Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Private Events @ Coquette

So, it seems I have a hell of a lot of catching up to do! What with getting married and the subsequent festivities, guests from out of town, and packing our entire lives into storage, I don’t think I’ve had a more thoroughly chaotic week in my whole existence. However, I haven’t had a better weekend in all my years, either, so I’d say the wedding was a smashing success.

I posted the Coquette menu before I got married, and the dinner was nothing short of incredible, from start to finish. The surprise amuse bouche ended up being a stroke of genius and generosity, Chef Mike Stoltzfus providing us with lightly breaded, perfectly fried, plump, sweet oysters on what seemed to be a Creole mustard aioli type sauce. Many of our wedding guests had never had oysters before, and I was extremely surprised to see how many Northeasterners took the plunge and tried the oysters. Boy, Patryk, and I were all hoping people would be too afraid to check these fat mollusks out so that we could hoard and devour them, but the joke was on us. They were a massive hit and people scrambled for the crumbs of the oysters, swiping their warm sourdough bread across the plates to get every last taste of them. In fact, a lot of people that had previously not liked oysters became stolid fans that night. Our guests were apparently informed enough to know that New Orleans oysters are a cut above most of the oysters in the U.S., and figured that if they were going to try it and like it, it’d be at a restaurant hand-selected by a food writer, even if that food writer was just little ol’ me. So as happy as I am that they were impressed, it was bittersweet … I only got two and by trickery.

It was extremely impressive to me that Stoltzfus was able to get his hands on oysters so large, tender, and delicious, especially since the season for them has just ended. When I asked him about his sources, he just smirked and gave me a brazen wink. I didn’t inquire further – the most important thing was that they were there! I hadn’t expected something quite so delectable (and expensive!) as the amuse, and felt honored and humbled by the chef’s kindness.

The Bibb Lettuce Salad was just as good as remembered, buttery, thick-leafed slightly salty Bibb lettuce complemented with a slightly acidic vinaigrette. Warm goat cheese made converts of many and served to prepare our guests for the proscuitto-wrapped hot goat cheese that would accompany the wedding dinner. Sweet and salty spiced pecan bits peppered the top of the lettuce leaves and lent a great crunch to the refreshing salad and the hit of fatty protein was welcome.

The pumpkin capelletti with duck confit was even more perfect than we remembered, for once, memory not doing a dish justice. I mean, when you think about food you loved, it often gets played up in your head, but not this. The light orange pasta was tender yet firm, the filling smooth, the duck smoky and rich, pulled apart and loose, and the sauce – oh, the sauce! Absolutely perfect, with just a hint of orange.

I had, as my entrée, the steak with frites, which was a thin-sliced hunk of steak served at a warm, red medium rare. The outside of the steak was charred but not blackened, allowing the natural flavor of the steak to shine through, and the sauce was a light one of carmelized onions with a tang, rather than the typical sweet sautéed onions. The fries were obviously fresh-made, crisp and delicious, and in generous proportion.

The seared scallops with the pulled pork shoulder was, by all accounts, fabulous, garnished with adorable little acorn squash. The seasoning was well-balanced and the scallops were massive, leaving everyone who ordered this so satisfied that I wasn’t able to have even a bite of one to try. C’est la vie, eh?

I did, however, manage to snag a forkful of the cochon de lait, a fabulously tender, soft pulled pork in an indescribably delicious thin yet flavorful sauce. There was a slight taste of sweet pepper jelly, creating a blend of tastes that was literally just about the best cochon de lait I’d ever had … including the kickass cochon AT Cochon.

For a third course, the choice was ours of fresh local strawberries in an elderberry sabayon, which was like a green-tasting version of crème anglaise. This was a bit hit among those looking for a refreshing finishing dish, but once the healthy people had a bite of bread pudding, it was all over. Caramel covered and topped with vanilla ice cream, these crispy-topped individually baked cakes of soft mixed bread were decadent and irresistible. And what better way to end a night than with gluttony and a little bit of guilt?

Like I said to the chef, I was prepared for our wedding feast to fall far short of this unforgettable dinner. Boy and I look forward to coming back on our one-year anniversary to do it all over again!