The joy of sitting down to a meal prepared by someone else is more than just relaxing, it can be completely liberating. Mind you, the bar is set ridiculously high for anyone attempting to cook for us because, frankly speaking, we are SPOILED. The meals we enjoy at home may not qualify for Michelin star status because of complexity or technical merit or even overall execution. However, they definitely pack HUGE flavor! We like to refer to it as “gourmet comfort food”, what more can we say?
Last night we joined approximately 60 others in support of a more than 14 month old goal held by the previously acknowledged “Gilbert Farmer’s Market guru’s” (see our post ‘Thinking about – Supporting Local‘). It was their goal to see local restaurants using local food from their market to feed the masses. I don’t know that 60 of us qualify as “masses”, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves as Chef David Traina and his partners – wife Kiersten along with Joe and Cindy Johnston – hosted a delightful evening.
To suggest that Kiersten and the Johnston’s are capable wait staff would be an ENORMOUS understatement. They were attentive without being intrusive and engaging yet diminutive. Chef David provided five published courses not including dessert, that began (before Market Course 1) with an additional unpublished amuse bouche starter of filet tar tare and also included an unpublished intermezzo of fresh squeezed orange juice with a few drops (yes, literally five drops) of fresh beet juice.
As one of the featured vendors, Chef David made use of our Sel Gris de Guerande, as well as our Black Truffle salt. The Sel Gris seemed to be a component of the tar tare and possibly one or two other courses, but as is the case with the proper use of Sel Gris – the best usage is when you can’t taste it!
The Black Truffle salt was used on the duck course. We’ll admit up front that we are duck snobs and like our duck to be a little less done and the skin a little more crispy than the way it was served, we must also acknowledge that the flavor profile was spot on and the earthy pungency of truffles was undeniably delicious when paired with the duck! In fact, it only served to confirm a conversation we had started earlier in the evening about finding a supplier for duck fat to be used along with the truffle salt when preparing our famous (ok, famous in certain small circles) oven roasted fingerling potatoes! The richness of duck pairs so well with the black truffles…just go try it already! You know where you can get the black truffle salt!
The two biggest surprises of the evening came from Market Course 3 and the wine pairings. Course 3 included a sage brown butter sauce that words just cannot justly describe. It was sweet, rich and buttery without being oily. It held hints of tarragon, but with no indication that tarragon had been included in the preparation. The ravioli was of virtually no consequence, you could have put almost any ravioli on that plate next to the brown butter sauce and we could have finished dinner right there. I politely asked my table mates if anyone would be offended if I licked my plate clean and then spent the next three minutes alternate scraping as much of the sauce from my plate as possible with my fork and knife, while commenting on the fact that I don’t ever remember working that hard with my silverware to clean the plate!
The wine pairings were in a word…INSPIRING. We had no idea that such delicious wines were being produced from locally grown grapes right here in Arizona. A white, a rose and two red’s nicely rounded out our dinner and left us wanting to take a tour through Verde Valley wine country!
At the end of a long evening, it was nice to reflect on the hard work of business owners who diligently strive to perfect their particular craft; to see the joy that comes from sharing what you love with others and making them happy. But most of all, it was great to know that there were no dishes to be washed after dinner and everyone had a good time.
If you ever get the chance to swing by Liberty Market, stop in and try their burger of the day…you won’t be disappointed. If you think about it far enough in advance, sign up for one of the monthly Community Dinner’s…it’s an experience you’ll enjoy and won’t soon forget! Hey, it’s not every day that you can sit down to dinner and have Joe Johnston as your sommelier!