Premature as it may seem to have chosen the Dish of the Week on, um, the 1st day of the week, I’m almost positive I won’t get lucky enough to attend another 5-course dinner hosted by a world-class chef & a winemaking rebel before Sunday. On Monday night, in the eye of the Restaurant Week storm, Charlie Palmer himself joined Infinite Monkey Theorem’s Ben Parsons for a Colorado-themed blowout at District Meats, where chef Jeffrey Russell knocked me out with his two-way take on Colorado lamb: a daringly rare loin chop & a shoulder crépinette (a type of caul-fat-encased sausage), shredding at the touch of a fork. Like his cooking methods, his simple presentation let the lamb be lamb: black-trumpet mushrooms in the form of both coulis & roasty nubbins complemented the meat’s earthiness, as did brussels sprouts leaves fried to translucence; a few golden raisins iced the cake. And IMT’s 2010 Petite Sirah proved a classic match, musky on the nose but plenty juicy with cranberry on the palate.
Of course the rest of the meal was nothing to sniff at, starting with cauliflower-almond velouté—unexpectedly toasty & almost créme brulèe-like in texture, surrounding a dumpling that burst with sweet lobster & sprinkled with salty local trout roe, espelette pepper & crushed almond. Beautiful, of course, with Parsons’ peachy, slightly herbaceous & heartily acidic 2011 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Grilled on a cedar plank, skin-on striped bass had the meltingly fleshy texture of much oilier fish, well matched to crisp-edged sweet potato-Andouille sausage hash, plus a touch of butternut-squash coulis; the foam was composed of the 2010 Chardonnay we drank with the dish, whose smokiness startled me (in a good way).
Slow-braised Tender Belly pork cheeks over parsnip-chestnut puree ranked a close second in my heart to the lamb for their aching tenderness, in a reduction that I assume contained a touch of the oh-so-velvety Blind Watchmaker—all cherry pie & milk chocolate—to which tart preserved pears & sauteed bitter greens added contrast.
We finished with an admirably simple sampler of Ugly Goat ricotta, Avalanche blue cheese, & Busy Bee Farm comb honey, garnished with roasted beets & an herb-flecked disk of gelée made of everybody’s favorite wine in a can—the wonderful sparkling Black Muscat that accompanied it all.
Weighing my 1st experience at District Meats against this one, I’d have to say that the crew is really finding its groove—except I can’t, in all honesty, since the circumstances were so atypical, Palmer being in town & me being an invited guest at an off-menu dinner. Still, it’s proof that the kitchen has high-caliber potential, which I fully intend to see if they’re realizing nightly. High hopes.