I've mentioned at LTHForum.com, that as much as I love Mado, I love it best when offered up family style. I have had the privilege of being there for both of Mado's "Family Dinners", multi-course affairs built around a theme and a farmer. The first one was a harvest dinner, with Nick Nichols of Nichols Farm. Last night it was George Rassmussen of Swan Creek Farm and a wild boar he procurred. I've enjoyed about all my eating at Mado, but I probably enjoy it most at the family dinners.
Like a Chinese banquet, Mado's family dinners operate on the principle that each dish is merely a cog. That the meal comes from the entirety of dishes served, each part playing off another. What's more, there are two more ways that these meals remind me of Chinese banquets. First, there is a mindfulness to the meals. It is not just food on a plate, but food from a farmer nearby, and I mean as in sitting nearby. Moreover, there is a theme to each meal, a chance to think about what the chef is thinking. Second, like a good Chinese banquet, once has to be very careful not to fill up on the initial courses. Chinese banquets often begin with platters of cold cuts, including something meat jelly-ish (as well as often, jellyfish). Mado starts you with two of their house charcuterie. As with a Chinese banquet, it takes will power not just to fill on these things. Hell, it takes me will power not to fill up on the radish parsley salad and fig mostarda. I did have room to eat much food.
I took only one portion of the roasted honey-eggplant 'cause that's a dish my wife's working on herself these days. I did eat two of the made from risotto, arancini. My attempt to eat even more helpings of the canelinni beans with boar shank was ruined by them taking the dish away (despite my pleas). I did, I guess, then have room for two helpings of the boar ragu with house made noodles. I only had one plate of salad, shaved fennel, heirloom apples, boar bacon, chestnuts, but who needs more than one plate of salad, but it was a big plate though. I would have liked a few more slices of the spit-roasted boar loin, but then again, I finished both the slices of cake offered while most around me were splitting at that point. Finally, to help drive a point home, I hope, I ate lavish amounts of roasted celery root and sauteed mustard greens. I wanted the house to know these were very much appreciated.
'Cause I pretty much appreciate all that Mado does. Not just the local-seasonal menus, the nose-to-tail eating, but also the enormous generosity of Chefs Rob and Allie Levitt who have been training my wife in the finer points of kitchen science and who also allowed MikeG and I to show the world what a head can taste like.