Photo Credit: Andrew Tucker
One of the things I really appreciate about the course meals offered with regularity at Varanese Restaurant in Clifton is the communal seating. It was no different yesterday as we sat down at a table for eight with several other couples we did not know for Varanese's Around the World in Six Courses dinner. I also appreciate that Varanese clearly has a base of loyal clientele. No one at our table were first time diners. All of them had participated in one of Varanese's course meals in the past. This mean that they were excited diners who were more than happy to converse about each course and it's accompanying wine. It also meant that John Varanese was doing something right for folks to keep coming back.
All courses were paired with wines from Terlato wines. As an added perk, the Wine Market was on site offering a ten percent discount on an preordered wines from the event. I took advantage not only because discounted wine is always a no brainer, but because many of the wines featured were good solid products at a very affordable price point.
Second Course: France
Our second course went a bit heavier. The bread, reportedly from a local baker, was soft and airy. My preference is for a chewier variety with a little more flavor. The ham was shaved modestly on a generous slab of brie which worked well since the ham was very salty. Our table did lament the peaches being on the tart side. If the peaches had been a few touches sweeter, it would have been a really lovely compliment.
Hold the phone, it's a palette cleanser! I say that because we all got very excited about the palette cleanser. One diner commented, "I don't know what it is but I like it!"
What looks like a simple dome of shaved ice on a spoon, was refreshing delicious, granita of orange blossom. Slightly syrupy, ice cold, and herbaceous, it cut through our developing haze from wine and food. I believe it ignited more than it cleansed. Maybe that's the same thing. At any rate, delicious.
I had just gushed to my neighbor at the table about how much I adored the chimichuri at another local restaurant when they served us this pulled pork sausage delight. Drizzled with a delicious chimichuri, this dish had a really well balanced symphony of tangy vinegar, rich savory notes, and finally a mild smoky hot sweetness from the accompanying pork rinds. It's always a good sign when you glance around the table and see folks immersed in their dish, nodding approvingly.
Fourth Course: Chile
We were so caught up in the Lapostolle Casa Carmenere when they served course four, it took me by surprise. The presentation of the skirt steak was relatively simple with sweet potatoes, onion, and pepper and a savory demi. The flavor of the meat, however, was so spot on. While skirt steak is normally really flavorful, it's not always tender. Perhaps it was the marinade but this steak was only slightly chewy, the perfect amount to pull the ample juice and flavor from the meat. It's what I imagine beef should taste like.
Our fifth course celebrated the works of fusion in the American kitchen. This one in particular had an Asian flair. The most succulent duck breast I've ever had the privilege to eat was partnered with plump aromatic duck confit dumplings and bathed in a delicate duck consomme. It was awesome. Especially the duck breast. You could cut it with a butter knife but it was firm and full of richness.
Sixth Course: Italy
By now I am warm with wine and full of flavors from so many corners of the world. I questioned my ability to finish. Then, the sweetest little miniature Italian cream cake was placed in front of me with a cold malted coffee milk shake. In addition, we were served a sweet sparkling red called Fizz 56. The cake was layered with fresh berry which worked well with the closing wine and helped cut through the decadent richness of the cake. The malted coffee milkshake was creamy and smooth while cooling us down the warmth from the wine.
Another incredible experience at Varanese. I recommend trying their course meal events, but also their regular menu as well. I want to leave you with a few shots of the regular menu which I have also enjoyed. I hope it encourages a visit soon!