Remember Supper? Those meals with family and friends with big bowls of food and great conversation? Well they are back but now with style. Since Jeff James sold his restaurant he was itching to do something fun and different.
He got his wish as the Guest Chef at the Wild Pear on Sunday and prepared a meal to fill the theme "A Spanish Affair". This was a four course meal reservation only, (prepare to hold your reservation with a credit card) and filled up quickly. The next one scheduled for October 18th is already close to being sold out!
On to the meal. I must tell you, I forgot my camera. I was so into the meal and fun I forgot all about the fact I was doing a review! I had two bites of my dessert, when Ingrid, my wife, said "did you take any photos?" Great timing...so I took a photo of the menu when I got home. Sorry.
You will have to just envision the wonderful fresh baked bread served with the starter of Rustic White Bean Spread. This had pureed beans, and whole beans and was seasoned to perfection. It went very well with the white wine. I find that most of the time chefs like to over season the beans in a dish like this. I truly enjoyed the flavor of the beans coming through and being only complimented with seasoning.
Next course served was one of my favorite soups of all time, Gazpacho. This was done better then I had ever had it. Andalucian Gazpacho to be exact. Andalusia is a southern community in Spain. This soup was served in a big bowl, family style of course, and had a green onion oil swirled on the top and garlic croutons on the side. The croutons were a bit garlicky for me, but everyone else loved them. I adored the flavor of the soup and the thick consistency that I never would have pictured for a gazpacho. I wanted to lick my bowl and not waste a drop! It was perfectly balanced in flavor and refreshing on a hot day.
To the main dish, Paella, and a glass of the red wine of the evening, Zesto. Saffron rice, shrimp, clams, mussels, chorizo, and chicken. Do I really need to say more here? To me the rice is the key to this dish and it was cooked perfectly. The other surprise was the most innocuous item in the dish. The chicken. I am not sure when I have had chicken so moist and tender and all of my table mates agreed. The saffron flavor really came through all of the other more prominent flavors of the chorizo, and the seafood. Speaking of chorizo, it was big enough to see and taste. Many cooks make the mistake of cutting it to small in dishes. For me I like the bold flavor and want to taste it not just get hints it is there, somewhere.
Finally, it was Ingrid's turn to chime in. Dessert had arrived! Orange Flan. Not only does Ing love dessert, but flan is her favorite when we dine out. while the flavors were just superb, it was the consistency that was the discussion point around the table. Perfectly cooked, with not "bumps" in the eggs. The refreshing light flavor after the big paella flavor explosion. Ing says it was the best flan she has ever had. That is saying a lot, since she has sampled a lot of flan over the years.
I am a big stickler when it comes to service. Like every time I eat at the Wild Pear the servers were professional, engaging, and all represent Jessica and Cecilia very well.
I must say there was nothing lacking for me on this evening out. It was as close to perfection as I have experienced in years and yes, I made our reservation that evening for the 18th of October. This is a much needed and well thought out way to have an affordable supper on Sunday night in downtown Salem. Something this area has been lacking for a long time. *****
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