Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Vie Update Update

Just because I posted on Vie yesterday, did not mean I had any plan to go there. Yet as it turned out, we had something big (HUGE) to celebrate last night. My scoliosis stricken daughter got the good, nay, huge, nay near-improbable news that her s-curved spine was no more. In the words of the Doc, "don't know why, but don't really care." Sophia has worn a brace for nearly two years (not days as I orignally wrote!), thick or thin, 23 or so hours a day, ever present dry-fit shirt trying to stave off heat. It was expected that she wear this form-fitting plastic master until at least her 16th year. Today she won't. Tomorrow she won't. She has been freed. Vie just happened to be nearby. What better place to celebreate.

I'm a big believer that context is key in dining, and often food tastes so good because of the circumstances. Vie certainly tasted better than ever last night. Not only the brace-off, but there was the pre-teens partaking in one of their fancier dining experiences ever and taking it for all its worth--Sophia insisted she wanted the kobe steak. The kids, at least, put the amuse in the amuse, guzzled with glee their complimentary kiddie cocktails, and wiped their plates entirely clean from their initial morel to their final mini-cheesecake.

It helps, I guess, that a fresh season is great season to hit Vie. Vie gets the best just arrived produce. Nearly all of it is local, but they have outstanding connections for the few non-local items like their fresh hearts of palm. Asparagus hit at least a third of his dishes, rhubarb and ramps made multiple appearances, and other spring things like radishes and dandelion were rampant (haha). Chef Virant applies the proper application to these prime ingredients. Most of his prepartions are classic: asparagus with hollandaise, seared foie gras. In fact when I think about it, I would say that Virant's ouevre is Joy of Cooking, especially the pentultimate fancier-food edition. His recipes are very, well, ordinary is not the right word, probably classic. Yet what sets the food apart, by far, are the accents, an unusual vegetable here, a strong mustard dressing there and, as widely reported, ample use of picked and preserved things. It was all wrapped up in that amusing amuse: morel (not local) battered fried on top of a ramp vinaigrette, accented by some shavings of asparagus.

My older daughter and I shared bacony meal. We had a salad with wood grilled dandelions and a strip of house made bacon (gray from no nitrates) and the bacon wrapped Guntrhop Farm chicken ballotine, served with peas and chard. I also ordered the foie gras with poached rhubarb that reminded me a bit (in a good way) of bacon. This was Tinkers to Evers to Chance. Exact. Special. Outstanding.

As I said, my other daughter had the steak, and in a testament to times-a-changin', she ate a hell of a lot more of the steak than the side order of house made naan. The waiter talked my wife into the turbot en papillote. It came with a herb vinaigrette, but I liked it's natural, birthed from the paper state better.

To celebrate, Chef Virant sent us out coolers of rhubarb juice with rhubarb shreds before we dug into three desserts: rhubarb cobbler, molten chocolate cake and peanut butter gooey butter cake. They were all good, but the chocolate cake did not quite rise to the specialness that is Vie's stuff.

Monday's happen to be 1/2 price wine night at Vie. To celebrate we had a 1/2 bottle of Billecart-Salmon, one of my favorites (about my favorite) NV champagnes; then we had a bottle of Régis Minet, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly Fumé that I found a little too subtle. I've become too hooked on New Zealand SBs.

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