Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Last Supper

I've been fortunate enough to have more than one meal good enough to be my last. In fact, if you asked me to choose my last supper I would need a couple of hours to think it through, but "Muse" by Chef Jonathan Cartwright is definitely a contender.

Last week during my dinner at 'Muse" in Newport, Rhode Island I was ambitious and ordered the seven course tasting menu...little did I realize that seven courses was actually code for ten. Every morsel was divine, I only wish I had trained my stomach to be ready for this culinary extravaganza.

The American food scene has transformed itself over the last 40 years and it's in no small part due to the extraordinary talent of Chef's like Jonathan Cartwright. In 1999 he was invited to cook at the James Beard House in NYC and he is currently Chef at Relais & Chateaux establishment White Barn Inn in Maine and at the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel in Newport where he runs "Muse" which is where I had the pleasure of discovering his talents.

As with any good Chef the culinary offerings were designed to highlight local ingredients and they brought a new meaning to the term New England cuisine...a distinct marriage between American freshness and European tradition. A lot of risks were taken but as the French say "Celui qui risque rien, n'a rien" meaning "He who risks nothing has nothing" and all of Chef Cartwright's risks paid off, in grand style.

Here are some pictures from the meal...one or two of them are pictures of my partner's dishes and I'll point those out below each image.
These pictures can't really convey the entire culinary experience at Muse as no pictures can, they are just here to give you an inkling, an itch to go do your own research and whet your appetite, no pun intended.

Lobster Bisque with Crispy Lobster Won Ton and Cognac Creme Fraiche
Delicious, the lobster was heavenly!

Fig and Fois Gras Torchon, Lightly Dusted with Pistachio and Served on Rutherglen Muscat Gelee
I couldn't resist taking a bite before the picture taking...oops! This was my first time experimenting with Fois Gras and the Gelee (the brown surrounding the fois gras) was certainly a bold, innovative touch...but quality is quality and the high level of ingredients and preparation was apparent.

Butter Poached Smoked Kennebunkport Lobster
This was recommended to me as one of the specialities of the house and with good reason...the lobster was without a doubt the best I've tasted to date...delicate, flavorful perfection.

Pan Seared Halibut Filet and Lobster Raviolo, Green Asparagus and Champane Froth
Once again I took a bite before snapping a picture! The Halibut was as fresh as they come and the Lobster Raviolo was exquisite...and by this time in the four hour long meal I had already eaten quite a bit of Lobster!

Intermezzo: Butternut Squash Soup
This was one of my favorite moments...classic American style comfort food but with serious European finesse...Butternut Squash soup will never be the same!

Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin with a Shallot Glaze, Portabella Mushrooms, Potato Puree and Merlot Sauce
This was my partner's dish so I can't vouch for it but he did say "This is the best thing I've ever tasted" so I'm guessing it was palatable...

Carpaccio of Beef Tenderloin "Bon Bon" with Tomato Chutney, Candied Pine Nuts and Garlic Ice Cream
Also my partner's dish

A Selection of Fine Ripened New England and Imported Cheese with Homemade Chutney and Breads
My cheese dish 
Local Pear and Crumble Souffle with Poire Williams Sorbet and Cinnamon Anglaise
This was the house speciality dessert and I always make a point to try out a restaurant's speciality...I thought I was full but surprisingly I managed to finish every bite...I guess there is a seperate pouch in the stomach for dessert! Usually, I'm more of a Chocolate Souffle kind of girl but once again, you can't ignore quality...the freshness was intense and the flavors all came together magically. For me there was a definite American freshness to this dish but here I go again...with European "je ne sais quoi"

Crisp Chocolate Meringue with White and Dark Chocolate Mousse and a Raspbery Sorbet

This was my partner's dish...apparently it tasted as good as it looked, a quality I value in a dessert!

Whether you're looking for your Last Supper or your next supper Chef Jonathan Cartwright's MUSE at the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel in Newport is worth going out of your way for...otherwise I wouldn't be featuring it in this blog. If you have a special occasion coming up or you just want to treat yourself, which we should all do now and then, I recommend MUSE.