Tasting my way to a happier place

I've been felling very down and out lately. Functioning but not happy.

To help me break out of this, or at least escape for awhile, I called on a good friend of mine, Bam Bam's Mom, and said I needed to go out and have some fun. What we did was up to her, but I needed out!

She did not disappoint!

Knowing how much I enjoy food and how much of a foodie I've become, BBM, decided to take me out for a blind menu tasting, right here in Ottawa! (She told me she had been looking for a Molecular Gastronomy tasting but had just missed it by a few days - who knew we could do this in Ottawa?) I would never have thought of looking for this here, but she found a hotel, Brookstreet, whose restaurant Perspectives, had a menu tasting for us to try.

So here is the story of our meal that night.....

Our server let us know that the menu was heavy on seafood, something neither of us objected to.

It started with a lobster consume, with watercress, and a lobster spring roll, served with a black, Hawaiian sea salt.

The consume was very salty and reminded me of miso soup, which I like. The spring roll was crispy on the outside while the lobster was cold on the inside. Dipped into the black sea salt on the plate, it was wonderful! And the salt drizzled all over the watercrest reminded me how long I had been wanting to try watercress and how much I would enjoy it on my own sandwiches.

The next course was an oyster treat. It started with an oyster in the shell on one side of the plate, and some honey chipotle tempura oysters at the other end of the plate. At the bottom of the glass of oysters was a type of seaweed with some sesame oil (at least that is what we thought), which gave a nice balance of acid with the sweetness of the oysters.

In between these two oysters was what was called an "Eight Element Salad." (We repeatedly questioned our server about what each bit was, with my taking both notes and pictures - she was endlessly patient with us and kept her smile the entire evening.) BBM and I tried to dissect that salad, trying to figure out what all the elements were. This is what we came up with: watercress, carrot, red pepper, crispy parsnips, cucumber, cubed pineapple, oil and some kind of vinegar. Even if we were wrong, it was very tasty and even had me eating bits of cucumber.

Continuing on the seafood road, the next dish involved bay sea scallops, served in the shell, with a truffle cream, porcini mushrooms and a tiny bit of pasta. This was a bit difficult to eat, since you had to try and get around the outsides of the bay scallops to get at them inside. But once you did, it was lovely!
The crispiness of the parsnips worked very well with the softness of the mushrooms, and the mild truffle cream gave it an elegance and a feeling of indulgence. Just what two tired mother's need on a rainy Saturday night.

The next course was considered to be the main of the evening. It consisted of New Zealand lamb with a blueberry sauce, a cauliflower puree and cold beef cheeks in natural juices. There was supposed to be a blueberry blue cheese with it, which my friend could not eat, but our plates were mixed up and she got the cheese and I did not. I tried the cheese, however, and thought ugh, then went oops - I am allergic to penicillin and probably should not have been eating blue cheese, just in case. So ignoring that - the lamb was meltingly tender, and went well with the blueberry sauce. It took us awhile to identify the puree (okay, we never did) but once told it was cauliflower, we both went, "Oooh, so that's what that is!" The cold beef cheeks were not very cold and tasted very much like a rich, well done stew meat. It was the kind of meat that I could serve to my family with mashed potatoes, provided I didn't tell them what it was!

Now because BBM could not eat the cheese course, the chef very kindly decided not to serve it to her and have her not eat it, but instead substituted something for her. She didn't ask for a substitute, so to me this showed the quality of the restaurant - they wanted her to be happy and enjoy her meal, not have to skip an entire course! So we were both surprised and a bit confused when a different server presented her with this dish - watermelon marinated in triple sec, with a cranberry passion fruit sorbet and a drizzle of very good balsamic around the edge.

I got to try both aspects of this dish - the watermelon was very good, slightly orangy, and did not taste at all like it was loaded in alcohol. The sorbet was wonderful, with the cranberry flavor being predominate. If you hadn't known about the passion fruit, it would have been missed, it was so mild. Very nice.

So while she enjoyed that, I got to try the cheese course, something I admit I have never done before. There were three types of cheese, all local from Lanark County; a Highland Blue, Bonnechere Brie and a Flower Station cheese. The cheeses were served with some crusty bread slices, some more watercress with a balsamic drizzle and some cranberry chutney, as well as a bowl of candied walnuts. I skipped the blue cheese and went straight for the brie with the bread. And even though I don't like walnuts, I tried one with the brie and glazes and enjoyed it. The brie was wonderfully creamy and I loved it. The Flower station was a kind of cheddar and was okay but nothing compared to the brie.

Our final course of the evening was the dessert course, which gave a variety of things to try, though I don't think either of us could figure out how they all went together. First there was a pistachio ice cream (with a hidden piece of cake inside, on top of a "plate" of gold-starred chocolate,) next to a lychee and raspberry gelee, and followed up by a pumpkin cheese cake with thin layers of chocolate. The pistachio ice cream was wonderful, with and without the cake, and could have been 3 times larger and I still would have eaten it. The gelee was tart and sweet at the same time, a lovely contrast. The pumpkin cheesecake, I'm sorry, was just a bit wierd. Lots of pumpkin flavor, not much cheesecake. The pistachio ice cream more than made up for the cheesecake though!

By the time we were done, neither one of us was ready to eat anymore. Even though the portions were not full sized, or huge, they were big enough that by the time we were at the end of the courses, we were both full. And it had been a very enjoyable evening, of two good friends, enjoying a culinary adventure and an evening of chatting about life and food! Something I hope to repeat again with BBM!

By the time the evening was over, I was feeling better. Yes, the problems that had been dragging me down are still there, but I felt better able to deal with them. And knew that I had a very good friend willing to let me vent and pour my heart out to her over a the course of an evening and six courses! Thanks BBM!


Lindsay Blau Portnoy said...

How lucky you are to have such great friends and to have enjoyed such beautiful (and yummy sounding) food!
I hope you are enjoying your weekend and thanks for sharing these great photos :)

David T. Macknet said...

Funnily enough, I've just been tasting one, if not two, of the same cheeses! Of course, I could be wrong, and you could mean some other Lanark than the one here in Scotland?

Glad you got some perspective. :)

Jenny said...

Yes, there is another Lanark and it is a county in the Ottawa area. Not that I'd object to trying it again in Scotland!

jef said...

I love to splurge on a tasting menu now and then. The seafood selection really looked top-notched.

I think the reason why you may have liked the 'walnuts' was because they were pecans though :)

Jenny said...

Jef - LOL! Except I don't like pecan's either!

BC said...

That must have been a fabulous meal! The pictures are great. I hear they do a fabulous brunch too.

David T. Macknet said...

Hah! And here I was, marveling at your having had Scottish Cheese! It's strange, how everyplace the Scots have gone they've taken their place-names with them - particularly places like Australia / New Zealand, but also to North America.

I think that your walnuts look as if they're probably fresh enough & may have been blanched, which removes some of the tannins from the thin membrane. Thus, they're not as bitter, and haven't gone off, as so many do. :)

Peabody said...

Tasting menus are always so much fun...and yummy.

Half Baked said...

The food looks spectacular! What a great way to spend an evening with a friend.

breadchick said...

I don't care what anyone says, when you are feeling down there is nothing like a good meal and good friend to at least make things a bit better and easier to deal with. Hope you are doing well soon!

Janet said...

Hey Quellia - looks amazing. I've had the Blind Tasting menu at Perspectives four or fives times now, and I have never been disappointed. Next, you HAVE to try the Sunday Brunch at Perspectives... you'll DIE! It's so good!