Monday, March 26, 2012

Fine Dining Review: Eating With The Ecosystem

Who says going green can't be fabulous?  That the mere idea of making conscious positive environmental choices would somehow mean that you would be losing or missing out on something.  I'm going to prove to you that that does not have to be the case.  In fact, I am going to show just how delicious it can be.

Point in fact:
Freshly picked and shucked oysters with a surprisingly delicious addition of fresh pink grapefruit and orange with a few slices of local radishes and garlic. 
First things first.  This is a seafood driven dining experience.  If you don't like seafood, that's okay.  What will appeal to you is where everything is sourced.  ALL LOCAL.  That is the entire point of this particular event and the following ones throughout the year.  Eating with the Ecosystem is an initiative about redesigning seafood menus to reflect the variety of life found in our local waters. The mission of this project is to raise awareness about New England's marine ecosystems through creative, localized dining inspired by science; basically a traveling dining adventure.  Here are the dates and locations of the events:

3/20/2012 - Nicks on Broadway, Providence, RI
4/2/2012 - Julians, Providence, RI
4/30/2012 - The Dorrance, Providence, RI
9/10/2012 - Cook & Brown Public House, Providence, RI
10/9/2012 - Hourglass Brasserie, Bristol, RI
11/5/2012 - Tallulah on Thames, Newport, RI

I participated in the first event of sustainable dining at Nick's on Broadway.  Sustainability can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people.  In this case it specifically refers to the food on our plates, where it is coming from and how it is obtained.  This initiative takes into account both the fishermen and the chefs preparing the meals.  Brilliant.  

Now let's get to the food.  It was a four course meal of lovingly prepared and beautifully executed dishes with perfect wine pairings.  The reception began in the bar area where hors d'oeuvres were passed around.  

Hors d'oeuvres:

~ Pickled Salt Pond mussels with house mustard aioli & pickled mustard seeds (served in a shot glass)
Crystal Brook Farm early spring goat cheese crostini with Aquidneck honey & sea salt
~ Choux pastry with Narragansett Creamery ricotta & herbs

First Course:
Wild Narragansett Bay oysters with early spring radishes, parsley, citrus fruits and lettuces.
Wine Pairing - 2010 Geografico Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Chianti, Italy

I love oysters on the half shell.  This surprisingly textural combination is divine.  The soft oysters paired with the crunchy radish and fresh citrus is truly a wonderful concept.

Second Course:
Butter roasted Point Judith sea scallop, cripsy skin red hake with young potato, celery, lemon and thyme broth.  

In between courses there were short talks from the folks who had collaborated to make this event possible.  Introducing the second course was Chris Brown, the captain of the F/V Proud Mary, President of the Rhode Island Commercial Fisherman's Association and the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Fluke Conservation Cooperative.  He and fellow fisherman Steve Arnold created Wild Rhody.  

The beauty of this dish is in the purposeful design because of the life history of these two species of marine life.  The sea scallop and red hake have a symbiotic relationship, meaning that the two species are interwoven into each others lives at some point.  More often then not, when you shuck a sea scallop, juvenile red hake can be found inside.

Freshly shucked sea scallop with two juvenile red hake inside.
Third Course:
Geer Farm black corn crusted Point Judith skate wing with pea greens, cabbage, chili, basil and crispy sage (the best part!).

What struck me about this dish was the inherent sweetness in the ground corn crust.  The skate's texture was pleasant and sort of reminded me or crab.  The cabbage was not overcooked and every bite was flavorful.

Fourth Course:
Dulse seaweed, vanilla bean ice cream with cranberry port wine compote, dulse seaweed-vanilla bean chiffon with fresh mint.
Wine Pairing - Bunratty Honey Mead

A feast for the senses.  The cranberry was the highlight of the dessert for me.  It was not so overcooked that you could no longer recognize it.  Conversely it was not too raw that the tartness was overwhelming.  Having a bit of mint in every bite brought all of the flavors together and melded into a earthy, savory yet sweet sensation.

Chef Derek Wagner is clearly talented and innovative and has an obvious appreciation for his staff.  His passion was showcased in every course making the diner yearn for the next.  

Nicks on Braodway was the perfect venue for this experience proving that sustainably sourced food can be appealing, delicious, and fabulous.  Its just one more way to make an environmentally conscious decision, and if that means I have to eat some amazing food along the way, so be it.  

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