Sunday, July 24, 2011

Testing taste with a tasting at No. 9 Park

The realization that my tastebuds were back was quickly trumped by the even better news that my post-treatment scans show no sign of cancer cells remaining.

I'm a little uncomfortable about using the phrase "cancer survivor" — I feel as though that title sits more appropriately with people who have seriously been through the medical wringer than with someone whose worst inconvenience was needing a turkey baster to eat soup — but please feel free to use it if you want.

To celebrate my all-clear, we went to No. 9 Park in Boston. It's where we went for lunch after my citizenship ceremony. A good place for momentous occasions.

And it seemed only fitting that we go for the tasting menu. So I think I can taste, huh? Time to make sure!

We ordered cocktails, and while we waited, they brought out what I guess you'd call amuse-foies: 2oz glasses of Philadelphia Fish House Punch (though I'm sure the version we had used apricot liqueur and brandy rather than the peach brandy mentioned here). It was a lovely summer drink: light and fruity without being overstated.

Then came the drinks we ordered: the perfectly balanced La Palabra (mezcal, Chartreuse, lime, Combier triple sec) for The Boy. For me, La Vie du Canard, which bravely tried Cynar and Cocchi (this year's St. Germain, apparently, as it's suddenly everywhere) with foie gras-infused bourbon.

The three spirits went well, and I'm a sucker for bitter drinks. But the intensity of flavors overwhelmed whatever the foie was supposed to do. Still, pretty.

And then on to the food, starting with a tender, Asian-style fluke crudo with miso and garlic,

followed by excellent monkfish with olives and intense fresh-roasted tomato,

and then dense, chewy wholewheat agnolotti stuffed with zucchini and topped with Pecorino Romano.

The tasting menu is seven courses, but we decided to add a couple more. Because we frickin' deserved it. Which is how we got to try both a creamy foie gras terrine that came with cherries, arugula and Vidalia onion:

and No. 9 Park's signature dish, the rich, sweet, decadent prune-stuffed gnocchi with more foie gras:

Next up: a tender piece of quail on a fried green tomato on ... something buttermilky, though I don't recall what. Good though.

And then a beautiful piece of ribeye with two accompaniments that were my favorite of the evening: a bright green, intensely flavored spring onion coulis and a fresh, summery corn cake.

You may have noticed that the light in the room was dimming during the course of the courses. By the time we reached the first dessert — a pool of tart, red, plum soup with bright, gingery tapioca — there wasn't a lot of ambient light for photos.

I did my best with the evening's last dish, a fabulous yogurt panna cotta with fennel ice cream and fresh berries, but the image is a pale (or at least dim) representation of the dish, which brought together creamy and crunchy, mint and berry, anis and sugar, and made them sing.

No. 9 Park dessert

At least I know one thing for sure: If I can taste the tastes in a tasting menu, I can taste any tastes anywhere.

But I'll keep testing. Just to make sure.

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