Six Restaurants Taking Appetizers to the Next Level
At restaurants around America, chefs are having a bit of fun plating up serious starters. From down South, where there’s a bizarre finish to the first course via a bone shooter to Los Angeles, where lobster is folded into a Pop-Tart and served in a retro toaster.
Rare Whiskey Jam & Ham Biscuits (and more whiskey) at The 404 Kitchen in Nashville
Chef Matt Bolus loves cooking with spirits and fine ingredients. This year, he’s mixing in one of the world’s finest bourbons with his jams, then serving it with a piping-hot basket of Tennessee ham biscuits. “The whiskey is incorporated in two ways,” explains Chef Bolus. “We soak sultanas (golden raisins) in Pappy van Winkle 12-year. Once the rest of the jam has been made, we finish it by incorporating the whiskey again, as is … without cooking or changing it in any way. This vintage has just the right amount of spice and complexity.” The ham biscuits and a bottle of the 12-year for the table will set you back a cool $500.
French Fries & French Bubbly at Sylvain in New Orleans
When someone says, “fries,” most people immediately think “ketchup.” At Sylvain in New Orleans, however, the staff now thinks “Brut.” And probably also cha-ching, because one of the bestselling menu items is a heaping share plate of hand-cut French fries paired with a bottle Taittinger Champagne. Lightly greasy potatoes covered in rock salt meeting the crisp effervescence of fine French bubbly? We are actually curious why this perfect pairing wasn’t born right after the invention of potatoes.
The Balut & Weng Weng Pairing at Jeepney in New York City
The team behind Jeepney (and their sister concept, Maharlika) is recognized as starting a Filipino food revolution in New York City. Their menus focus on traditional tastes, and the apex is Balut—a fertilized duck embryo that’s boiled and served in the shell. Chowing chicken embryo is understandably a tough sell for some guests. They pair it with a Filipino Weng Weng shot for courage. That’s Tanqueray Gin, followed by a chaser of suka—sugar cane infused vinegar with garlic, peppercorn, and bird's eye chili. The pairing must be great, because it has created more than one American convert to Filipino street food. And at $12, it’s a nicely priced moment of armchair travel for your tastebuds.
The Lobster Pop-Tart & Liquid Nitrogen Cocktails at Barton G. in Los Angeles
Lobster Pop-Tarts are the imagined food fantasy of Barton G. Weiss, celebrity event designer, restaurateur, hotelier, and author. The appetizer is made with Maine lobster, Gruyere, and a Pernod mornay sauce, baked in flakey phyllo pastry with Tabasco hollandaise and tarragon aioli. They are served tableside in a cool, retro toaster. You’d be a fool not to couple this with at least one of the venue’s liquid nitrogen Martinis. In 2015, where there’s smoke, there’s also lobster and vodka!
Crispy Chicken Foot Bun & a Dragon’s Gate Cocktail at The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco
At the hotel’s flagship dining room, Parallel 37, Chef Michael Rotondo is serving a Chinatown special for those who know to ask for it. Topped with the season’s finest produce and a house-made hoisin sauce, the Crispy Chicken Foot Bun features a flavorful boneless chicken foot inside a soft, Chinese bun. Alongside it, you sip the Dragon’s Gate—a green tea cocktail with Cognac, apple, vanilla, and a tart, refreshing lime gelato. The pairing is a little homage to San Francisco’s famously ornate Chinatown Gate, which was unveiled in 1970.
Escargot & Bone Marrow with an Herbsaint Shot at Meauxbar in New Orleans
Sit down to Meauxbar’s incredible bone marrow and you’re already in for an unforgettable experience. The kitchen combines the marrow with delicate, flavorful escargot and cooks it down in a vermouth and a shallot-thyme butter. It’s served in an upright bone, to be savored spoonful by spoonful. Those who want a nightcap are then invited to have a taste of the town’s most traditional and iconic liqueur, Herbsaint, poured into bone as a shot for $16.