On Valentine’s Day, The Hubs surprised me with a romantic dinner at Juniper, our favorite “special occasion” restaurant. Juniper was offering a prixe fixe menu for the evening and we took advantage of it. Here is what was offered:
Course #1 – (shared) Vanilla Butter Poached Lobster Tail
white chocolate and saffron crème, wilted spinach, roasted fennel, caviar
Francois Montand, Blanc de Blanc France
Course #2 – Strawberry and Sorrel Salad
pickled red onion, roasted beets, tarragon gremolata, beet vinaigrette, Lomah Neufchatel
Boulder Bank, Sauvignon Blanc Kerseley Vineyard Marlborough New Zealand
Course #3 – Rosemary & Local Mushroom Beef Bourguignon
Yukon gold potatoes, pearl onion, baby carrot, pommes puree
Yardstick, Cabernet Ruth’s Reach Napa Valley
Course #4 – (shared) Coffee & Doughnuts
Strawberry Beignets w/white chocolate mousse, coffee ice cream, strawberry mint salad
The white chocolate and saffron crème was delicious in the first course. The strawberries and pickled onions played remarkably well off each other in the salad course. The pommes puree was interesting but The Hubs deemed my Beef Bourguignon better. (What a complement!) And, we loved the Yardstick Cabernet.
We have had some truly spectacular meals at Juniper (which was featured in Saveur a couple of years ago as part of their “Top 100” feature). Although everything that comprised our Valentine’s Day meal was good, we weren’t dazzled this particular evening.
That is, my friend, until the dessert was served. I was anticipating it after I heard the couple at the next table ask if they were going to put the Coffee & Doughnuts on the regular menu.
As we devoured the dessert, I immediately thought of ways to replicate the white chocolate mousse and the coffee ice cream. I did just that on the day after Valentine’s Day.
This is a two part process.
First make white chocolate panna cotta. I adapted the recipe from my January C.L.U.E. post.
White Chocolate Panna Cotta
1 c. whipping cream
1/2 c. sugar
1-1/4 c. plain low fat yogurt
1/2 t. Kosher salt, divided
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 pkg. of unflavored, powdered gelatin (Knox)
3 T. hot water (for blooming the gelatin)*
11 oz. white chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli chips.)
In a saucepan large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid, whisk together the cream, sugar, kosher salt and vanilla. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat whisking often. Once the liquid is heated through, remove from the heat, making sure that the sugar has completely dissolved.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler and cool before incorporating it into the cream/yogurt mixture. Whisk thoroughly to combine.
Bloom the gelatin in 3 tablespoons of hot water then add to the yogurt mixture, stirring until completely combined. *For gelatin blooming tips, click here.
Carefully pour or ladle into ramekins, cups or vessel of your choice. Refrigerate until set.
Yields: 4-6 servings
For the coffee ice cream, I searched through my beloved yellow Gourmet Cookbook. There I found a recipe for Cappuccino Gelato. Perfect.
from The Gourmet Cookbook
2 1/2 c. whole milk, divided
2 1/2 T. instant espresso powder
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. plus 2 1/2 T. sugar
1/8 t. salt
Whisk 1/4 cup milk into espresso powder in a small bowl, whisking until dissolved.
In a separate small bowl, whisk another 1/4 cup milk into cornstarch, stirring until cornstarch is dissolved.
Combine sugar, salt and remaining 2 cups milk in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring often until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and simmer, whisking for 2 minutes. Whisk in espresso mixture.
Transfer to a metal bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then cover with a round of wax paper and refrigerate until cold at least 3 hours. Freeze mixture in ice cream maker.
To serve, place one scoop of the Cappuccino Gelato on top of the panna cotta. Try to get this to the table before diving in.
I truly do not want to bash Juniper in any way. I had been forewarned about dining out on V-Day on a prixe fixe menu. Live and learn. And remember, nothing was terrible. Besides the dessert, I have to highlight the cocktail I started with: The Bee’s Knees (honeycomb vodka, lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice, sparkling water). I think I will have to infuse some vodka with honeycomb SOON.
Thanks to Juniper for all the inspiration!