Last Friday, I went to Vidalia 24 with my friends Ed, Kriste, and Gennaro.
It was, in a word, fantastic.
The only words that exist to describe how delicious and interesting the courses we tasted over three hours seem hackneyed and overused. Come up with a rave, and I would agree it applies to one if not many or most of the dishes Chef Cooper set before us tonight. I could have made a meal of the interpretation of caviar, the scallops, the lamb, and the bacon -- oh, and the foie gras -- but as much as I hated it when those dishes were gone, I was thrilled to discover what new masterpiece would take their places.
I've never eaten in Vidalia's dining room -- only the bar. In fact, that was where I took my Air Force friend before, who was so impressed with the bar food that he decided 24 had to be on his "must eat" list before he leaves DC for good. He's recently been to minibar, Komi, and Volt (although not Table 21), so Vidalia 24 came next in the line. Well, halfway through he was contemplating if he could get in again with friends from New Zealand.
Me? I was wondering why I'd not done anything like this before, and glad I was doing it at a place that feels probably too homey after a cruddy day at the office. Getting not only to see, but to participate in, the process of a chef and his staff orchestrating an event like this truly adds to the experience -- but the food was so far beyond what I could have anticipated that I don't even know how to demonstrate that.
I don't think of foam as food; while molecular gastronomy interests me academically, I'll take a burger over a "burger" any day. But 24 wasn't just about showing off; it was a pure synthesis of techniques both classical and creative, pairings both time-tested and innovative, and most tellingly, a joyous exploration on behalf of both those creating and those dining alike.
Part of the fun is that Chef Cooper really wants those seated at the table to let loose and have a blast. Ed Jenks and his seemingly endless perfect pairings definitely help with that, but honestly, the freedom to be as silly and over the top as we might want was a real pleasure. That freakin' bacon & bread dish so good you want to steal some off your friend's plate? Have a spoon war -- no one's judging! Playing with your napkin ring and naming the iron pig Fat Bastard Reuben? (Not that we did that. Ahem.) All part of the experience. Part of being at 24 is creating the synaesthesia most of us don't actually ever experience; laughter and camaraderie woke up the taste buds, and let one -- or, anyway, let me -- experience combinations and depths of flavors I didn't know existed.
So in the vein of creativity, Kriste and I decided to write our responses to the night as abstract but meaningful responses to the menu itself. (But, for those of you who find this utterly ridiculous, never fear -- Gennaro has the more traditional write-up, and our combined pictures).
Without further ado, then, and on behalf of newly-minted auntie K, I give your our impressions of the highlights.
pink piggy / black linen / eat with your eyes first
beef liver jalapeno matsuhisa picked radish / unctuous umami / mmmmm
peas & carrots/ whispering whimsy / shouting of spring
scallop & avocado / smoke and flame / eyes-roll-back good
vegetable ash / "rocks" of potato and egg / earth wanting wind, seeking fire
mirabelle, grüner veltliner, pinot noir / lime, vodka, cucumber / aromatic fantastic
8 mile / 8 ball / bacon powder is the new cocaine
don't need no heaven / lamb, peanut, rye / more, please
pigeon, blood pudding, rhubarb / mineral symphony / 2005 mourvedre domaine du gros' noré
green garlic / oh baby / sturgeon sublime
palate fixer / test tube / mirepoix elixir
fancy chocolate crunchies / oooh melty ice cream / sweets for the sweet
riffing on riffing / want more detail? / see this post