Monday, November 8, 2010

Wolvesmouth - 11/07/2010

Finally, dinner at the elusive Wolvesmouth, the underground supper club masterminded by Chef Craig Thornton. With a mailing list 350+ people long, I considered myself exceedingly fortunate to get one of the twelve seats to sample Chef Thornton's adventurous cooking. The dinner took place at a loft, the location of which is a closely held secret. The dining table is placed right next to the open kitchen, completely eliminating the barriers between diner and

Sweetbreads - Tahitian Squash Puree, Blis Aged Maple
Adding maple syrup to squash puree, which is often too sweet even on its own, sounds like the type of risk that Thornton thrives on. The Tahitan squash puree turned out to be sweet but not overwhelmingly so while the maple gave the dish a comforting breakfast feeling. Not to be outdone, the sweetbreads countered the squash with an equally powerful offal-laden savoriness.

Jerusalem Artichoke - Crab, Pickled Persimmon, Watermelon Radish
This course reminded me of a crab salad with the creamy Jerusalem Artichoke in the place of mayo. The slight vegetal bite of the artichoke added a unique wrinkle while allowing the sweetness of the crab to come through. The persimmon and radish temper the brininess of the shellfish and add a crisp levity to the weight of the artichoke.

Scallop - Chanterelle, Potato
Next up was a classically prepared scallop paired with a single beautiful golden chanterelle and a potato "rice." All three ingredients were complimented with rich brown butter and the zesty sweetness of the chive. On its own, the scallop was briner than normal and perhaps a slight bit too salty but paring it with the hearty bits of potato fixed that right up.

Tomato - Saba, Olive Oil
Chef Thorton kept the surprises coming, after several multi-faceted courses he presents one where the focus is on a singular ingredient: tomato. We were presented with a medley of multi-colored tomato similar but with their own unique charms. The saba and olive oil balance the astringency of the tomatoes leaving a graceful verdant sweetness.

Ocean Trout - Lingonberry, Creme Fraiche
Chef Thornton has an uncanny ability for drawing out the natural flavor of seafood and he continued that trend with the ocean trout. It was interesting to see Lingonberry used on this dish, the quintessentially Swedish accompaniment is rarely seen in the states. The tang of the jam and tartness of the creme fraiche both served to enhance the already potent flavor of the fish.

Sous Vide Rabbit - Gruyere Fondue, Bacon-Onion Muffin
Before the meal started I watched with interest as two immersion circulators were put into water baths, wondering what lay beneath the layers of plastic wrap. Naturally, the slow cooked rabbit loin is tender and the natural gamy smoke of the rabbit is more noticeable thanks to the concentrated juices. As good as the rabbit was, the superb sweet/salty combination of the muffin actually overshadowed it.

Pork Cheek Bao
Chef Thornton referred to this as his Southern Dim Sum. The airy steamed bun was stuffed full of delightfully soft shredded pork coated with quintessentially Asian spices and oozed a slight bit of decadent oily goodness with each bite. One diner aptly named this course an "Asian pulled pork sandwich."

Intermezzo - Buddha's Hand Citron Sorbet
I got my introduction to Buddha's Hand Lemon barely a week ago at library bar. The fruit got its name for its gnarled finger-shaped segments. The citrus is almost completely pith; indeed the fruit is prized for its aromatic peel rather than its meager edible flesh. The Buddha's Hand sorbet offered restrained citrus notes and was less acidic than its more common cousins.

Squab - Prune & Red Wine "Chew", Tokyo Turnip, Roveja
The last savory of the night was a rare squab breast, tender and smoky it would have been more impressive had I not recently enjoyed the best squab of my life at Equinox. Still the bird very nicely with the Roveja a near extinct breed of wild pea and the lush bitter turnip. A long thin strip of red wine and prune that another diner called "Fruit by the Foot" rounded out the dish with a ripe dark fruit sweetness, a natural compliment with wild bird.

Ume Cake - Lime Styrofoam, Avocado Ice Cream, Coconut Shortbread
The avocado ice cream gave me a flashback to a similar ice cream at LudoBites, thankfully the ice cream here was subtler, lacking the disconcerting vegetal essence. In fact , the entire dessert was rather light, but what was truly memorable was the textural symphony of the disparate components of the dish.

Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream - Graham Cracker Pudding, Smoked Pop Rocks, Salted Chocolate
I love it when a meal ends on such a high note. Thornton's re-imagined S'more had everything one could want. The dessert began with an unbridled sweetness from the marshmallow and graham cracker. The salted chocolate added a savory tinge while the pop rocks provided a dynamic vivacity to the mix.

This meal was all I hoped for and more with Chef Thornton's cooking proving to be both whimsical and sophisticated. The unique structure makes the meal feel like an intimate dinner party and though people may begin the meal as strangers, a shared love of food and wine provides plenty of common ground for conversation. My sincerest thanks to KevinEats who brought me as his plus 1. Naturally I've since put myself on the mailing list hoping for a return trip in the future.

1 comment:

Jeff Overley said...

Hey man, just dropping you a line to see if you'd be interested in doing a guest post for Food Frenzy. I know you don't make it Orange County often, but if you do dine here at some point, would love to have one of your reviews. There's no compensation, sadly, but we'd give your blog a very prominent plug. I'm a big fan, so would love to turn other people onto what you're doing. If you're ever interested, just send me a note, and we'll go over the details. Cheers ... Jeff Overley, Orange County Register,