I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating: take advantage of restaurant weeks. It's a great way to experience the best food in your area at a fraction of the cost. Case in point: our trip to David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson for Jersey Shore Restaurant Week.
As a regular reader of Edible Jersey, I'm pretty well up on the best restaurants around, even though we don't go out to eat very often. Fromagerie is one of those restaurants that comes up over and over again as one of the best around - restaurant week finally provided me with an excuse to try it out.
We had a totally classy experience from the moment we sat down at our table. A waiter speedily arrived with an amuse-bouche of shrimp salad on a cracker garnished with tons of snipped chives (too bad I don't like seafood - Jeff said they were tasty).
Hot on its heels came the best bread basket I've ever had. Seriously. This place does things right. There was hot French bread, some popovers, cheesy Japanese breadsticks (like the best salty cheese cracker you've ever eaten), some radishes, and pickled carrots. I seriously need to figure out how to make those carrots. They were perfect: not soggy, not raw, but like they'd been quickly blanched in pickling liquid. All of this came with butter on a salt slab sprinkled with grey sea salt. Needless to say, we ate everything in that basket.
When we do restaurant weeks, we carefully scope out the menus in advance. I knew I wanted the garlic soup with tomato dumplings and parsley puree. It sounded awesome. However, they had tweaked the menu a bit from what was posted online: my garlic soup came with "snails on a log." I had assumed that this was somewhat metaphorical - after all, it was unlikely that I would get a log in my soup. The "log" turned out to be a toasted crouton. The "snails" turned out to be . . . snails. When I got my dish, I tasted some soup, then popped one of them in my mouth. After I swallowed it, I looked at Jeff and said "I think that was an actual snail." We debated for a minute before having it confirmed by the waiter. So I've eaten marinated snails. I don't think I would ever have ordered them for myself if I knew what I was getting, but I have to say that they weren't bad - not as slimy as seafood, but closer to the texture of a meaty mushroom. They were a beautiful accompaniment to the creamy garlic soup. I'm not sure I would order them again, though - they seemed to be a bit of an acid reflux trigger.
Jeff ordered the tuna tartare tacos for his appetizer. The presentation, in this little taco rack, was adorable. The little taco shells were packed with firm, flavorful raw tuna. The yellow pepper sauce on the plate packed a nice punch, too.
I ordered the pan-roasted chicken over potatoes and spring vegetables, which turned out to be carrots, leeks, shaved celery root and chanterelles. (Sorry about the image quality, folks - they dimmed the lights before dinner and all photos came out pretty bad. I've increased the exposure on these so you can at least see something!) The chicken was delicious - moist, tender and as flavorful as I'd expected. The pan gravy was like a concentrated chicken dinner. I was a little taken aback at the size of the dish - I had half a chicken on my plate and, delicious as it was, ended up taking home half of it!
Jeff ordered the short rib over handmade cavatelli with morels and a sprinkling of mirepoix over the top. The handmade pasta was soft and creamy and the short rib just melted into pieces at the touch of a fork. It reminded me of pot roast, but the most sophisticated pot roast I've ever tasted, with a thick, rich, savory gravy overflowing onto the pasta.
My dessert was to die for: a flourless chocolate cake and a butterscotch panna cotta with curry gelee. There was also a shortbread cookie and some licoricey sauce on the plate. The cake was amazing - when I slipped my fork into it, it crackled with moisture. The middle was only partially baked, and achieved a mousse-like consistency. It was heaven in my mouth. The panna cotta was just as good: I absolutely adore butterscotch and the flavor was really strong. The curry in the gelee on top was delicate and proved to be an excellent compliment. And, while I would have gladly taken home another serving of that dessert, it was the perfect size to end the meal.
Jeff's dessert was the lemon tart with blueberry sauce and a fromage blanc ice cream. The blueberries were very intense and the lemon in the custard was mouth-puckeringly strong, and yet delicious (I thought so and I'm not really a lemon fan). The ice cream was smooth and mild (it tasted like frozen cream cheese) and worked to ground the powerful flavors of the rest of the dish. Jeff said that it was almost like eating a deconstructed cheesecake.
As we were working on dessert, and just when we thought the surprises were over, we were brought a complimentary plate of pink vanilla cotton candy. The flavor was excellent and the idea was really fun. Seriously - when was the last time that you, as an adult, had cotton candy? It was cool to be given permission to be silly and whimsical.
Overall, we had an excellent, high-quality meal and a fun time. The execution of every dish was fabulous. I would gladly go back, but not if I have to pay the prices listed on the menu ($30-$40 an entree). Just glancing at those prices gave me palpitations. For a $30 three-course meal, though, it was a steal, especially with all the little extras that were thrown in!