I've had the pleasure of dining at Meritage Cafe and Wine Bar five times. It has blown me away five times. Last night, dinner with Sara and Rob was no exception. They came over with a great surprise - two large pots of fresh herbs from their own garden that they replanted for me. Amazing! Lou the basil plant now has friends: chives, thyme, oregano, flat leaf parsley, dill, rosemary, and sage. I'm a happy girl. Photos to follow soon!
Six-course chef's tasting menu, $45 every Tuesday night at Meritage
From July 10, 2007
First: Seared Diver Scallop in Melon Cucumber Soup with Speck
If there was ever a time that I wished I had my camera, this was it. What a beautiful presentation. A circle frothy, light green cucumber soup enveloped an inner circle of gorgeous melon soup. The diver scallop was placed in the center, with a bit of speck on top. The colors were absolutely gorgeous, and it tasted so refreshing. Our waiter described speck as a smoked Italian prosciutto, but we were wondering if it wasn't actually German.
Second: Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut with Escargot Black Truffle Ravioli in Parsnip Bisque
All through this course we talked about cooking seafood at home, and how it's near impossible to get a really great crispness without the proper heat, pan, and a few spoons of clarified butter. The halibut was nicely crisped on one side, flaky and tender inside. The real show stopper was, of course, the single escargot black truffle ravioli. It was divinity on a plate, and although it was pretty much mind blowing, one was perfect. If there had been two I might have just died on the spot. We were using the table bread to sop up the bisque at the bottom of the bowl.
Third: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Curry Poached Lobster and Thai Basil
Huge slices of red and yellow tomatoes that were marinated in olive oil. I like my tomatoes a little firmer, but these were falling apart. It was the only dish that was too large to finish. The chunk of lobster had nice flavor but was a little bit tough. The Thai basil was harvested from their backyard. (Sidenote: Meritage is right down the street from my place. Now I know where I can harvest some Thai basil. Kickin!)
Fourth: Ginger-Peach Sorbet
Very gingery but not at all astringent, very refreshing, and so tasty that I didn't mind at all when it appeared again in the dessert course. It was that good.
Rob picked a bottle of Foxen Chenin Blanc, which we greatly enjoyed through the first four courses. It was very crisp, and just what we were looking for to break summer's heat.
Fifth: Grilled Ostrich with Organic Baby Beets, Balsamic Grilled Escarole, and Black Raspberry Reduction
My first time eating ostrich, but hopefully not my last. I have had game meats at Meritage a few times and always enjoyed them. These guys know how to cook meat. Slices of meat, slightly crisp outside and pink inside, were plated over the veg. I have never had a fresher, crunchier beet, and we discovered that its fronds were also quite tasty. The balsamic glaze and black raspberry redux came together to make a succulent sweet sauce. Amazing.
Sixth: A trio of desserts that we shared. This is how the kitchen gets ride of things left over from the weekend, but as long as it still tastes fresh, who cares?
Mango Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee
I'm not a creme brulee eater. I never choose to order it, since it's always on the menu. This one was good though, perfectly cooked to golden brown perfection on top while the custard underneath remained silken. The mango-lemon combo was subtle.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine
I shared this dessert on a different trip to Meritage with Brian. If you want to know the mouth feel of velvet, eat this. Nothing's smoother. Served with malted chocolate ice cream, crushed peanuts, and chocolate ganache sauce. Man, I feel bad for all these kids growing up with peanut allergies. They don't even know what they're missing!
Cognac Pear - Very clean, light flavor. My favorite of the sorbets.
Cranberry Basil - Sara said it tasted like pizza, and it kinda did, but in a good way.
Ginger Peach - Making it's triumphant return.
Sara ordered a 2004 Ponzo Zinfandel by Ridge that came with the Ostrich course. It was fruity and delicious. Our server commented that she couldn't have paired a better wine with the ostrich, even though we had no idea what dish was coming out next.
Great food, great wine, great company. Nice Tuesday night!