Sanguine Spritz – Deer County Montmorency Cherry Juice and L’Etoile Orgeat Syrup
Summer Vacation Fizz – Fresh housemade limeade and strawberry topped with charged thyme fizz
Local Beet with Fennel Pollen and Goat Cheese Cream
Red Pepper Gazpacho with buttered croutons and basil oil
House made rolls with local unsalted butter
Cape Cod Grilled Scallops – Corn, Hen of the Woods, Charred Scallion Vinaigrette
La Belle Farms Foie Gras Ganache – Apricots, Mustard Seeds, Peach Strawberry Jus, Brioche
Neah Bay Sablefish – Porcini Cream, Dried Veal, Bok Choy
Blue Valley Gardens Duck Breast – Beets, Red Mustard Greens, Cocoa Nibs, Lavender Jus
Pinn Oak Ridge Lamb Loin – Borlotti Beans, Roasted Peppers, Lamb Tongue, Swiss Chard, Rosemary Jus
Three Month Pleasant Ridge Reserve – Hash Brown, Grey Shallot, Blackberry
Barnard Donut Peach Sorbet – Cinnamon Sugar Beignets
Caramel Corn, Blackberry Gelee, Blackberry Truffle
Considered by many to be the best restaurant in Madison, and by some to be the most elegant dining experience in the state, I’d be lying if I stated L’Etoile wasn’t a large part of the reason why I decided to drive to Wisconsin and after a rather pleasant experience at Graze that afternoon it was just minutes past 7:00pm that I again entered the doors of 1 S. Pinckney Street, a table set for one at the restaurant’s center mine for the night. Toqued by Chef Tory Miller and similarly focused on locally sourced proteins and produce as the space next door it was once more that I found myself seated amidst floor-to-ceiling windows but with the capitol now illuminated and tables clad in white linen the mood was decidedly different, the majority of other diners clearly celebrating special events as any number of candle-lit desserts emerged from the kitchen throughout the night. Offered in two formats, prix fixe or tasting, it was without hesitation that I opted to enjoy L’Etoile’s signature experience and although service was a bit off-kilter as my captain often interrupted me to repeat descriptions of plates already well presented it was without a single flaw in execution that each plate arrived, the flavorless house-bread and ice-cubes of butter a lone exception to the rule. Starting off with the first of two elegant mocktails as a canapé and an amuse whetted the palate it was after a bit of delay that my first course arrived but with the thinly sliced scallops finding even more sweetness in late season corn atop an anchor of mushrooms and bright tomatoes one could hardly complain, a textbook terrine of foie gras melting into a sweet, rich soup quick to follow on its heels. With another short stoppage between plates it was onward to flaky sablefish with crispy skin atop earthy mushroom puree that the meal progressed and rounding out savories with a rosy strip of duck amidst pleasant aromatics followed by a thick cut of lamb atop early winter beans cooked to a cream-like consistency not one of the five plates would prove anything short of stellar, a thin wedge of cheese no less impressive when plated against crispy potatoes and aromatic onions tempered by house-made jam. Admittedly coveting several of the desserts listed in the prix fixe and almost requesting a supplemental course (or three) it was mostly with a mind on the late hour and another full day to come that I showed some restraint and with two brioche beignets arriving alongside no less than four presentations of peach I perfectly satisfied, the trio of mignardises a final send-off with the fruit-filled truffle stealing the show from fresh popped corn lacquered in caramel that was also quite good.
RECOMMENDED: Offering a seasonal experience I’ll simply say that nothing but the bread was less than excellent, Chef Miller showing a particularly strong skillset with fibrous items like mushrooms, beans, and assorted local greens.
AVOID: The bread that night was dreadful while the butter, particularly given the state’s dairy industry, was an insipid, icy block.
TIP: Featuring one of the most innovative mocktail lists I’ve seen to this day even those not wishing to imbibe will be impressed by the drink menu at L’Etoile, most of the options featuring seasonal fruits and house-made elixirs or bitters with a multitude of techniques employed in their craft.