Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Dinner c/o Marigold Kitchen

Since CP began pursuing her Master's, which involves commuting to Baltimore for a large part of the week, we haven't seen as much of one another. This saddened me greatly. So a while back I proposed some kind of dinner where we could catch up ... and I could cross another restaurant off the list. CP perused the remaining restaurants I need to frequent and chose three that were particularly appealing to her. Ultimately we concluded that a trek to West Philly for the culinary stylings of Marigold Kitchen was in order. I pretty much never ever go to West Philly. Like, really ever. And CP was pretty much in the same boat. In fact this turned out to be the first time either of us had taken the underground trolley. I feared we'd somehow get on the wrong one or in some other way mess up...but we didn't. We arrived at Marigold in one piece, and I finally got to see Clark Park. Marigold is located in a corner row house on a well maintained, nicely landscaped street. It's very unassuming, and if you didn't know to look for it, you could pass right by thinking it was just a really nice house with a funny name. We were quickly seated in the front dining room, and soon thereafter our prosecco was popped (it's BYO) and the first of oh so many small courses came our way. Let me take a moment to explain further. Marigold has a relatively small menu of appetizers and entrees, but in addition to those dishes, it provides its patrons with a number of 'amuse bouches' throughout the meal. So while we were still trying to determine our meals proper, we were given fried parsnips. Crunchy, earthy, with a light dusting of - if I remember correctly - confectioner's sugar?  Next up was another little treat. A mango pearl on a little bed of creamy custard. Or I think that's what the bottom layer was. That little orange dollop packed quite a mango punch. Its thin skin, once punctured, allowed concentrated mango magic to flow directly onto our tongues. It was surprising and clever and tasty all at once.
Then there was a little helping of chick peas. Simple, but not ordinary.
Then came little foie gras squares wrapped in caramel. Yes. Caramel. The richness of the foie and the salty sweetness of the caramel were a nice, and atypical, pairing. I was particularly fond of this dish.
This unassuming thing might make you think that it was a Combo unadorned. And, in a way, you would be correct. Only the cheddar filling of this cracker was anything but stale. It oozed. Oozed with joy at being so cheesy. I think it was a Cabot Clothbound cheddar. But maybe I'm making that up.
When this dish was explained to us I think both CP and I were a little skeptical about how much we were going to enjoy it. Looks like a cappucino, don't it? In actuality it's a cauliflower soup with ham foam. Yes. Ham foam. CP and I both took a spoonful predominantly of the foam and were at first a little less than enthusiastic. It certainly had the smoky ham thing going on, but it didn't seem all that anchored in any deeper taste or texture. This initial misstep was quickly righted by getting a better ratio of creamy cauliflower soup to light and airy ham foam. Once we properly balanced the two in our spoons, this dish really came alive. The  soup in and of itself was creamy, rich and delicious. But the added smoke/salt of the ham foam made it come further alive.
This was a ravioli filed with pea puree, and maybe a touch of cheese? I love everything pasta, and I have quite the penchant for peas, so this little treat was nothing short of happy making for CC.
We decided to be ballers and order both appetizers and entrees. The menu is a little pricy. But I think the cost of the appetizers and entrees takes all the small little dishes into account. CP chose to have the Hudson foie gras "Lunch Inspired". This turned out to be a piece of seared foie gras with a special foam (that I forget but hopefully CP can tell me soon) and a foie gras root beer float with fries that I suppose were probably fried in duck fat. The foie's texture was a little less smooth and fatty than many a foie I've had. And it had a slightly different overall taste than what I'm accustomed to, but it was still quite good. CP said the float tasted mostly like root beer, and that she didn't really pick up on the foie aspect of it.
I debated whether to go with the Blue Crab Mac and Cheese with Clothbound cheddar (so maybe that wasn't what was in the cracker), orzo, wild mushrooms, pickled jalapenos and herbed crumbs or the Chicken Gallantine Banh Mi. I asked our server what she would suggest and she endorsed the mac n cheese and so that's what I went with. It's very hard to go wrong with mac n cheese, and Marigold didn't get anywhere near wrong. The cheddar had a sharpness to it that I worried would overwhelm the crab aspect. But I worried in vain. It balanced. It worked. I also enjoyed the herbed crumbs. I don't really remember picking up on the jalapenos, and wouldn't have said this had any real spice or kick to it.
I believe this is a sorbet. I can tell you no more than that. Though I think I thought it did a good job of properly cleansing my palate.
For my main course I chose the Wild King Salmon with foraged wild mushrooms, fiddleheads, ramps, farm egg and a sauce verte. These more in depth menu descriptions come directly from their website, so I'm not sure if they are completely accurate to that specific evening. I say this because I don't really recall a sauce verte. In any case, the salmon was cooked perfectly. Still a little rare in the center. Flaky. Moist. I had expected a full egg, so I was a little surprised by the yolk crumbs that represented the egg. I can't say that I found them to add much to the dish. But the ramps and fiddleheads were great. 
CP chose the Wild Caught Barramundi with parmesan broth, english peas, bacon lardons, wild mushrooms and puffed skin. If I recall correctly, she was quite pleased. The broth was marvelous. Really, just marvelous. The fish, like the salmon, was cooked excellently. And the puffed skin was a fun and tasty texture change.
Next up were a series of little sweets. This was some kind of custard or pudding?
This was like a tiny little ice cream sandwich.
We went the whole hog and ordered dessert in addition to the amuses bouches. CP went with profiteroles filled with mint ice cream.
I chose the dish that had a number of different forms of chocolate...maybe chocolate seven ways? This included ganache, white chocolate ice cream, a chocolate snake, little chocolate pellets, and chocolate dirt. So rich.  I would probably suggest just splitting one dessert. Between the bigger plates and all the smaller ones, there was no way I could truly ravage this plate as savagely as it deserved. I was delighted by the white chocolate ice cream.
And that was our evening at Marigold Kitchen. It was totally worth the trek and the overall price tag. Definitely a 'special occasion' kind of place, with excellent and friendly service.

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