Sunday, April 15, 2007

Truly Great Meal (Veritas)

Tonight I went out for a nice family dinner with my cousin V and her boyfriend G. I had made a bunch of reservations for the weekend, given her a list and then canceled all of those that she didn't choose. For tonight we went to Veritas - which I've been dying to try as I keep hearing pretty good things about it.

It took as a little while to focus on the menu - G was reading the wine book (serious book!) and G and I were talking and laughing (not the worst way to start a meal). When we finally focused it was a hard choice. I keep feeling like I need to move beyond the automatic - if foie gras is on the menu, I must have it (it's not like I live in Chicago where I would be legally preventing from exercising my freedom to eat (like V&G)). But I do it. It's there. And I can't bear to choose anything else. But I do keep second guessing it. The main is harder - I'm generally not a fish or chicken person, but tonight, that still left the short ribs, the lamb and the venison (the steak also sounded good, but I was trying to focus). I chose the venison. Then G asked a question and I opened my menu back up. Then I slammed (with refinement, it's a nice place) it closed, realizing that opening the menu reopened the decision-making process for me. I answered his question without visual aids.

We had all basically chosen our meals and so we went with the wine selection. We ended up with a Chateauneuf du Pape (both because all 3 of us love to say it and because the sommelier's description was pretty compelling). It was the 2000 Panisse. I really liked it - a bit of earth, a hint of fruit, some spice - it was amazing with the venison (see, I didn't change my mind).

Once we had ordered, they brought the amuse (sorry, no photos tonight). It was seared tuna on a bed of fennel and red pepper. It was good (massive understatement). It was a really nice blend of rich flavors without being overly heavy (and the spicy of the wine also worked really well with it). It would have made a fabulous appetizer, as it was, I used my fork assiduously to make sure that I didn't miss any bits of fennel/red pepper.

The foie gras wasn't earth shattering, but I have to say, the searing was really amazingly well done - it had nice crisp parts on top that gave just the slightest texture contrast that I really liked. I can't remember what the jelly was, but it was very nice. It was a totally solid foie gras dish (good, very good even, but nothing new). V got the mushroom ravioli, which was delicious, but may have been too rich for me if I had tried to eat the whole thing (though it would have been fine to try). G got the hamachi, which was light and flavorful; I think I was just in a 'heavier' mood, what with the rain and cold.

The venison was potentially my favorite dish. V (sounding like she knew what she was talking about) made comparisons between Ohio venison (corn-fed) and Michigan venison (pinecone fed). Her guess was that this was maybe grass fed? Basically, it wasn't overly game-y. But it also wasn't bland. It had a very nice flavor without shouting the game part. And it was Perfectly cooked. If I wanted to define medium-rare, I could just show someone this dish. And I cut through it like butter. It was paired up with some cabbage (very nice), carrots (good) and baby parsnips (had been looking forward to them, but they didn't quite work). I managed to restrain myself from greed for the few moments necessary to graciously share with my friends. And then I dug right in and savored every last morsel. V got the lamb (which could have been a second shot showing the definition of medium rare) which was paired with chevre mashed potatos and white asparagus (I had been seriously tempted by the sides alone). G got the Rib-Eye with Broccoli Rabe (I'm still not going to choose the broccoli rabe without a good reason - but he really enjoyed his.

Veritas is a 3-course menu, which I love because it means you just have to order dessert. G said he was done after the steak. So V and I chose 3 desserts: Rhubarb Crisp, Chocolate Souffle and Banana Florentine (the last was a toss-up between that and the Bamboo Honey Panna Cotta). I first had a bite of the Rhubarb; it was good (it was G's favorite). Then the Banana (I was trying to go lightest to heaviest); it was amazing! Then the Chocolate - it was good (I think it was V's favorite) - my issue is with the definition of souffle, I like chocolate cake with molten centers (a lot), but for my souffles, I like the more dramatic ones. I kept coming back to the Banana (with hte creme fraiche ice cream). It was somehow like a banana pancake paired with fried bananas. I am a huge fan.

Then we got the petit fours. Because we weren't full. The first was a black currant jelly (needed the wine, but I had finished my last glass) because it was too rich otherwise; a coconut macaroon (very nice indeed) and a carmel and nut square (the walnuts were a bit sharp). I was too full to do them justice, but do very much appreciate the thought.

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