Yesterday was Chris’s birthday! Since it was a Wednesday and we are both adults (ugh) and have full-time jobs, the actual day wasn’t much different than any other, but I tried to fit in a few little fun things to keep it exciting for him. That included cinnamon rolls in bed in the morning before work, a card for him to open and read throughout the workday, homemade cupcakes for him and his co-workers, a gift, and a fun dinner out.
Last year for his birthday we tried to go to Mabel Gray, a nearby restaurant with fresh, local foods and an eclectic atmosphere, but it didn’t work out. So I thought what better time to try to take him back there than his next birthday! Somehow I managed to keep it a secret where we were going to, and he told me that he really didn’t realize where we were going until we were turning onto the street. So I am pretty proud of that!
The actual place was so, so tiny and adorable. I loved it.
Our waiter was incredible. I wish I had caught his name, because I would totally be leaving the best review ever for him. We each chose to do the tasting menu (with wine pairings) for our meal, and he did the best job explaining each course in a super fun way. He also saw me rubbing my arms because I was cold and brought me over a huge tea cup filled with hot water to put my hands around that he continued to warm up for me throughout the night. If that’s not amazing customer service, I don’t know what is.
The first course we were served was a crab cake of sorts with a super tasty aeoli sauce and some yummy greens. The wine pairing for this course was totally my favorite of the night – a sparkling rosé from Spain.
Next was a tomato “salad.” On our way home I told Chris that I was going to be talking about these damn tomatoes for days to come. I have never experienced a tomato more delicious than these. They were grown at a park in Detroit and served alongside a garlic/anchovy sauce, avocado, marcona almonds, thinly sliced manchego cheese, and some other delicious things.
Third was my least favorite dish of the night, but still very tasty. I don’t remember all the details of what was on the plate, but I know it was a raw maybe yellowfin fish? That sounds about right, but I could be totally wrong. The yellow dots are a mango sauce, the chip looking things are taro root chips (SO GOOD), and the green stuff is cilantro. Normally I despise cilantro, but a little bite of it actually paired perfectly with the fish. I am so impressed when chefs can pair seemingly ridiculous foods together to make them taste amazing.
Our fourth dish was a contender to be my favorite. Now I love calamari just as much as everybody else does, but when the waiter said this dish was octopus, I was a little worried. However, everything up until that point had been fantastic so I just took a big bite and hoped for the best. And holy crap. Have you ever had octopus before? Like real octopus – not calamari? If it is cooked right (which this totally was), it has almost a chicken-like consistency. And the waiter said it was slow-cooked for a WHOLE DAY and then blackened/seared on the grill. But the best part of this dish may have been the hot sauce that came with it. I will go as far as to say that it is the best hot sauce I have ever had. It was crazy spicy, but also delicious. And our waiter was so kind as to bring us an extra dish of it to enjoy with the rest of our meal if we wanted. I will totally admit that I even just ate some by itself with my finger. It was that good.
Next came a palate cleanser – a grapefruit/lemon shaved ice. Wow. I could have eaten an entire cup full of this. A few bites was not enough!
The main “entrée” was veal with gnocchi in a bolognese sauce with mushrooms. Now I have to say – I hate mushrooms, I am not a big meat eater, and especially not a red meat eater. I have never tried veal in my life, and I always ask for sauce without meat at restaurants. And I could have licked my plate clean. This dish was SO GOOD. The meat was cooked absolutely perfectly, and the fact that the waiter told us how the veal is raised and taken care of so well made me feel way better about eating it. All the flavors played absolutely perfectly off of each other. We were so impressed.
In addition, the wine pairing was just perfect. It was a Nebbiolo from the Barolo region of Italy – where I lived when I was studying abroad in Italy in college! It was such a treat to have this again and like I said, went perfectly with the dish. I honestly wanted to order an additional glass of this one.
Before dessert was served, we had a seemingly simple cheese plate, but it was the best damn cheese I have had. It was a creamy cow’s milk cheese with a tangy truffle salad on top, alongside a perfect piece of bread. Delicious.
Finally, it was time for dessert! Now I am usually not a “sweets” person, but I think that this is the best thing that I have ever tasted. It was essentially a fancy version of a key lime pie with raspberry puree, micro beets (what?!), powdered sugar, lime zest, and candied lime. It was paired with a fruity vermouth that was weird and delicious. I did not want this pie to ever end.
We had such a nice time at dinner, and I am so glad that I was able to take Chris out (for once!) to somewhere that I knew he would absolutely love. It helped to bring some of our Chef’s Table fantasies to life. And after dinner, we gave into our old-people tendencies and went right back home to lay down on the couch and watch Desperate Housewives before going to bed at a reasonable time. Calm us down. 😉