Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eating Out: Muss and Turner's

I pass Muss and Turner’s daily on my way home from work, so I have probably frequented there more than any other place that I’ll review. Just a brief overview: it’s kinda difficult to put a label on M&T. They seem to do a bang-up lunch business, serving quite delicious sandwiches and salads. There is a small specialty foods counter where chefs and foodies alike can find those items that Harry’s or the local Kroger might not carry; like smoked paprika, Den Chan soy sauce, Marcona almonds, or membrillo (quince paste). Also, there is a small deli, featuring a nice selection of cheeses and cured meats. If you’re lucky enough to catch them when they have porchetta behind the counter, consider yourself blessed. During the evenings, the place turns “bistro,” offering a six-pack of both appetizers and entrees that change every three weeks. There really are no boundaries to what they’ll piece together on a menu, so you’re likely to find Latin-inspired dishes alongside dishes with Italian or new American influence—all a reflection of the culinary journey of owner/chef Todd “Muss” Mussman. Last and certainly not least, M&T offers an impressive wine list, as well as an even more impressive beer list.

While admittedly I’ve had a mixed bag of experiences at Muss and Turner’s (mostly favorable), my dinner last night reminded me of why I keep coming back to this place. The bar was full when I sat down, and Jessica the bartender handed me a menu, saying that it had just changed earlier in the week. A quick word on Jessica: she pretty much has complete autonomy over the beer program and it is one of the best in the city. Her passion for brew (and wine and spirits) is unrivaled, and she's probably forgotten more than I'll ever know about beer. Oh, and she and Eric Aarons from Ecco are my two favorite bartenders in the city.

I quickly decided on the duck confit for my first course. This was pretty much a no-brainer as duck confit, along with veal or lamb sweetbreads and pork belly make up my "holy trinity" of delicious eats. With a perfectly crisped exterior and moist, succulent meat, this was one of the better legs of duck confit that I've had. The plate setup was very simple with sliced fingerling potatoes that gloriously tasted as if they were pan-fried in the rendered duck fat (insert Homer Simpson-like moan here), chopped dates, and Spanish chorizo. A touch of acid in the form of a small amount of sherry vinegar at the bottom of the plate gave a great depth and punch to such a rich and savory dish.

After much deliberation, I selected the berkshire pork chop as my entree. Cooked a perfect medium, the pork chop was served atop cauliflower, bacon, and leeks; and was topped with a sauce gribiche. This had all of the flavors of sauce gribiche--parsley, chervil, tarragon, pickles, and capers--but lacked the mayonnaise-like consistency of the traditional sauce. Were I not flanked by complete strangers, I might have attempted to lick the plate. I may have to come back within the next three weeks to get it again. If only their short rib dish didn't look so damn delicious...

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