Saturday, June 26, 2010
Frasca Food & Wine (10)
The special occasions in life are normally accompanied by a special celebration at a special place. And there are some special places that warrant celebrating in the first place because they are just that good. Frasca Food & Wine is one of those places.
Obviously, it's reputation goes before it. Frasca is well-known for offering some of the best food in the region. Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, (well seasoned in French cuisine and a French Laundry protege at one point), teams up with Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey to offer a romantic, well-crafted experience that takes their guests on an old-world excursion to Friuli, Italy.
Honoring the cuisine and culture of this humble region, Frasca boasts a unique wine list and an ever-changing menu in a somewhat simple, contemporary setting. But I agree with their decision to use ambience as a less distracting and more enhancing element to the restaurant. After all, it's the tastes and smells coming from the kitchen as well as the service that make this place truly unique.
Frasca has been on our list for quite some time, so Jess and I decided to celebrate our second anniversary there on a Monday night. For those of you well-seasoned Frascans, you know that Monday night is when they offer an enjoyable tasting menu. With offerings changing weekly, this is a more affordable option if you want to get a taste of the talent Frasca offers. Granted, you're left to the mercy of the kitchen, but we didn't have a bad dish all night.
With our stomachs empty and our hopes high, we found ourselves sitting at what (in my opinion) is the best seat in the house: the one with the best view of the meat slicer. This piece is the Lamborghini of meat slicers, as far as I'm concerned. Fully hand powered, all it takes is a simple crank of a knob, and what appears to be a still-life antique comes to life, gliding a full side of prosciutto across a shimmering blade and ultimately serving up succulent pieces of meat so thin you can see through them.
As a centerpiece to the dining room, the pantry chef also turns tricks on desserts, charcuterie, and appetizers for all to see. There's always something to an open kitchen (or at least a partial one) that intrigues me. Perhaps it's because it truly invites diners to experience everything the restaurant has to offer including the craft, or maybe it's because my inner chef wishes I was the one putting on the show. Probably both.
So considering it was tasting menu night, we opted to let our server get artsy with some wine pairings. A half a glass each per course actually turned into a great wine flight, in my opinion much better than the one that was pre-set for the evening (and cheaper too). When you have a master sommelier on premises and a very knowledgeable service staff, chances are any ball you put in their court will be a slam dunk.
Naturally, we had to add a charcuterie plate to our meal as well. That prosciutto sold itself especially after finding out that it was direct from Friuli. It was so good, I forgot to take a picture before it was gone. Take my word for it, that stuff was good.
The evening's antipasto consisted of a Red Wagon Farms Spinach Custard. Right off the bat you start to see the local sources adorning their menu, and this continues for most of the evening. At first, when the dish was set in front of my wife, I thought I might be eating two. The presentation was certainly startling, but so was the taste and the texture (in a good way). You kind of get the feeling that you can trust anything that comes out of the kitchen for the rest of the night, and that initial visual impressions mean nothing here. It's all about the tastes and aromas. An earthy overtone of the spinach compliments nicely with a balanced egg and cheese highlight. On top of that, a sweet and tangy garnish of cippolini onion vinaigrette brings the whole thing home again. Seriously good.
Il Primo may have been the most delectable dish of the night. Pancetta, arugula, and a soft-boiled egg all come together in an unbelievable melding of flavors and textures. Served over perfectly al dente homemade pasta, this dish dances on your palate and leaves you in a state of wonder that such a thing could be consumed. Something was simply elegant about this dish. Far from a difficult sauce, it seemed to just meld together once the egg yolk drizzled between the noodles and this flavor came from nowhere. The pancetta offers a fatty, balanced saltiness that complements the citrus pepper profile of the arugula. I'll let the picture speak for itself.
For the main act of the evening: Grilled American Red Snapper with beets, radishes and radicchio. Right off the bat you see a palate of reds and purples painting a sunset around a fine piece of grilled snapper. Essentially bitter with the radicchio and well-placed grill marks, but at the same time earthy and well-rounded with the beets and an olive oil drizzle. This is the kind of dish where you need to get a little bit of each element on your fork for the plate to make sense. Otherwise, you miss out on the true balance. Overall very well done.
Finally, the experience came together with a delicious passion fruit butter cake that I had been eye-balling in the pantry all night. We accompanied it with a fine asti that had a nicely-complemented floral note. Thanks to Frasca for the attention to detail. Sometimes it's the little things...
All in all, we walked out surely pleased and way too full. But it's one of those things where it's a special night at a special place. You want to suck the marrow out of it and truly indulge yourself in the experience. Flavor after flavor, surprise after surprise. That's what Frasca does best, and it's no wonder they're one of the most celebrated culinary destinations in Colorado.
Dish It Up.