Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Long Time, No Blog aka Hidden Gems of the Grey Lady: 2012 Edition

So first and foremost, I need to apologize for the string of “backlog blogging” you’re about to encounter.  Life ran away again and as a result, my poor little blog was among the first to suffer.  New career, new house, new dog… oddly all of which I have found to be quite time consuming.  That being said, I’m back with a plethora of culinary inspiration and amazing finds that I’m elated to share. 

So to continue last year’s mini series “Hidden Gems of The Grey Lady,” I would like to add a 2012 installment… American Seasons.  While on the island, we of course visited all of our favorite mainstays: Corazon del Mar, The Straight Wharf Fish Store, Petticoat Row Bakery and Ambrosia, but I made it a particular point this year to find someplace new as to keep the series going strong with new annual additions.  Unfortunately, this was a solo culinary adventure as James was at a business dinner and I was left to my own devices. 

American Seasons is a quaint little gem tucked in the back residential streets of the historic district.  At first glance, one could easily miss the rose and ivy covered, single story building.  The restaurant is currently celebrating it’s 25th year of operation and it’s easy to see why they’ve had such a fantastic run so far. 

The Executive Chef and Owner, Michael LaScola, is a true culinary innovator who takes familiar and comforting flavors, but finds new and creative ways to deliver them to his guests… be it lesser known cuts of meat, unique cooking techniques or unexplored combinations.   Having read several reviews of Chef LaScola’s work prior to my visit to Nantucket, I was definitely excited to be able to try his creations first-hand. 

My evening began as I approached the bar, being a solo diner, I never like to take up a table that could be used for a larger party (the restaurant manager in me prevails once again).  Unfortunately, the bar was already filled with a larger group waiting to be seated and despite my insistence that I didn’t mind waiting, the manager very graciously sat me at a comfortable corner banquette in the bar area.  Adding to the excellent service level, was my server Brittany who was both attentive and knowledgeable through my meal. 

I began with a basil and grapefruit infused martini which sung with bright, intense but not overpowering summer flavors.  Immediately following it’s delivery, I was visited by a steward offering my  a choice of bread from the evening’s selections: a herbed focaccia or pretzel baguette, of which I selected the latter which was fresh, warm and made the perfect salty accompaniment to my first round of dishes. 

The restaurant offers a “small plates” menu along with their traditional dinner selections, many of which are smaller portions of their appetizers and entrees.  This gave me the opportunity to sample five of their dishes, even though I was dining alone and still maintain a reasonable dinner bill. 

My meal started with a carrot bisque topped with a cream cheese flan and puffed quinoa which boasted a silky, balanced creaminess with the sharp crisp of the grain.  The sweetness was definitely present but not cloying and truly celebrated the seasonal flavor of the vegetable.  Following was a cheese course of locally crafted burrata with fresh apricots and pistachios.  The light, creamy texture truly complimented the saltiness in the pretzel baguette and played well off the apricots to once again, put forth a truly balanced dish without any one flavor overpowering another.  Next, my meal progressed to a terrine of foie gras and rabbit soaked in Italian grappa.  The meat blended together to form an unctuous, rich harmony and my only regret was ordering the small plate as opposed to the full appetizer portion.  Following was a cast iron crock of the smoothest, creamiest white corn grits I’ve ever eaten topped with a green onion gravy and chopped scallions.  Texturally, this dish could easily turn a non-grit lover into a believer.  I do have to note that they were ineptly called “grits”.  Finally, I rounded out my meal with a culinary epiphany that I’m almost angry it took me over 30 years of existence to discover… Crispy Pigs Ear Fries.  These delicious, thinly sliced, crunchy strips of bacon-y goodness came cleverly presented in a paper cone, lightly dusted with chili powder and served with lime wedges.  Being a self-professed bacon aficionado, these truly are a pork-lovers dream.  Paired with a glass of slightly smoky, ripe, juicy Educated Guess Pinot Noir from Napa Valley, it played well into what I’m dubbing the them of my meal… balance. 

Unfortunately, I did not save room for dessert, although their seasonally derived offerings all sounded spectacular. 

If you have the opportunity to visit Nantucket, the is truly a must visit location for any foodie looking for a unique culinary experience in a relaxed, yet refined ambiance.  

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