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Lansing, Michigan, United States
I am a Lansing townie, lawyer, and restaurant reviewer for the City Pulse. I love traveling, reading, yoga, and baking, but my favorite hobby is stuffing my face.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Young Guns Dinner at The Root

Last week, Santa (and my friend Andy) made me a very happy eater. I'd been reading about the Young Guns dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Root, and right after the event was announced Andy asked me to accompany him. "I need someone to go with who knows what pancetta and head cheese are," were his exact words.

We got a snow storm that night, of course. I would've made the trip in a dog sled.

The beautiful restaurant- exposed wood, actual tree branches decorating the place- was packed with people who are just so much cooler than I am. I had actually had oat bran for breakfast that morning. There's nothing cutting-edge about me.

Our amuse buche was presented by our server, who knew her stuff. She, too, was cooler than me.

marinated mussel, brussels sprout sauerkraut, kentucky bourbon barrel ponzu

I told Andy that I would be happy just eating 87 of those in a row. Then out came our first course, which was from chef Nikita Santches from Rock City Eatery in Hamtramck (which of course I've been eyeing since it opened.)

animal broth, roasted malanga, edos, moqua squash, kohlrabi, 5 minute egg, togarashi pork ear crackling

Malanga, edos, moqua squash, and kohlrabi are all root vegetables, which were roasted. The animal broth (what are we having for dinner, mom? animal soup) was a combination of stocks made from different types of protein. Imagine the most badass vegetable soup you've ever had.

smoked beef tongue, raj masala cucumber riata, mint, coriander chutney, pickled carrot

Don't shy away from beef tongue. It's like a thicker, tastier piece of bacon, which was topped with the most delicious carrot I've ever had in my life.

bouillabaisse, cod, smoked taylor bay scallop, shrimp and pork belly gyoza, lobster miso nage, pickled lotus root, uni foam

This course was Andy's favorite and my first runner-up. The nage (the broth) was so thick with flavor that it almost seemed like a puree. The cod was the most perfectly cooked piece of fish I've had, with a crunchy sear and completely tender in the center. The gyoza (a dumpling, the black piece in the photo above) gave the dish just the right amount of spice. I'm inspired to step up my Christmas Eve cioppino game.

texas grapefruit, spanish olive oil, lemon dust, lillet granita, micro cilantro

Even the palate cleanser was unbearably light, fresh, and perfect. But saddle up for what's coming next.

celery root agnolotti, short rib ragu, mushroom conserva

I never order pasta at a restaurant. I'm convinced that I can easily duplicate most pasta dishes at home with minimal effort. Heck, I can boil water. So how hard can pasta be?

This was my favorite course of the meal. The agnolotti, kind of like a loosely wrapped ravioli, was so smooth. The short ribs fell apart in my mouth. The chef who created this dish will open his restaurant in Detroit in spring 2014 and I might pitch a tent out back.

boudin noir, potato fondant, cabbage, apple gastrique

When the server said "boudin noir," I had just the slightest twinge of anxiety. I'd never had blood sausage, and I'd wager a guess that most American eaters haven't either. But I always say I will try anything, so long as it's a normal thing that people eat (Anthony Bourdain I am not.)

This sausage's mild flavor surprised me. The filling wasn't completely cohesive to the casing- that's to say that when I cut into the sausage, the two parts came away from each other and I could taste them each separately. It's entirely possible that this was a standout blood sausage, but without experience in that arena it's impossible for me to say.

olive oil cake, rosemary & local honey, pinenut & burnt orange brittle, sangiovese sorbet

After a knock-down drag-out meal like that, a light dessert was perfect. I haven't had peanut brittle since I was a little girl, sneaking it from my grandmother's December candy bowl down to my brother and sister while we shot pool in her basement. The pinenuts gave this brittle a more sophisticated flavor. "It's sticking in my teeth," said Andy. "But I'm kind of happy about that."

While we digested both the food and the incredible atmosphere at the restaurant that night, we were given a plate of the tiniest, most delicate espresso and chocolate truffles on chicory cookie crumbs. To die for, and if I haven't convinced you to drive the 60 miles from Lansing to White Lake by now, you must hate eating. They're throwing an Italian Feast for New Year's Eve, and some buzz words from the menu include truffle, branzino, duck, and dark chocolate. I would wear these stupid glasses again for that kind of food.

Who am I kidding. I loved those glasses.
Young Guns 2 has been announced, but if you don't already have tickets, you ain't gonna get em. If you DO have tickets, consider me green with envy.


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