Monday, August 8, 2011

A Chef's Tasting Dinner At Langdon Hall

Jonathan Gushue is gifted. The meal that unfolds below made that obvious to me. This chef possesses a terrific ingredient memory of the many food minutae in his rural environment and from his personal experience. His talent for composing taste and memory is demonstrated by his ability to orchestrate disparate and far ranging flavours into a harmonious uncomplicated dish, taking locally found ingredients and transforming them into heavenly cuisine. He may not exactly duplicate this experience in his dining room where the regular menu is more accessible in a familiar way to diners, but the tasting meal described below reveals his potential and will hopefully serve as an inspiration for an extraordinary private meal for those who truly enjoy and can appreciate such a gustatory experience.

Virtually all of the elements of the dishes described below are from the Langdon Hall garden or were foraged on the grounds of the Langdon Hall property.

Crunchy raw purple kohlrabi with an oyster emulsion and pig weed.

Brioche made with crushed seaweed, topped with ricotta and shaved crudite (radish).

Frozen whipped Japanese cucumber and lemon verbena "pudding", topped with Lake Erie caviar (NO PHOTO). The flavour of the caviar enhanced the sweetness of the cucumber.

Raw wild Atlantic sturgeon and sturgeon caviar with dill flowers. The sturgeon was marinated with tomato pulp and wild raspberries. The tomato and raspberry flavours and mild tartness worked well with the slightly oily fish. The dill flowers added a counterpoint punch to the composite flavours and made my palate stand up and take notice.

A number of miscellaneous multicoloured flower petals were assembled and presented in a ceramic pot. A warm flower petal broth enriched with bits of spider crab was poured over the    
colourful petals. This was a very subtle and beguiling dish, inspiring quiet contemplation.

Late season raw asparagus with wood sorrel, farmed sturgeon caviar and herb nage, multicoloured marigold flowers and barley grass broth. Another pictorial triumph of garden flavours enhanced and brought together by the earthy tasting caviar.

Charred red strawberries, pickled green strawberries, nasturtium leaves, pickled pineapple weed, pea flowers and a sea urchin sauce (referred to on the menu as a "whore's egg mousseline"). Another symphony of harmonious flavours: the slightly iron like background flavour of the charred strawberries, the mildly tart sharp flavour of the pickled strawberry, the subtle pineapple like flavour of the pineapple weed, the sweet tasting pea flowers all brought together by the wonderful briny minerality of the sea urchin sauce.

Hen's egg, Langdon's own maple syrup, cabernet franc vinegar, salted cream, pink lady onion all cooked sous vide and topped with garlic chives and red purselane. Another symphony of distinct and harmonious flavours.

Cuttlefish rissotto, burnt onion crumble, garnet amaranth topped with crisp chicken wing. The dish gets an amazing bounce from the burnt onion crumble.

Butter poached scallop, crispy pickled calve's tongue, charred hopps, nasturtiums and lettuce aioli (NO PHOTO). The sharp flavour of the nasturtiums is the right counterpoint for the flavours of this dish.

Seared Delft blue veal tenderloin, Jerusalem artichoke, roasted carrot, cepe crumble, carrot tops, anise hyssop all topped with crispy kale leaf and sauced with a chicken dashi made with kombu and dulse sea weeds. Another dish with wonderfully subtle textures and flavours that just bloom in the mouth. Remarkably, the rare veal and sea flavoured chicken stock were a delightful combination, the briny sea flavour of the stock was nicely balanced by the chicken aspect.

Roasted carrot, pine mushroom crumble and anise hyssop. The mild pine mushroom flavours of chocolate and coffee lent a slight sweetness that enhanced the slightly caramelized flavours of the carrot. The anise hyssop provided a green, tart liquorice tasting element that again brought out the flavours of this perfect roasted carrot.

Rare venison, black radish pods and radish flowers, "soused" golden purselane and smoked goat cheese yogurt (supplied by the Cheese Boutique). The crisp radish pods and peppery radish flowers worked well with the mild smokey flavours and the mildly gamey rare venison.

A scoop of basil ice cream was immersed in firm blackberry jelly and surrounded by blackberries and a marigold shortbread crumble. A "pre-dessert" that awakened the palate with the wide ranging flavours of the marigold flavoured crumble, tart earthy blackberries and strong basil flavour of the ice cream.

Frozen chocolate mousse, sea buckthorn flavoured creme patissier, sun flower and red sorrel flavoured yogurt, red sorrel leaves and crumbled dehydrated brownie.

We finished with blackberry flavoured marshmallows and ginger cookies. Truly a triumphant meal.

Lunch The Next Day

Lunch the next day was on the terrace and we selected our dishes from the regular menu. We kept it simple.

Corn soup, tasting of the essence of corn, with sliced cherry tomatoes with a touch of maple syrup.

Crispy skin lamb breast ribs with aioli.

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