Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Dishes of 2013 - Part 2

In the wee hours of last night I started on Part 1 of the Best Dishes I ate in the past year. Here, in chronological order, picking up right around mid-year, is Part 2, starting with a couple great things at the sadly now-closed BoxPark, then a trek through the Pacific Northwest, including the magnificent Willows Inn (my favorite meal of the year), along with a brief visit to New Orleans and several more great dishes here in Miami.

(You can see pictures of all of them in this 2013 Best Dishes flickr set).

Everglades Gumbo - BoxPark (Brickell) (my thoughts on BoxPark)

Chef Matt Hinckley’s version [of gumbo], like a lot of things at BoxPark from the house-made charcuterie to the “Brickell Pickles,” uses almost all locally sourced ingredients, some from rather unusual places. He makes his own andouille sausage using invasive feral pigs trapped by local farmers. Ruby red shrimp are seasonally harvested from deep waters off Florida’s east coast. Those “nuisance gators” that are often removed from local golf courses and swimming pools also go into the pot. Okra comes from independent Homestead farms. The sassafras for the gumbo filé is supplied by a small local family farm, then dried and ground into a powder at the restaurant. Even the salt comes from solar evaporated seawater harvested in the Florida Keys.

The result is not much to look at: a ruddy, roux-thickened stew studded with various bits and pieces. But what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in flavor: the tender, curled shrimp, the mildly aquatic alligator meat, the spicy, intensely porcine wild boar sausage, the vegetal snap of the okra, the subtle, complex aroma of sassafras, all supported by a backbeat of peppery heat and bound in a velvety, tomato-speckled broth. It’s a perfect combination of surf and turf and earth that is truly of this place.

Charcuterie - BoxPark (Brickell) (my thoughts on BoxPark)

Hinckley's charcuterie was also exceptional - more rustic in style than that at DB Bistro, which also made my list, but every bit as flavorful. This platter included duck prosciutto, porchetta di testa, lonza, saucisson sec, biltong, and some silky duck rillettes. Last I heard, Hinckley and partner / pastry chef Crystal Cullison were moving to New York - which is a real loss for Miami, but I'm eager to see what they do next.

Crepe with Salmon Roe, Maple Cream and Chive - Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA) (my thoughts on Willows Inn)

A crisp delicate crepe shell wraps itself around a filling of salmon roe, maple cream and chives. It is creamy, salty, and sweet, the fresh green herb complimenting the roe's marine brine. It is also head-smackingly delicious.

Blackberries with Juice of Herbs and GrassesWillows Inn (Lummi Island, WA) (my thoughts on Willows Inn)

And then, for the first course, a dish that captures a sense of place possibly more perfectly than any other I've had. Plump blackberries rest in a pool of an emerald green juice of herbs and grasses, garnished with more of those same delicate herbs and their flowers. It is, very much literally, the landscape right outside the restaurant, on a plate.

Smoked Sockeye SalmonWillows Inn (Lummi Island, WA) (my thoughts on Willows Inn)

That salmon: reefnet caught, alderwood smoked, sockeye salmon, glistening, vibrant red, faintly warm, fatty, rich, smoky and sweet. You eat it with your hands. You want to go slowly, and savor every bite, but it's hard to resist. You surreptitiously watch your kids to see if they're going to finish theirs. You consider asking for more, even though it's a generous portion. You realize: this is the best salmon you are ever going to eat in your life.

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Best Dishes of 2013 - Part 1

As the year comes to a close, it's time for New Years' resolutions, and "Best Of..." listicles. I think one of my resolutions last year was to publish my "Best Dishes of the Year" list before the calendar turned, so if I can get this post up, I will have kept at least one resolution. The "lose 20 pounds" resolution will have to wait till next year.

2013 was a good year: trips to New York, Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle and New Orleans provided some great dining opportunities, but so did hometown South Florida. Here, in chronological order, are some of the best things I ate this past year:

(You can see all the dishes in this 2013 Best Dishes flickr set).

Vegetarian Ramen - Momi Ramen (Brickell) (my thoughts on Momi)

Though Chen has been reluctant to expand his offerings, if the vegetarian ramen I tried is any indication, he shouldn't be so worried. It was fantastic. It's not swimming in broth so the noodles can really shine, along with softened kombu (which the server explained that the chef harvested himself in Japan), menma (bamboo shoots), fresh enoki mushrooms, and scallions. The broth, a kombu dashi made from white kombu (loaded with glutamates) and okra juice, was a delicate, translucent yang to the yin of the hearty tonkotsu, but still had a serious umami punch.

Foie Gras - Eating House (Coral Gables) (my thoughts on Eating House)

I had this dish at the beginning of the year, shortly after Eating House reopened as a full-time restaurant. It was fantastic. Creamy foie gras mousse was frozen and then pulverized into little pebbles, which covered nuggets of roasted beetroot, dotted with beet purée and ripe blueberries, with a scatter of baby sorrel leaves and a hint of pink peppercorn.

Fava Bean Salad - Oak Tavern (Design District) (my thoughts on Oak Tavern)

One of the best things I've had from this corner of the menu is a dish of warm fava beans, piled in a happy tumble along with plump golden tomatoes, a poached egg, slivers of duck prosciutto, and shards of pecorino cheese. I particularly enjoy that the dish is focused around the vegetable, not the protein, with the other components the complementary players.

Pan con Lechon - Bread and Butter (Coral Gables)

Alberto Cabrera's Bread and Butter is a place I hope to get know a lot better in 2014. Cabrera's latest project - and seemingly the most personal he's ever done - seamlessly merges traditional Cuban flavors with contemporary style, and his "Pan con Lechon" is a perfect example: tender roast pork shoulder is nestled within a puffy, doughy Chinese style bao bun, drenched in mojo criollo and crowned with sautéed onions and fresh scallions.

Charcuterie Platter - DB Bistro Moderne (Miami)

I think DB's charcuterie is the best that can be found in Miami - and, indeed, some of the best I've had anywhere. The board usually features a couple different salumi, a few different pâtés, ruby-hued slices of cured ham, a half-moon of lush, silky foie grass mousse, an assortment of pickled cornichons and onions, and if you're lucky, crackling-crisp nuggets of pork rillons, like croutons of pure pork belly, or maybe rich duck rillettes, glistening with translucent duck fat.

Steak Tartare Slider - PB Steak (Miami Beach)

Much like the famed "Little Oyster Sandwich" at The Dutch that it appears to be modeled after, the Steak Tartare Slider may be one of the food world's perfect bites. A mound of bright ruby-hued raw chopped sirloin is tucked into a fluffy sesame-seed flecked bun, along with a dab of truffle mustard and some crispy shoestring fries. Pair it with their ceviche taquito or mini-lobster roll and you've got the ideal surf-n-turf appetizer.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Wildebeest - Vancouver, British Columbia

While our visit to The Willows Inn was the most exceptional meal of our trip to the Pacific Northwest this past summer, it was certainly not the only good one. I was particularly excited by a couple places we tried on the front end of our trip, in Vancouver. First up: Wildebeest.

Wildebeest is a new-ish place in Vancouver's Gastown neighborhood with a rustic, vaguely steampunk aesthetic, an offal-centric menu, and a naturalistic, unfussy style. The brick walls, bare bulbs and rough wood are in perfect sync with Chef Wesley Young's cooking style, which is dominated by meat and smoke.

Snacks and cocktails help set the stage. Crunchy hazelnuts are infused with seawater; buttery, bright green Castelvetrano olives are smoked. They're both great nibbles to go along with an intriguing Tequila Sazerac, served up in a little flowered granny glass. This was a delicious reinvention of the classic cocktail, using reposado tequila and mezcal in place of the rye, and a green Chartreuse rinse in place of the absinthe.[1]

Though Wildebeest has made a name for itself with its meat offerings, they don't neglect vegetables either. I particularly liked a starter that combined a variety of different radishes, served in a puddle of fresh, creamy cheese, along with a bright carrot sorbet and a crumble of toasted hazelnut "soil." Even more delicate was a slow-poached farm egg, served over a celadon-hued green pea tapioca with fermiere cheese, pea tendrils, and a thin sheet of crispy bread for dipping and scooping.

But obviously, a place called "Wildebeest" is really about the meat. And it's great stuff here - prepared simply but thoughtfully and presented essentially ungarnished. Quail is hay aged, and then smoked, brought to the table with a wad of still-smoking straw protruding from its carcass. The intense flavor of the tiny bird's flesh, still rosy-hued, belies its size. Served with little dipping bowls of a fermented wild berry honey and a salt and pepper mix, and just begging to be eaten with one's hands, this was one of the best birds I ate all year.

A big slab of beef short rib gets a similarly minimalist treatment: slow roasted on the bone, then carved into large hunks to reveal the pink meat concealed by the darkly burnished exterior, served with a sprinkle of smoked salt and a hay jus.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Cobaya Nina at Scarpetta

I'll confess, it's actually been a long time since I've eaten at Scarpetta, the Scott Conant restaurant in the Fontainebleau where Chef Nina Compton holds down as chef de cuisine. But we knew good things were happening there - I've never heard of anyone reporting anything but a great meal at Scarpetta, and Compton's performance on this season of "Top Chef" has her as the clear front-runner to take that honor. We figured we had to get in on a Cobaya dinner with her before she blew up. After the seed was planted when she helped out former kitchen companion Michael Pirolo for his Cobaya dinner at Macchialina a few months ago, it came together earlier this week.

As is our usual modus operandi, we gave no limitations other than "Cook what you want," which is what Chef Nina did for a group of forty seated at several long tables on a veranda looking out over the Fontainebleau pool. She let us know at the start, there would be no "theme," just "good food." She was right. It was a great meal: a bit more adventurous than the usual offerings at Scarpetta, but with that same elegant, modern Italian spirit.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Nina at Scarpetta flickr set).

A simple crudo to start, playing on the flavors of the Mediterranean - tender scallop, with slivered fennel, orange and pine nuts - was a clean and bright start. A refreshing bubbly prosecco was a perfect pair with this; indeed, the wine pairings throughout the night were very well done, unfortunately I didn't take notes on producers.

Some heartier bites followed: whipped morcilla (blood sausage), a slice of testa (headcheese), and fegato (chicken livers) making up a nice offal sampler.

Sweetbreads are tough to get right. Over-breaded or over-cooked and they just become little nuggets of "fried"; not enough and they can be floppy and flaccid. Nina's were close to perfect: a nice bit of crunch on the exterior, but not enough to overshadow the delicate puffy texture of the sweetbreads. They were served over a truffled sunchoke purée with brussel sprout petals and black trumpet mushrooms, making for a really a nice layering of earthy flavors.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Willows Inn - Lummi Island, Washington

The first thing I notice upon arriving are the smells: the salt ocean air, fresh cut grass, a whiff of wood smoke. The ferry ride from the mainland takes only about ten minutes, but Lummi Island - the home of the Willows Inn - seems almost a world to itself. Lummi, about a dozen miles from end to end, is the easternmost of the San Juan Islands, an archipelago in the Strait of Juan de Fuca stretching between mainland Washington State and Vancouver Island. It's also one of the more beautiful places I've ever been.

We spent a couple days on Lummi Island before eating at Willows Inn, and I'm glad we did.[1] We saw the reefnets where salmon are fished in the same way that Native Americans did it centuries ago.[2] We caught (and released) a massive thirty pound lingcod. We kayaked along the island's coast, tasting bull kelp and sea lettuce we pulled right out of the water alongside our boats. After a little while, it starts to seem as if the entire landscape is edible: blackberry bushes flourish everywhere, salmon occasionally jump over the waves, their scales glinting silver in the light, deer and rabbits roam out of the woods at dusk.

It provided context. And perhaps more than anything else, Chef Blaine Wetzel's cooking is all about context.

The best meals not only nourish and satisfy; they tell a story. It doesn't need to be a complicated one - and indeed, when your mode of communication is a plate of food, it probably can't be. The story of Willows Inn is a simple one, eloquently told: "Here is where you are, right now."

This is the story of Willows Inn, and Lummi Island, on August 15, 2013.[3]

(You can see all my pictures in this Willows Inn flickr set.)

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

CobayaBelly with Chef Jose Mendin at PB Steak

It's always interesting to see how chefs approach doing a Cobaya dinner with us. Having a "theme" is entirely optional, but many chefs choose to do so. When we lined up a dinner with Chef José Mendin, of Pubbelly and its sibling PB Steak, he went with a "Bloody Monday" motif.

The decorations seemed inspired equally by a butcher's abattoir and a goth chick's boudoir,with PB Steak's unfinished wood and concrete dressed up with lots of candles, black apothecary bottles and the occasional crow.

Chef Mendin's offal-intensive menu, making extensive use of the "fifth quarter" of the cattle whose prime cuts usually grace the restaurant's menu, was drawn up like a butcher's diagram, though the pieces actually came from several different places - beef heart from Niman Ranch in California, veal brains from Strauss Farms in Wisconsin, tongue from Jackman Ranch in upstate Florida, prime rib from Cox Family Farms in Alabama.

(You can see all my pictures in this CobayaBelly flickr set, though you'll have to put up with some wonky lighting and grainy shots.)

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tapas - Spanish Design for Food @ The Moore Building

According to Penelope Casas' excellent book "Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain," the original tapa was a slice of cured ham or chorizo, served compliments of the house, and - according to some - placed over the top of the customer's wineglass to keep flies out of the sherry. In other words, it was a simple, effective, and delicious confluence of food and design.

The exhibition "Tapas - Spanish Design for Food," currently on display at the Moore Building in the Design District, explores and celebrates that confluence, using Spanish tapas as the springboard. Organized by Acción Cultural Española, and curated by Spanish architect Juli Capella, it's a fascinating glimpse into the circular relationship of cuisine, art, design and culture.

The displays are divided into sections - "The Kitchen," "The Table," and "The Food" - with a well-selected compilation of objects created for each. They range from the utterly pragmatic - a set of cookware designed by José Andrés - to the entirely whimsical - a cutting board with a chute for bread crumbs connected to an outdoor bird feeder. Here are just a few of the fun things I saw at a media preview yesterday:

(You can see all my pictures in this Tapas - Spanish Design for Food flickr set).

"Jamón de la Crisis" - designed by Julí Capella, produced by Vinçon - one of the most famous of Spain's culinary icons, but in consideration of the recent economic collapse, rendered in recyclable plastic and "filled with pure, Spanish mountain air." "Cured in 2008, on sale in 2013."

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Monday, November 4, 2013

"Pink Collar" Cobaya for a Cause with Chef Daniel Serfer

We mostly do this Cobaya thing to eat well and have fun, but occasionally we try to do good, too. Almost exactly a year ago, we helped Chef Andrew Carmellini fill seats for a Hurricane Sandy Relief Dinner at The Dutch, which was a fantastic meal (with contributions from several Cobaya alumni) and raised more than $17,000 for Sandy relief efforts.

This year, when Chef Daniel Serfer of Blue Collar approached us about doing a charity Cobaya dinner to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we were eager to take part. It's a cause that is particularly meaningful to Danny, who lost his mother to breast cancer eleven years ago this month, and he described the menu he put together as takes on some of her favorite dishes.

I'll tell you this: Marsha ate very well. Though Blue Collar is, as the name suggests, a working-class kind of place, Chef Serfer has a fine dining background, having toiled at the now-closed Chef Allen's before opening his own place. And he's already thrown a few "White Collar" dinners at Blue Collar, complete with servers in tuxedo t-shirts. But this was something else. Oysters, caviar, stone crab, lobster, truffles, prime rib, foie gras ... it's a bit of a wonder we don't all have gout. It was indulgent and over the top in the best possible way.

(You can see all my pictures in this "Pink Collar" flickr set.)

Oysters are a great way to start a great meal, and this one started with a bucket full of freshly shucked Kumamotos accompanied by a traditional mignonette sauce. Bubbly always makes for a nice introduction too - a Santa Julia Brut Rosé from Mendoza Argentina in this instance, selected by one of Miami's best sommeliers, Allegra Angelo, a Cobaya vet who was pouring at her third of our events.

Another pass-around: porcini mushroom croquettes, with a crispy casing, a warm, creamy-textured, earthy-flavored mushroom purée inside, and a light dusting of parmesan cheese.

The first plated course began the sit-down segment of the dinner not so modestly: Kaluga caviar two ways, with scrambled eggs and brioche toast, and also over browned, buttery Yukon Gold blini. It was very nice caviar, and an elegantly simple presentation to let it stand out.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A New Orleans Dining Travelogue (Part 2: New School) - Peche, Root, Coquette, R'evolution, Bar Tonique

In Part 1 of my New Orleans Travelogue, I stuck with the "Old Guard" - traditional places, like Galatoire's, Felix's Oyster Bar, and Mr. B's Bistro, serving mostly traditional dishes. For a long time, it seemed like this was all you could find in New Orleans. New or old, it was as if every place was required by the Napoleonic Code to offer gumbo, shrimp remoulade, étouffée, and blackened redfish. You could tell the more contemporary places because they would affix a sprig of thyme or rosemary like a flag post in the middle of the plate.

That kind of culinary solipsism is sometimes one of the trade-offs of a city with such a passionate food culture. We saw much the same thing on our visits to Spain: the food is mostly outstanding - if you like Spanish food. But nobody talks about the Italian restaurants in Spain. Still, during our more recent visits to New Orleans - post-Katrina - things seems to be changing. The city not only has more restaurants than it did before the hurricane and floods (nearly 500 more, according to Tom Fitzmorris' count at The New Orleans Menu), it seems to be more open to a greater variety of restaurants.

To start exploring what's new, I met up with good friend, talented chef, and Louisiana native Chad Galiano (a/k/a Chadzilla), who returned home this past year after an extended sojourn in South Florida. We had an ambitious plan to hit three spots in the Central Business District for lunch in one day, though sadly ran out of steam after only two (I suspect New Orleans' liberal open container policy - are "go cups" also in the Napoloenic Code? - had something to do with it).


Pêche is a new addition to the small stable of restaurants opened by chef Donald Link. After first making a name for himself at Herbsaint, Link returned to his Cajun roots with Cochon, which opened only a couple months after Katrina (and which was one of the best meals of my last visit to New Orleans). Cochon Butcher, a butcher shop and sandwich shop around the corner, followed soon after. As their names suggest, Cochon is largely dedicated to the pig in all its glorious forms, while Pêche revolves around seafood.

So where better to start than with a big seafood platter?

(You can see all my pictures in this Peche flickr set).

Pêche's seafood platter was mostly a compilation of items that can also be ordered a la carte from the raw bar section of the menu. Oysters come from three different sources along the Gulf (on our server's recommendation, I punctuated them with a dash of the house-made habañero and sweet potato hot sauce on the table). Fresh head-on Gulf shrimp are steamed and chilled in their shells, retaining all their sweetness. A mound of smoked tuna salad has the smooth texture of deli tuna, but with a delicate perfume of wood smoke. Tiny crab claws swim in a soft vinaigrette brightened with chili and mint. A seafood salad combines cubes of raw tuna, tender cooked shrimp and fresh avocado.

I fear I will live out the rest of my years vainly trying to recreate the glory of the massive, over-the-top seafood platter we had at Au Pied de Cochon this summer; but on a more modest scale this resonated in all the same ways. There is something incredibly indulgent about having the bounty of the local waters laid out before you like this - fresh, pure, and essentially unadorned.

(continued ... read on for Root, Coquette, Bar Tonique, and Restaurant R'evolution)

Monday, October 21, 2013

A New Orleans Dining Travelogue (Part 1: Old School) - Felix's, Killer Poboys, Galatoire's, Mr. B's Bistro, Napoleon House

It's presumptuous to think you can genuinely understand a city's dining culture after only a few days. In a place with as rich a culinary heritage as New Orleans, it's downright foolish. Over the past few years I've eaten probably about a dozen meals in New Orleans - just about enough to feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of what the city has to offer. To give you a better idea of what I mean, here's my "New Orleans To Do List":

View New Orleans in a larger map

The places I've actually been to are only a small fraction of the pinpoints on that map. (Incidentally, if you find this map useful, I've got a few more of other cities and can look for excuses to post them). So I will try to restrain myself from the big deep thoughts, and instead recount a travelogue of about eight meals, and a few bars, over a recent long weekend in New Orleans:

Felix's Restaurant & Oyster Bar

I suspect everyone who visits New Orleans more than a couple times develops certain rituals. One of mine is that I like to ingest some oysters as soon as possible. After dropping my bag at the hotel, I headed straight for Iberville Street in the French Quarter. There's always a line at Acme Oyster House; there's almost never one at Felix's Restaurant & Oyster Bar, directly across the street.[1] I'd be willing to bet at least the price of a dozen oysters that they both get their supply from the same exact place. At Felix's they're available on the half-shell, "char-grilled," or in Rockefeller or Bienville modes; I sampled a half-dozen each of the first two varieties.

(You can see all my pictures from Felix's in this New Orleans flickr set).

Their Gulf oysters on the half-shell are plump, cold, mild, and more sweet than briny - maybe not the most characterful of oysters I've had, but far from the most offensive too. They go down easy, other than the fact that their bottoms are still caked with mud, making it tricky to sip their liquor from the shell without getting a mouthful of grit. "Char-grilled," meanwhile, means shucked, warmed on the grill and slathered with garlic butter and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Like New Orleans style BBQ shrimp, it's all mostly an excuse for dunking bread into that rich, buttery sauce - but I'll happily engage in that charade.

Speaking of rituals, I was slow to pick up on the DIY cocktail sauce program at Felix's. Every spot at the counter and every table is adorned with a still life composition of hot sauce bottles (both Tabasco and Crystal), Worcestershire sauce, and a tin of grated horseradish. An industrial size container of ketchup and little paper cups are positioned at the center of the bar, the idea being that you combine the ketchup and other accouterments according to your own taste to concoct your own personal magical blend (lemons are also available on request). For me, a dash of Crystal is all the oysters needed. As for the lady a few seats down, eating hers directly off the bar counter, with no ice platter, no plate, no nothing: well, everyone's got their own particular style.

Felix's Restaurant & Oyster Bar
739 Iberville Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Felix's Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

(continued ... read on for Killer Poboys, Napoleon House, Galatoire's and Mr. B's Bistro)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cobaya Tea Party with Chef Antonio Bachour

The first time I sampled pastry chef Antonio Bachour's work was at a Cobaya dinner with Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog a couple years ago. We'd held the event in a warehouse in Little Haiti which, among other challenges, didn't have the greatest air conditioning. It was probably nearly 90° in the dining room and at least ten degrees warmer in the "kitchen." Not exactly ideal conditions, and yet Bachour, with a big fan blowing in a back room, plated some absolutely exquisite desserts, even managing to turn out perfect quenelles of green apple sorbet among about a dozen other elements on the plate.

At the time, Bachour was working at the W South Beach, and the word was that he would be pastry chef at The Dutch when it opened in a few months. Instead, he took his talents to the St. Regis Bal Harbour and the very talented Josh Gripper came to the Dutch - a win-win for Miami diners.

Bachour is an incredible talent. We knew that we'd want to find a way for him to do his own Cobaya event, but the prospect of an all-desserts meal was a bit daunting. And then Mrs. F provided the inspiration: why not do an afternoon tea? It was perfect. We had a weekend afternoon event for a change of pace, with a combination of savory and sweet components, following at least loosely in the format of a traditional tea service.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Bachour flickr set.)

The St. Regis provided a beautiful venue - a lounge area in the resort - and their typical over-the-top service - sabered champagne, free-flowing mimosas, even some live music. And Bachour, with a savory assist from hotel chef Tom Parlo, provided an equally over-the-top menu.

To start, a golden egg, filled with a couple more kinds of eggs: a creamy egg salad, laid over a puddle of cucumber gelee, topped with a generous dollop of caviar. This was a delicious, indulgent few bites, fully worthy of its ornate presentation.

Next, a round of tender scones with berry jam, citrus curd and clotted cream - very classical.

A platter of savory tea sandwiches was classical in format, but modernized in the execution. It included a hearty smorrebrod with a miniature composed nicoise salad (tuna, cherry tomatoes, green beans, olives and a quail egg); a savory eclair filled with cream cheese and topped with a ribbon of smoked salmon and a salmon macaron; a burrata salad assembled over shortbread with dried tomatoes, basil and balsamic caviar; a perfect mini lobster roll tucked into a brioche bun; and a cornet filled with curried chicken salad, topped with a crisp dried strawberry.

Then it was time for a rather unbridled dessert presentation - probably more than 20 different sweet compositions assembled by Chef Bachour, on a buffet that seemed to go on forever and was replenished as rapidly as it was depleted. I don't think I managed to get pictures and descriptions of everything, much less sample them all, but here's a faithful attempt:

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