Langdon Hall 2014
It seems no one has posted about Langdon Hall since Jason Bangerter's arrival. We went there for the first time this weekend and wanted to share our very positive experience. We stayed overnight so we enjoyed dinner, breakfast, a cooking demonstration and their 25th anniversary picnic lunch. (Not to mention a walk through the garden.)
We had the $125 eight-course tasting menu for dinner. It was a light, summery menu emphasizing cold dishes and wonderful fresh garden vegetables, herbs and flowers. The pace was leisurely - about three and a half hours - and the spacing between courses was reasonably even. Service was very good if not perfect: We appreciated the waitstaff checking back with the kitchen about our detail-oriented questions. The wine pairs almost always came a few minutes before the food. One minor gaffe was the San Pellegrino could have been more chilled.
Amuse: Garden cucumber chunk with cucumber oil and wood sorrel - possibly one of the freshest cucumbers we have ever had, crisp, juicy, sweet with a little peel bitterness.
Bread: Sourdough (lovely crust, not too sour) and sundried tomato and fennel bread (gorgeous complex flavour and wonderful chew)
BC sturgeon caviar on a tangy buttermilk custard (like panna cotta), fennel fronds, punchy oniony leek flowers - this was like a riff on blini filling, with sour cream, onion and dill substitutes. Lovely, melting caviar and a wonderful flavour combination
Foraged leaves and berries on beautiful plates (each plate is covered with a photo of cupped farmer's hands - photo of dish attached), with burnt wild shallot crumble under a cold pressed canola oil sorbet - wow! this was excellent, an amazing blend of sweet sorbet with bitter and other flavours from the herbs and burnt onions
Scallop sashimi under thin radish slices, grated pickled wild ginger, lemon peel, coriander and red shiso - sweet fresh scallops totally complemented by the other fresh flavours and crunchy textures
Chunks of cold poached lobster, cubes of lobster jelly, creme fraiche, a handful of sweet peas, cold sweet pea soup - another highlight among highlights: the slight chill on the soup was so refreshing and it was full of fresh pea flavour, which complemented the lobster beautifully
We've been avoiding foie gras so it was omitted from the next dish for us - but we did think it was odd that we then received all the foie gras accompaniments with no actual replacement for the foie. The sour pickled rhubarb, strawberries, strawberry gelee, rhubarb puree and licorice crumb were certainly all very interesting, and seemed to pair extremely well with the remarkable wine that came with it: a 2008 Prince Edward County Pineaux Sauvage, Keint-He (a botrytis-affected pinot noir - honey-sweet, slightly fizzy and a really neat pale red colour).
Smoked pigeon was the only hot dish. We were told it was smoked in herbs, leaves, salt, sugars. The quite rare breast was served with jus, and the leg was stuffed with seared foie gras bacon and chicken liver parfait. I found the leg to be oversalted although very flavourful. Accompaniments were a delightful celery root and lovage puree, blackberries (soft and sweet), rainbow chard, and some onion 'leaves'.
There were two desserts: 1) A decadent, fall-apart almond macaron standing on some local milk mascarpone with a red wine caramel. 2) And to finish with something particularly memorable, a bowl of gently chamomile-flavoured sweet milk containing three sacs of elderflower gelee (liquid inside - like an egg yolk with a firm skin). Each gelee globule had some dried elderflowers inside, and there were fresh elderflowers scattered in the milk too. This was delicious as well as absolutely beautiful. (photo attached)
Mignardises: a fluffy Earl Grey marshmallow and a rich, chocolatey hazelnut truffle
Breakfast was available a la carte or from the buffet- the latter looked very inviting so we went with maximal variety. Highlights were the small pieces of scrambled eggs Benedict with asparagus and truffled Hollandaise; the not-that-sweet chamomile panna cotta with tart berry compote, and the moist, luscious leek bread pudding. Bread, pastries, fresh fruit, yogourt, granola, cheese and charcuterie were all very good.
At the cooking demo, we got to watch the prep for curing an albacore tuna loin in salt, sugar, citrus peels, lemongrass and many other herbs and spices. A yellowfin tuna tartare with salmon roe and a rainbow of fresh vegetables was then assembled and spooned over - once again, beautiful and delicious. We would have eaten all the leftover plates if we hadn't been so full from breakfast.
The special event picnic outside under the tent was also really impressive. (Perhaps relevant if you are considering a wedding here or something.) There must have been a dozen different salads, all colourful, fresh and tasty, and covered in flower garnishes from the garden. There was a light and spicy cucumber yogourt gazpacho; a poached chicken kale caesar; poached wild salmon with potatoes, fennel and radish; yummy cold fried chicken; huge baskets of fresh vegetables, and 10 incredible desserts. The hazelnut plum tart packed a fabulous punch; the summer pudding was stuffed with an amazing assortment of berries including cloudberries, and the vanilla chiffon cake with whipped cream and blueberries was light and magical. Dishes were replenished promptly and I don't think they ran out of anything - it seemed to be a particularly smoothly run event.
Overall we had an excellent experience from beginning to end. The food consistently allowed the flavours of the fresh and seasonal ingredients to shine through. While nothing was cutting edge, there was plenty of creativity and fun in the cooking and presentation.