2/12/2013 12:37:00 PM

Best Thing We Ate Last Night: Fluke with Cashew Rejuvelac at Aldea

Tucked into the open kitchen of Aldea last night was not one, but three chefs calmly preparing some seriously delicious seasonal fare. As part of an ongoing guest chefs series, Aldea’s George Mendes was joined by chefs John Shields and Scott Anderson to give diners a truly unforgettable meal, comprised of six courses expertly paired with wine. What started as Twitter conversations between chefs turned into meals like these, filled with “lots of wine,” camaraderie and the chance to throw around new ideas. “It’s a lot of fun,” Mendes said.

Despite the bevy of courses, last night’s menu was surprisingly - and gratifyingly - kind to the waistband, with carnivorous offerings like scallops and suckling pig (the latter of which was perfectly, perfectly crisped, thanks to Mendes) taking a backseat to vegetables, the real stars of the show.

“It’s a tough season,” Shields said. “Not too much is growing right now.” (He seemed to make do with the limited selection rather well, playing with both textures and flavors with dishes like dried beets covered with a mixture of egg yolk and uni, as well as a fried sunchoke dessert.)

A personal highlight, however, was the very beginning of the meal. Anderson started the night off with perhaps one of the most conceptually fascinating dishes, taking a morsel of lightly cooked fluke and pairing it simply with a single sliver of green radish and a piece of yacon (a sweet-ish South American tuber). The swath of sauce, a cashew rejuvelac, is a raw, fermented food made from sprouted grains, which were themselves then served under the fish. It was both earthy and refined, with the clean flavors prepping the diner’s palate for the rest of the meal. 

Given Anderson’s penchant for foraging in Jersey, where he helms his restaurant Elements in Princeton, it’s no wonder he was able to utilize such ingredients with apparent ease. You’ll have to venture over to the Garden State to sample his constantly-evolving fare - which, due to the better access to ingredients, is understandable - but for those looking to try something a little more undefinable, that doesn’t quite fall into rustic farm-to-table genre and isn’t self-righteous locavorism, it is well worth the trip.

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