We celebrated Christmas Eve dinner at Locanda where they served their take on the traditional Italian Roman-Catholic inspired Feast of Seven Fishes that commemorates the wait of the birth of Jesus (Vigilia di Natale). For one night this year, Locanda served a prix-fixe meal of 4+ courses with some extras thrown in. We were told that Chef Anthony Strong took several days to make sure that he procured all of the seafood required for this magical meal.
We sat at the bar and were served by Bartender-Extraordinaire Brandon Preston who served us drinks Omakase-style, where we let him take us through an excellent drinking journey. Knowing that our tastes lie primarily with Gin and Whiskeys, he challenged our palates with a very peaty tasting Mezcal cocktail flavored with housemade grapefruit syrup and some pineapple gomme (it tasted like a greyhound on steroids) and a Christmasy Rittenhouse Rye mixed with some Antico Carpano vermouth and cinnamon bitters:
An amuse-bouche of fresh oysters with a sunchoke velouté sauce and a slice of Oregon truffle started of the feast in grand fashion:
The cocktail that Brandon chose to pair with the first course was our favorite Negroni. To mix with the Campari and Antica Carpano, he decided to use the St. George’s Botanivore Gin which was herbaceous and very smooth tasting:
The first course was a fritto misto comprised of head-on giant prawns, whitefish filets, salted cod and fennel. All of the items were perfectly fried and not greasy tasting at all. We scarfed the entire dish including the super tasty shrimp heads, which we couldn’t believe that others in the bar had left behind:
The second part of the first course was a very tender grilled octopus served with a frisée, olives and peeled white and purple potatoes salad:
In preparation for the next course, Brandon made us a Martinez using the St. George Dry Rye Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth and Nardini Amaro. It had all of the sweetness and complexity of a Martinez without the tinniness of Luxardo Maraschino liquer:
The pasta course featured plenty of sea urchin meat in a creamy sauce. Little piles of paddlefish caviar roe just added to the indulgence and sumptuousness:
The main entrée was comprised of sweet Dungeness crab pieces pan roasted in what tasted like a Bagna Cauda sauce. It was extremely messy, but well worth getting dirty for:
A small cast iron pan with fluffy rice topped with some peas and fried onions accompanied the crab:
Brandon’s next cocktail pairing was a Panama Bonal (Beefeater, St. George Rye Gin, Bonal, Cocchi Americano). The sweetness of the drink paired very well with the buttery crab:
Puntarelle dressed with an anchovy cream also accompanied the crab. The slight bitterness of the greens played well with the umami of the salted fish:
Brandon provided the first dessert: the Cookie Dough cocktail made with Scotch and half-half as a base, with some amaro to help start the digestion process. It was truly reminiscent of an uncooked cookie and is a variation of his excellent Scotcholate drink that he makes at KronnerBurger (which just happens to taste like a chocolate milkshake). Before we met Brandon, we were skeptical that Scotch and cream could work together as an after-dinner drink, but his concoctions are magical:
The actual dessert course consisted of a house-baked panettone served with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup. The ice cream and syrup makes the Milanese bread taste almost like a french toast:
Brandon had one more drink up his magical sleeve to serve us for dessert: a root beer float made with ice cream, flamed Rum and Polar Classic Root Beer:
We realize that this was a once-a-year offering that could easily be a once-in-a-lifetime dinner. We decided to post this with hope that Chef Anthony Strong and his Locanda crew will put one or all of the dishes on the menu since they were all really spectacular. Brandon and Gabe deserve much props for the bar program at Locanda. If you are ever lucky enough to grab a seat at the bar there, put yourself in their capable hands to come up with some very memorable cocktails.