Braving the monsoon that is currently striking New Jersey, Stephanie and I headed down to Philadelphia to see my good friend Meghann's show that she wrote, directed and produced, called Chlamidya dell'Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque. It was excellent, and I hope that her and Gigi can have it grow and become more widespread in audience and eventually make millions of dollars because of it.
Aaron and Meghann, my sources for all Philly knowledge, are huge Jose Garces fans, and they had mentioned that one of his restaurants was literally right down the block from the theater. Thank you OpenTable for making reservations so easy!
The concept is small plates, social eating and enjoying lots of different types of food and flavors. Since we ordered a wide variety (3-4 plates per person, to be shared) we didn't try to match wines, but rather ordered the Hombre, which was gin, grapefruit and basil. Steph picked it out, and I decided on one because I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to drink. It turned out to be a good call because the its flavor cleansed the palate between each plate.
Charcuterie mixto - jamon Serrano, saucisson sec, lomo, chorizo Pamplona: Nothing much better than dried cured meats. I found the saucisson sec to be my favorite: spicy and and garlic-y and delicious. Steph liked the lomo, cured pork loin sliced wafer thin (it was practically transparent).
Cheese mixto - Boucheron, La Peral, idiazabal: Steph has been a real champ when it comes to trying foods she has previously decided she has disliked. Cheese is one, especially the smelly and stinky ones. Tonight she gave La Peral, a blue-veined cow/sheep milk cheese a whirl, and liked it! Good, now I can start making recipes with gorgonzola dolce. I was more partial to the Boucheron, myself.
Sopa de Castano - truffled chestnut soup, duck & mushroom hash, fried quail egg, pistachio: I can't begin to tell you about how amazing this dish was. It started with the tableside service (which I am known to be a sucker for), continued with the breaking of the yolk then ending with a spoon full of a rich and truffle-y chestnut soup, a shred of duck, a slice of mushroom and a sprinkle of pistachio...words can't even describe it. One day, I'm going to try and make this at home, using Nicholas's recipe for the chestnut soup. Best dish of the night.
Pork belly montaditos (canapes) - Berkshire pork belly, honey lacquer, shaved apples: Crostini topped with slabs of glazed pork belly, apples and herbs. Pork belly is awesome.
Duck montatidos (canapes) - duck confit, Serrano ham, black cherry, La Peral spread: This is another dish I'd try to recreate at home - the duck confit was pressed into a cube, then topped with a piece of serrano ham and seared to crisp. The flavors were out of this world.
Hamachi a la plantxa, avocado puree, pepper sauce & pickled onions: Random moment of the night: we leaned over to tell the couple next to us they should order this dish, and it turns that Stephanie had the girl in high school as a student.
Oyster Bocadillo (sandwich) - fried oysters, choricero pepper tartar sauce, sweet onion escabeche: Our love for oysters is well-known, and this tiny Basque version of a po'boy left us very satisfied. Mind you, I wasn't a fan of having to split this one with Stephanie, as I wanted the whole thing for myself.
Prawn brochetas - prawns, chorizo, grape tomato, espelette chile: Served with the head and legs attached! A bit more fiery of a course, I'm glad this was the last one served, as to not blow out our taste buds.
Roasted rack of lamb, artichoke puree & lemon: Not only was it perfectly cooked and delicious, the menu didn't mention that it was truffled artichoke puree. Win!
Crema Catalana - caramelized Spanish custard, cinnamon shortdough, poached figs, fig sorbet: Stephanie really liked the custard and cookie, but wasn't a fan of the figs or the sorbet. Fine with me, I finished both no problem.
Mato y Miel - goat's milk mousse, orange-olive oil caramel, orange blossom gelee, almond lace tuile: This was amazing. I'd have been happy with a double portion of this. Side note: Meghann had mentioned that she always wanted to order sherry because she thought the people were so cool drinking sherry out of their little sherry glasses...so Steph and I ordered sherry, a not-too-sweet one as per the recommendation of our server. I really enjoyed it, Steph said she wished it was sweeter. Now we know!
Eating at Tinto really hammered home the concept that we have gotten so used to giant plates and portions with massive amounts of food that we are thrown off when a dish arrives and it has 2 crostini on it. I like the idea of cooking a small plates for friends or family, as opposed to the standard holiday meal. We did it at our last Iron Chef dinner, but it's something I'd like to work on more as time goes on. One more thing to put on the to-do list!