Monday, January 10, 2011

Fun Ringing In The New Year with Dante's Food!

We were fortunate to ring in the New Year with good friends and Chef Dante Boccuzzi at his Restaurant Dante in Tremont Ohio. Diners had the option of a prix fixe tasting menu or the full a la carte menu. Three of us did the tasting and one created her own tasting from the regular menu.

My evening commenced with a lovely cocktail, which I did not photograph, that had been featured in a recent Cleveland Plain Dealer article - a Ginger Sidecar created by Dante Mixologist Alesya Pochynok, made with Hennessy cognac, fresh lemon and lime juice, simple syrup and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. 

Once seated, we were each presented with a complimentary glass of champagne and this amuse: 

"Shot" of Lobster Cappuccino, Vanilla Oil

A luxurious start to our repast - rich with cream (one small taste sent me running, happily, for my Lactaid) and deep lobster flavor, with a gentle touch of vanilla.

Maryland Crab Parfait

I couldn't decide which flavor I liked more - the pristine crabmeat, or the creamy avocado mousse above it. The bitterness of the arugula and the blood orange vinaigrette cut the richness just enough.

Truffled Spaghetti Carbonara

This was most definitely NOT the simple carbonara that Chef Dante demonstrated on Good Company Today last week! The deftly cooked, made-from-scratch pasta took my breath away (I'm a sucker for pasta). Mated with a buttery, creamy, truffly sauce, pancetta, parsley, black pepper and a perfect poached egg (sorry, no yolk porn, you'll have to take my word for it) - this was heaven on a plate and a truly special dish for the auspicious occasion. All three of us doing the tasting menu reached for the bread basket and wiped our plates completely - it was that good.

3 Preparations of Duck: Roasted Duck Breast, Cotechino Sausage, Foie Gras Mousse, Lentils

I was already reaching satiety when this plate arrived (and indeed, most of the breast meat came home in a leftovers box). So, I slowly savored the amazing foie gras mousse, both on its own, and combined with the toothy Italian Lentils (an Italian tradition for New Year's Eve) and the house-made duck sausage. That multi-tiered bite may have been the single most amazing morsel of food I tasted in 2010. 

"Surf and Turf": Braised Beef Shortribs, Roasted Sea Scallops, Celery Variations

I did reach "uncle" during this course - but not before I enjoyed every bit of that scallop! I skipped the big hunk of raw celery on top of the beef, and most of the slice of root atop the scallop, but the pureed interpretation on the plate did not tip my anti-celery meter and was a creamy accompaniment to the scallop and the two bites of shortrib that I managed. Most of the shortrib joined the duck breast in take-home mode, simply because it would have been gluttonous to try to consume any more.

predessert: Comice Pear Salad, Pomegranate Sorbet

This is what the menu said, though none of us tasted much pear flavor - and the fruit slices in the bottom were most certainly citrus (probably blood orange) and not pear. My guess would be that Chef Dante was not pleased with the quality of the pears he received, and changed the dish up accordingly. No harm done; we loved it.

Chocolate Tasting: Spiced Hot Cocoa, Ganache Tartlet, White Chocolate Ice Cream

What better way to end a celebratory meal than with a chocolate tasting! Like most house-made ice creams, this one melted a little fast - but that was fine with me. I dipped my bites of the tartlet into the creamy pool and I was very happy.

We, together with a number of other customers, lingered at the restaurant through the dropping of the ball, sharing in party favors and a complimentary drink with Dante, his wife Monica, and the rest of the staff, to toast the new year, and then we all trundled home to the first hours of 2011.

New Year's Eve is often referred to as "amateur night" for a lot of reasons - I am delighted that our experience at Restaurant Dante was reasonably priced ($110 with wine pairings/$70 without) and everyone in attendance (and, for the most part, on the road driving home) was well behaved. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but I did make one this time: to get back to Restaurant Dante to play with Dante's food again soon! Ok - I also resolved to try Dante's new Japanese restaurant Ginkgo promptly when it opens, hopefully by the end of March 2011.

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