Stewart Lane at Morningside
The details on the Facebook event page sounded wonderful – “Modernist Twist on Classic French Fare”. But it was the last name that really caught my attention. Locally renowned caterer Lon Lane was hosting this pop-up restaurant to present his son Stewart and his culinary talents.
Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions is one of the best catering companies in town. In fact, they were my choice for our wedding reception a few years ago, so their food holds a special place in my heart….and in my belly!
The dining room had an elegant, home-like feel and the tables were beautifully adorned with tall, slender floral arrangements, heavy square black chargers and lovely handmade menus. The fresh flowers were stunning. And so were the fantastic cocktails coming from the small bar. With great care, the bartender squeezed half of fresh lemon into the shaker of vodka then finished it with a little vanilla sugar straight from the container with the plump vanilla bean immersed inside. A few moments of vigorous shaking and I had in my hand one of the best lemon drops I’ve tasted.
To my delight, Lane’s famous onion puffs were making their way around the room atop a slender leaf-shaped tray – just a half-dozen or so neatly spaced across the dish. With the servers all neatly buttoned down in black, it was a wonderful presentation, but to be honest I just wanted a whole plate full of these decadent quarter-sized treasures to myself. Crispy on the bottom and filled with a warm, thin layer of carmelized onion and Gruyère cheese, the onion puffs set the tone for an opulent evening.
Dinner began with an amuse bouche of dainty quail leg wrapped in paper-thin bacon. The exquisitely tender meat sat atop strands of pickled radishes and onions. It was a lovely presentation and I’m disappointed my picture did not take.
The next course was one of my favorites of the night – Bay of Veys Fresh Oyster Stew. The creamy soup was a smooth blend of the traditional ingredients Stewart loved during his travels in France. It was topped with a swirl of browned butter and finished at the table with a fried oyster crouton. Very savory yet light. It would be a popular dish on any restaurant’s menu!
Before the main course, we were presented with a frosted glass demi-bowl of Vibrant Flat Leaf Parsley Sorbet. This is perhaps one of the tastiest palate cleansers I’ve experienced. Stewart explained the bitter parsley is meant to work with the tart sweetness of the lemon combined with a bit of salt. It was wonderfully creamy for a sorbet, the flavors balancing nicely as it melted over my tongue. Just fantastic!
And of course, what better entrée for a French dinner than the winter staple Coq au Vin. Stewart stepped up this preparation by using pheasant, each plate dressed with a breast, leg, fingerling potatoes, pearl onions and finger carrots. The sauce was a dark brownish red, rich and warm. The pheasant leg, covered in the substantial sauce, was delicate and tender. All together, the flavor of the dish was somewhat subdued. I would have prefered a bolder sauce and juicier breast.
In the European tradition of the salad or cheese course being served after the entrée, Stewart chose both – cheese and greens. A round slice of decadent blue goat cheese sat atop a lovely combination of Belgian endive, roasted walnuts and the most fanciful Fuyu persimmons. It was quite enjoyable!
Dessert was fantastic. The apple tart had a flaky thin crust and was layered with long slices of apple in cinnamon and sugar. But the caramel was the show stopper! Super thick, decadent and perfect, this house made sauce made the entire dish. The caramel’s flavor was brought out even more by the bits of sea-salt on top.
Almost as a good as the caramel, was the signature Calvados Ice Cream. Not being a big ice cream fan, I just skimmed the edge of my fork over the smooth scoop and took a taste. Wow! This was some serious ice cream. A French apple brandy made from distilled cider, the Calvados was the perfect ingredient to this creamy delight. And here was my Perfect Bite!! Just a couple slices of apple on the nice crust with a healthy heap of the caramel and topped with a new favorite, Calvados ice cream – it was heaven!!
I hope Stewart Lane continues to plan pop-ups like this. The atmosphere, the service and, most assuredly, the food are a wonderful option to weekend dining at established restaurants. This kind of creativity and unique dining experience offered by Lane and other pop-ups should not be overlooked.
CLICK HERE for more photos of the event.