Wolvesmouth Underground Dining
Wolvesden – Various Locations
Dining date: 12/3/11
I’m not sure how I first heard of the idea, but surely I thought it was a joke at first. But sometimes, ideas that start as a joke turn into a reality…even if they sound a little nuts. Exhibit A:
For my friend Remil’s 40th birthday, he set up a 40-course dinner with ever-in-demand underground dining chef Wolvesmouth. Craig Thornton (aka Wolvesmouth) created a 40 course tasting, almost all of which were just a couple bites. I will admit that I was both excited and a little scared to take on such an endeavor. A whole host of questions came to mind: Would this be way too much food? How long would this take? Clearly one thing was for sure; it would be a memorable meal.
As with other Wolvesmouth dinners, it’s BYOB. This was most of the alcohol we brought; luckily for our livers, we didn’t come close to finishing.
The menu, 40 lines long:
“caesar salad” baby gem, brioche puree, crouton, parmesan, meyer lemon
85 day aged beef, shallot jam, horseradish, pink lady
scallop, mango vinegar, mango, cauliflower
carrot, chicory malt, carrot tops, lime yogurt
uni tart, ginger lime vinaigrette
mandarin concentrate, mandarin gelee
cornbread soup, bacon, kale, onion
fried green tomato, tabasco
black eyed peas (boston baked), smoked tomato, pork belly
pimento cheese, buttermilk corn fritter
banana pudding, fruit salad poprocks
date, almond, serrano ham, cabra romero, sherry vinaigrette, piquillo
kohlrabi, caramelized onion, mascarpone, thyme
duck, skin, sauce, brussels sprouts
candy cap mushroom
sweetbreads, lingonberry, dill, potato puree, creme fraiche
chanterelle, pine soda
squab, chestnut, maple squab jus, jerusalem artichoke
fig (poached & fresh), roaring forties blue, hazelnut
squash soup, goat cheese crumble, goat cheese, cider
brown butter rice krispy treat, toasted marshmallow
roman gnocchi, pesto
beet, morbier, apple
chicken liver, crouton, watermelon radish, pear
broccoli, cashew cheese
crab, toast, pickled chili, chive
rabbit, chipotle, grape, hibiscus onion, cilantro, cotija
pork belly, pickled papaya, rice paper, garlic peanuts
duck, orange, black vinegar
lobster, celery root remoulade, black sesame cherry white soy vinaigrette
persimmon, wasabi pea
japanese black sugar shortbread, yuzu curd, green tea panna cotta
delicata squash, yogurt, orange blossom
tuna, haricot verts, 12-year balsamic
fluke, spinach, meyer lemon, red pepper
hobo fish, tartar sauce, blt, tomato
rabbit, mustard, plantain, onion
coconut sugar pound cake, coconut finger lime, lime curd
tofu doughnut mousse, soy bean coffee
In between courses, some people sat and chat, others walked into the kitchen to check out what was cooking, and still others walked around looking for extra stomach space.
Craig and his small team (7 in total) did an impressive job putting this meal together. Pacing was quick and relatively even in between courses, completing the dinner in just over 5 hours. Apparently, we went through 560 dishes, 98 pieces of silverware, and 42 glasses. There’s only one sink (along with the 4 burners and 1 oven) and I’m pretty sure I saw someone washing something each time I looked over. Crazy. Of course the execution of the food was a crucial element of this meal, but the planning and organization behind it was just as integral. AND I’m happy to report that just about everyone finished all 40 courses (including me)!
With 40 different tastes, expectantly there were some hits and misses; however the former easily outweighed the latter. Below, some of the highlights:
#4 carrot, chicory malt, carrot tops, lime yogurt – The glaze heightened the sweetness of the carrot, but it was balanced by the bitter chicory and tart yogurt. The chicory also provided a slight crunch to the bite.
#9 black eyed peas (boston baked), smoked tomato, pork belly – One of the richer and more savory dishes, the pork was tender and luscious, while the beans and tomatoes added a very smoky complement to the meat.
#14 duck, skin, sauce, brussels sprouts – Succulent duck and duck skin! Loved the added crunch and flavor, as well as the brussels sprouts. Nice colors, too.
#15 candy cap mushroom – Very interesting. The mushroom’s flavor was extracted, leaving a liquid that had a bitter, earthy flavor upfront with an unmistakable maple character at the end.
#16 sweetbreads, lingonberry, dill, potato puree, creme fraiche – this was very similar to a lamb dish I had at the Wolvesmouth dinner @ Beer Belly. Moist, crunchy sweetbreads were paired with a creamy potato mousse, while the lingonberry sauce really brightened up the dish.
#22 roman gnocchi, pesto – Not quite as pillowy fluffy as I was expecting, but this was still a light gnocchi and I really liked the crusty sear. The pesto was just what it needed to provide some vibrant flair.
#27 crab, toast, pickled chili, chive – A generous amount of crab, dressed in mayonnaise, rested atop a piece of toast. Somewhere between a crabcake and a crab roll, I enjoyed the chunks of sweet crab and crusty toast.
#31 lobster, celery root remoulade, black sesame cherry white soy vinaigrette – The lobster was cooked well, but I thought the sesame soy vinaigrette made the difference here, adding an intriguing nutty flavor to the mix.
#33 japanese black sugar shortbread, yuzu curd, green tea panna cotta – I liked the panna cotta and its subtle green tea flavor. I thought it went well with the creamy yuzu curd, though I wanted something with a little more texture than the soft shortbread.
#40 tofu doughnut mousse, soy bean coffee – Fascinating. The bottom of the cup held a light tofu mousse with a doughnut flavor, while the “coffee” was actually brewed roasted soybeans. The brew had a nice roasted, earthy depth of flavor that went well with the doughnut.
Thank you to Craig and team for making this happen. It’s truly a meal that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.