After taking a day to recuperate from an Xmas trip to New Orleans (details posted on the New Orleans board), we were eagerly looking forward to a celebratory dinner by our favorite chef, the amazing Adam Kreisel.
Despite what seemed like an incoming snow storm we got duded up and drove up Provo Canyon from our hotel. By the time we arrived at Sundance the snow had dissipated leaving a fresh white blanket on the ground, the mountain air crisp and cold.
The Tree Room was decked out with a tent-like feel thanks to creative use of canvas sheeting, with strings of multi-colored lights strung from wall to wall. The servers were dressed in safari gear, making for a much different look than our previous visit. The night's theme was "Morocco in Utah", with a fascinating 6-course tasting menu. Fortunately, me and the missus chose all the different options, so we got to sample all the amazing dishes that Adam had prepared for the evening.
Here's the rundown on our easy-paced, 3+ hour dining extravaganza, including the wine pairings offered:
Amuse - Littleneck Clam with Caramelized Shallot Cilantro Relish, paired with Mint Tea.
I could have eaten this all night long. The clams were finely minced and mixed with the shallot/cilantro relish before being returned to the shell. The texture of the clams with the flavors of the relish made an incredible combination, with a streak of red chili oil on the plate to kick things up a notch. The mint tea was sweetened to provide some contrast to the chili oil heat, with the mint mingling with the herbal flavors in the relish. A tiny little treat, big on genius.
Salad - Baby Arugula and Sharon Fruit with Lemon Marjoram Vinaigrette, with a choice of Veal Sweetbreads or Cippolini Confit, paired with a 2000 Central Coast Treana.
Being a newfound gland fan, the wife chose the sweetbreads while I went with the onions. The arugula was tender with a nice peppery flavor that was accented nicely by the dressing. We were unfamiliar with Sharon Fruit ( a middle eastern thing I am guessing). It was a lovely color of pale orange, adding some nice contrast to the greens, with a texture something like a firm pear. Flavor was very subtle...slight hints of apple come to mind.
The confit was nice and rich, glistening from having been cooked down in copious amounts of butter. The sweetbreads must've been really good as I was not offered even a tiny taste. The wine was really nice...crisp, but with enough fruit to match well with the pepperiness of the greens.
Soup - As previously posted hereabouts, the Soup Explorations when Adam was cooking at the Globe Café were always revelations, never to be missed. Both soup offerings on the special menu were right up there with the best soups anywhere, but one was clearly the winner thanks to his unique recipe.
Mushroom soup has always been a favorite of mine, so I was drawn to the Curry Scented Wild Mushroom Soup with Chive Oil and Petite Licorice Mint, paired with a 2000 Valmoissine Burgundy. Easily the best I've yet to taste, this was a hearty, ruddy broth, generous with at least a couple of different mushrooms. The chive oil added a nice note of brightness in contrast to the earthy soup, with the licorice mint adding a 3rd flavor dimension to put this dish over the top. The wine was excellent, with a gorgeous clear ruby color. Nice body, with enough fruit to hold its own with such a hearty soup.
So that we could experience the entire menu, the lovely Denise begrudgingly went with the Cauliflower and Anjou Pear Purée with Dried Seckel Pear and Anise Sherry Syrup, which was paired with a 1999 Trimbach Gerwurztraminer from Alsace.
One taste and her disappointment with missing out on the mushroom soup disappeared. This was a soup of pure genius, the vegetable and fruit flavors in perfect balance with totally complementary textures. The dried fruit brought a bit of toothsomeness to the proceedings, with the subtle flavors from the syrup adding depth. The wine was nice and bright in contrast to the earthiness and subtle fruit of the soup. Truly inspired combinations all the way around.
Appetizer - and the hits just keep on coming! I went with the Seared Baby Conch with Pea Tendrils and Yogurt Coconut Sauce, paired with the 1999 Matanzas Creek Chardonnay. The pieces of conch were lightly breaded and cooked just quick and and hot enough to put a little crust on the outside while preserving the firm chewiness of the crustacean. The pea tendrils were a nice earthy contrast to the seafood, with their brightness complementing the rich sauce. The wine was nice and buttery, supporting both the seafood and the creamy sauce. Amazing stuff.
As Denise swoons at the mere mention of foie gras, it was no surprise that she made her choice the Duet Of Foie Gras - Tourchon with Honey Gelee, Stewed Grapes and Crostini alongside a portion that was Pan Seared on Taro Root with Micro Greens and a Medjool Date Sauce. Fortunately Adam was smart enough to turn down her request for a double order as there was much more food to come.
I was only able to sample the former presentation, but it was pretty darned good. A perfectly prepared lobe, complemented nicely by the grapes. The honey gelee was just incredible...a sweetness that contrasted the grapes, and the texture was almost identical to that of the foie. From the mmmmmmmm's emanating from my wife's mouth, and the speed with which it disappeared, I can only assume the pan seared portion was every bit as good if not better.
The duet was paired with a 2000 Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella. I did get a sip of the wine along with my tidbit, and once again Adam had chosen just the right wine to go with the dish. What a surprise.
Entrée - At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here too were a couple of incredible sounding offerings that we thoroughly enjoyed.
Denise went with the Mako Shark Steak with Chestnut Honey, Andouille Sausage, Creamy Lentils, Laccinato Kale and Micro Ruby Radish, orffered with the 1999 Jean Luc Columbo Crozes Hermitage. Talk about a combo to make your head spin! Nice meaty shark, sweet smoky earth from the lentils with a slight sweetness in the background, contrasting bitter earth from the kale and the radish. It is amazing how the different layers of flavor unfold in Adam's cooking...makes other stuff seem 1-dimensional in comparison. The wine is one we had enjoyed with our previous tasting menu at the Tree Room, and it proved a worthy counterpart here too. This is a gorgeous wine with more than enough character to stand up to such a complex dish.
My choice was the Crusted Kobe Filet with Cucumber Fennel Apricot Salad, Purple Roasted Potatoes and Harissa Sauce, paired with a 2000 Pesquero Tinto from Spain.
I ordered mine rare, and rare is what I got. A delightful little filet, like buttah, with the expected zen-like presence of beef flavor. The salad on which it rested was just amazing, flavors I love, but never in combination with each other before. Fennel was the main component, with nice dried apricots and plenty of skin on the cucmumber julienne for some textural contrast. The purple potatoes were particularly pleasing, unusual color and flavor and nice toothsome starchiness. The harissa brought some nice background heat with a bit of bright spark up front. Not only was this dish a delight to taste, but it made for an almost technicolor presentation on the plate. The Tinto was nice and light, adding a sheen to the proceedings without competing with any of the strong or subtle flavors in this one.
Cheese Course - by this time we were starting to go into overload, Adam's cooking is an assault on the palate, but in a good way. There was a nice triple cream, an awesome brie and some good bleu. With some croustades and slices of green apple. As much as I like a good bleu, I could only manage a couple of smidgens. The course was served with a 1989 Domaine Pichot Vouvray from Bordeaux which complemented the various cheeses very nicely.
Dessert - Finally, the end is in sight. This was just an incredible overall experience and the 2 dessert offerings were
a fitting finale. Denise got the best of the selections this time, the Lemon Curd Tart with Black Mission Figs and Sweet Pomegranate Reduction. This was one of the tastiest lemon curds I have enjoyed, in a perfect shortbread pastry crust.
The kicker were the figs, offering a nice chewy contrast to the filling, with the flavor creeping in once the tartness of the lemon faded. The wine chosen for this one was a fave, the Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec champagne.
My dessert choice was the Rum-Soaked Chocolate Cornmeal Cake with Malted Ice Cream and Calimyrna Fig Coulis.
Yeehaa! While not quite as killer as the lemon curd, this one rocked mightily. Wonderful coarse texture to the cake, and it was still a bit molten in the middle. Fresh from the oven, the ice cream was melting rapidly into the chocolatey cornmeal, with the figs adding contrasting sweetness and a bit of chew. The icing on the cake (figuratively) was the inclusion of some of the micro licorice that showed up earlier in the meal. Just a little exclamation point to an already impressive dessert.
So there you have it...just another amazing meal by our favorite chef. We had just returned from 4 nights in New Orleans and had enjoyed some pretty serious cooking, but this guy Kreisel is on a different plane entirely. The Tree Room at Sundance is worth the splurge and the trip, no matter where you might be coming from.