I had the privilege of attending an “invite-only” dinner at Corner Table in South Minneapolis this past Wednesday where Owner/Executive Chef Scott Pampuch put together a delicious tasting menu featuring Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes. Minneapolis and Pampuch were one of five city/chef combos chosen to host the Vine Dining Tour while highlighting the wonderful versatility of the tomatoes. The other cities were Seattle, Boston, Denver and Atlanta. Along with the other four Chefs on the Vine Dining Tour, Pampuch recently had the opportunity to visit the farms in the central valley of Northern California where the tomatoes are grown. Since 2008, one variety of tomato is is selected each year for the Tomato Connoisseurs Club; in 2010 it was the Meridian Ruby.
Pampuch, a self-proclaimed “food nerd”, explained that as someone who completely supports local farms, it was a new idea to him to try a canned product such as these tomatoes. As one of the Chefs on the Vine Dining Tour, Scott visited the farm where the tomatoes are grown and was able to try the fruit straight from the vine and visit the factory where the tomatoes are canned. The tomatoes are canned within eight hours of being picked, ensuring its freshness.
Corner Table was recently redecorated, here is a little peak of the dining room, with its rich and warm browns.
The star of the evening was the 2010 Limited Edition Meridian Ruby Reserve Tomato, which we sampled straight from the can. Both the Fire-Roasted and the Diced varieties were very good without any doctoring.
The first appetizer that was served to us while we socialized was a Tomato Tart made from concentrated tomatos, caramelized onions, dry cured ham and bleu cheese served on crustini. This was a wonderful combination of flavors and textures, from the juicy sweetness of the tomato to the bite of the creamy, piquant bleu cheese crumbles, to the crustiness of the bread. I could’ve eaten a few of these gems ;)
The other starter we tried was the Car Valley Gouda Sliders with Muir Glen Tomato Soup. The comfort foods of our childhood with a grown-up twist. Pampuch used Muir Glen Fire-Roasted tomatoes for the soup, along with caramelized onions and rutabagas to give it a deep smoky flavor, and high fat milk to give it just a hint of creaminess. Delicious! The tiny Gouda Sliders were a perfect marriage of creamy flavorful cheese and buttery grilled toasts, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
The first course of the evening was a lovely Amatriciana Sauce with sofrito-stuffed Pasta. This sauce truly highlighted the richness of the tomatoes; I think I could have eaten a whole plate of this, it was fabulous! The sofrito was the perfect blend of cooked onion, garlic and tomato and the pasta itself was prepared slightly al dente, as are most great pastas.
The second course was a Lamb Terrine served with crispy Kennebec potatoes, tomato gastrique, mustard and pickle relish. The lamb terrine was a hearty concoction of ground lamb, Muir Glen tomatoes, and egg. It was very tasty and much lass gamey than most meals I have eaten with lamb. The gastrique was basically a fancy ketchup but went great with the lamb terrine, as did the pickle relish made from housemade pickles and red onion.
The dessert was very interesting, as one would expect from a dessert made with tomatoes. Chef Pampuch started with a moist olive oil cake that had a hint of lemon zest, then topped it with two types of sorbet, the tomato sorbet that he made as well as a strawberry basil sorbet from Sebastian Joe’s. A crispy fennel touille pastry stood atop the cake, separating the sorbets. I thought this was a creative dessert and as much as I enjoyed the olive oil cake, I was not a big fan of the tomato sorbet. It had the consistency of a good sorbet and all the flavor of tomato which I couldn’t get past but i give Pampuch credit for trying!
I came home with my own Reserve Kit of Muir Glen tomatoes and a recipe book, looking forward to experimenting with these tomatoes in my own kitchen!