Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sheppard Mansion: The Experience

The tasting menu. This, like many great ideas, has been taken hostage by any and all halfway restaurants in tourist towns across the USA....kind of like 'farm to table' or 'artisanal'. Both culinary concepts are great in theory, but when restaurants are offering 'tasting menus' that are really three course prix fixe menus and saying they're 'farm to table' when all they're actually buying from a local farmer is salad greens every now and then....well, to me, something is lost. Something serious.

At the Sheppard Mansion, we still offer what we, for now, are calling a 'tasting menu' every day that we're open. I've titled this post 'The Experience' because that's what you get when you order this menu. It's not 100% about the food. Believe me, the food plays a big part in it, but it's about the service(yes, your waiter most likely helped plant some of the veg on your plate and can explain in great deal every step of the process). It's about the pace and a sense of place. It's about the wine and taking time. You see, we're not just slapping some shit on a plate and calling it a 'tasting'. Alot of thought has gone into not only the flow of the menu, but the wine pairings, the handmade salted butter....in short, the details. It's the very best we can do. Period.

Listen, if you want to come in to the restaurant and get a plate of food, we do that....but that's kind of like listening to Stairway to Heaven and not listening to the whole album(you do realize 'when the levee breaks' is on that album, right?) If you're a 'greatest hits' kind of person, that's cool. I like the 'deep cuts', this is my blog and I'm gonna talk about 'em. Nanny, nanny boo boo.

Here's one thing you can expect if you are 'experienced'. We call it 'the chippy egg'.

Minutes after you select this menu(good choice, BTW) you'll receive a glass of bubbles(if you've selected the beverage pairing....if so, good choice again, folks) and a number of snacks. These set the tone for the rest of the evening and give you a little glimpse of what you're in for.... Because these first bites are so important for setting the tone, I really wanted show 'who we are' and allow the waiter a little bit of time in explaining the dish to begin the 'show'. The 'chippy egg' is the answer.

The explanation of this dish at its simplest is this: A bag of fresh fried potato chips, egg custards topped with a ragout of truffled pigs feet.(not pictured because the egg custards looked SO COOL)

Here's the long version: 1) THE CHIPS: Hanover is the SNACK FOOD CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, damn it. So, it's who we are. The chips arrive in a little brown paper bag stamped with either 'Eat like you live here' or 'Local is Luxury', again....it's who we are.

2) THE EGG: We stand on the shoulders of innovative farmers to create a sense of place with our food. That food is rooted in the dirt of our area and one of my favorite rock star farmers is Beau Ramsburg of Rettland Farms. His eggs get the lead singer treatment here, via a savory custard served nestled in a bed of hay.

3) THE TRUFFLED PIGS FEET: Ummm, because they're delicious and Ramsburg raises pigs better than anyone on Earth. Duh, winning.

4) THE SERVING VESSEL: the stoneware your first bites arrive in was created by local potter and general cool ass guy, Terry Tessem. Yeah, even the plate your first bite is served in is local. EAT LIKE YOU LIVE HERE..... Oh yeah, of course the hay is local. We're not at 56th and 5th, you know.

So, there you go. All of that went into the first few bites you'll take during THE EXPERIENCE. Sure, it's a lot of small courses. Yes, it takes about two and a half hours and yes, it's the very best we can do. So, let me ask you: Are you experienced?