I haven’t been this excited about a meal since I was being breastfed, and like when I was a suckling babe, tonight I will know who provided my food, that no machinery was involved, the ingredients are local, and that the meal is a celebration of my birth. Tonight my family and I are going to Restaurant Gwendolyn, a new restaurant downtown on Pecan Street. The head chef is Michael Sohocki, a former chef at Le Reve and The Cove. I have posted about this restaurant before because I have known that my family and I would be eating there eventually. Tonight is the night, at six thirty in the evening. The men will wear jackets and my mom will wear a dress, and we will be nice and dressed up, and the whole thing will be about ten times swankier than any meal I have ever eaten.
The reason I want to eat at Restaurant Gwendolyn so badly is because the head chef Michael Sohocki is taking some of my core eating ideals and values and using them as a foundation for a haute cuisine dining establishment. The three course and five course menu changes daily based on what is in season, fresh, and available. All of the ingredients he uses in his cooking are sourced from within 150 miles of his restaurant, because the concept behind Restaurant Gwendolyn is that he wants to cook like people cooked in 1850. In 1850 everything was organic, local, sustainable, seasonal and laboriously crafted–just the way he wants his food to be. That was not by choice, but that’s just how food was until fifty years ago. Until 1900, more people lived on farms than did in the city, and people ate what they grew, baked, or killed. They only ate what was in season, and if you didn’t want to starve in the winter, you canned, jarred, froze, cured, or salted. Sohocki, like me, thinks that there is a lot to be said for the experience of taking the time to cook something the original way, or eat ingredients that your geography limits you to, because those same limitations elevate the exceptions when those exceptions are available. For instance, Sohocki will probably not be cooking with strawberries, because they are out of season in South Texas now–it’s too hot; but if I had gone to Restaurant Gwendolyn two months ago, rest assured strawberries would have been incorporated into the meal. The point I’m trying to make is because if we were only eating what we could grow right now, we couldn’t have strawberries, or blueberries, or raspberries, or pineapples, or mangoes, or papaya, or bananas, or apples, or a litany of other “common” fruits at H.E.B. But, when Spring rolled around and there strawberries in Poteet, how much bigger of a deal do you think they would be if you hadn’t seen or tasted fresh strawberries in months? Seasonal eating limits us, but it also makes special occasions that more special. It also made traveling to a place and eating the food there a lot bigger deal. In the 1850’s, you didn’t eat sushi unless you were in Japan, or pineapple unless you were in Hawaii, or quinoa unless you were in Peru, or bananas unless you were in Central America. Part of the experience of food is the location where you eat it and when you eat it, and when you can eliminate the importance of those things by flying food across the world, food loses an important part of itself.
Restaurant Gwendolyn is not the only restaurant focusing on organic, local food, though; and they’re not the first restaurant to list the farmers and ranchers who sourced that night’s vegetables and meats–that’s all been done before. The thing that I really like about Restaurant Gwendolyn is that Sohocki wants the cooking environment to replicate the 1850’s, so nothing in the kitchen is modern. There are no blenders, microwaves, fancy grills, or freezers in the whole restaurant–nothing “with a motor.” So yes, the price is high per person, $50 I think, but compared to another swanky restaurant that charges you $50, you get a lot more from Restaurant Gwendolyn because of all the time and effort that the chefs put into preparing each dish. If you are eating pasta, it was handmade. If you are eating bread, even as breadcrumbs for stuffing, the bread was made there. Every single component of every meal was made in house. That is a massive time commitment by Sohocki and his staff, and I want him to know that I appreciate the sacrifice he makes to produce better food, and what better way to show my support than by getting my family to eat a meal there?
One thing you must know about me, I love looking at foodie photos, but I can’t stand taking them. I feel so uncomfortable and vain. Plus, my iPhone STILL isn’t allowing me to upload pictures from the mobile app, so I don’t know if I will be able to upload any pictures of tonight’s meal. If I can overcome my food photo fears, and my phone starts not sucking, than look forward to some high brow food photos. If not, I will still post about the experience later.
Here is the sample menu found on their website:
|5 COURSE TASTING|
|beet salad with mint||Richardson Farms, Michael’s Garden|
|grass fed beef tartare with quail egg||L&M Beef, Texas Quail Ranch|
|tagliatelli, summer squash, stuffed squash blossom||Eugene Martinez, Oak Hill Farm|
|poteet strawberry sorbet, entremezzom||Oak Hill Farm|
|quail with dijon butter, white cheddar polenta||Texas Quail Ranch, Brazos Valley|
|dessert, your choice of:|
|toad in the hole: seared citrus pound cake, key lime curd, orange sherbet, blackberries|
|fraise: strawberry sorbet, chevre fondant, almond crisp, basil oil|
|chocolate pots de crème with vanilla short bread|
|selection of mignardises|
|gale’s root beer||3|
|siphon coffee for two||6|
|independence oatmeal stout||6|