BEST VEGETABLES (2003)
Quiessence Culinary Center
We love eating our veggies, especially when they come from Quiessence, a garden-to-table experience of contemporary American farm cuisine. Housed in a converted home amid the lush greenery of the Farm at South Mountain, the quaint cafe is open limited seasons, just Fridays and Saturdays, with one dinner seating each evening, and with reservations required (we recommend a month in advance). Why all the fuss? Because each menu is uniquely crafted, selected from what's the most fresh and flavorful from the farm's Happydirt Veggie Patch organic gardens, and picked just hours before our meal. First, there's a chef's tasting in front of the cafe's wood-burning fireplace. Then, it's a five-course carpet ride -- perhaps warm Wilcox goat cheese and tomato galette, petite herb salad and hazelnut pesto drizzle; then pan-seared sea scallops with wilted farm greens and gingered carrot sauce. We select our entrees: maybe pan-seared halibut fillet with green whipped potatoes and caramelized baby fennel; free-range chicken breast saltimbocca stuffed with prosciutto and fontina cheese atop wilted baby spinach and wild mushroom sauce; or asparagus and spring pea risotto with spearmint and shaved Reggiano. Next, it's a cheese course, like Cyprus Grove Midnight Moon with glazed cipollini onions. Finally, it's on to dessert, which might be lavender-scented crème brûlée alongside a strawberry-rhubarb tart. We bring our own wine, and cheer our good fortune. Such incredible vegetables sure do our bodies good!