I am a little ashamed to say that I've never eaten a quince before. I understand that they are pear-like and quite delicious, so I was seriously hoping to have one while dining at the restaurant of the same name. Alas, I was not in luck. Maybe it just isn't quince season. :(
Lack of namesake fruit aside, I really enjoyed my time at Quince. I was a little apprehensive that our party of 10 would even fit inside the small restaurant, but apparently they seat one ten-top a night at the "chef's table" in the back. Sure enough, we walked (trying not to hold our heads too high) through the main dining room, into the kitchen, down a flight of stairs and into our own private area. Surrounded by ovens and fridges and chefs at work, we settled in for a great night of food, friends, and a little bit of voyeurism. Indeed, I could have watch the chef tossing truffles in cocoa powder right over my shoulder all night along. But the wine was flowing, as was the conversation, and my attention was brought back to the table over and over again with each course. But first a quick side note about the wine...
I love Frog's Leap. This biodynamic winery is an amazing place just to hang out and breathe some fresh air, but should you have the time, the tour is fantastic. On the menu at Quince was their Sauvignon Blanc. Normally not my favorite varietal, but the FL version is aged in steel, which gives it a crispness and takes down any flowery tastes, and leaves behind a ton of citrus and some apple. Try it next time you see it on a menu (or order directly from the winery).
Okay, back to the food. For my first course I had the grapefruit and avocado salad with butter lettuces. I have similar dishes in the past, and this one was pretty comparable. The grapefruit were extra tart, as they can be this time of year, and it was a little much for me. Still, a good opener.
Next up was a mission fig salad with balsamic reduction. This was the pasta course for all my companions, but all the pasta had egg in it. I would have been a little upset, but this dish was amazing. The figs were perfectly ripe and the balsamic was sweet enough to balance the bitter greens. This is a dish they usually make with cheese, but it really didn't seem like it was missing anything at all. It was perfect.
My main course was tempura-battered squash blossoms atop a corn and heirloom tomato succotash. I totally chomped into this expecting traditional Italian flavor, and was surprised that is was more southwestern. Quite delicious. As can be the problem with many omnivorous restaurants trying to cater to vegans, there was no starch (rice, potato, etc) available to me because they are all made with some sort of dairy. I could have been left very hungry (and very drunk) had there not been one type of bread that was vegan. It was very good, too, with yummy rosemary salt on top.
So, I left Quince satisfied that they can feed vegans and others alike, but not as blown away as I would have like to have been. Luckily, the company, and the experience of sitting at the chef's table, largely made up for anything lacking in the food itself. Here's to catching up with friends over a good meal... and to making meat-centric restaurants and chefs think outside the box!