New York City summers are brutal and there is a breaking point where you’ve had enough and need to get away. I reached this point on Saturday and knew exactly where to go…Community Table to see our Favorite Chef Joel Viehland and to breath in the fresh country air.
Last April was our first encounter with the Noma Allum and ever since then we have been meaning to go back. Joel’s enthusiasm, talent and vast knowledge of the culinary world helped to push Jose and I into a slightly more obsessed food direction one where the idea of going to Copenhagen for a weekend to check out Noma is perfectly sane. Like the trip to Copenhagen our mini 2hr road trip to Washington CT was well worth it!
Speaking of road trips…Joel recently got back from his own culinary trip. This is all from memory, but I believe he went to Noma, Cooked with his buddy Christian Puglisi at Relæ, and went to all of the best restaurants in Paris and various parts of Italy. We knew about this trip and had to see how it inspired his cooking. We also couldn’t wait to pick his brain about the amazing food that he experienced.
Our first meal back in April was beyond memorable, it was likely up there with Noma and Geranium as one of the most special dining experiences of the year. That being said we were a bit nervous… can it live up to our expectations the second time around or will it disappoint like MGMT’s last few albums. Thankfully for us Joel is the farthest thing from a one album wonder!
This time around we put ourselves in the hands of the master. We asked him to put together a tasting menu of his favorite dishes. Let me tell you, that was the smartest decisions I’ve made in a long time.
The first course was the new Anthony Bourdain graphic novel that he plopped with a smile on the table. This thoroughly entertained us until the beautiful assortment of local berries came out to snack on. These berries were gorgeous! Blackberries, Blueberries and Red and White Currants. Each one was perfectly ripe and tangy. This was a nice subtle introduction to some of the flavors we would be experiencing later on in the meal. I love it when a chef thinks holistically!!
For our first course, the beautiful Glidden Point oysters from Maine. What he presented was far from typical shucked oyster, instead he brilliantly combined the white currants and dill to make an inventive mignonette. Loved the flavors!! Joel Mentioned that these are his Favorite Oysters. Hearing this made me so excited for these are my favorites as well! When we go home to Maine we tend to go oyster crazy and have them each night. The best thing about this small family run business is their honor system. The family that mans the small shop are often busy pulling up oysters that they can’t be there to help out their customers. Instead of hanging up the “be back in 10 min” sign they leave the door open. It is so refreshing to see an honor system in action…only in Maine =) Glidden point has a variety of different sized oysters and they ship everywhere. You can find their oysters in some great places in the city one of our favs is Masion Premiere. Check out Glidden’s site for more info.
As you may know Jose has been making a great deal of delicious bread using the Tartine method and as a result has become very sensitive to the subtitles of breads flavor and texture. Trying most bread results in an underwhelming sigh of meh… but this bread, which is made in house daily, was out of this world! The waitress mentioned that the bread is why she runs so many miles each day. =) I believe that! This is not just well made artisanal bread, it is inventive and crafted with a level of skill that rivals the likes of Chad Robertson of Tartine. Joel mentioned that they continually experiment with the mixture. An example of their experimentation is the Sourdough where they use Whey in the mix in order to bring a little more bite. When Jose heard this I could see that he was taking mental notes…
Housemade potato gnocchi, chicken confit, patty pan squash, roasted tomatoes, garlic, goat cheese, Parmesan, basil
This dish was INCREDIBLE! It was perhaps one of our favorites of the night and by far some of the best gnocchi I have ever had. No Joke. I think it would be impossible to find a gnocchi of this caliber anywhere in NYC! It’s clear that those days spent eating and exploring in Italy really paid off, for it clearly had an influence on the menu. This dish was more than just good pasta, like the oysters and the bread it showed his level of inventiveness and skill. It may be rude but I am going to have to ask for the recipe for this perfect pasta dish.
Super sharp aged gouda ( raw cow’s milk ) with marinated olives, extra virgin olive oil and gooseberry
Fantastic flavors! We loved the unexpected addition of the gooseberries and the black olive. According to Joel we may be seeing black olives used a lot more in experimental cuisine, perhaps even in desserts… Could the olive be taking the place of the cucumber…
Duck confit, fennel, arugula, berries
I was very happy he included this as one of the courses. The duck was perfectly cooked with a skin to die for. Sweet crispy just the way we like it.
White gazpacho: Black and red currant and almond, cucumber
We could tell Joel had some fun creating this dish. The soup was earthy and creamy. We loved the mix of the sour of the currant and the crispness of the cucumber! Think we will try this one at home.
Blue fin tuna, soy lime brown butter, cucumber, cherokee tomato, soba cold noodles, horseradish, green onion, sesame seeds, citrus
This tasting menu took us so many places flavor-wise Italy, Spain and finally on the last dish, Asia. The tuna, like everything else that night, was cooked perfectly. The soba noodles were flavorful and sweet. Another incredible dish. (On an ingredient note: It was great to hear that Joel buys his line caught tuna from Browne Trading company in Portland. Another one of our stops when we go up north. They have fantastic local seafood: uni, monkfish, tuna. If you do go, be warned, It is easy to drop some serious cash in there! )
Nutella - chocolate, vanilla & hazelnuts
We ended the night with a deliciously rich dessert made by the talented pastry chef April Massey. Her desserts have a slight resemblance to the style done at Noma. That comes as no surprise given the fact that she just came back from a stage there. (We were lucky enough to meet her there in January and are excited that she is back to bring a bit of Noma to us.) We look forward to trying more of April’s desserts in the future!
Overall another mind blowing meal! I bet we will be hearing a lot more about Joel in the future. He, without a doubt, deserves that James Beard award! His food has been better than all the winners we have visited in the last couple years. Certainly better than Melissa Kelly’s Primo who won “Best Chef in the Northeast”(here are our pictures from our recent diner link). Let’s see.
For those of you who live in NYC, Washington CT it is an easy/beautiful drive. Once you get there there is plenty to do. Lots of great hiking trails and if you like shopping there are some wonderful antique stores in Kent. We highly recommend staying the night if you do go. Please see our previous post for more thoughts on lodging.
Please let us know if you go and how you like it
Executive Chef Joel Viehland
223 Litchfield Tpke. Washington, CT 06777
For reservations call 860.868.9354