Barndiva’s Valentine’s Dinner ~ 2011
Many a great chef has floundered on the sea of expectation that is otherwise known as ‘a romantic Valentine’s Dinner’. “It’s the equivalent of making love with your hands tied,” a chef once told me. “Even happy couples come in with weighted expectations.”
True, but confounding expectations are what’s great about love, right? We followed a hunch this year that the only thing couples who chose Barndiva for this very special meal didn’t want us to do was bore them. It was Chef’s idea to use the 5 senses to inspire each dish. When his insistence on a sorbet intermezzo between the entrée and dessert brought us to six courses we did some quick research on ‘the 6th sense’. Turns out premonitions- especially when they are of greater things yet to come- was perfect inspiration.
We started the meal with a Barndiva Classic, Warm Goat Cheese Croquettes, which beg to be eaten with your fingers. Golden salty crust, toothsome creamy filling with a heart of housemade tomato jam. Fingers used again to glide through rivulets of honey studded with lavender flowers.
You eat with your eyes, first and foremost, but the mouth and the stomach have to follow for something to be both beautiful and delicious. The spirit of Matisse hovered above the salad course, a delightful dance of form and color: glistening gold and red beets, tutu pink and orange citrus, ripe avocado, blades of red radish, all atop a creamy mound of fresh crab meat. Nestled in a shower of Rapini flowers was a single tiny house-made Kennebec Potato Chip.
3rd Course: Smell
How to fully enjoy the aroma of our third course, a warm wide-lipped bowl of truffle flecked risotto? Some lifted it up and inhaled deeply, while others just closed their eyes, and slightly bowed their heads. There was no escaping the ethereal woodsy smell redolent of truffle oil. A big fat Maitake mushroom in a crispy tempura batter held pride of place, but the bravura touch was a halo of translucent crème fraîche foam.
4th Course: Taste
Though we offered a vegetarian option, most diners headed straight for the Snake River petite fillet seared and bathed in garlic, butter and rosemary for their main course. Sweet buttery batons of carrots, caramelized endive, and a mount of OMG Yukon Gold Potato Purée with lobster and crème fraîche sent the dish straight to Umami Heaven.
5th Course: Sound
The snap of a sweet and nutty Florentine was point of entry to our fifth course, a late intermezzo of bracing citron sorbet with slivers of grapefruit and mandarin citrus. Like a dip in a deep cold lake, it brought you to your senses, just in time for the final course.
6th Course: 6th Sense
Love is risk, we all should know that by now, so it’s a good thing that premonitions exist if only to remind us from time to time to trust our instincts. Which brings us to our 6th course, Temptation, a triple threat… but definitely not one to be afraid of. A Lady Gaga lunar hat of white chocolate balanced precariously on an orb of creamy passion fruit ice cream, which, in turn, sat melting on a couplet of moist dark chocolate ganache cakes. Lovers were encouraged to end the meal as they started it, intimately gliding their fingers through a passion fruit syrup the color of a Mexican sunset. We don’t know what they got up to after they left Barndiva but ‘our’ 6th sense tells us for most of them, the sweet notes continued.