Last night, Justin and I dined at Zoot, a wonderful little restaurant not far from our home. Ohmyga. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute we spent there, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
It’s a small place, in a renovated old house, with grey and red tones and wall-to-wall wine racks. As soon as we walked in, the host remembered Justin (from making the reservation), and seated us immediately at a corner table. The service was impeccable…not fussy, but very attentive. Our waiter, Chris, was friendly and knowledgeable about both the menu and the wine list.
We each decided to have a tasting menu, a five-course dinner selected by the chef. I chose the Chef’s Menu, and Justin chose the Farmer’s Menu (which was vegetarian). I spoke with the waiter, explaining that I was having the Chef’s tasting, that I would only be drinking one glass of wine, and that I knew that I liked the McManis Viognier and the Domain Chandon Pinot Munier. He returned shortly with two wines, and said that he and the staff thought that I’d like them, and that I should try a half-glass of the white with the first two courses, and a half-glass of the red with the third and fourth courses. How thoughtful! How wonderful! He poured me a bit of each to taste, and they were both wonderful. For future reference, I had the Lambert Bridge Viognier, then the Martin Weyrich Primitiva. Oh, but they were delicious. I almost finished a whole glass of wine! (Those of you who know me know how shocking this is). Justin had a glass of the Primitiva, then a glass of the Torbreck Shiraz, which he loved, but I thought was a bit deeper and moodier.
So, the food. Oh, holy, the food. We had an amuse-bouche first, three tiny rounds of heirloom tomatoes with salt and black pepper, olive oil, and 20-year aged balsamic vinegar. There were tiny sprigs of basil…the tiniest leaves I’ve ever seen, perched on top, and the flavor was amazing.
I’ll go through Justin’s menu first…his first course was a chilled potato leek soup with toasted peanuts and truffle oil. It was so delicate, and each spoonful was perfectly rounded off with a bite of peanut. Next was the salad…mixed greens from nearby Boggy Creek Farm with shaved fennel, spiced walnuts, and poached pear vinaigrette. I was surprised at how light but flavorful the vinaigrette was. He then had paella with roasted eggplant and toasted pecan vinaigrette…the rice was so buttery, so smooth, and the eggplant was just bursting with flavor…as if it was yelling, “This is what eggplant tastes like!” His next course was supposed to be gnocchi, but he’s not a gnocchi fan, so the chef whipped up a barley risotto topped with super-fresh vegetables and roasted garlic. And for dessert…creme caramel. The smoothest, lightest creme caramel I’ve ever tasted. It was so light, we wondered how it was still standing up in it’s elegant shape, and not flowing around the bowl. This came with perfectly plump raspberries, and Justin ordered a cup of delicious coffee (I even liked it).
My menu was also fabulous…more fabulous, I think, but I guess I’m biased, because it was mine. My first course was a seared sea scallop with orange caramel and roasted baby leeks. The scallop was huge and plump, perfectly cooked, and the sweetness of the orange caramel balanced the leeks perfectly. Next I had a baby spinach salad with roasted beets, cucumbers, and red wine vinaigrette. Sounds simple, but this vinaigrette…oh, I wanted to lick my plate! It was so smooth on my tongue, and so flavorful. The beets were just tender, and wonderfully earthy. Next I had wood grilled tuna with smoked scallop radicchio salad and spring vegetable succotash. When I tasted this dish, I pictured myself in the deep South, in an old creaky rocking chair on a wrap-around porch. I was amazed out how very Southern it all tasted…the smokiness of the tuna, the spices in the succotash…and the vegetables were just perfect. I thought this dish would be hard to beat, but then my next course arrived: pan roasted duck breast with braised butter lettuce, pecan rice and sour cherry gastrique. I thought I might faint it was so good. The duck was juicy and tender, the rice was just exploding with pecan flavor, and the sour cherry sauce finished it off perfectly. A perfect dinner.
And then he brought dessert. I had a warm dark chocolate cake, moist and fall-apart tender, smothered in the deepest, darkest melted chocolate, and surrounded by zinfandel-soaked sour cherries. Oh, it was heaven.
What made this dinner even better was the fact that we didn’t have to pay for it. Justin’s employer is reimbursing us for the meal in an attempt to show appreciation for the hard work and insane hours that he endures. Do you think they’ll do this every week? Probably not once they see the bill…they don’t know who they’re dealing with. :)