Thursday, January 26, 2012

sweetbreads and panna cotta... as intrigued as i was?

restaurant week.

just the sound of it seems to call my name. a week of restaurants? i mean if it means great food for a price that's even close to a post-grad, unemployed, 21-year-old's budget, then i am so in.

and with a lot of high class restaurants in madison, wisconsin, offering a three course meal for only $25, i think that qualifies.

(we don't need to mention the fact that my date and i also shared a not-so-budget-friendly bottle of reisling. but it waaaas delicious.)

so after very little convincing, reservations were made.
and after some straigtening of the hair and zipping of a dress, i was on my way to madison.
and after some meaningless circles around the capitol building, i made my way into the restaurant.
and then after some direction giving from the not-so-madison-savvy yours truly, my date and i were seated in a gorgeous restaurant, nibbling on bakery-fresh bread and fresh whipped lemon herbed butter.


did i mention the wine?

1st course

tia's choice:

wisconsin beer cheese soup made with spotted cow and garnished with cheddar fricos

this was really great. the beer taste was present, but not over-powering and the little cheddar fricos were a perfect crunch to the creamy texture of the soup.

(my definition of "fricos": take shredded cheddar cheese, mound them on baking sheets into little rounds and then bake. once they're out of the oven, they're basically like crispy, very cheesy crackers... umm. yum!)

my choice:

sauteed oyster mushrooms, sweetbreads, house cured pancetta

ok let me just start by saying that sweetbreads are not a delicious pastry-like creation made with sugary goodness. no no. sweetbreads are actually glands or the pancreas of beef.

let me give you a second to get that.

beef pancreas.


aaaaand i ate them.


aaaaand they were so. good.

they kinda tasted like slightly processed chicken with a little fat around the edges.

...but better than that. because that does not sound delicious. hmmph.

anyways, on to the second course.

(by the way, i apologize for the less than great pictures. i forgot my camera in my car in the parking garage down the street and up two levels, so my camera phone had to do. sorry!)

 2nd course

tia's choice:

roasted eggplant timable with chick pea fritters and yogurt cucumber sauce

do you know what a timbale is? because i didn't. and neither did tia. and she's a culinary student, dang it! we didn't even know how to pronounce it. should we go with a spanish pronunciation? or a french pronunciation? or should we just play the dumb american card and call it exactly how it looks? ehh who cares how you say it... it tasted so flippin great!

it was like an eggplant and roasted red pepper puree all tucked inside a crispy eggplant ribbon "crust." thin strips of eggplant must have been baked to a perfect crisp around the savory and creamy center.

oh and don't get me started on the chick pea fritters. i love chick peas. on salads, in wraps, smashed and made into hummus.... i'm not picky. but this was like slightly smashed chick peas mixed with some real good herbs and i'm sure some other great ingredients and then made into little chick pea fritters that kinda reminded me of a potato pancake. crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

and the cooling effect that the yogurt cucumber sauce had was perfection.

my choice:

chicken and goat cheese crepes with a smoked tomato sauce and a warm beet and black eyed pea salad

crepes? flavored with herbs. so light and airy and simple and goooooood.
chicken and goat cheese filling? umm hello? doesn't that already say how great it was? it had goat cheese. c'mon people.
smoked tomato sauce? if it tells you anything, i could've eaten it as a soup... or drank it out of a glass, let's be honest.
warm beet and black eyed pea salad? beets were lovely, as beets always are. and paired with the tender and starchy peas it made for a fantastic little topper.

a fork-full of an herbaceous crepe wrapped around hot, shredded chicken and oozing with goat cheese with a few small cubes of beet and a couple black eyed peas all smothered in that smoky tomato sauce.

you can only imagine my state of bliss.

on to the third course! and what's that? i still have wine. oh, this is definitely a great dinner.

3rd course

tia's choice:

cabernet panna cotta with caramelized pears

holy guacamole. both of us had heard of panna cotta but neither really knew what it was exactly. it has the consistency of a custard, and after a little google magic, i will let you in on the secret. it is like a custard in the sense that it is a combination of milk, cream and sugar that is heated. however, there are no eggs, but instead gelatin is added to make it thicken into the beautiful consistency that it's known for. so there you have it.

and the caramel that was so craftfully swooshed across the plate was divine. i appreciate a good swoosh.

my choice:

deconstructed door county cherry pie

if you know me at all, you'll undersand why this was an obvious choice. i should just leave it at that but, i wouldn't want my last two fabulous summers of my life go unnoticed! i was mostly behind the scenes after all. but being surrounded by "door county cherries" and "door county cherry chocolate fudge" and "door county cherry tart" and "door county cherry turkey sandwiches" and "door county cherry meatloaf" can get a little repetitive.

...even if a few of those examples are slightly exaggerated.

either way, i had to have it. and it did not disappoint. in fact, dare i say it was better than (almost) every other menu item ever coined with the door county cherry name?

(i say almost because there was the wood orchard door county cherry strudel that i was physically incapable of resisting.)

but the crisp and uber flaky round of pie crust, the ultra light, but incredibly flavorful cherry "filling", the obviously homemade whipped cream and the gorgeous (and somewhat shimmering..?) white chocolate garnish paired to be the absolute perfect ending to a fabulous meal.

and with clean plates, an empty wine bottle, and a diminishing crowd in the restaurant, we left with new culinary discoveries in our bellies and the strong desire for restaurant week to be everyyyy week. 

1 comment:

  1. Every time I read your posts, I end up drooling. Sounds SoOOOOO good! Not sure I could wrap my mind around eating sweetbreads tho ;)