Monthly Archives: June 2020

With Nonesuch Luck ~ The Band Has Officially Broken Up

As someone who has dedicated his entire life to food, I have one fear and one fear alone; to miss out on a flavor of times past even though it was in reach. I clearly remember the whimsical words that author Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit Magazine named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2018. One of the best parts is that OKC is only a four hour drive from where I live; this is wonderful for this Midwestern Foodie.

20 Seat Tasting Menu

Well, it only took 2 years for me to procrastinate and finally make a reservation. Two of my foodie friends from Springfield, Missouri; Chef Drake Tillman, Jack “The Man of Many Faces” McGee and I checked into our Airbnb just bubbling with excitement of what was to come.

Awesome place to stay – Block 42

We had all heard rumors of what Head Chef Colin Stringer was up to and we were fully on board to receive what he was offering. Talks of colostrum custard, a fermentation master called Paul Wang who gets absolutely crazy and outrageous with his unique masterpieces. Whispers of the best desserts on the planet made by Chef Jeremy Wolf who can turn a person who doesn’t like sweets into a lifelong fan.

10 Course Tasting Menu $110, but where are two important names???

We weren’t given a copy of the menu until the end of the meal, but it confirmed what we began to notice as the meal started; Paul Wang and Colin Stringer, a sous chef and the head chef, respectively, were no longer affiliated with Nonesuch. All of the accolades and accomplishments were done by the three of them as a team and now only one of the original three chefs is left, yet there are no stories about either of the two former chefs leaving the restaurant, nor is there any indication by Nonesuch on social media or their website announcing the news. We later discovered their general manager has also left the restaurant, although the service was in no way lacking.

Scallion Pancake

Before we can wrap our heads and mouths around what is happening out comes the most gracious and heavenly way to get us started. A chilled rose water towelette nicely rolled to refresh the senses. I absolutely loved this touch!

Then, out comes the first course and boy are we excited. The Scallion Pancake that looks absolutely beautiful and delicious and everything that we were expecting. Unfortunately, there was no steak knife presented to be able to cut this extremely tough piece of dough. To be fair we were the last seating at 8:30pm but let’s also remember this is only a 22 seat restaurant. Let’s also keep in mind that we are in the middle of an epidemic, but should that make your food quality any less? As we dig deeper in thought, if you are at 50% occupancy now there are only 10 seats available, yet they are operating with the same amount of staff they would have on a typical night. We counted around 6-7 staff at the time we were there. Despite this, my culinary comrades and I push through and try to appreciate the flavors going on, saying silent prayers that we don’t loose a tooth.

Nonesuch NA Pairing – $45

Before we go into the next 9 courses let’s get into something very positive and fun, the NA (non-alcoholic) Pairing. This was well thought out and very well executed, not to mention delicious and was easily the highlight of our journey to Nonesuch. Subtle hints of fermentation and expressive notes of everything lovely that grows from the Oklahoma dirt. The gentleman that was presenting and proudly responsible for these crazy mind bending concoctions was awesome and so entertaining. The definition of the word nonesuch is a person or thing that is regarded as perfect or excellent. I can say the NA Pairing lives up this this definition.

Spring Bean with Miso

The fermented miso broth had deep umami characteristics that just soared to ultimate heights flowing with the freshness of the local bean. As a farm to table aficionado I appreciate a simple dish like this. It was simple yet elevated with flavor pearls and edible flowers. The flavor pearls lacked flavor and were bland but it was a good idea. The beans were undercooked but I am assuming they wanted you to feel the depth of the fresh bean. This dish was ok, and gave me hope that the meal would get better.

The NA Pairing Keeps Getting Better

Every two courses we get a new NA pairing and this is exciting! Our steward of liquid treats was really working his magic and has a true passion for making memories through liquid fermentation.

Chicken in Jasmin with a Szechuan Broth

Now the third course I will have to say was one of the best cold chicken dishes I have ever had. The brined & marinated chicken was so full of flavor it would literally pop with juicy flavor crystals as you chewed. The broth was ok, but the chicken was fantastic! It was a gutsy move to serve cold chicken in broth but I will say it worked. You could also tell the chicken was locally raised, due to the flavor you can only achieve from small farms. My only complaint on this dish is I wish there was more chicken.

Tomato with Asparagus Sorbet

I will say this dish definitely had a lot of effort put into it and I do appreciate that. Unfortunately the best part was the fresh dill. The asparagus sorbet by itself would have been monotone, but everything together with the insurance of fresh dill made the dish okay.

Carbonara with Country Ham

Let me start off by saying on this particular dish that the 2 year aged country ham was divine! It had perfect crispiness and salt content and the pasta was cooked excellently. If only the flavors could have been more balanced. The sauce needed a bit more salt to tie it all together. The heat of the peppercorn was overbearing and stole the whole show leaving your throat a bit numb. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good simple carbonara but the flavors on this one were simply trying to compete with each other to see who is going to outshine, the peppercorn definitely won that battle.

Potato with Buerre Blanc

So this dish is exactly what it says it is, a potato with beurre blanc. I will say that the buerre blanc was rich and creamy and even had this heavenly cloud like texture that dissolved over the entire tongue. The saucier was on point that night, kudos. What happened to this poor lonely purple potato in my Nordic Bowl though? Not much flavor, they tell me it is smoked but I don’t taste any smoke. I cut open the potato to see if any magic fairy of flavor is going to sprinkle it with love but no, it’s just a regular potato. At least let that salt absorb into the cavity, or smoke it more heavily to give me a sense of something new. As a chef and food explorer, I just don’t think it is fair to put a bland potato and some sauce and call it a dish.

Japanese Milk Bread, BlackBerry Butter, Sand Plum & Herb

As you can see from the picture, this dish was gorgeous! Who wouldn’t be happy with that mosaic masterpiece of culinary art? The herbs popped with joy, but the bread was cold. It would have been so lovely if it was warm, but it wasn’t. It’s the little details that can truly elevate a dish to great heights or cause them to fall flat.

Dongpo Pork Belly

The pork belly was delicious! It melted in your mouth and had the buttery feel that pork belly should. If only it was three times the size! The squash blossom was not stuffed with anything and was literally a raw squash blossom with cold, barely pickled carrots and okra seeds. Maybe I am being too critical at this stage but I am not a huge fan of cold items with my meat. On such a small dish, and with such delicious pork belly, make it a symphony, not just a star of a show with some local items thrown on the plate. I get wanting to cut the fat with something but this didn’t work at all.

Herbal Tea Fizz with Honeysuckle Mochi

So this is the course I have been long awaiting. It has all led to this moment. Can the tea that Andrew Knowlton spoke of be true? Will this alter my life and make up for every other course that has been lacking? I take a bite of the honeysuckle mochi and it is simple and delicious. Nothing to write home to my mother about, but it is good. Now to get to the tea that I have been day dreaming about for years… I am so excited!

Even though everything has been a let down, surely the tea is going to be mesmerizing and blow my mind like Bon Appetit Magazine said it would. I cut my way through the frothy egg whites making my way to the liquid of the culinary Gods. I am almost there, and my heart is racing thinking of the tantalizing feeling I am about to embrace. I am there… my spoon touches the liquid and I slowly raise it to my mouth ready for the firework show to begin. As I taste the tea I try to trick myself into thinking that it must be at least kinda good. Nope, not one thing I can say was good about this tea. It was literally the worst tea I have ever tasted and I don’t even know why it was on the menu. I am sure there was a time when Chef Paul Wang had a story to match the flavor profile of the ever changing tea, and a time that they had foraged the actual ingredients. Well folks, I am sadly here to say, those days are long forgotten and the band has officially broken up at Nonesuch. 😦

Creme Fraiche Custard

The final course is upon us and I am very sad at this point, we are all starving, we know the curtain is closing and we have waited too long to come. If only this salted creme fraiche was mixed with the carbonara, possibly that dish would have at least been good. As you dip the spoon in the dessert and let it hit your palate the salty flavors make your mouth pucker and your mind wonders why they would season the dessert so much and not the savory food.

I normally don’t choose to write about restaurants that I don’t prefer, but this one has to be written about. It is not the same as when it was named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2018 by Bon Appetit Magazine. This is obvious when you compare photos of meals from 2018 or even 2019 and our meal. My prediction is something happened as it always does with partnerships and with the food world. I had to call the restaurant to get the scoop and see if they were actually proud of the food they served us all.

I confirmed that Chef Paul Wang left a year and a half ago and Head Chef Colin Stringer left about 6-8 months ago. I didn’t read any press release stating this, I didn’t read anything about any of this anywhere. So I did some more research scouring the internet and there is nothing! My immediate feeling is frustration, like I was tricked by the restaurant group that owns this establishment. Then my anger quickly turned to sadness, sad that I didn’t ever get to try the food when all three chefs were together doing what they love and having fun with food.

Jack in deep thought…

So, basically the chef that focused on breads and desserts is made head chef and is all alone. Yes, now he has 3 times the staff, but not the caliber they were working with in the past. I get it, he still wants to fight the good fight, he wants to take the opportunity to keep the legend of Nonesuch alive. I am sure he works more hours and has built fantastic menus, but it is almost two years later without the band, and it feels he is tired of making 10 course menus week after week. Maybe he is getting burnt out, you can tell he is a good cook, maybe he is just tired of trying.

Nonesuch Team in action 2020

My final thought, it only costs $110 for 10 courses, which I think is a fair price. We loved the NA pairing and highly recommend this amenity! I can’t recommend the wine pairing. I got the reserve pairing, which was more expensive for $80 and didn’t enjoy any of the wines, it felt like the purveyor of wine was offloading inventory and they got a good deal on them. If you live in the local area, come and enjoy but don’t come hungry, eat an appetizer on the way. If you are from out of town, and are expecting the best new restaurant in America, don’t wast the trip, it won’t live up to your expectations. If the old band ever gets back together please let me know!

By author, chef and foodie ~ Paul Allen

Drake Tillman, Paul Allen, Jack McGee

Foie-gasm in Nashville

As I head out on foot from my hotel situated only blocks away from the infamous Printer’s Alley I feel a glow from the city of Nashville. Keep in mind we are still in the backhand of the Covid epidemic and the city doesn’t feel as busy as usual. Not a lot of cars zooming by, or horns blasting and even the smell seems different. The town feels a bit more peaceful and serine.

All roads lead to the alley

So I got a tip from a Facebook friend that I need to check out a small place with big results. I am always game to check out a solid recommendation from a fellow foodie. As you make your way into the alley overhead lights glow of excitement and adventure. The smell of cigarettes start to lift sensations in your body of wild times past of the College glory days and nights that you never wanted to end. The sounds of music and laughter and people on a mission to have a good time and forget about all of the bad going on in the world, even if just for today.

The Alley

So I make my way to a door that is about to lead me into a portal of a new culinary dimension. I was quickly greeted by the hostess who safely led me to my table right up by this amazing angelic singer who was harmonizing with the piano man. I knew I was off to a good start. The staff was masked up for our safety and took great efforts to make sure all patrons felt as safe as we possibly could.

The view

As I pick up the menu my eye goes straight to Foie Gras and a whisky drink that includes a sassafras infusion and I am in! I will take that and that please as I point to the two best thing on the menu, though I don’t know it at the time.

SOUTHERN TURF $13 “buffalo trace bourbon, turbinado, sassafras, sorghum, orange”

So f***ing good! This dish just made me food-gasm with literally every bite of the Foie Gras. Perfectly seared and melted in my mouth like butter on a Lamborghini Diablo on a Miami Hot Summers Day! The foie was literally so good, I couldn’t eat the corn that was paired with it. Next time I would order the fois by itself, it literally needs nothing.

Fois Gras $20 “Hudson Valley Grade A with Sweet Corn Honey Champagne Vinegar”

So I am a huge fan of raw filet and arugula so I order the carpaccio. Way to much salt, I think the chef got excited about his new salt flakes and went a little cray cray. It is a simple mistake and anyone could make it. I also feel a little too much truffle oil was used. The person that garnished this dish was probably a young and excited chef, nothing wrong with excitement, but you can go to much with such rich ingredients. The arugula salad was Devine, but I am an arugula fan all the way. The bread basket was unique and delicious unexpected treat. It was a light fluffy piece of toast with a raw egg yolk in the middle. The golden toast bar melted in your mouth and the egg would have been so good on the beef, what a fun concept that I will definitely have fun recreating at one of my next private dinners. Thank you team for the effort, I will definitely try again and specify light on the salt. To be fair, the waitress noticed I didn’t eat much and took this item off my bill. She said the chef agreed there was too much salt. Mistake made, chef was aware, problem solved, now on to the next course.

Carpaccio with Arugula $18 “Shaved Raw Beef Tenderloin, Arugula, Bread Box, Coddled Egg, Manchego Cheese with Truffle Oil”

Now on to a dish you don’t see often enough on the menu these days. I am the chef that thrives on the classics but is always open to a new ride. Who doesn’t love organ meat from the thymus gland and pancreas??? If you don’t, it is probably because you haven’t been around an old school chef that has cooked it properly. I still can remember the texture and strong flavors of cognac and reduced veal stock the first time I had them. I remember all the chefs running over when the organ meat came out piping hot of the roasting pan and they all dug in with a spoon to taste of the glory! So of course I dug in as well not having any idea what a sweetbread really was. It melted in my mouth, all senses were thrown out the door and I was left barely able to stand. I can’t be certain, but this memory possibly could have been my first food-gasm ever in my adult career. When the chefs laughed and told me what they were, I truly didn’t care and knew that my life would be forever changed as a chef. Sometimes we have to take big boy steps, to enter the big world of Culinary-ism.

Needless to say, sweetbreads are very dear to my heart and I was almost scared to order for the chance I didn’t want to be let down. Thank God I did order!!!

I took the first bite and was thrust into a land of everything right and where everything was perfect except what I was drinking. I instantly stopped sipping on the whisky trophy drink and frantically looked for my waitress. I held my hand up, like I was in school trying to get the teachers attention, in hopes she would see me, she came over promptly and I simply requested a red wine that tastes as close to butter as possible. She had no idea what I was taking about but we agreed upon a Trevena Paso Robles California Cab for $15 a glass. Yes!!!!!! The only hard part was to not eat all the sweetbreads before the wine arrived. The wine had a buttercup nose that led into a heavy smoke from the barrels it was aged in. This wine was simply delicious and truly made for my dish.

The Hericot Verts were undercooked in my opinion and didn’t need such a heavy sauce. It was like a straight forward plain aioli. The crispy potatoes were cooked a little too crispy but some people probably prefer them that way, but I would have held back slightly and made them not so bitter. The Potato Gelette “Mashed Potatoes” were delicious and perfectly seasoned. There was an aioli surrounding plate, but I suggest to leave it as a garnish. Maybe a dip for the potatoes, but I didn’t really eat the potatoes. But who cares about anything, the star of the show were definitely the sweetbreads and might I say with beautiful presentation.

Veal Sweet Breads $18 “Poached then Fried in Potato Flour, Hericots Verts, Potato Galette”

Now on to my favorite salad in the world. Please keep in mind I am very hard on this particular salad for I have had the best in the world at a young age, long live the Caesar!

The salad was refreshing and they were on point with the cracked pepper service. I would say it was ok, the dressing was a little bland, and lacking in the garlic and lemon flavor and heavy on the anchovy category. I don’t mind heavy anchovy but I like a follow through with spice and a little Worcestershire goes a long way with this Texas boy. Douse a little bit of that Texas staple and kick up the garlic. If you are serving white anchovies I like a whole one for garnish but don’t put a whole salty dark anchovy fry on my salad, my wife won’t kiss me for a week, lol 😝

Now the Cheese Triangle was delicious and reminded me of a compressed Cheez-It and grated cheddar, absolutely scrumptious! I would say, order if you want a salad. I am always in search of the perfect Caesar so I love trying new ones, not my favorite but I don’t hate it. I am spoiled and grew up on the border of Mexico and would go weekly for my fix of the best Caesarian Salad on the planet earth at a border town restaurant called Garcia’s, but that tale is for another day 😉

Caesar Salad $12 “Classic Caesar with Anchovy, Lemon, Garlic, & Coddled Egg”

So now imagine your in New Orleans sitting in a trendy spot that is doing new age super rich decadent foods mixing crazy flavors. That is what this dish represents. Fried Panko fusion meets funnel cake batter, perfectly cooked eggplant. I preferred the thinner slice over the thicker, but who am I to judge? The crawfish was fun and popped excitement in my mouth. They used super small shrimp, but I will say they didn’t taste that bad. I sometimes admit I do judge a shrimp by its size. I am a 1-15 guy, and these were 30-40. The sauce was way over the top rich and I couldn’t finish it, but if you are looking for some bang for your buck order this!!!! Delicious flavors that melded as one. A little too rich for this Texas boys bloodstream, but I am greedy and want to try as many dishes as possible….

Eggplant $17 “Fried Panko, Topped with Crawfish, Shrimp and Spinach Cream”

Now when God created me, he made something very unique to my body. He gave me two stomachs, one for savory and one for desserts. I can be so full from a meal, but that doesn’t effect my eating of dessert. So we are off to desert-land!!!! After some time of explanation and narrowing down the choices we arrive upon Peanut Butter Pie.

This quadruple peanut butter explosion is now my new best friend and I will protect all she stands for! The top is a peanut butter drizzle, over the top of Butter Cream infused with light peanut butter, over the top of lightly whipped peanut butter cheese cake, over the top of heavy peanut butter cheesecake sitting on top of a nutmeg spiced graham cracker stack! Get back Jack, this is a treat that is worthy of ending this meal with. I was feeling spunky so paired with a Cherry Sour Beer from Belgium……I know………I’m Weird…….and I like it that way!!!!!

Peanut Butter Pie $10.00

This was not the pairing of the century, but I am a sour junky, and a sour junky’s will pair anything with one, just to get the opportunity to drink a new flavor 😉 This sour is not as sour as most but does have a twist and turn or sour patch kids meets cherry-cherry and a little berry.

Ommegang, Rosetta (Cherry Sour) 5.6% Belgium $8.00

I will have to say that Executive Chef Gannon M. Leary and his team did a fantastic job out of a 10 foot by 20 foot kitchen and truly made magic for this chef to digest. The front of the house staff and duo of entertainment, you all rocked my world!!! Thank you all for putting your passion, your risk, your heart into making extraordinary memories! #iwillbeback

The kitchen

Since 1948

222 Printer’s Alley

Nashville, TN 37201

Skull’s Rainbow Room

http://www.scullsrainbowroom.com

Reservations can be made up to two weeks in advance. To make a reservation, please call us at (615) 810-9631 or visit our Reservations page here.