Where have you been eating lunch on Tuesdays?? If your answer is anywhere other than BD, you are a fool. A foolish fool of fool proportions. Today was the second time I picked up a quesadilla from the WUrld Fusion station (only on Tuesdays) and today was the second time that FLAVOR HIT ME IN THE FACE.
The quesadilla was filled with tomatoes, onions, and green peppers but that were overwhelmed by the lamb, cumin, and cilantro. “Overwhlemed by” in the same way that us mortals are overwhelmed by Beyonce’s fabulousness.The cumin and the cilantro amplified the rich gaminess of the lamb (and that’s what makes lamb lamb so this was a super lamby lamb quesadilla… get my happiness??).
After taking a bite that included a bit of the sour cream and the tamarind chutney, I couldn’t help but smile. The addition of sweetness, richness, acidity, and slight bitterness took it from being a yummy quesadilla to being a GREAT quesadilla.
The meat was a little chewy and the quesadilla was difficult to eat but the flavor more than made up for that. Click here to read the review of the other WUrld Fusion quesadilla if this post hasn’t already convinced you to check out the station at lunch next Tuesday.
Pork on pork. I’m a big fan of bacon, prosciutto, pancetta… basically any meat that began as a big but smoked pork AND ham sounded like it’d be a little too much.
I was totally wrong. The locally made pulled pork added a deep, wonderful smokiness that worked well with the sweet ham. Spicy chipotle mustard took the sandwich from delicious to DELICIOUS. That was all cradled between two slices of bread that are crunched up perfectly by the most intense panini press I’ve ever seen.
I thought I was only going to eat half (because of the whole “pork on pork” thing) but I ended up devouring the whole thing. Lord help me not eat one of these every day.
Lit candles rested in small piles of shell-studded sand at the center of each intimate table. Paintings of beaches hung on the walls and water trickled down the small waterfall in the corner. Everything about Lulu, Chef Colby Walloch’s pop-up in Studio 40, was calming.
Given the chance to create a sneak peek into his dream restaurant, Chef Walloch chose to go with the type food he started his career cooking: casual seafood fare from the Pacific Northwest (Chef Walloch grew up in Portland). He named the spot after his two-year-old daughter, who’s his “number one sous chef at home.”
The atmosphere at Lulu matched Chef Walloch’s personality: quiet but confident. He clearly wasn’t going to serve sous vide foie gras or deconstructed champaign infused caviar (whatever that would be), only clean, well-executed interpretations of classic dishes.
The meal began with a crab shell filled with the juices that emerge when you cook a crab.
The juice tasted more like crab than any crab I’ve ever eaten. It was fresh but decadent and super salty (in a good way). “This tastes like the beach,” Nate said joyously. It reminded me of the summer nights I’ve spent on Cape Cod, happily licking the fresh shellfish drippings off of my fingers. I’ll take dipping my bread in crab juice over olive oil any day.
The first course was a small square of pork belly coated in BBQ sauce with cheddar grits. It seemed like a deviation from the Pacific Northwest concept but Chef Walloch explained that the dish, like the rest of his menu, was “rooted within home.” The BBQ sauce stems from his time working for a southern family. The grits came from the Tillamook Creamery, a creamy on a river near Chef Walloch’s childhood home.
The grits were wonderfully creamy and slightly sharp. The cream did a good job of mitigating the sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. I was most impressed by the texture of the pork belly. I’ve had really dry fat-free pork belly and really jiggly fat-filled pork belly. Chef Walloch rendered the fat perfectly, deftly avoiding both of those results. The crispy outside of his pork belly gave away to a tender inside.
The next course was a mixed local greens salad served alongside a piece of steelhead that was sitting on a bed of roasted mushrooms.
Thin slices of pickled radishes added acid to the peppery local greens and strong blue cheese. The steelhead – which is a species of trout that lives in the Pacific Ocean – was covered in an acidic pesto-esque sauce. Charred, earthy mushrooms grounded the light flavors in the buttery fish and the sauce.
Chef Walloch followed it with my favorite course of the night: chowder.
Chef Walloch’s Portland take on New England Clam Chowder was the night’s superstar because (a) it was delicious and (b) replacing the crab with fried oysters coated in a cornbread breading was an imaginative but understated twist.
A deep bacon-created smokiness ran through the cream. On its own, the cream soup was a bit too salty for me. But with the oysters, the saltiness was replaced with wonderfulness. The breading added crunchiness, which is a texture that soups don’t often include.
The next course was a heaping pile of Dungeness crab legs covered in a chili garlic sauce. Here’s an action shot of Chef Patrick McElroy helping Chef Walloch plate:
When my plate arrived, I stared at it, wondering where to start. “There’s no elegant way to eat this,” Chef Walloch warned. I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed the crab leg openers, and started cracking away.
I’ve never had spicy crab before. The combination of chili, garlic, lime, and cilantro added Asian flare. Actually getting through the shell was a challenge but we were rewarded with bites of succulent, tender crabmeat.
The meal ended with chocolate cake that Chef Walloch added as a “nod back to the first dessert” he ever cooked in a restaurant. It was 1987 and the pastry chef didn’t show up so Chef Walloch was forced to learn on the spot. And learn he did. I don’t love chocolate (I know… it’s a sin) but I loved Chef Walloch’s chocolate cake.
When I cut into it, warm chocolate oozed out and into the salted caramel sauce and thick whipped cream. Every bite was decadent beyond belief. The salty sweetness from the caramel cut through the rich, bitter chocolate. Yes. Yes is all I can say.
Lulu was clearly a true manifestation of Chef Walloch’s dream concept; its understated elegance could only stem from genuine passion.
As I was leaving, my friend Ish said: “it’s not fair, you get to go to all of them.” Ish, you’re right. It’s not fair and I hope that never changes. I get to eat delicious food while watching talented chefs like Walloch do what they love to do.
You can experience some of the magic too. If you’d like to attend a WU Restaurant dinner, “like” Dining Services on Facebook and join the event when they raffle off tickets for the next one. The dinners only cost $12.95. $12.95 for a five course meal is unheard of.
The very talented students over at Kuumba have posted a beautiful video about this night. Check it out:
Kuumba TV is a student group that creates short documentaries about creativity on our campus.
Close your eyes. Oh no wait, open them so that you can read this.
Okay, now imagine you’re hiking in the hills of Italy. The calm bluer-than-blue ocean is on your right and lush greener-than-green trees flank your left. A small old woman with deep wrinkles and grey hair emerges from the bushes. She invites you into her home and then feeds you. For hours. And hours.
That woman is this man:
He’s Chef David Rushing and little-old-lady-feeds-you-like-family was the feel at The Rusty Spoon, his pop-up restaurant. The Rusty Spoon was the first of five WU Restaurant dinners, which is a Dining Services series that highlights a different campus chef every two weeks.
Chef Rushing is the Chef de Cuisine at Ibby’s but he’s in the midst of moving to the South 40. His sous chef for the night was Tom Dixon, General Manager at the DUC. The Rusty Spoon concept, Chef Rushing explained, is a celebration of tradition.
In truth, the meal was a celebration of everything from ingredients to family to Italy to food to beauty.
Chef Rushing set the scene perfectly. One long table stretched across the demonstration kitchen. A rustic plank of wood collected by Rushing stretched across the table. Our menus were attached to thick block of woods with nails crafted by Rushing himself. Our silverware was wrapped in towels that were held together by old bent spoons (also collected by Rushing).
Multiple mason jars filled with different vegetables sat on the centerplank (hehe, get it?).
The meal began with the contents of those jars. Red beets in spiced apple cider. Yellow beets. Carrots in sweet vinegar. Green beans sprinkled with spicy pepper flakes. Turnips in a white wine vinegar. Mushrooms in what I think was olive oil and stuff. I should’ve brought a paper and pen. In fact, I should’ve brought an entire notebook.
Every time I took a bite of one thing, three other items magically appeared. There was bread with locally made butter. Marinated olives. Artisan salami. Celery root covered in farm egg mayo. Chicken liver mousse. Cauliflower and white bean hummus. Lamb sausage with an apricot and mint spread.
Everything was delicious. The yellow beets were memorable because I’ve never had yellow beets before. They were less earthy and slightly sweeter than the red beets. But the red beets weren’t overly beet-y either. The apple cider they’d been marinated in took the edge off. The mushrooms were dancing on the line between mushy and hard, which is exactly where they should be. The mayo-coated celery root was both rich and refreshing.
Chef Rushing truly paid homage to winter and the vegetables that manage to grow in it. The acidic items opened up our palates, preparing them for the awesomeness that loomed ahead.
The merguez lamb sausage was part of that awesomeness. I love lamb with all of my heart but do understand that some people are turned off by how gamey it can be. Rushing mitigated the gaminess of the meat by adding some beef (I think?) and spices and then balanced it out with an apricot and mint jelly. The combination of the sweet apricot, bright mint, and rich lamb would convert haters.
Despite its deliciousness, the lamb sausage couldn’t compete with the chicken liver pate. Seriously, it was a jar of everything that’s good in this world. Rich and flavorful beyond belief. Two of my friends and I once ate $40 of pate in 10 minutes (I know: gross). If it’d been Rushing’s pate, we would’ve finished in 3.
But wait. The dinner wasn’t even close to over yet. Next up: handmade pastas.
According to Rushing, “strozzapreti” means “strangled priest” and it’s hand-twisted noodles. The non-uniformity of the noodles matched The Rusty Spoon’s authentic, homely feel. The pesto noodles pictured above were good but the beef and mushroom noodles pictured below were excellent.
The classic combination of rich and tender beef with mushrooms did the strozzapreti more than justice. It was simple enough to highlight the noodles but flavorful enough to be interesting. Interesting and comforting.
Beautiful, shiny rectangles of sage carmel butternut squash arrived with the pasta. They were insanely sweet and wonderfully soft rectangles of fantastic. Pure candy. I had to stop myself from inhaling the entire plate.
Fingerling potatoes with smoked mayo also arrived with the pasta.
I heard someone say “whoa these potatoes” when she bit into one. That whoa was well deserved. The comforting roasted potatoes were bumped up a notch to whoa-tastic by the addition of the rich (I’ve used that word a lot in this post) and slightly smoky mayo.
The savory part of the meal ended with Tom Dixon’s mussels.
The sauce was subtle enough to let the delicate flavor of the mussels come through. It was also delicious enough to be downed on its own. I soaked piece after piece of grilled bread into the white wine and cream sauce. If there weren’t 18 other people in the room, I would’ve grabbed the bowl and chugged it.
Okay… not chugged. That’s gross. But you get my point.
When we returned from a tour of the South 40 kitchen (did you know that Dining Services has the largest refrigerator in the state of Missouri?), two cheese plates featuring three local cheeses and these adorable cans awaited us:
The cans were filled with a chocolate hazelnut cake, a cherry and blueberry trifle, and whipped cream.
When mixed, the contents of each can became bites of decadence. The sweet cherries cut through the richness of the chocolate and cream. I couldn’t stop eating even though I’ve never been fuller in my life.
Chef Rushing’s dinner is the one too beat. And that’s not only because he went first. He left no detail unconsidered while actualizing a coherent and consistent concept. That something beautiful and delicious can be and is created in one room for one night for sixteen students on a college campus is a testament to the passion of both Dining Services and Chef Rushing. It’ll be difficult to match the ambiance, the decor, and the authenticity, much less the food.
I look forward to seeing what the remaining four chefs do. If you’re sitting at your computer screen drooling, then make sure to like the WUSTL Dining Services Facebook page so that you can sign up when they release the event for the raffle for the next WU Restaurant dinner. I’ll also be covering it on Fooducated and sharing the info on the Fooducated Facebook page.
BREAKING NEWS: Cherry Tree is stepping up its game once again. Today (and hopefully every day from now on) Cherry Tree served three all-ready-made sandwiches. All three looked fantastic. All three were made on bread baked in Bear’s Den.
I went with the Italian Grinder. The outside of the baguette was crispy and the inside was moist and slightly chewy, aka perfect. The spicy capicola, ham, and salami tasted fantastically fresh and meaty (if that’s a thing). But the garlic aioli was the sandwich rockstar. It was pungent but not overwhelming. Yum.
Don’t eat anything else for lunch. And you won’t need to eat anything else for dinner. It was huge. Honestly, a little too huge for me. While I ravenously ate it all (because it really was delicious), I can’t eat a sandwich this big for lunch every day (even though I will want t0).
That’s really my only complaint. Otherwise, it was great. I loved it when Paws & Go started selling fancy grab-and-go sandwiches on BD baked bread. I love this even more. Now we can eat well crafted sandwiches on freshly baked bread that hasn’t been refrigerated.
A well connected source who may or may not have been wearing a tench coat (probably not), mentioned that bacon sandwiches would be gracing the shelves of Paws & Go today. I immediately rearranged my whole day to have lunch in BD.
I’m not kidding. Mention bacon and ciabatta and I’ll be there. Seriously… try it… whisper “bacon on ciabatta” right now…
Did you do it?? Weirdo.
Anyway, it was delicious. Seriously delicious. The thick local bacon was wonderfully flavorful. The smokiness of the bacon worked so well with the piquantness and slight sweetness of the cranberry mustard.
The ciabatta itself was equally as impressive. I could barely tell that it had been refrigerated. It was crunchy and hole-y and chewy in all the right ways.
There was a whole stack of these sandwiches in Paws & Go so please go get one and tell me what you think!
Succulent, flavorful, and fantastic. The above ribs were one of the best things I’ve eaten on campus. They were just the way ribs should be: tender and falling off the bone.
The spicy Korean chili paste did dominate but the sesame oil and garlic held their own, giving the dish a real, authentic Korean flavor.
I love Korean BBQ and I love the DUC’s Korean BBQ and I will return on Fridays to eat it once again.
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