Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An Idea, or Two or EL!

a while back I got an invitation - forwarded by Beth - for a dinner at EL Ideas- here is the gist of it-

EL Ideas is excited to welcome Jason Carlisle, chef and owner of Ardent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Ardent Restaurant is a 2014 James Beard semi-finalist for best new restaurant. Similar to EL Ideas, Ardent strives to make fine dining an accessible experience, blending upscale food with a casual atmosphere.

So we quickly reserved with Katie (whom I would call the gal Friday there but she is actually Gal EVERYDAY! because she has to hold down the fort in the "front of the house" single handedly!)

Both Phillip (EL Ideas) and Justin (Ardent) hail from Wisconsin (as does Jake Bickelhaupt of 42 grams)... is there something in the water up there that is growing some of the most creative chefs in the big nearby metropolis of Chicago? Well that is a topic for another time and place (probably something involving a beverage of your choice- LOL)

So last night we came armed with the big guns- a 1985 Pommard Clos des Epenots and a 2002 Corton Charlemagne along with a Vilmart Grand Cellier champagne and a back up bottle for the red of a 1996 Vosne Romanee... you will see them all in "person" later along with the other ten wines that made it to the table during our fabulously fun feast last night.

EL Ideas was completely booked for the event- I overheard Phil jokingly say they used every chair they had! Our table of ten was joined by another group of six (apparently many of them members of  la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs - and so well known to most of our table) there was one two top and two four tops and the place was rockin!

so let's get down to it- I know you want to know what did we eat - LOL and what else did we drink?

Phil and Mon confer about ...????

the two chefs welcome the group and give short opening remarks-

the first course- ghost pepper/caviar/blueberry jam/moonshine/banana pudding/watermelon radish/yogurt chips  ... No utensils- just lick the plate-

if nothing else - it is an icebreaker and the whole room lightens up a bit more-

I missed on the first go around the first champagne - but caught it at the end of the evening-

this was called the salad- and had  - compressed cucumber/cucumber soup/compressed shallot/sour cream mousse/dill fronds/lemon gelee -

love love loved this course! wanted a pint to take home- salmon belly tartare/cornudding/cantaloupe puree/fennel slaw/chili

there were two of these Kongsgaard bottles but I only got one photo the first time around- see last shots for the full panoply of wines-the first was a Vio/Rous combo and the second a 100% Chard... I thought the chard showed really well but wasn't all that keen on the Viognier blend- but that is the thing about wine- you like what you like...

PEI mussels/mussel foam/beanless summer squash succotash/tarragon gel/black garlic

the ever popular beet course LOL- I ate Phil's so he looked like he had participated (his second least favorite food after curry- LOL) beet tartare/smoked beef fat/ground cherry chip

the foie gras course was somewhat disappointing because it was overwhelmed by the tart fruit flavors in the dish- (foie gras/crab apple/kohlrabi/rainbow oxalis blossoms)

some prep along the way- they encourage you to wander in and out of the kitchen just stay away from the cooking line where the stoves are located-

a fabulous lobster raviolo course- raviolo/shaved bottarga/morel/golden plum/lobster

stacked pickled herring/carrot puree/powdered lardo/crisp chicken skin

had this last time and it was then my favorite course-  truffle/bellota/bread/fonduta  YUM YUM YUM!

a fun ratatouille preparation- with each chef's take on the dish (one up front and the other in a fried ball in back of the photo) description from EL - first -  ratatouille croquette/basil tuiles and the other one - green tomato sauce/eggplant tomato and zucchini crisps

two views of the same dish- turnip leaves/sour cherry/squab heart/cherry/miso glazed turnip

this one was a braunschweiger style dish that I liked but others (who didn't grow up in German immigrant cities) not so much- it is an acquired taste I guess LOL or maybe they thought it needed some pumpernickel bread and raw onions! LOL (braunschweiger sausage/red wine glaze/red wine reduction/shallot/rye crouton)

bison hanger steak/bison demi glace/bok choy/rutabaga in wakame butter/blue cheese/avocado

a white chocolate dessert course- with berries and rooibos (peach/berries/white chocolate/rooibos aromas

and yum- figs! (chocolate & cocoa puff praline/roasted saltine ice cream/buttermilk mousse/cardamon/fig/saltine genoise)

the evening's wines all lined up-

the champagnes-

the white burgundies-

the wines with flash in an attempt to get a visible label on each-

the Vosne Romanee jumped the line and should have been back with the red burgs after the California whites and before the big reds and dessert Moscato d'Asti, but - heck - I am happy we were able to round up all the suspects for the line up - LOL

sadly they did not have a printed menu for us at the end of the evening so I have not done justice to the course descriptions I am sure- I apologize and hope you get the gist of the meal regardless... (LATER NOTE- EL was so kind as to send notes about the dinner and I revised descriptions accordingly! Thank You! @elideaschi

Phil spent the entire drive home raving about what a great time it was! I thought he was going to break out into the Pharrell Williams Happy song---

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof -  Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth -  Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you - Because I'm happy... 

and we all were - as we left the wonderful evening of good friends, good wines and good food... so clap along!

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