City Grit and Um Segredo’s Veggie Tales dinner. Five exquisite courses, each an elegant expression of the late-winter/early-spring earth.
I was especially enamored of the artichoke carpaccio, artichoke puree held together with agar — the texture so silky and satisfying you wouldn’t spare a thought for that other carpaccio — topped with spicy mizuna, tender fava beans, and sweet slices of fresh artichoke.
But then there was the soup! Curried and creamy and punctuated with the prettiest, plumpest, freshest green peas, it was all I could do not to tip my bowl and take it down in one hungry swoop.
And the risotto. Oh — the risotto. I have never had risotto so good, and that is point of fact. Tiny slices of asparagus in perfect harmony with each al dente grain, all held aloft with a foam of the subtlest asparagus flavor. (This is why it’s stupid to mock the use of foams outright. In the right, intelligent hands, they are heavenly.)
I’d be remiss if I did not praise the wild mushroom cassoulet, so thick with hearty, stewy broth that I could have sworn there was a little veal stock in there somewhere — but no, just a bounty of beans and a single poached egg, punctured at the last minute with a fork, yellow and runny and elemental.
And finally, the dessert: a thick square of cake, assertively corn-y, accessorized with bits of pineapple, a drizzle of nutmeg caramel, and decadent rum gelato (see its creation in action here).
I have long felt that the mark of a great chef is what he or she can do with vegetables. Lord knows Dave Santos (proprietor of Um Segredo) can make lamb sing and pork shine. But I don’t think I’ve been quite as impressed with him as I was Friday night.
Update: Check out Annie’s gorgeous behind-the-scene shots of the dinner.