in this particular case - a progressive dinner date i was recently treated to - we visited four restaurants in one evening. we arrived at the first restaurant at 7:30 pm and didn't leave the last place until after 11:30.
this date was on a lovely saturday evening. careful planning and strategizing must have taken place beforehand. time estimated at each restaurant and driving time between locations were all taken into account, calculated, and reservations were made accordingly. the night went very smoothly. i had no idea where we were going. i didn't even realize it was a progressive dinner until we only ordered appetizers at restaurant #1. he must have been paying attention.
restaurant #1 - dolce vita
|truffled egg toast|
enter truffled egg toast. easily one of my favorite appetizers in town. thick, crusty bread with an egg broiled inside. parmeggiano-reggiano and shaved black truffles on top. cutting into it makes all the yummy yolk run out of it.
restaurant #2 - REEF
|smoked tuna bacon & sea bass tiradito|
smoked tuna bacon & sea bass tiradito, granny smith apples, and avocado. there is no doubt the tuna bacon was the star of this show. texturally, the dish was very successful. the crispy thinly sliced apples and silky avocado paired nicely with the fish. the sea bass made each bite of the smokey tuna really pop.
|soft shell crab|
tempura fried soft shell crab with avocado and radish salad. the crab was meaty and substantial. a dab of chinese style hot mustard on the avocado salad added depth and heat. roasted pepper sauce was pretty on the eyes and tastier on the tongue.
|smoked dr. pepper bearded driftfish|
i don't mind being chef bryan caswell's guinea pig. any time, any day. this was a dish he sent to the table. he explained he's been playing around with smoking dr. pepper and combining it with miso to do a more southern interpretation of nobu matsuhisa's famous black cod in miso. it was delicious on a bed of rice noodles w/ mustard greens. i didn't find the fish as oily and pleasing as cod or halibut. my palate wanted more sugar too, but perhaps it's because i can still clearly remember tasting nobu's miso cod for the first time and was expecting something more like it. i can tell this dish will be amazing when caswell is done perfecting it.
restaurant #3 - feast
couldn't resist a side of baked chicken skins. i could've and would've eaten the whole plate of them if they weren't so salty.
what's sexier than a little nose-to-tail cuisine on a date? huh? we shared this entree as we shared all the dishes before this. the beef tongue was really tender and had the soft texture that only tongue has. it was served on a bed of mashed peas and roasted turnips. the turnips were excellent. the mushy peas became a bit too mealy after the 5th bite.
restaurant #4 - textile
i was squealing with joy when we drove down shepherd and crossed over washington ave. i knew we were headed for textile.
a dessert tasting with pastry chef extraordinaire, plinio sandalio was organized in advance. it was a 7 course affair that would have impressed even the most critical palates and melted even the iciest of hearts.
#1. plinio's play on wendy's frosty and fries. gianduja and potato ice cream cone. the combination of chocolate hazelnut ice cream and the savory potato cone made a really great balance of sweet and salty. the dessert cones were about 2 bites too, which left me wanting more.
#2 "strawberry shortcake." mini scones w/ vanilla balsamic compressed strawberries, buttermilk ice cream, shaved pistachio. fun with a classic dessert.
|truffle w/ quince & milk jam|
#3 truffle w/ quince, milk jam, honey. the chocolate shell was very delicate and resulted in a wonderful burst of nectar in my mouth. well-balanced sweetness.
|sweet potato beignets|
#4 sweet potato beignets & bacon ice cream, cinnamon pudding, bacon sugar. hot and cold. bacon, cinnamon, caramel... very satisfying.
#5 1 second pisco sour. novel idea. plinio filled our little glasses with pisco sours out of a siphon at the table. less tart than i expected. perhaps b/c of the foam?
|smoked brownie w/ ancho chile ice cream|
#6 smoked brownie w/ ancho chile ice cream, white chocolate "chips," caramel. the ancho ice cream really added a really interesting dynamic to the plate. the combination of flavors was sophisticated. the smoked brownie was wonderful.
#7 mignardises: dark chocolate truffle, chocolate raspberry truffle, chocolate lemon truffle, scottish shortbread, cocoa nibs pistachio
yes, i was full.
and the evening was amazing, as you can tell.
and before you ask, yes, i'm quite certain this was an expensive night. however, the idea of a progressive dinner isn't to see how many huge tabs you can rack up or how many exclusive restaurants you can get into in one night. the theory is to create the most enjoyable dining experience without limiting yourself to one menu or one dining room. the cost of an evening will completely depend on the price range of restaurants selected and whether valet or paid parking is necessary. and keep in mind that this kind of dinner will probably require less organizing and can be done in a more impromptu fashion on a week night with restaurants more accustomed to walk-ins.
i'd love to plan some group progressive dinners in the future, perhaps even with set, off-menu courses already coordinated in advance with restaurants/chefs selected. the element of surprise was also a major fun factor that i think others foodies would enjoy if they knew they were in capable hands.