Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Spring House: Luv Luv Festival

Spring House has become an institution in downtown Winston-Salem. For the past 6 years, the Dr. Brownstone's Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival has brought local and national chefs to the Spring House Restaurant, to prepare a delicious multi-course dinner. This past Saturday night's guest chef was Chef Tim Recher, Executive Chef at The Army Navy Club in Washington, DC. Sitting outside under a candlelit tent, among 60 or so guests, listening to live blues, and spending time with one of my favorite foodie friends, it comes about as close as you can get to a perfect evening.
With NikSnacks herself!
After a happy hour reception that included wine from Raffaldini, Oysters on the Half Shell, Hummus with Pita, Grilled Shrimp, and Shishito Peppers with a Teriyaki Glaze and Sesame Seeds, I could have been good to go. But how could I possibly walk away from a menu that included the words "Truffle Mousse," "Roasted Heirlooom Beets," "Bison Tenderloin" and "Salted Caramel Gelato"? Spoiler alert: I didn't.

Chicken & Dumplings
The first course had my mouth watering with solely the description: an interpretation of Chicken & Dumplings. Quail stuffed with a Truffle Mousse rests on a tangy Chive Veloute Sauce, alongside Gnocchi and a fluffy Herb Biscuit. The Biscuit is exactly what you want at a Thanksgiving dinner, especially when you use it to mop up the savory veloute. One of my favorites of the night, Chilled English Pea Soup arrived in a shot glass beside a perfectly cooked piece of Sea Bass. Coriander was sprinkled atop the Pea Soup, and while it was tasty to sip on its own, I enjoyed dunking the fish in it. I appreciated the peas being served two ways, which also included raw peas in a salad with shallots and chanterelle mushrooms. At course two, we were already seriously rocking and rolling. It's important to pace yourself at these dinners because chances are, you'll like everything. But a note to the novices, if you like it, eat it, because you may get a flub course.

Beautiful Sea Bass with Peas
Beet Salad
Unfortunately, the third course was a bit of a let down for me. The colors were beautiful and the ingredients obviously fresh, but call it the Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner salad, because the flavors didn't marry well together. Roasted Baby Heirloom Beets were the star of the show, alongside Belgium Endive and Frisee (not my favorite leaves), Watercress, Pickled Apples, Macadamia Nuts and a Coriander Yogurt. This was doused in a Beet Vinaigrette. The Macadamias offered a fantastic nutty crunch and the puree was nice and cooling, but the greens were a little too tough, with too many stems, and the beet vinaigrette was a bit too earthy. I was glad I filled up on courses 1 and 2, so I let some of this slide. 

Bison Tenderloin Perfection
Photo Courtesy Nikki Miller-Ka
I'm not a huge meathead. I'll gladly take it when it's presented, but I typically don't order it (or even prepare it at home!) but I devoured every single bite of this Coffee-Rubbed Bison Tenderloin, cooked perfectly Medium Rare and sprinkled with flakes of Sea Salt. It was tender, with a more salty than coffee-flavored crust, and when you spread some of the Sweet Corn Puree and BBQ jus lie sauce, it's absolutely ballin'. I would die for this corn puree. A Smoked Brisket and Potato Croquette is a fried flavor bomb, with much more than you'd expect inside. A touch of Smoked Black Garlic sauce echoed the Vidalia Onion Ash inlay inside the meat - something I'm still not sure how they did. This dish had me thinking about it long after I had finished it.

S'MORES. Heaven.
Photo Courtesy Nikki Miller-Ka
My sweet tooth is pretty insane. When you say the word "S'mores," you get my attention. When you say Molasses Spice Graham Cracker Cookie, Toasted Marshmallows and Salted Caramel Gelato, I stand up. This dessert is heaven on Earth. You can build your own s'more, or just eat it deconstructed as it comes. The Dark Chocolate Cremeux (like a ganache) was definitely dark alright, but the creamy richness of the Gelato and the cloud-like fluffiness of the Marshmallows lessened some of the bitterness. I was tempted to go say hello to the other tables, just so I could see who hadn't finished theirs, so that I could.

I'm so happy I got to participate in this year's Luv Luv Festival - I couldn't have luved the experience more. I look forward to the chefs that we'll welcome next year, and in the meantime, I'll be dreaming about that Bison and Salted Caramel Gelato.

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