A Delicious! Meal with Ruth Reichl

A Delicious! Meal with Ruth Reichl

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.

Ruth Reichl's latest book and first novel was the reason for our gathering.

Ruth Reichl’s latest book and first novel was the reason for our gathering.

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!.

Alexis, on the right, made this amazing occasion happen. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Alexis, on the right, made this amazing occasion happen.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

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.

The lady of the hour! Author and brilliant food encyclopedia, Ruth Reichl. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

The lady of the hour! Author and brilliant food encyclopedia, Ruth Reichl.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

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!

Clockwise from front  left: Joy Manning, Marisa McClellan, Ruth Reichl, Alexis Siemons, Amanda Feifer (that's me), Courtney Apple, Jolene Hart, Emily Teel, Robin Shreeves and Caroline Russock

Clockwise from front left: Joy Manning, Marisa McClellan, Ruth Reichl, Alexis Siemons, Amanda Feifer (that’s me), Courtney Apple (not pictured because she’s taking the picture), Jolene Hart, Food Writer Emily Teel, Robin Shreeves and Caroline Russock

MENU

Amuse-Bouche 

Oysters on the half shell with celery soda

Oysters with celery soda. SO good. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Oysters with celery soda. SO good.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Clam madeleine with Old Bay

Clever, beautiful and packed with clam and old bay flavors. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Clever, beautiful and packed with clam and old bay flavors.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Breakfast radishes in a “soil” of cultured butter, sesame and an assortment of herbs

Loved these radishes in "soil"! Fantastic use of local, seasonal goods. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Loved these radishes in “soil”! Fantastic use of local, seasonal goods.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Radish fruit leather with Dandelion chips with yeast and house-made miso

Early Courses

Rhubarb consomme, with spring vegetables, pickled green almond, mint and strawberry

This rhubarb consommé was my favorite dish of the night (a hard choice, for sure). I would gobble this for dinner every Spring night if I could. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

This rhubarb consommé was my favorite dish of the night (a hard choice, for sure). I would gobble this for dinner every Spring night if I could.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

Asparagus  - A beautiful spear with foraged greens, micro herbs and a “granita” made from fermented broccoli rabe and local ricotta

So much flavor packed into this spear! And a fermented garnish, no less! Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple.

So much flavor packed into this spear! And a fermented garnish, no less!
Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple.

Main Courses

“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

This may seem too beautiful to eat, but we devoured it anyway! Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

This may seem too beautiful to eat, but we devoured it anyway! Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

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

Breads

Breads made by the world's best baker, Alex Bois. The Anadama, always available at High Street and a special Genzano-style bread made for the occasion.

Breads made by the world’s best baker, Alex Bois. The Anadama, always available at High Street and a special Genzano-style bread made for the occasion. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple.

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)

Desserts

Our Root Beer "Float" by Pastry Chef extraordinaire, Sam Kincaid

Our Root Beer “Float” by Pastry Chef extraordinaire, Sam Kincaid. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple.

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

Alexis Siemons, tea expert, steeped and poured some ideal sips for ending the evening.

Alexis Siemons, tea expert, steeped and poured some ideal sips for ending the evening. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple

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!

Chef getting ready to close up shop after crafting an unforgettable meal.

Chef getting ready to close up shop after crafting an unforgettable meal. Photo courtesy of Courtney Apple.

 

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.

Ferment Philly

3 comments

  1. That looks and sounds like it was an incredible meal – with great company. I love how much of it utilized fermented foods for varied tastes and stunning presentation. What a wonderful opportunity for you! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks for the kindness, Cindy! It was a once in a lifetime meal, both in terms of the fantastic flavors and creativity displayed by Chef Kulp and Chef Kincaid because it was a unique opportunity to dine with an icon. It’s definitely a meal I will never forget!

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