Friday, August 3, 2012

A Brief Thank-You... my parents for sending my wife and I out to dinner for our three-year anniversary tonight!  Since we've already done a review of Sycamore before, I won't do another, but since it was one of the best meals either of us had ever eaten, I figured Syc deserved a quick shout-out here. 
     First, I should say that, as usual, Sanford (half-owner and beer/wine/front-of-the-house guy) was awesome.  I mentioned on a local beer website how much I was looking forward to trying Prussia Berlinerweiss again, as it had blown my mind the first time I had it.  He wrote me back within an hour and said that they had so little left that he was going to pull the keg before dinner service, but that he'd save some back.  When we got there, he'd saved a growler, just for us.  On the house.  Happy anniversary!  Any time our glasses got low, the waitress swung by and topped us off.  At only 3.5%, we could easily drink 2-3 of these without any effect and it was one of the most flavorful, refreshing summer beers I've ever had. 
     Alright, enough about the beer.  The food was phenomenal.  Usually when we go, we order a couple of small plates each, rather than the large plates/entrees.  Syc is one of those places where the ingredients and the attention to detail (in the food, the service, the atmosphere, etc) are top-notch, so expect to pay $7-16 for the small plates and between $22-27 for the large plates.  Also, the portions are reasonable, meaning much smaller than the "1,900-calorie chicken covered in cheese, topped with a half pound of bacon and sour cream, along with a side of fries, oh, and you wanted an appetizer and dessert with that to, right?" that you get at the big chain 'American dining' establishments.  We typically figure that if you're going to spend $20-25 a piece, you may as well get a variety of textures/flavors, rather than just one thing, and thus usually go for the small plates.
     But last night they had chicken on special.  Syc almost never has chicken (usually they have 2-3 beef entrees, scallops, trout, sometimes pork, and often something fun like rabbit, duck, etc).  Jess loves chicken, and last night's special looked too good to pass up.  We started by splitting a cheese platter from Goatsbeard Farm right here in Missouri.  There was a blue cheese which was super earthy and a bit different from any blue we'd ever tried, their Brie-style Prairie Bloom, a plain, creamy, chevre-style cheese, something called Missouri Moon which was almost like a Camembert but with a very 'blue-cheese' tasting rind, and one of their delicious raw-milk hard cheeses.  All this was served up with house-made crackers with (we think) black onion seed (a popular Indian spice), pressed-date cake, and sesame brittle.  Paired with the tart, fruity, light wheat bread flavors of the Berlinerweiss, this was a perfect appetizer. 
     For her dinner, Jessi got the chicken, which was a pan-seared breast (with the skin on), finished with tomatos, lemon, garlic cloves, kalamatas, and herbs.  It. Was. Amazing.  The skin was crispy, the chicken super-juicy, and the flavors from these simple ingredients were outstanding.  Jess was glad that they brought extra bread to the table, because the sauce was too good to leave on the plate.  For my entree, I stepped outside my comfort zone a bit and ordered the charcuterie plate.  For what it's worth, I think most, and likely all, of these meats were cured in-house.  The plate included mortadella (authentic Italian 'bologna'), a delicate hard salami-style sausage with black peppercorns, a slightly smoky sausage they characterized as 'German ham sausage', a toasted baguette topped with some kind of spread that tasted of rendered duck fat (SO much tastier than it sounds), and my new favorite that I'd never even heard of, 'nduja.  'Nduja is a spicy, spreadable sausage with Calabrian roots, and it came spread on a toasted baguette.  It's dark red and fiery.  I took one bite and saved the rest until I'd eaten everything else on the plate because it would have overpowered just about everyting else on the plate.  Hot, but incredible!  All of this was served with a side of mincemeat, pickled red onions, jalapenos, and house-made brown mustard. 
     We've never been disappointed at Sycamore before, but this was probably the best meal we've had there to date.  We considered going somewhere new for our anniversary, but decided to stay with what we knew we liked and are glad that we did.  We usually leave satisfied, if not overly full, but last night we left stuffed and sleepy.  The dessert menu looked awesome, but we had to pass, though I did enjoy a small bottle of Castelain Blonde Biere de Garde as a sort of palate cleanser and end to the meal.  I'm not sure I've ever had an authentic French biere de garde, and it was really interesting with a combination of lightly toasted malt, white grape juice, hard candy, and floral flavors. 
    At any rate, especially with me out of work for the summer, we could never have afforded this on our own, so thanks much to my mom and pops, as this was one of the best dining experiences we've had, and was a great way to celebrate 3 years of marriage (and 8 years total) together!

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