Finally, after four years, I made it to FergusStock. Though The Breslin lacks the spare, white walls and abattoir feel of the original St. John in London, it made a worthy host of Chef Henderson’s nose to tail cooking. The ability to have the food I love and miss from St. John, coupled with April Bloomfield’s fantastic, ideologically similar dishes was a plethora of riches.
My only regret was that I couldn’t eat everything on the menu. Even if I could there were certain certain dishes that were just a bridge too far for FoodieWife. She was willing to join me, share in my enthusiasm and even expand her horizons to some degree. She was not, however, going to have a pig’s head with beans sitting between us on the table. For the sake of variety, the need to have as many dishes as I possibly could, I stuck mainly with starters. Many, many starters.
The one dish that was non-negotiable was the bone marrow and parsley salad.
In his introduction to Nose to Tail Eating, Anthony Bourdain calls this simple dish his “Death Row Meal”. Lacking a way to one-up that compliment I’ll simply agree with it. The transcendent joy I experience whenever I get to bite into a grilled piece of bread, slathered in what is essentially meat butter, and topped with a slightly acidic parsley salad is difficult to put into words. I’ve roasted bone marrow on my own, made the parsley salad to exact specifications and enjoyed it nowhere even close to the degree I do at the restaurant. It is a dish with a place and that place is not in my home. It’s too rich, too hedonistic. It’d be like living at Disney World. Some experiences need to be rare.
Lamb’s tongue, bread and green sauce was another play on offsetting the luxurious with crispness and acidity. I expected the bread to be crispy as well, like a crouton, but it wasn’t. It was actually rather moist which, unexpectedly, lent a comforting mouth feel.
Duck fat fries. Let’s say that again. Duck. Fat. Fries. If the picture quality suffers it’s because FoodieWife was trying to snap a picture, in the dark, all while fighting me off from attacking them. Large chunks of potatoes, chopped roughly and unevenly to maximize surface area, presumably pre-boiled and then fried in duck fat. Were I Shakespeare I might still lack the adjectives to describe exactly how crisp the exterior of these fries was. Just as impressive was the way the hard, crackly outside yielded to a feather light, soft interior. That there were not more of them on the plate was both the best, and worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
From there we moved onto Chef Bloomfield’s menu, starting with the incredible pairing of oysters and dill pickle juice.
I can’t decide if the combination is mad scientist wacky or makes perfect sense. I do know it was incredible. Laced with fresh, chopped dill the pickle juice was better than any mignonette sauce I’ve ever had.
This is clearly where we get into FoodieWife’s selections as we move from nose to tail eating over to soil to plate eating. Luckily, with these two chefs in the house the vegetables had as much meat as a meal at Peter Luger’s. Brussels sprouts with thick batons of bacon were incredible. I try to stay away from words that have become cliche in food writing, but if unctuous doesn’t describe these fatty, porky bites of pork belly, I don’t know what does. A dish listed simply as roasted cauliflower was deeply flavorful, as enjoyable as anything else on the table.
It was back to the St. John menu for dessert. FoodieWife and I are not the biggest dessert people. If I’m being honest I’d rather order another round of bone marrow. However, these desserts were incredible.
Simply listed as “donut”, this cream filled, sugar coated bundle of delicious was a revelation. Another, listed as chocolate ice cream, really seemed just that. A round scoop of chocolate ice cream in a white bowl. Until you tasted it. I’ve used the word rich in this post to excess, but this was ridiculous. It was more a frozen chocolate mousse than ice cream. Chef Henderson was kind enough to share the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine, especially generous since it purportedly took years to create. It takes about five days of prep but it is well worth it. Get it here, and make it soon.
The best part of the evening was meeting Fergus Henderson himself. He was gracious and as generous with his time as he is with his recipes and portion sizes. A man as unique as any I’ve ever met, speaking to him in person was the fulfillment of a dream I didn’t realize I had. I re-read his books over and over, and I scour any article by or about him. His approach to cooking is as endearing as it is enlightening. His thoughts on “disciplining” parsley rather than just chopping it are sublime. You discipline it by chopping just enough that it’s put in its place. Brilliant. I had high expectations for the night, all of which were exceeded. How often does that happen?