Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cocktails + dinner: an education at Eastern Standard

Our overnight package at the Hotel Commonwealth included not only a fun and educational mixology lesson with Bob McCoy, but also a chef's tasting menu, paired with cocktails.

Bob kindly set up our reservation, and at 7pm we went downstairs to Eastern Standard.

We were led to a corner table that gave us a view of the whole room. And that was just the start of an experience that made us feel like VIPs.

The waiter came over and shook our hands. The manager came over and shook our hands. Bob stopped by to say hi.

Champagne cocktails arrived.

There was no menu, just a quick food-allergy check. And then the meal began.

(A quick apology for the variations in photo quality; we dined by candlelight. Romantic, but not well-suited to my camera.)

First, seared scallop topped with blood orange, with fennel and a swirl of spicy aioli.

As accompaniment, a Corpse Reviver #2: gin, Cointreau and Lillet Blanc with a touch of absinthe, bouncing nicely with the fennel.

Next up, a fantastic housemade charcuterie plate of calf tongue, chorizo, a creamy sausage, and a foie gras torchon in pomegranate.

The cocktail for this was a 19th Century, the rye and bitters making a lovely foil for the creaminess of the foie and the saltiness of the sausage.

Then, a light, fresh beet salad with local goat cheese and arugula.

And a Frisco cocktail (more rye, this time with lemon and Benedictine) to accompany.

Up next was the entree: beautifully cooked duck breast with sunchoke puree and apple-ginger sauce. Alongside it, the Best Thing Ever: a fritter of shredded duck. (Note also the extra lighting.)

Inside the duck ball:

And, of course, a drink: a Blood and Sand. Unsurprisingly, cherry brandy is a great match for duck.

(Also: gotta love the vintage glassware.)

And finally, dessert. A butterscotch bread pudding with praline ice cream:

Paired with one of my favorite Eastern Standard cocktails, the Ponce de Leon. Rum, sherry and the spicy, citrusy Licor 43 were meant to hook up with butterscotch.

And a tarte tatin that seemed to involve an entire apple:

And went perfectly with the final cocktail, Vincelli's Fizz, named after the monk who reputedly created Benedictine.

The other main ingredient was the rose vermouth we'd played with during our cocktail class. The drink was topped with a frothy head of egg white and finished with champagne.

The meal was not only fantastic, delicious and beautifully planned; it was also an eye-opening education into the concept of pairing food with something other than wine.

So now we have something new to experiment with at home: matching cocktails to every meal.

I wonder what goes well with breakfast cereal?

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