On Friday night we had the unique pleasure of dining with some fairly new and some very new friends. Nothing too out the ordinary there, right? What was indeed extraordinary though was the fact that the meal was 25 courses. And it was in the chef’s home. Chef Iliana Regan prepares underground dinners at her in home One Sister restaurant. She is soft spoken, delightfully modest and entirely unassuming. Iliana truly exemplifies the concept of using local and sustainable ingredients while others throw those trendy terms around as marketing tools. She forages for her own mushrooms, grows her own herbs and presents courses that would impress Grant Achatz himself. If you’d like to read a little more about her background and her approach check out this interview from Grub Street Chicago.
As courses passed and wine flowed the ten of us that were lucky enough to be a part of this night often traded seats and chatted with each others partners learning new things. The conversation ranged from green technology to mommy porn and everything in between. At some point each person gave their own individual toast/speech to the group which became a remarkable addition to an already unique experience. All of the rest of the group had been to Hawaii together as part of a work trip so CJ and I were the newbies which is an unusual perspective for us. We could not have felt more welcome or more at ease. But enough about me. What exactly does a 25 course meal look like you wonder?
From top to bottom as best as my iphone camera and notes can do justice. As one of my buddies would likely call it an A to Y collections of Jim’s ridiculous food pics.
Course A as I like to call it was rosemary bubble tea with herb gelee pictured to the left followed by side by side courses below the first of which was a beet marshmallow and the second of which was a mini biscuit with whipped bacon fat, black sea salt and ramps. The marshmallow and the bacon fat were amazing together just as Iliana recommended.
The D course at the far right was an arugula sponge with pea shoots goat cheese and two different types of wild honey. Next up a hazelnut and malt soil with pickled ramps and elderberries all served in a glass terrarium pictured below to the left. I got in trouble with my girlfriend for joking, “I didn’t come here to eat dirt.” I thought it was funny. It probably was. Maybe not?
Possibly my favorite course was the Potato roulette with mascarpone cheese and chive gel. The mascarpone was spelled out to say enjoy and the chive gel was in the middle of the letter o. See below right for the whimsical presentation. Since I have 19 courses to go and I’m already tired of trying to manage getting these photos into a reasonable order from here on out I’m just going to list the courses and if you want to see pictures scroll down. It’s worth a look. Amazing night!
Course H – Encapsulated asparagus soup with quail egg
Course I – Fried zucchini nest with tomato water and black pepper in wheatagrass
Course J – Carrots and cashews in cashew butter with buckwheat lettuce
Course K – Cocao nib and chamomile pill in mushroom tea
Course L – Swedish pancake ball stuffed with goat cheese lemon thyme and oregano
Course M – Home cultivated radish with soy skim and mustard greens
Course N – Curried rice crispy treats with black bear meat
Course O – Dark chocolate shot with chia seeds
Course P – Seared sea scallop with English pea and ham ragout and Meyer lemon
Course Q – Shrimp noodles with quinoa and kale
Course R – Kumamoto oysters steamed in orange with mushroom foam and blood orange
Course S – Trout roe with white chocolate and cherrywood smoke
Course T – Teabag beef consomme with red pepper and ginger
Course U – Braised rabbit leg & lobster filet ravioli with morels and rabbit consomme
Course V – Pork loin with whipped goat cheese and chive with pickled ramps
Course W – Strawberry parfait with Wisconsin cheese ice cream
Course X – Oatmeal ice cream log with cherry and pistachio crust
Course Y – Described as a “bite” by the chef. Chocolate and warm and a perfect end
My apologies to the chef for anything I misremembered and for the fact I could not possibly note every ingredient. My thanks to all of those who contributed to the night of great laughter, food and wine. Now in no particular order my other food pics. As course F so appropriately spelled out in cheese I say ENJOY!