The tables at the Tongue & Cheek Tavern were covered in butcher paper and topped with big white plates, thick cloth napkins, bowls of vibrant turnips, and fresh rosemary sprigs. Chef Patrick Thrower, DUC Executive Chef, and Chef Wil Fernandez-Cruz, the new Chef de Cuisine at Ibby’s, composed the elegant gastropub in the Studio 40 as the last of the five dinners in the WU Restaurant Series.
The menu demonstrated Chef Thrower’s faith in students. Or his guts. Serving items like “trout rillettes,” “beef tongue pastrami,” and “beef cheek” to 20-year-olds (or anyone really) is definitely risky. It paid off tremendously.
He began with the scariest course: beef tongue pastrami.
It was served with small pieces of toasted bread, pickled vegetables, and a trio of house-made mustards. The slices of beef tongue looked like fried Spam. We were instructed assemble sandwiches.
I took a bite and could feel my eyes light up. The beef tongue was absolutely fantastically delicious. It was, to my great surprise, not chewy at all. The tender beef tongue melted away. It was rich but balanced out by the acidity of the pickled vegetables and the sharp mustard.
I had to have more. On the second toast, I spread the house-made beet mustard. The beet mustard added a touch of earthiness to each bite. Almost everyone at my table tried and enjoyed the tongue.
The next course: pommes dauphine with horseradish creme fraiche.
“These are like really fancy tater tots,” I exclaimed. But Stephanie quickly said: “you can’t even put them on that level.” The pommes duaphine were just too good to be compared to any level of tater tot. Henna compared them to “fried gnocchi.”
The pommes duaphine had wonderfully crispy outside and wonderfully fluffy potato insides. Like the beef, each bite melted onto my tongue. I feared the horseradish creme fraiche but it was appropriately creamy and appropriately sharp.
While we were lamenting the pommes duaphone, we were poured tall glasses of house-made root beer.
According to Chef Thrower, 50 different ingredients were used in the drink. They all worked together to create a root beer unlike any root beer I’ve ever had. The ale yeast in the root beer created an unprecedented depth of flavor.
The next course arrived promptly thereafter: smoked trout rillettes.
Rilletes is, according to Chef Fernandez-Cruz, a technique for cooking meats and fish. The trout was cooked in butter until super tender. The texture of the trout rilletes was similar to a chunky pate. We spread it on the house-made plantain chips on the table.
Each bite was super salty (in a good way) and super fishy (in a good way). I could taste the shallots and the bourbon that was added to the butter.
When the next course showed up, everyone whipped out their iphones to photograph it. Beautiful beef cheek sliders sat on a bed of grilled radicchio and brussel sprout leaves.
I took one bite and fell in love. The braised beef cheeks were tender but robust, like braised veal usually is (and braised short rib rarely is… why is it often so chewy??). The bitterness of the greens and the acidity of the onions did effectively lighten up the richness of the beef to create a really well-balanced and delicious slider.
The next course: quail eggs sitting on top of crispy potato hash stuffed with pancetta and beef cheeks.
Also known as: the world’s most badass breakfast. We topped it with drops of Mexican hot sauce and dug in. The hash was crispy to the nth degree. Chunks of pancetta inside the hash added salty touches while chunks of beef cheek added beefy richness. The delicate quail yolk held its own by adding a bit of moisture.
While we were eating, we were poured glasses of house-made ginger beer.
Each sip was like a ginger-packed kick in the face. The sip would begin slightly sweet and become spicy. It was intense and interesting and refreshing.
Then the next course arrived: Poularde roulades.
The poularde (which is a hen that is raised in a way that makes it particularly fatty and particularly meaty) was rolled (hence the word roulardes) around corse forcemeat (which is usually an emulsification of ground pork and pork fat and seasoning) and wrapped in prosciutto. It was served with brussel sprouts and cubes of pancetta.
This course was, in my opinion, the most classic dish. It reminded me of Thanksgiving. I loved the crispy prosciutto and loved loved loved the combination of bitter brussel sprouts and salty pancetta.
To end the meal (and the series), Chef Thrower and Chef Fernandez-Cruz had to do not one dessert, not two desserts, but three desserts. First up: strawberry rhubarb crumble.
It was absolutely awesome. Slightly sour rhubarb and slightly sweet strawberries commingled with the crispy topping to make a dish that was not too sweet, not too sour, not too anything except delicious.
It was followed with plates of “monkey bread,” which was so appealing that I forgot to photograph it. Monkey bread is, according to Chef Fernandez-Cruz, a STL classic. It was small pieces of warm bread covered with a light dusting of spices and a not-light-at-all coating of caramel. Sugar had melted and cooked onto pieces of the bread. It was incredibly sweet but also delicious.
To cut the sweetness, they finished with a cheese plate and some house-made fig jam filled with mustard.
The cheeses were all from local creameries. The salty cheese combined with the sharp mustard and the slightly sweet figs to balance out of the sugar that’d hit our palates during the first two dessert courses. It was a great finale.
I can’t pick a favorite course. It’s a tie between the beef tongue pastrami, eggs and hash, and pommes duaphine.
Chef Thrower had faith in us. He believed that even students who sustain themselves on half & halves would try the beef tongue and the beef cheek and most of us did try. In fact, we did more than try. We loved the tongue and the cheek at the Tongue & Cheek Tavern.
The WU Restaurant Series began (with Chef Rushing’s The Rusty Spoon) and ended with pop up restaurants that managed to be both welcoming and interesting. Again, I walked away amazed with the passion and talent demonstrated by the chefs at Dining Services. Putting the amount of time and effort it takes to orchestrate such a beautiful, delicious, and interesting 5-course meal requires dedication. I’m impressed and grateful that that dedication is present in a meal on a college campus for students.
I will spend the entire summer dreaming about delighting in another five-course WU pop up meal.