Normally for Valentine’s Day, the Food Girl and I don’t do much. Part of that owes to the fact that for the past two I’ve been on the road, and part of it owes to the fact that for us it’s just not usually that big of a holiday. Usually I’ll get her some flowers and a card, maybe a small gift (never the box of chocolates…tried that once…great story though, for some other time). This year though I was in town, so under the guise of “excuse to go out”, we decided to go have a nice dinner together. Of course, we made this decision the week before Valentine’s Day. This meant that a lot of the places on the top of my list were well passed booked, even for Sunday the 13th. However, after a bit of searching, we were fortunate to find a 7:30 seating at Spur Gastropub.
For Valentine’s weekend, Spur had decided to do a special 5-course tasting menu that got me excited. From what I’d heard of Spur, visions of liquid nitrogen and xantham gum and sodium something or other were dancing in my head as I was anticipating a veritable smorgasbord of textural changes and plating elements that were different than anything I’d seen before. It was these thoughts that kept us from partaking in a pre-dinner, post-volleyball snack at Duke’s; we wanted to make sure that we were hungry when we sat down at Spur.
Our night got off to a perfect start. As we turned off first on to Blanchard, a car was pulling out and we got a seat right across from the restaurant. Walking in, we beat the heavy rain by less than 5 minutes. We were seated immediately and the menus were at the table waiting. On a giant white screen along one wall, Casablanca was playing. The restaurant as a whole is fairly narrow but deep with the long bar being in the back left as you walk in. There was a nice combination of brick and dark wood that had you feeling like you were in an older building with a few contemporary touches.
We took our seat, debated ordering a glass of wine, and ended up each getting a cocktail (though it did take about ten minutes for someone to show up and take our order). Try as I might, I can’t remember the name of the cocktail or what was in it (bad food blogger!!!) I thought about taking a note, but figured I would just grab it offline. That’s what I get for figuring. Anyway, I do know that it was a bourbon base, and there was a bit of tartness from the lemon. It was definitely a very good drink, refreshing, not overpower, something that I very much enjoyed. Makes it seem so appealing doesn’t it?
Let’s move on to the food, I’m a little better there We both went for the five course tasting menu, and were treated to an amuse bouche as well. How about a short course by course recap?
AMUSE BOUCHE – Smoked creme fraiche, roe (can’t remember the fish), chive – This was a great bite to start the meal. The food girl said it was like a bite of smoked salmon, and you know what, I couldn’t put it any better. Fish essence from the roe with the creaminess and smoke from the creme fraiche. Excellent.
FIRST COURSE – Tuna Crudo - This was an incredible two bites. A beautiful thin slice of tuna, topped with a tartare, foie gras, grapefruit, mandarin orange and a little chervil. The flavors were explosive. The foie gras was creamy and added a little smoke. The acidity from the citrus went so well with both preparations of the fish. Just fantastic.
SECOND COURSE – Wild Mushroom Ravioli – I was looking forward to trying this one as I continue to take baby steps into the mushroom world. The presentation was unique in that it was a sheet of pasta that covered the mushrooms on the bottom of the dish, and was topped with black truffle and a duck egg. This was the definition of earthy. The egg provided a little creaminess and worked to make a nice little sauce. The mushrooms were very good. But it was a little one note from a flavor, texture perspective (and needed a little more salt), until the second to last bite when I got a bit of the hazelnut crumble. It provide a little bit of crunch and a little bit of sweet, and was this great accompaniment. I wish there had been a little on each bite!
THIRD COURSE – Smoked Butterfish – The first thing you notice on this one is that the butterfish is absolutely perfectly cooked. So moist and flavorful with that very light hint of smoke. It was accompanied by a celery root puree and potato, and topped with some celery and apple. The presentation was very interesting as the potato was filled with the puree, and it poured out onto the plate when you cut into it. But again, the flavors and textures were a bit muted. What it really needed was more and sweeter apple. I think it would have provided the textural element as well as a tartness or sweetness to balance everything out.
FOURTH COURSE - Corned Duck Breast – Talk about an interesting dish. I’ve never had duck breast corned before. And it was excellent. So tender and moist and delicious. It was served with some fried brussels sprouts and this interesting apple gel. This is where the sweetness was, and it complimented the richness of the duck beautifully, and the whole bite was sealed with the crunch from the brussels sprouts. I really enjoyed this dish, so much so that I ended up finishing the Food Girl’s portion, and was tempted to ask for a couple to take home and make the best corned beef on rye sandwich ever. A little swiss, a little mustard…Heaven!
DESSERT COURSE – Oak Aged Chocolate – This one I’m going to give an ok to. See, I”m not a huge chocolate fan, so you really have to do something special for me to really get excited about it (read: Croquetas de Xocolata at Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago). This was a ribbon of dark chocolate with some pieces of chocolate cake and a little candied kumquat. It was definitely a chocolate lovers type dessert, and I thought it was ok, but that’s about all.
In all, we probably spent an hour and a half (just long enough for the rain to let up) at Spur, and left feeling full and happy. There were definitely some high points (the Crudo) and some interesting spins (corned duck breast). And there were some that left a little more to be desired. I also felt a little let down too. Looking at the beautiful pictures on the website showing so many interesting plates, it felt like the dinner menu was a little more “traditional”. I know that there were unique and interesting techniques used, but they seemed mild, things that you could find at a lot of places. Maybe my expectations were a little over-exaggerated, but I was really looking for a lot of variety and interest, and if anything saying that there was just too much going on for me to figure out rather than not enough. But in the end, the food was good, and it was an interesting place, the type of place I’d take my parents to because there is no way they are getting any of that in Wyoming. And it was a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day with the Food Girl!