A 7-Course Meal…Oh My Gracie’s!

Do you remember the last dish that completely blew your mind? The type of dish so memorable that it left you thinking about it all night long and in days to come? A dish so profoundly delicious that it made you rave to everyone you know, maybe even to strangers on the street? Well, what if it was more than one dish…what if it was an entire meal consisting of a 7 course tasting menu? That’s the type of meal that I experienced at Gracie’s in Providence recently. From start to finish, it was like perfection on a plate…seven different plates that is!

Gracie’s offers a few different options for indecisive people (like me :)) as well as those looking for the ultimate foodie experience. You can opt to put the Chef in the driver’s seat in which he carefully selects the dishes to serve you in either a 5 course tasting (hot and cold appetizer, fish and meat entree, and dessert) or a 7 course tasting (same as 5 course with foie gras and cheese plate added). The tastings make for an exciting surprise as these plates are not found on the original menu. In case you prefer to be in control of your dining experience, you can also order a la carte or choose a 3 course prix-fixe.

Having complete trust in Chef Matt Varga, I decided to have him prepare some special dishes of his choice. I didn’t quite know that to expect, but needless to say, it turned out to be one of the most memorable meals I have had in a LONG time!!!

Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Horseradish, Celery Juice, and Olive Oil.

Our meal started with a small bite of Cauliflower Panna Cotta to excite our palate. It played a trick on my brain because it tasted like fall, but in one, small, refreshing bite.

Nantucket Bay Scallops with Grapefruit, Granny Smith Apple, Watermelon Radish, and Sweet Potato Crisp.

I was excited to see scallops land on my table as the cold appetizer. The dish had some great textural contrast with the sweet potato crisp and the crunch from the apples and radishes. However, I found the grapefruit to overpower the other ingredients.  I would have preferred another citrus (preferably one less bitter) instead.

House made Cavatelli with Lamb Neck Bolognese and Parmigiana Reggiano

This pasta was made with Narragansett Creamery Ricotta and tossed in a spicy Bolognese sauce. I appreciated the creative use of Lamb Neck as opposed to Veal or Beef. All of the ingredients were cooked perfectly (as one of my biggest pet peeves is overcooked pasta). I scraped this plate clean and would definitely order a full serving of this next time around!

Foie Gras Torchon on Brioche with Huckleberry, Persimmon, and Marcona Almond Butter

This turned out to be the most memorable dish of the night. In fact, it is the best Foie Gras dish I have ever had. The way the Foie Gras Torchon was prepared made it extra creamy and buttery on the brioche. I never would have thought to pair it with ingredients like Huckleberry or Persimmon, but all the flavors blended together beautifully. Once again, another flawless presentation in my opinion!

Swordfish with Preserved Lemon Puree, Scallion Olive Oil, Braised Shallots, Cauliflower, and Fingerling Potatoes.

The swordfish was cooked to perfection with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. The preserved lemon puree was an interesting technique as opposed to squeezing lemon on the fish itself. By braising the shallots, it brought out the sweetness and made it even more delicious. Overall, the swordfish was simple and seasoned well, making it the star of the dish (as it should be).

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Baby Fennel, Carrots, Pickled Onions, and Frisee over Creamy Grits.

The short rib was juicy, rich, and bursting with flavor. I didn’t even need a knife to cut it. It was so tender that it fell apart upon meeting my fork. The creamy grits served as a great base for the other components and I was glad they included it over another starch like potatoes. It’s tough to go wrong with any braised short rib, but this one was exceptional!

(1) Vivache with Fig Walnut Preserve
(2) Bloomsday with Apricot Mostarda
(3) Blue Cheese with Honey and Marcona Almond

My favorite of the trio was the Vivache which is a cross between Gruyere and Provolone. I enjoyed the fig walnut preserve which brought out the sweetness and nuttiness in the cheese itself.

Personally, I am never a fan of having Blue cheese for dessert. I know many restaurants offer it, but I find this particular cheese too pungent for a post-dinner treat. I would have preferred another cheese in its place, perhaps similar to the Vivache or Bloomsday instead.

Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Celery Root Ice Cream

Although Carrot Cake can be found on just about every menu this time of year,  Gracie’s version is unlike anything I have ever tried before. The Carrot Cake itself was light and airy, but what truly elevated this innovative dessert was the use of Celery Root ice cream. This intriguing flavor will put your taste buds to the test and put all other Carrot Cakes to shame!

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Needless to say, Gracie’s has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants around. Chef Matt Varga exhibited masterful techniques and a close attention to detail. Like an artist, he used the plate as his canvas with each component carefully placed and methodically selected. He paired certain ingredients that I have never seen on the same plate before, and sure enough, all the flavors worked together harmoniously. In addition to the caliber of food, the service was stellar as well. Both of my servers were extremely knowledgeable of the menu including the preparation of each dish. In fact, it was the best service I have had in quite some time.

Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, trying to grab dinner before a show at Trinity Rep, or simply looking to try someplace new this weekend, Gracie’s should be at the top of your list. If you are looking to be blown away, it should be an easy choice…go to Gracie’s!

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