle and Warm Chocolate Flourless Cake, Pineapple Confit, Candied Currants
Cockburn’s 10-year Tawny Port
Nicely presented on “Happy Anniversary” (spelled correctly, Wendy noted) plates. As soon as the server left, I swapped my chocolate cake for Wendy’s passion fruit mousse. The candied currants were terrific.

Next, just to guild the lily, Steven delivered mignardise and espresso (“it’s only got one shot in it”, he said when I worried aloud about caffeine so late) to finish the experience.

It was a memorable anniversary celebration!

Some after-the-fact tidbits:

  • We’re both feeling better. Not quite 100%, but considerably better than a few days ago.
  • My friend Tuck was quick to point out that the food poisoning occurred at the end of 2009, and not in 2010, and therefore should not be interpreted as a bad omen for the new year.
  • The caffeine (“only one shot”, Steven said) did it’s job… I was out of bed and awake until after 3am, and lay in bed until 4am before falling asleep. Thanks, Steven! (Just you wait until we cook together, my friend. I’m going to break all your sauces as payback! 🙂  )
  • The …strangeness… of discussing fecal smears and foie gras in the same article is not lost on me!
  • The good news is that, owing to my unexpected inability to sleep last night, my SageTV server configuration is much further along than anticipated. But that’s for another article…

It’s been a …start… to 2010. We’re interested to see where this year will take us!

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