This is the story of two little ladies who embarked on a quest, and ended up finding far more adventure and magic than they had even imagined!
Or maybe it’s just the story of two friends trying to make dinner plans, and finally getting around to it. But they were truly AMAZING dinner plans, as you will soon see. Fantastic, even.
It all started nearly a year ago, when I read about a new restaurant that had opened up in Union Square. I don’t remember where I read about it, truth be told, but I was enchanted by the description – super local, super seasonal set dinner menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses, with a few molecular gastronomy-style flourishes. Not the sort of place you could enjoy some good old-fashioned down-home cooking, but rather a stage on which to enjoy the whole experience of food. I wrote to beloved dining companion Nandi, and we made plans to head to this restaurant, this Journeyman, as soon as a suitable celebratory occasion presented itself. And present themselves they did!
She won a football pool, and got the job of her dreams! I got betrothed, and finished a prestigious leadership workshop! We both ran countless races, including a second marathon, and STILL WE DID NOT GO. Finally we decided to just make the reservations, already, and celebrate the whole lot of it, occasions be damned! Would Journeyman be able to live up to a year of build up?
We arrived spot on time for our 7:00 reservation, to discover we were the first patrons of the evening. The space is modern yet cozy, with plants filling the front window and a lovely bar in the middle at which we were encouraged sit if we liked and watch the chefs. Of course we chose these seats – I prefer to sit at a bar rather than the middle of the room whenever possible – and we were off.
We chose the 5 course, omnivore meal, after determining that none of the fish were shellfish, since they are Nandi’s deadly enemies. Our server, a dapper young man, assured us they were not, and brought us an amuse bouche to start our journey.
This was a whipped confit of tomato with garlic toast. The tomato was a veritable umami bomb – however it had been confited had rendered it into the most savory foam imaginable. The toast was deeply garlicky, crisp, and browned. During this course a young couple joined us at the bar, and we listened to them ask questions of the staff, my favorite being when the young man asked how the “Underage Teenager” Mezcal got its name. “A false cognate,” the serious young beverage manager assured him.
Even the bread and butter was lovely! Nandi dubbed the aesthetic “precious, but in a good way.”
Because I couldn’t help myself, we added an ala cart charcuterie plate to our meal. I know, I know, we already had five courses, but they had lardo! They cure it in-house, and I’m a wee bit obsessed with the stuff in general.
And now, very likely, so is Nandi. She declared it “the best morsel of food I have ever put in my mouth,” and indeed it was nutty, salty, and decadent – so thinly sliced as to melt on the tongue, and paired with delightful little pickled vegetables and seriously tasty mustard that contrasted perfectly.
It came simultaneously with our salads, which faintly embarrassed our server, I think, but bothered me not one whit.
As you can see, the salad is deconstructed (or composed, but thankfully not decomposed), wee little veggies portioned off to play nicely with different sauces, looking gorgeous on the plate. The best tidbit was the Brussels sprout, cooked as it was in clarified butter.
Following the salad was the mushroom course, an assortment of wild,locally foraged mushrooms served on a ramp puree (they freeze them in the Spring for just such an occasion!) and alongside a potato “galette” and mushroom foam.
This was quite the parade of fall flavors, even the normally vernal ramps. The potato was a buttery little wonder, and each mushroom had a distinct flavor and texture, ranging from nearly identical to the meaty chew of an oyster to delicate and shockingly sweet (that little round fella in the center). The mushroom foam was ethereal on the tongue and tasted surprisingly of lavender.
Tune in later this week for the exciting conclusion of our meal – will our intrepid young food adventurers make it to dessert? Will their quest for milk punch ever be fulfilled? Find out here!