Thursday, January 19, 2012

Living Social Gourmet- A Dinner at Bistro du Midi, Boston

Oh LivingSocial...I fell in love with you long ago, what with your charming coupons and swoon inducing deals.  I fell hard when I found your listings of "escapes" wonderful locales luring me to their folds for fractions of what they would normally cost, but this was the week I realized that was true, everlasting love.  You see this was the week that I had the good fortune to test out your brand new feature- LivingSocial Gourmet.  

Similar to learning that your already great boyfriend is a guy who picks you up at 3 am from the airport, or makes you chicken soup when you're sick, LivingSocial Gourmet is going the distance bringing only the most unique dining experiences to the city of Boston.  LivingSocial is partnering up with some of the finest restaurants in Boston to offer exclusive dining experiences that are not offered otherwise.  That's right- LivingSocial Gourmet is your ticket into those new menu launches, tasting menus, and otherwise unobtainable restaurant events.  

As part of the kick off of this program here in Boston, I was invited to attend their inaugural event- a 5 course tasting menu with wine pairings at the esteemed Bistro du Midi, a relaxed French Bistro located with a fabulous view of Boston's Public Gardens.  

Bistro du Midi had elected to keep their offering small, and so a group of six of us culinary lovers were led to a small private section of the upstairs dining room, greeted by both the front of the house manager as well as their extremely accomplished Sommelier,  Todd Lipman.  Todd was our guide for the evening, explaining the course selections, as well as accompanying wine and cocktails.  As soon as we sat, our group together at the rustic feeling French Farmhouse table, we knew we were in for a treat.

Starting off the evening as our Amuse Bouce was a small serving of Bistro du Midi's saffron scented Bouillabaisse, accented with a single piece of seared Petit Loup de Mer and two small potatoes. This was paired with a gin based,  basil muddled, sparkling cocktail which was due to air on their menu the following day.  The Bouillabaisse was rich and creamy, well flavored from their use of lobster shells, Pernod and wine in the base, and showcased the seafood with subtle grace.  The ingredients balanced each other well, keeping the flavors in check lest they overpower the additions.  The cocktail was a hit around the table- strong scents of Pernod settled into the gin and basil as the it hit your tongue, and the gentle fizz created a refreshing finish, perfect for the rich Bouillabaisse.

As we moved on to our "Premier Plat", Todd once again made himself available to educate us on the course, as well as it's pairing with a 2010 l'Olivier de la Reze from Minervois.  It was a simple, clean white, dry but not overly so, a light wine which wonderfully complimented the intricate crudo dish laid before us.  Delicate Spanish Mackerel, mixed with blood orange juice,  and fennel, topped with watermelon radishes and micro greens and finally finished with a spicy pepper emulsion took my nomination for dish of the evening.  The mackerel, delicate and fleshy, scented with orange and sweet fennel was elevated by the peppery radish with the slightest hint of heat provided by the emulsion.  The dish had incredibly clean flavor, and the varying textures, from the silky crudo, to the slight crunch of the greens and finally the dense foam of the emulsion, created a different experience with each bite.  This was a dish made with expertise, a conscious nod to the flavors present, and in tune with the crisp wine pairing.

Our next course, a giant seared prawn laid atop shrimp and arugula stuffed calamari with a Blue Crab tomato ragout was a work of art.  The chef had gone so far as to add a single leaf of Arugula, perched on top of the prawn, as a palate refresher from the acidic ragout.  The prawn, well seared with quick caramelizing on a single side, was meaty and delicious bringing strong notes of  the ocean to my plate. The calamari was also well prepared, well cooked to avoid any chewy textures, however I felt that the filling was a bit lackluster.  I missed the strong presence of arugula, and the delicious flavor of shrimp and was sadly distracted by an overall feeling of dryness in the stuffing.  I was told later that a healthy dunking in the ragout solved the dryness concern.  The ragout, while on the subject, was delicious- strongly flavored with Blue Crab.  This dish was paired with the robust 2008 Domaine Fontsainte from Corbieres.  Acidic but full of berry flavors, this dry red wine stood well with with seafood, proving, once again, that red wines, even bold ones, can be married beautifully to seafood. 

Our next dish had several of us stealing glances almost asking permission to clean our plates with the highly impolite finger sweep rather than miss out on any drop of the heavenly sauce.  Prime Sirloin steak, cooked to a perfectly pink medium rare was sliced and served atop a gentle hill of mashed potatoes (pomme puree), enhanced by a drizzle of Sauce au Poivre, and finally accented with a salad of frisee and green beans.  That sauce, a combination of green peppercorns in brandy and a touch of cream...well- there wasn't a thing that could be said against it.  It was spicy creamy perfection.  It was paired with a 2008 Domaine Houchart Rouge, out of the Cotes de Provence.  This was a highly interesting wine made from remainder of the red grapes also used to make rose.  So where the rose is light, this was very dark, with deep flavors of berries that brought out those wonderful spicy notes from the sauce.  I found this wine, a mix of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon to be highly drinkable, as I do with most blended wines.

The finale was dessert- a hazelnut milk chocolate cake, topped with ganache, and served with salted caramel ice cream.  The table seriously considered ordering a vat of the ice cream, though I feel our sharing skills would have seriously been put to the test had we done so.  The salt in the ice cream was light, but noticeable enhancing the sweetness of the caramel.  The cake was my favorite part however.  Similar in flavor to a favorite Christmas time hazelnut and chocolate candy, the base layer had crunchy texture lent from cornflakes mixed into the chocolate. The ganache was silky and smooth, dotted with whole hazelnuts and spears of chocolate.  The cake itself was not overly sweet, and so when combined with the ice cream, a perfect level of decadent sweetness was achieved. This was paired with a 2009 Chateau Bel Air, Tradition from Sainte Croix du Mont, a golden wine made from Semillion grapes (one of my favorites).  The beauty of the Semillion is that while they are considered dessert wine grapes, they just aren't as sweet as some others.  Here, they complimented the dessert without bringing friction to the palate which so often results in an almost bitter by product.

I was truly honored to be a part of this evening.  Todd Lipman and Chef Robert Sisca put together a superb meal from amuse to dessert, and in turn hosted a perfect dinner party.  The experience truly felt unique, as I sat with my new found friends and we traded food stories from all over the globe, it was a night like no other.  LivingSocial Gourmet is truly offering a special service, bringing the food lover into a world sometimes seen as off limits.  It is a world I often have my nose pressed against the glass of, and I am so thankful to have been a part for this evening.  LivingSocial Gourmet can be found at -they are still in a bit of a launch process here in Boston, but sign up and watch the incredible opportunities filter into your in box.           


Kristen said...

I adore Bistro du Midi, what an incredible experience.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad I nissed this. I contemplated it and decided not to go for some silly reason. It sounds like such an amazing eveing. That dessert sounds fantastic - I do love salted caramel.

Anonymous said...

Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

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