I received an outstanding meal from Chef Dan Barber, at Blue Hill recently.
Amuse: Papadom with poached shrimp and scallions
(1) Romaine Lettuce Soup with Meyer Lemon, Toasted Walnuts and Apples, with Varnier Fanniere Brut, Avize
This was a delicious soup. It has been described as part of the Blue Hill Degustibus Event post, but the Meyer lemon foam on top of the soup was appealing. The acidity of the tiny apple bits in the mid/lower portions of the soup was nice. Nice pairing with a Blanc de Blancs champagne that I had not sampled previously.
(2) Poached Hog Island Oyster, Marinated Maine Sea Scallop, Herring Roe and Reisling Gelee, with Domaine Rollin Pernand Vergelesses '98
Stunning dish objectively and subjectively. On the nose, the dish already yielded robust oyster/ocean sensations. The hog islands, when taken in, were equally evocative. Ideally paired with carpaccio of scallop (thicker than carpaccio normally connotes) that was itself pristine-tasting. The herring roe was included in a limited quantity in the gelee/saucing, and added to the ocean sensations.
The Reisling gelee was nicely "loose", almost liquid-like in some areas, supple and subtle. I adored this dish and its portrayl of ocean notes. Given the sweet notes in the Reisling gelee, it was not easily ascertainable whether liquid from the inside of the oyster had been utilized in the gelee.
(3) Grilled Sardine with Citrus Soy, Gelefied Yellow Beets, Ricotta Cheese and Pine Nuts
Excellent dish, permitting the sampling of the quite iode, slightly salty aspects of fresh sardines. Wonderful opportunity to sample the skin, and a reminder that I should never accept canned sardines. I really enjoyed this dish. The soy was nicely suppressed in the citrus soy saucing, which was appropriately of medium consistency.
The accompanying cannelloni was very small (shorter than the length of my pinky), and was dominated by the few pine nuts inside. I have noticed an increasing tendency at Blue Hill to use cannelloni or cannelloni-type items as sides. It's a positive development. For example, at the recent Blue Hill James Beard event, the baby lamb had a larger cannelloni as one of the components of the dish -- inside, lamb that was robust in flavor. The cannelloni there was made using mushroom slices. At the Degustibus event, Berkshire pork cannelloni, baby bok choy and spring parsnips had been served, with an obviously larger cannelloni section.
(4) Steamed Black Bass with Pink Peppercorns, Juniper Berry, Pea Shoots, and Grapefruit Sauce, with Domaine Le Sang de Callou Vacqueyras '00
This dish was gorgeous, with pink peppercorns having been used in the cooking of the fish, but removed (presumably) except for a smaller amount of it upon serving. The flesh of the bass was cooked slowly, such that there was a certain rigidity (in a positive sense, of texture) to certain segments of the bass and its internal flesh structure was preserved. The flavor of the bass was clearly conveyed, aided by a very gentle grapefruit sauce. The pea shoots, forming a base for the presentation of the fish, were appealing because they had a bit of oil linking them and gave the dish a certain onctuousness that was appropriately suppressed and yet still there.
(5) Vermont Baby Lamb with Morel Mushrooms, Romaine Lettuce, Parsnip and Date Puree, with Downing Family Vineyards Zinfandel 2000
The meal continued apace with a very good baby lamb dish. One section of the baby lamb was served bone-on, and there were four or five additional slices served. The lamb's intrinsic flavors were appealing, and the saucing was appropriate, conveying sentiments of darkness (but not too much of that).
I was slightly surprised by how attractive the lettuce accompaniment for the baby lamb was, as I do not ordinarily associate that veggie with lamb dishes. It worked wonderfully :) The Romaine had been cooked, but had retained its crispy texture when bitten into. It tempered the intensity of the saucing, giving the lamb dish more of a spring feel. The parsnip and date puree was good as well, even though I would subjectively have preferred a little less sugar. Perhaps parsnip and onion, or date and onion, might work well with the baby lamb as well. A delicious dish.
(6) Avocado with Lime Sorbet and Salted Caramel Tuille
I have sampled this dish many times. I enjoy sampling things repeatedly, as the dessert can be slightly different given the prior courses that precede it in a meal. This is a dessert that deserves to remain on the menu for a while.
(7) Lychee Sorbet with Reisling Gelee and Crystallized Rose Petal
I have a weakness for desserts with rose petals, for they confer perfume as well as taste. This is among the most evocative desserts I have taken in at BH. A refreshing, fragranced sorbet served in a martini cup. A little rose petal was lodged within the sorbet, as though the petal had fallen onto a pool of raindrops. Visually appealing, and glorious when taken in.
Also, a nice dessert in the context of the meal, because the Reisling gelee (even though used in this dish in moderation) echoes the oyster/scallop/gelee dish earlier in the meal, just like the Romaine in the baby lamb course had brought back a recollection of the Romaine soup that marked the beginning of the meal.
(8) Passionfruit Souffle with Passion Fruit Ice Cream
This dish has previously been described.
Overall, an outstanding meal. :)