Dinner at Forage Restaurant

One of the most exciting, current food trends is allowing the local to shape the nature of a restaurant’s cuisine. Restaurants in Europe, like Noma and Faviken, have been instrumental in spearheading this movement, and now other chefs in the United States are incorporating this philosophy into how they cook. This trend is a very localized farm-to-table movement, where all the details of the restaurant are shaped by this philosophy. (An aside: I am fascinated by how this trend has appeared at the height of the molecular gastronomy movement in cuisine.)

Forage Restaurant in Salt Lake City is presenting cuisine connected with the terrior of Utah, and after a meal there this past Saturday, it is very exciting.

Forage has been on my radar even before moving to Utah. I think I first heard of Forage when the chefs (Viet Pham and Bowman Brown at the time) were nominated for a James Beard award. Viet Pham left Forage in September 2012 to pursue his own restaurant (he has appeared on Food Network a couple of times). Since then, Chef Brown has put his unique spin on the menu paying more careful attention to what Utah offers and trying to look deeply at the question, “What can this place offer? And how can I respect the ingredients?”

For my birthday my parents’ gift to me was money so that Claire and I could enjoy an evening at Forage. I had not been this excited about a meal in a really long time, and was slightly worried that my expectations would be too high and I would be let down. Thankfully, that was not the case in the least; the team at Forage gave us one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed, and definitely the best dining experience in Utah.

Forage only offers a tasting menu, which can be accompanied by wine pairings or non-alcoholic juice pairings. I opted for the wine pairings with each course, while Claire had the juice pairings. When you dine at Forage, I think this is the way to go as the juices were unique and delicious and definitely not an afterthought to the wine (actually in some courses, we both preferred the juice pairing to the wine pairing). The wine pairings were unique and allowed me to try some new wines, like a sparkling Malbec and a dry Gewurztraminer.

(The pictures do not do the food justice, but I was not going to spend 15 minutes to get a great picture of each dish.)

The meal started with five amuse bouches.

Apple and Woodruff

apple and woodruff with fermented honey (this was fresh pressed warm apple cider, quite possibly the best apple cider I have tasted)

Elderberry and Beet

elderberry and beet (beet puree inside of elderberry leather. Thankfully the beet was not overly sweet, so it was a nice bite of the earthy beet with the elderberry fruit)

Crispy Potato

crispy potato with chicken liver mousse (the chicken liver was very subdued and approachable)

Kale with Juniper

kale with juniper (this dish was presented to the table with a glass dome on top, so that when the server lifted the lid, the aroma of the smoking juniper branches engulfed us. The kale was presented as chips and sandwiched between was an egg yolk puree, adding a nice richness to the smokiness of the dish)

Elk and Buckwheat

elk with buckwheat (elk heart tartar with watercress and creme fraiche, served with homemade buckwheat crackers. The flavor of the tartar was quite subdued, I would have liked a stronger flavor from the heart, which felt overpowered by the cracker, but still very tasty)

All of the amuse bouches were excellent, but our favorite had to be the apple and woodruff, if only because a fresh cup of hot apple cider is just so hard to beat. The amuses came quite quickly; I wish they had been spaced out a little more so that we could truly savor each unique bite.

Bread with Local Butter

Before the main courses arrived, we were presented with homemade bread and butter made locally at Gold Creek Farms.

Crayfish and Late Tomatoes

crayfish with late tomatoes (this dish surprised me as it was presented cold. The tomatoes are presented here as ice, but with a super concentrated flavor. Underneath were two nuggets of crayfish with a crayfish panna cotta underneath.)

Fresh Roe and Potatoes with Elderberry Capers

fresh roe and potatoes with elderberry capers (a perfectly cooked potato, displaying a lovely butteriness to it, topped with fresh trout roe and cream. Potatoes, roe, cream…classic combination and for good reason.)

Young Roots, Stems, Leaves, with Fruit Vinegar

young roots, stems, leaves, with fruit vinegar (baby carrots and beets on top of a perfectly sublime parsnip puree, finished with a homemade fruit vinegar. Perfectly executed fall vegetables)

Oats and Turnips with Mushrooms

oats and turnips with mushrooms (a full on assault of umami in this course. The previous course and this course fully encapsulated the broad range of fall flavors and the beauty of this time)

Duck with Black Gooseberries

duck with black gooseberries, onion, black bread (this was not on the menu but a special course. The skin on the duck was crackling-esque, while the flavor of the duck was so deep and rich, tempered by the fruit and the lightly pickled onions)

Trout with a Sauce of its Bones

trout with a sauce of its bones (the trout was lightly smoked but still incredibly moist, topped with a briny sauce and New Zealand spinach. The combination of smoke and brine was really quite delightful)

Beef with Cabbage and Wild Onion

beef from pleasant mountain with cabbage and wild onion (beef shoulder sous vide for 48 hours in beef fat with cabbage and onion puree. The cabbage was sweeter than most cabbage I have had before, but still with a slight bitter edge, but really helped to balance the richness of the beef)

I have a hard time picking a favorite main course as they were all executed with such precision and offered unique flavors and textures. Not to mention the order and progression was great.

Frozen Quince and Green Juniper

frozen quince and green juniper (the first dessert was a quince and marshmallow sorbet topped with juniper and lemon verbana. Claire and I both loved this dessert as it was light and refreshing, serving almost like a palate cleanser)

Toasted Acorn

toasted acorn (acorn cake, acorn custard, ground toasted acorns and a salted yogurt)

I really appreciated that both desserts were not overly sweet, but again well balanced with differing textures.

I cannot reiterate how much I loved dining at Forage. It is exciting to see Chef Brown and his team doing something completely unique in terms of a dining experience in Utah.

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