I went to Nectar last night to try the latest in Julie Francis's series of dinner parties featuring multiple uses of one ingredient. This was all about tomatoes. I've been eating an average of about one tomato per meal since the middle of July, most of them in my own recipe of sliced on a plate with salt. Maybe mayonnaise. But there's nothing more versatile than tomatoes, and Francis did a lot with them, all within high-summer Midwest parameters. The tomatoes were all from Sallie Ransohoff, tomato-grower to the stars--or at least to the better restaurants of Cincinnati.
There was a garlicy tomato bisque, with Francis's trademark crab salad garnishing it. There were fried green tomatoes with a spicy aioli, potato gnocchi with lobster and cherry tomatoes and the most delicious lobster reduction pooling around the edges), hangar steak with a pungent tapenade, and Swiss chard --the kind of thing Francis always does so well. My favorite course was a goat cheese cake with tomato sorbet. It was like a savory dish turned into dessert without losing its savory-ness. It was rather hot and loud in Nectar, but I do like the dinner party atmosphere, with everyone eating the same food at the same time, totally into it, applauding the chef, even applauding the grower! And I love to eat a series of small portions, with wine here and there to match.
These parties sell out, but if you'd like to experience the next one (maple syrup with Dan Berger) call Nectar and ask if they can squeeze you in.