Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, “Woah. This is my life?” I’ve had that thought more than once. There’ve been occasions, I’ll admit, when it was punctuated with an “ugh.” Monday, though, the same thought was followed by a mental “Yippee!” as I contemplated some recent fun times with friends,the fact that I will soon be attending fermentation workshops with my microbial hero, Sandor Katz, and the unbelievable day that lay ahead.
The main source for my excitement on Monday was the fact that Ruth Reichl would be doing a reading from her new novel, Delicious! at the Free Library, that I would be at that reading and then I WOULD BE HAVING DINNER WITH RUTH REICHL. THE Ruth Reichl. The author of memoirs I love, New York Times restaurant reviews that rocked and the final editor-in-chief of my beloved Gourmet. I was more excited than nervous, although my nerves were definitely present and hopping. My friend Alexis Siemons, the tea expert and fearless genius, had the brainstorm and courage to invite Ms. Reichl to dine with a few of us Philly food types a while earlier when she heard that Reichl would be in town promoting her new book and first novel, Delicious!.
We all lucked out big time when she said she would.
If you’re curious, she was delightful; kind and curious! Though she must have been exhausted from a long book tour, Ms. Reichl came to a late dinner with us and even signed our books. She shared her thoughts on the fine cuisine, told us about her son, her thoughts on the restaurant industry and the treatment of farm workers, and answered all of our questions. I was intimidated and possibly (probably) a babbling idiot (my M.O. with respected celebrities), but still so glad to have met this icon for whom I have so much respect.
Back to that dinner: when Reichl agreed to break bread with us, ten ladies in all, Alexis knew just who to call. She contacted Chef Eli Kulp of Fork Restaurant (and two of my other very favorite Philly restaurants High Street on Market and a.kitchen and a.bar) and he offered to make a special menu to celebrate the occasion. Man alive. I don’t think that “special” quite covers this menu. It was an epic feast that spanned hours and included a variety of fabulous ferments. The menu was a brilliant and an appropriately “delicious” homage to Philadelphia, Chef Kulp’s adopted city. Menu and photos are below!
Oysters on the half shell with celery soda
Clam madeleine with Old Bay
Breakfast radishes in a “soil” of cultured butter, sesame and an assortment of herbs
Radish fruit leather with Dandelion chips with yeast and house-made miso
Rhubarb consomme, with spring vegetables, pickled green almond, mint and strawberry
Asparagus – A beautiful spear with foraged greens, micro herbs and a “granita” made from fermented broccoli rabe and local ricotta
“Kennet Square” – Kennett Square is the mushroom capital of the United States. This dish was was gorgeously presented and made with thinly sliced button mushrooms from Kennett Square, apple, rejuvelac-fermented vegan cheese and sweet potato
Caraway Rye Rigatoni – pastrami ragu, guiden’s mustard (no photos, but it’s a favorite we first tasted at High Street a while back).
Roast Pork – a take on Philly’s true icon of a sandwich (cheesesteak ain’t it, outsiders), DiNic’s Roast Pork – fermented broccoli rabe, provolone chips with local roast pork
Pretzel bites, full of mustard and cheese whiz sauce
Bialys with house made Philadelphia cream cheese
Anadama and Genzano-style breads with house made cultured butter (pictured)
Goats’ milk ice cream with almonds and strawberry consommé
Brown Butter Shortbread Tart – dates, rye walnut streusel, sweet pickled apples, caraway rye ice cream
Root Beer Float – chocolate mousse, Caputo Bros. ricotta, flourless chocolate cake, root beer tea (pictured)
Tea selections by Alexis Siemons (aka Teaspoons and Petals)
In other words, insanity. Wonderful, wonderful insanity. I would describe all of the dishes to you in erudite detail and give you my humble opinion but I am no restaurant critic. I’ve vowed that my blog will never be a site for restaurant critique since I have none of the requisite training, skill or knowledge to judge. So I’ll leave job to the brilliant, encyclopedic minds of Ruth Reichl and her brethren. I will say this though: even the most critical palate would have found that meal…delicious. So thank you, Chef Kulp for an unforgettable meal and thank you, Ruth Reichl, for making dreams come true!
Thanks to über talented photographer, Courtney Apple, who shared her wonderful photos of the evening! If you want to feel jealousy, know that she shot these with no natural light and no tripod, just the normal restaurant lighting!
Wanna check this stuff out? I HIGHLY recommend it. Based on their current offerings, I would gladly dine at any Ellen Yin/Eli Kulp collaboration. You should, too!
Fork Restaurant is located at 308 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19106
Memoirist, Novelist, Editor and Food Critic Ruth Reichl has several books for sale, including her most recent Delicious! (just starting that one). I think my favorite of hers is her memoir, Garlic and Sapphires, although they are all thoroughly entertaining.
PS – All opinions are my own. I paid for my meal and my books.