One of the perks of being a food blogger is being invited to all kinds of interesting events: restaurant openings, behind-the-scenes tours, and one-on-one interviews with influential and really interesting people in the business.
And now I know that when items are sent to me in advance of a big party, the evening is going to be especially memorable.
You see, about a month and a half ago I was invited to a special dinner specializing in lentils– and when I heard it was going to be at Plaza Del Toro (with both Mike Kessler and John Gorham responsible for the menu), I was all in.
About a week later, I was sent all the information, along with this spoons and some temporary tattoos.
I love both engraved anything and lentils so this spoon just about sent me over the edge.
And just this week, on an unseasonably warm night, I went with a girlfriend to this amazing dinner.
I’d never been to the Plaza Del Toro before, but I’m a huge John Gorham fan and I was delighted by how beautiful this private dining space is, located just a few blocks away from OMSI.
We were greeted with choice of champagne, martinis or wine — and lots of fabulous starters.
There were terrific lentil flatbreads…
and the most delectable sprouted lentil croquettes with kefir and watercress as well as a host of Spanish cheeses and charcuterie.
Seriously, I could have stopped right there but we hadn’t even begun yet.
Take a gander at what was next.
Where do I begin?
The lentil salad with roasted carrots and beets was insanely good, and I loved how it sat atop a lemony yoghurt dressing; this added a layer of richness and tartness and I’m going to be putting this trick on repeat all summer.
Then came the Spanish-inspired Calamari a la Plancha featuring black lentils and salsa verde.
It was sublime. I’d never thought to give lentils this kind of treatment and the calamari was dreamy.
We’ not only half way through, people.
Bear with me because so much goodness awaits.
This quail was stuffed with a black and red lentil stuffing and a veloute gravy with herbs de Provence and fresh lavender flowers.
I almost never get to eat quail, and this was the ideal example of how to cook it right so that the meat practically slides off the bone but the skin remains crisp and flavorful.
Please. Don’t. Stop.
They did, but just for a few minutes to tell us some more about the menu
and give us a chance to enjoy all the lovely details around us.
Turns out, we still had more delicacies ahead, and stuffed as I was, I knew I had to soldier on.
I took a deep breath, looked around, and braced myself to be strong.
I had to dig deep, but it was so worth it.
Behold the Green Lentil Cassoulet with duck confit, house made bacon, and boudin blanc sausage.
It was beyond delicious — and the kind of thing that I wish I could order takeout.
The cassoulet was a master-stroke of complex, nuanced flavors teased out of a long and elaborate cooking process (and surely a lengthy list of ingredients). There were so many moving parts in this dish, but they all worked together to create an absolute stunner.
Incredibly enough, I still found room for one last bite on this lentil journey: a Cardamom Lentil Crepe topped with strawberries and creme fraiche ice cream.
My friend and I walked out of this beautiful event stuffed to the gills and I woke up the next morning with my mind reeling with all the possibilities of lentil cooking.
I realized that I’ve been in somewhat of a rut on this one, limiting most of my lentil cooking to the same familiar spins of certain warm salads and Indian-style soups.
And so I offer up a huge thanks so much to the Canadian advisory board who sponsored this gorgeous, thought-provoking event.
Everything about it — from the flowers, to the table, the wines, the space and most of all, the menu — was spot-on perfect.
Now I see how much more is out there in Lentil Land, and I can’t wait to play around with some ideas I’ve come up with, the best of which I’ll share with you at a later date.
Perhaps I’ll share with you the particulars of today’s lunch: Kale, Avocado and Le Puy Lentil Salad with a Scallion Tahini Dressing and Toasted Pine Nuts.
And now I’m off. It’s Oliver’s 16th Birthday and there’s so much to be done.
Happy Memorial’s Day, friends!