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A Toute Heure


warrenbobrow
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This is what we ate at this James Beard nominated restaurant:

We were presented with an Amuse Bouche of Hush Puppies that sent me right back down to Charleston, South Carolina. It was here that sparkling fresh shrimp from Shem Creek fished just out of the brackish pluff mud filtered water filled my memories. One taste and I was eating the essence of Wild Shrimp. A brilliant, freshly made remoulade sauce sealed the deal.

My mother-in-law, who doesn’t eat shrimp, was offered a small plate of several heirloom “cherry” tomatoes. Each one was brimming with flavor and were still slightly warm from being just picked maybe seconds before they were sliced, dashed with a grassy olive oil and a bit of sea salt to raise their inner secrets to her fork. I tasted one and wanted to eat an entire bowl of them with aged Balsamico and crusty bread.

I started with a bowl of Kara’s Mussel Pot, an appetizer size that dwarfed the other plates on the table. It was brimming with succulent, steaming hot PEI Mussels. Sweet and plump, they came drenched in Belgian Ale from a local microbrewery, dotted with sweet, yet tangy blue cheese and a splash of cream. I inhaled most of the bowl and set to work at the excellent bread served and refilled without my notice to sop up the broth.

My wife and her mom shared the satisfyingly filling, meltingly soft to the tooth Paffenroth Garden’s roast beet salad. Each generous portion of beets echoed their specific terroir and was folded between perfectly cleaned local greens. I could smell the earthy nature of the beets and it stirred a far away feeling of summer and memories that lingered at the edge of my memory.

I ordered the Hudson Valley magret duck breast which came over goat cheese-infused mashed potatoes that tasted made a la minute-the glutens of the potato had not turned to glue. I wanted to jump right in to bowl full of them. A veritable pillow-top mattress made of them. The duck, rendered of the fat that sometimes plagues other examples of this dish, tasted as if it had been running around just that morning. Or swimming, so deep was the flavor.

The other dishes were the boneless, brined, “brick” roast ½ chicken. Brick-Cooked Chicken holds a special place in my heart and this delicacy was brined to bring out all the flavors of a small, organic bird. So delicate and almost sous vide in texture-

My mom-in-law has a restrictive diet, so she doesn’t eat meat in a restaurant, nor most fish. A Toute Heure accommodated her needs, serving her the bountiful, piping hot, Heirloom Cherry Lane Farm’s eggplant gratin with Gruyere and Parma cheese.

While we were finishing our meal I took note of the cheese list. Perfectly aged cheeses abound. Without asking, we were served a selection of cheeses which included: Cayuga Blue from Lively Run Dairy in NY, a perfectly aged specimen of the Weston Wheel from Woodcock Farm in Vt., and my personal favorite-the Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill in Vt. Each cheese was just about 2 bites-served with house-cured olives and more of that excellent toast, carefully marked by the grill in crosshatches. I love seeing that extra effort at taking an ingredient and expanding on the flavors of the charred bread.

Dessert would be a selection of the best ice-cream I have ever tasted in NJ, the Burnt Sugar, the brightly flavored and toothsome Spearmint Bittersweet Chocolate Chip and the Ricotta with Candied Citrus. if I had a cooler, they might have been missing some. My wife enjoyed the chocolate bread pudding, drizzled with caramel sauce.. it was… deep, dark and filling.

Coffee was served in a French Press-nice touch!

Contributing Editor

Wild River Review www.wildriverreview.com

Wild Table (Daily)

http://www.wildriverreview.com/wildtable/

Named "One of the great online magazines," by Utne Reader

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Joanna: Greetings. May I suggest lunch at A Toute Heure? I had a lovely bowl of leek and potato soup which tasted like it was pureed with silk.. frizzled leeks graced the generous bowl..

I also had a tart of Gruyere and Anchovy... what fun! Dessert should have been on the docket, but I had to go into NYC for a Hot - Dog tasting at the Roger Smith Hotel..

needed to save room in my belly! Cheers! wb

Contributing Editor

Wild River Review www.wildriverreview.com

Wild Table (Daily)

http://www.wildriverreview.com/wildtable/

Named "One of the great online magazines," by Utne Reader

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I've been there for lunch several times and it is always amazing. I do think the lunch prices are too high, so I don't go as often as I'd like.

I will say that they had a corn chowder that was perfection - at any price. Same with their cupcakes with brown butter icing. *swoon*

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best --" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. - A.A. Milne

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