"The best thing you've eaten lately" was kind of the topic with a bunch of people I talked to last night at dinner (more on this dinner to follow), and the one that captivated me most was the mention of "steak with a smoked caramel sauce". This was experienced at a restaurant they could not recall the name of but which was in Santa Fe, NM. Here's what we do know: the smoke most likely came from smoked salt, and the caramel sauce was thinner than what you'd put on ice cream, say. The combination was, I was assured, to die for.
Though taken aback at first by the thought, the more I've stewed on it the more I like the idea. After all, though not in general a fan of sweet stuff (I never EVER order pork in restaurants because I can't stand the sweet sauces--and in fact, restaurants that think they have to use a sweet sauce to sell pork kind of lose my respect at the getgo), I have to admit liking sweet beef, like Korean Bulgogi. And my sweetish curry cured flank steak should be licensed, it's so addictive. So why NOT a salted caramel sauce? Anyone had anything like this? I must work on it.
So an extra shoutout for my new favorite local restaurant, a spot that's been empty for a good long while: Ciao Thyme. Ciao Thyme is a local locavore caterer who decided to open a demonstration kitchen and teaching space and who then got the bright idea of making it into a popup restaurant once or twice a month. These proved immensely popular, so much so that the popups are not so popup anymore but regularly scheduled on the first and third Thursday of each month. If you do not book two months in advance you won't get in. The menu is never revealed in advance. Half the time, I don't think they know what they're going to do until they find out what they can get the day before. Dinner is $55. If you want their wine pairings add $30, or bring your own bottle for $20. Dinner takes three and a half hours; if you can't relax, don't go. By the end of the night, these strangers are your new best friendsSeating is pre-assigned at long group tables which are polished slices out of some big tree. You are never seated across from your companion but next to, so you're forced to convive with the strangers across and next to you. The kitchen is wide open and right there and all the plating is done between you and the rest of the kitchen (with mirrors on the ceiling for an overhead view from anywhere in the room), so a cross-conversation with chef Mataio and his staff is ongoing throughout the night. It's noisy, it's vibrant, it's good and it's FUN.
Last night's menu:
Venison slider with mint and avocado aioli and fingerling potato chips
Spring root vegetable veloute with spinach flan, pea sprouts and fiddelheads
Salad of quinoa and grated cheddar cauliflower in meyer lemon dressing topped with tempura leeks
Goat cheese and sunchoke postage-stamp ravioli with mint and parsley chimicurri sauce
Poached sturgeon poached in a tangerine citrus sauce over smashed potatoes and sauteed russian kale
Veal tenderloin and spring vegetables over carnaroli rice with white wine demi and tarragon herb butter
Oatmeal shortcakes with blueberry compote, orange yogurt ice cream and mint syrup
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov