Artisinal Cheese Dinner at Django
We went to Django's PA artisinal cheese dinner last night, which is part of the city-wide eat local promotion. This was my first time there: I had no experience with the previous incarnation. Overall, we had a great meal and good service. However, the focus of the evening was on PA cheese, but the cheese was so well incorporated into each dish that it was virtually impossible to judge the cheeses on their own merits. That said, we did enjoy every cheesy dish.
We started with an amuse bouche of brisket with cheddar in a pastry puff. It was a very nice start. That was followed by an appetizer of New Jersey sweet corn soup with a PA Noble Cheese and chorizo empanada. Both the soup and the empanada were delish.
The first course was a salad of frisee, pancetta, Shelbark Hollow Farm goat cheese, roasted garlic and balsamic vinaigrette. I thought it was good but a bit strong, the cheese was thouroughly incorporated into the dressing, which heavily coated the frisee. I would have preferred the cheese on top of the salad so that I could taste it alone. The pancetta was delicious but the garlic wasn't necessary, in my view. One of my dinner partners was absolutely delighted with it in its totality, however.
The second course was a pan roasted poissin over a mushroom, potato, leek and PA Noble cheese tart with poultry jus. The quarter of a small bird was crisp and flavorful, and the tart, which was like scalloped potatoes, was also quite good.
The third course, and my favorite, was dry aged NY strip served over a American Kobe brisket ragout, corn, heirloom tomato, haricot vert and Harmonyville blue cheese salad. Both the strip and the brisket were outstanding and outstandingly prepared.
Dessert was a goat cheese cake with a toasted pine nut brown sugar crust, lemon curd, and blueberry compote. This too was excellent, not too sweet, and you could really taste the goat cheese as a distinct ingredient.
We were full but not overly stuffed, even with two bottles of wine. For $55 plus tip, this meal was an absolute bargain for the quality and care of preparation. I will return.
I think what needs to be emphasized more locally (in terms of pro-Pennsylvania food marketing) is that you can buy raw milk in Pennsylvania, and, subsequently, make all the raw milk cheeses here that are made in Europe and not allowed to be imported. I think that's a uniquely Pennsylvanian opportunity that really isn't being seized upon. Let's get some Camembert up in this piece.
I worked on an artisanal cheese project with Amish farmers 2 years ago. Noble is a result of that project which also produced "Claudia" cheese (named for me) which we sell at the terminal. Get in touch with me to talk about Pa. cheese and I'll tell you all of the funny details involved in that project. I kept screaming "Camembert, Camembert."