Everyone has that friend who goes a little over the top with dinner parties. Leaves are artfully scattered around placemats, burgundy table runners are sprinkled with acorns and a cornucopia of gourds reigns supreme. Chef Thomas Lents at Sixteen is one of those friends, except he's preparing four to twelve course feasts each night.
Lents debuted his harvest menu this week, the third in a series of seasonal menus that attempt to transform stiff fine dining into a whimsical experience. Edible snow and ice defined the winter menu, while an interactive farmers market was utilized during summer. Autumn, again, ups the culinary ante with a “choose your own adventure” menu, which allows guests to decide between a starter from the coast or the plains, lamb or pig for the main and Halloween or Day of the Dead for dessert.
We started with the Bounty of the Plains (although the costal menu's razor clams with leek and sorrel has star potential). The series of small plates, arranged on a single hemp placement between acorns and mini bales of hay, showcased an edible arrangement of root vegetable terrine, roasted celeriac and three preparations of grains, including couscous with sage and chèvre.
The rest of the meal is served family style, to mirror the communal harvest table. One pan - which came out overflowing with apples and spices - contained a bone-in roasted turbot. That was followed by another dish, featuring tender roasted squab with aromatic rosemary, skewered through porcini mushrooms and Jupiter grapes over puffed rice. The entrée, a choice of lamb or pig, showcased several parts of each animal, such as porchetta with chestnuts and stuffed cipollini or rack of lamb with fondant potatoes and pepper jus.
No meal at Sixteen is complete without dessert from pastry chef Patrick Fahy. This time, rather than being prompted by an ingredient, the selection is determined by the diner’s favorite fall holiday. Choosing Dia de los Muertos led to black mission figs with hoja santa (scared leaf), espresso and candied pumpkin pie. Halloween resulted in caramelized white chocolate with peanut butter “jawbreakers,” pumpkin seeds and spiced orange. Both were elegant and fun, and would make even the most abhorrent fall haters rethink the post-summer season.
The four course “Offerings from the Harvest” menu is $110, the eight course “Bountiful Table” is $150 and for $210, you'll get the full 12 course "Feast for Autumn.” Still on the fence? Feast your eyes on these inaugural dinner photos.