This is a continuation of our epic two-night byob dining experience at Blackfish in Conshohocken PA, as first described in this post:
Night #2: “Elysian Fields Farm lamb”, paired with Northern Rhones and Bordeaux
This was one-off, off-menu event put together especially for our group and was many months in the planning. Coincidently, and obviously unavoidably, it turned out to be scheduled for the same night as the opening game of the Phillies-Reds series. But we pushed back the start to 7:45PM in the hopes of catching most of the game. As it turned out, that wasn’t a problem, and dinner was a perfect match for the game. It will now forever be known as our “No-hitter Halladay Dinner”!
Our feast feature multiple cuts of lamb sourced by Chip from Elysian Fields Farm in Waynesburg, PA. Never heard of it? Well, dinner came with a 4 page brochure, just in case we didn’t realize how honored we should be to taste such supremely coddled lamb shanks, which is also apparently the only lamb that Thomas Keller will serve at The French Laundry and Per Se. And it was certainly wonderful lamb. But I can’t help but do a double take when seeing it described in terms that include “vegetarian”, “holistic” and “patent-pending” in the same sentence. Hmmm…
Lamb sweetbreads with Macintosh apples, chanterelles and red onion
~Although I still prefer Bibou’s huge veal sweetbreads, this tiny thumb-sized delicacy may have been more flavorful, and was certainly more toothsome and substantial feeling. A lovely start, although it made me wish we were also going to enjoy some foie gras and bone marrow (a la Bibou’s heart attack-inducing triumvirate).
Crispy lamb tongue and confit of lamb heart with warm frisee and Dijon mustard (see photo)
~This duo was one of the highlights of the meal. The small lamb tongues were breaded and deep fried, and had a wonderfully crisp exterior and tender, meaty interior. I did think it could have used a dollop of sauce to moisten it. The heart was rolled like a Christmas log before slicing, and was both tender and chewy. As I always say: “The offal-er, the better!”
Papardelle noodles with lamb neck ragu and Grana Padana cheese
~An unassuming dish on its surface, once tasted it turned into the pièce de résistance of the meal. So intensely rich, lamby and substantial, this was a perfect match for the Rhones, especially the La Chapelle.
48-hour lamb belly, grits, 63-degree egg
~Another fantastic dish, both for flavor, but also from an intellectual standpoint. The succulent lamb belly had been braised for 48 hours, until it was completely melt-in-your-mouth. The egg had been cooked in a somewhat sous-vide style, but without the vacuum (I guess you don’t need a vacuum pack if you have an egg shell), at precisely 63C to a well-done but gelatinous consistency. A molecular gastronomy technique I’ve seen on TV, but never in person. The fat, gelatin and creamy textures of this dish were sublime.
Rack of lamb with cauliflower, golden raisins and champagne grapes (see photo)
~This was a very nice, rare+ piece of lamb. But I actually thought the other dishes left this in the also-ran category. However, it was a good way to appreciate the special lamb by itself.
Smooth Pecorino with beet membrillo and 100 year-old sherry vinegar (“elixr”)
~The best part of the cheese course was the membrillo, which was made with beets rather than the usual quince. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Pecorino and would have preferred a well-aged Parmigianino, but that would have ruined the lamb theme, I guess. A good match for the Riesling.
Warm molten chocolate cake with sheeps milk frozen yogurt and caramel sauce
~A good molten chocolate cake, a bit on the small side, but is anyone else getting tired of these? The delicate frozen yogurt was excellent. Again, I think the desserts are good at Blackfish, but they are not the part of the meal I usually remember.
Cinnamon-sugar beignets with two dipping sauces, spiced anglaise and ? (complementary)
~OK, correct that: this is a dessert I will remember! Apparently justifiably famous, I would go back to Blackfish just for these perfect airy, sugary beignets. The best I’ve ever had. Fortunately, everyone else was stuffed, so I joined them by eating two (or was that three?)!
Counting the well deserved 30% tip and tax, this was $170/person. Admittedly, an very expensive indulgence. As a whole, I think it was worth it, since the food was of extraordinarily high quality.
But I’ll probably pass on future opportunities for patent-pending lamb, unless I can score a reservation at The French Laundry.
Wines (in serving order):
2000 E. Guigal Hermitage Blanc
2001 Marcel Deiss Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim
1995 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle
1996 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon
1998 R. Rostaing Cote-Rotie Cote Blonde
2001 E. Guigal Cote-Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis
1986 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (slightly corked, but still good)
1990 Chateau Lynch-Bages
1995 Chateau Leoville Poyferre
1999 Jean-Michel Gerin Cote-Rotie Les Grandes Places
Is Chip Roman/Blackfish the best Chef/restaurant combination in the Philly area? Being new to town, I don’t have enough of a perspective to draw such a conclusion. But I will put them in the same league as Pierre Calmels/Bibou.
And this was definitely one of the most memorable food/wine/baseball experiences of my life!