Immense thanks to Jeff and the whole Grapeseed crew for the fantastic surprise dinner party we threw for my mom's 70th birthday this past weekend.
Cliff notes: awesomeness, beg Jeff for the arancini if they aren’t on the menu, go to Grapeseed now either way. Lobster, oxtail and short ribs. Brioche bookends. Wine.
Details: I asked Jeff to put together a tasting menu for 9 and here is what we had. I don’t know which of these are on the current menu but here you go…
1st course: Lobster Slider, paired with Bouchaine Chardonnay. One of the only pre-requests I made for the menu was a New England themed course, as this party was extended family with great memories of vacationing together in Maine. The slider was a smaller version of a lobster roll, on a beautiful buttery brioche roll. Anyone who has been to Freddy’s knows chef kills it with lobster, so this was exceptional as expected. Notable comments from around the table were “oooooh” and “just the right amount of mayo, I usually don’t love lobster rolls because of the mayo” and “is there a little Old Bay in there? (IS THERE JEFF?) I’m not a great lover of chardonnay but appreciate it when appropriately paired, and this one was.
2nd course: Arancini w/ Braised Short Rib, Pecorino, paired with Pertinance Nebbiolo. This dish was voted number one by the crowd. We actually voted. Some of us are nerds. I don’t know if it’s on the menu but if it’s not, it should be. And if it is, you should go get it right now. This was also my favorite wine, and pairing, of the night. There were no sounds in the room--other than forks hitting/scraping plates--for the duration of this course. Perfectly brown and crispy but not at all greasy outside crust and great depth of meaty flavor in the stuffing. Fingers were used to scoop up the last smears of tomato sauce. One partygoer noted that arancini is somewhat like kibbeh (form, not flavor) which is true but I had not considered. I should note that there were two of these on each plate, and they were roughly the size of tennis balls.
3rd course: Choucroute Garnie w/Bacon, Ham, and Brats, paired with Scarbolo Cabernet Franc. This was one of 2 courses I pre-approved, and I did so knowing that there might be some sauerkraut haters in my group. Well, the fat parts of a pig changed minds once again, as this sauerkraut was spiked with bacon and ham, not to mention the big old Stachowski brat snuggled up to it with a couple of roasted potatoes. The sauerkraut was cooked just right, a little bit of crunch left, and the multiple pork products were all top notch. The whole thing had a smokiness to it that worked well with the wine. A couple of our group were starting to feel full and staring down at two more courses, so a lot of this went home in boxes (and reheated nicely I might add, as I swiped one of these from the lone sauerkraut-hater-holdout). As my family’s representative of the Clean Plate Club, I did my duty and savored every bite.
4th! course: Filet Mignon, Oxtail Ragout, Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, paired with Saint Cosme Crozes-Hermitage. Jeff put short rib and oxtail on this menu. Psychic? Lest you think this massive meal was getting too heavy, the mash was light and fluffy with just a touch of horseradish. It acted as a second sauce; the perfect bite was getting all components on the fork at once. I won’t venture a guess as to what goes into the braise for the oxtail, but the result was strongly beefy flavor with a slight sweetness that would be good on almost anything—a cracker, a stale piece of wonderbread, just on my spoon—but on top of a nice chunk of med rare filet? Well that’s a good fit too. In fact I think filet should always have oxtail with it to make up for the lack of effort the loin performed in life. I enjoyed the pairing
Dessert: Brioche French Toast w/Vanilla Ice Cream & Balsamic Strawberries, paired with Big Cork Late Harvest Vidal Blanc. Bookends of Brioche, nice. Mercifully portioned! Although stuffed, everyone destroyed this in three or four bites because it was so good. Crispy and creamy and the strawberries providing the acid to cut the richness. I am not a big dessert person but wish more were like this.
We were in the wine room, which is a really nice setting for a group this size, and gave us at least the illusion of privacy when we belted out a stirring rendition of Happy Birthday to You!