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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Uproot Review

The Savior of Somerset
Uproot brings forth the best food Somerset County has ever been able to call theirs

            About a year ago when I was really starting to get into food I was always complaining of how there were zero good restaurants in my neighborhood (Warren, NJ). I had to travel a very long way to reach an establishment that served great food. Then, last November when Uproot opened, it all changed. When I heard that there was going to be a fine dining restaurant opening in my town I was very excited. Some people in the community thought the restaurant was weird because they were serving bone marrow, foie gras, and quail. At first, the people that had no idea about good food (which there were lots) thought the restaurant was not going to be good at all and thought the restaurant was going to fail and close down. These people pissed me off because they had absolutely no idea of what they were talking about. It was like my little sister, Ally who is eight years old, telling William Shakespeare that his poetry was awful. However once these people ate at Uproot their minds quickly changed.
            I was eager to both dine at Uproot and work there. I wanted to get experience working in a restaurant environment that served very high quality food. I sent them an email expressing my passion for food and how I would like to be an intern there. After an interview with the executive chef Anthony Bucco I was allowed to work there once a week for four hours. My first day working there was March 1st. I arrived extremely nervous and excited, and expected to be just watching, but I was completely wrong. I was making tuiles for one of the desserts. The tuile batter would go into a mold, and then to the oven until they turned golden brown and then I would remove the tuiles and mold them on a rolling pin very swiftly (If I was too slow the tuiles would harden before I would have been able to shape them). Next I was peeling salt baked beets. Then after working on prep work I got to watch service in action while chatting with some of the cooks and the sous chef Mark Farro. They were very impressed when I knew why gelatin was being added to a huckleberry soda (the gelatin was being used as a clarifying element). I was finally in my element, with people that shared the same passion I did. So far I have accumulated about ninety hours of working at Uproot. Now, a typical day for me at Uproot would consist of me peeling asparagus, shucking favas and peas, cutting mirepoix, brunoise carrots, and peeling grapes. The chefs at Uproot are more trained than me (They have worked with Daniel Boulud, Daniel Humm, Terrance Brennan, and Drew Nieporent) so I do feel out of my league, but that is how you learn.
            I arrived with my mom at Uproot at 6:45, seconds before it started pouring. We were greeted with a smile. The wait staff made us both feel very welcomed and relaxed from the start of our arrival. We were asked what we would like to drink and I got water, while my mom got a chardonnay. My mom said at first that her wine was not great, but she said it grew on her and she ended up loving it. After our drinks were served, the executive chef, Anthony Bucco, came out into the dining room to greet us. He asked if my mom had any dietary restrictions, which she didn't (Anthony Bucco knew of my allergies because I had been working with him for 3 months). My mom and I were asked if we would like bread and of course we said yes. The bread was the perfect temperature, just warm. Not too hot so the butter would melt, but still warm. The bread was crisp on the outside and doughy and soft on the inside.The bread is brought to Uproot par baked from an artisanal bake shop in the area. The butter is whipped up with honey and salt, which gives the bread a nice sweet, salt, and nutty contrast.
            Now it was time to choose our dinner choices. For first courses my mom decided on pan roasted day-boat scallop with an English Pea puree, melted leeks, and pea tendrils. She decided on this first course over a crudo of salmon served with Beets, Lime Crème Fraiche, and micro herbs because she wanted me to be able to try her course (I am allergic to all flat fish, but no shellfish). I decided on Agnolotti with English peas, fava beans, wax beans, confit tomatoes and fresh ricotta because I wanted to taste spring for the last time this year (I am going away to camp where the food is nothing close to good). For entrees, my mom decided on aMaine lobster carbonara with Angel hair, Pancetta, and an Americano Sauce and I decided on a roasted Lamb Loin with Crispy Lamb Shoulder, sautéed spinach, and red cabbage.
            Then, amuses arrived for the table. There were two Pitted olives topped with tuna, a play on a tuna nicoise. The staff at Uproot was well aware I was allergic to tuna, so them sending out two servings of tuna kind of confused me. Either they made a mistake or just gave two servings to my mom and none to me, which makes no sense to me. My mom said that she was surprised she liked the amuse because she typically does not like olives. Next, the first courses arrived. My agnolotti was beautiful to look at. There were many contrasting colors on the plate. My first bite contained favas, peas, and an agnolotti. When I started to taste my first bite I was surprised because it was pretty bland. I knew the kitchen staff was better than this; they always seasoned their food perfectly. My next bite contained some of the confit tomato and now I realized why the other components of the dish were not salted heavily. The confit tomato added the salty component to the dish, and it bursted with tons of flavor. Since there were only three chunks of confit tomatoes that were fairly big you had to cut the confit tomatoes into smaller pieces so you got a piece of them in each bite. Next, I tried some of my mom's scallop dish. The dish was very beautiful to look out. There were four seared scallops on top of a pea puree that was garnished with some pea tendrils. The white, golden brown, and green colors all looked great together. The scallops themselves were cooked perfectly. They were golden brown on the outside and very tender on the inside. The scallops tasted like the essence of the sea, they were salty, sweet, and buttery. The pea puree was rich, creamy, and delicious. My mom was obsessed with the fleur de sel that was sprinkled on the scallops. That was her first time ever tasting that variety of salt. After my mom finished her first glass of wine she was asked if she wanted a second glass of the same wine. She said yes, but a few minutes later our waiter came with a different chardonnay. He apologized that they ran out of the last wine. This chardonnay he said was more expensive and better, but he would only charge for the first wine. That was a very nice thing the staff at Uproot did. My mom said she absolutely loved the second chardonnay.
            Next our entrees arrived. My lamb was not as aesthetic as the other dishes of the evening, but it still looked great. My lamb loin was cooked perfectly, a nice crust was developed on the exterior and the interior was cooked to a tender medium rare. The cabbage was a purple reddish color and it contained a lot of flavor and added some nice texture to the dish. The lamb shoulder was wrapped in feuilles de brick. The lamb shoulder was very flavorful and the crisp dough added a great crunch. Then I got to try my mom's lobster. This dish is in the top two dishes of my life (The other dish was an amuse at Del posto that was chicken broth with parmesan and egg). The lobster is shelled then put in a bag with lots of butter and seasonings. Next the lobster is put in the cyrovac and all the air is taken out. When an order for the lobster is called in the kitchen the bag is placed in a water bath that is temperature controlled by an immersion circulator. The lobster is cooked at a low temperature very slowly in tons of butter so the lobster is extremely tender and very buttery, which is a great thing. You receive a claw and a tail with the dish. The lobster itself is by far the best lobster I have ever had in my life. Now the buttery lobster is paired with a buttery angel hair pasta that again was by far the best pasta I have ever had in my life. The pasta was rich with parmesan cheese and spiked with lemon juice to add some nice acidity. The crispy pancetta added a nice textural contrast to the perfect dish.
            Now it was time for desert. My mom and I were going to split one desert. This decision was very challenging. All of the deserts were very playful and exciting. The deserts ranged from a Banana Tempura with Rum Gelee, Chocolate Ganache, and Banana Ice Cream, or a tasting of strawberry, which consisted of a gelee, shortcake, soda, and vanilla cream, and a few others. I ultimately decided on the strawberry because there were nuts in the banana tempura and in the majority of the other deserts. When we received the tasting of strawberry we also received a tasting of house-made sorbets and ice creams. There were pineapple sorbet, blackberry sorbet, banana ice cream, and mint ice cream with chocolate crisps. Both sorbets were extremely refreshing, light, and tasted exactly like the fruit they were derived from. The banana ice was very smooth and rich. The mint ice cream was rich and refreshing at the same time and had a nice textural contrast with the chocolate crisps. The tasting of strawberry was extremely appealing to the eye. First, the shortcake was very tender and slightly crisp. The gelee added moistness to the dish. The strawberry soda tasted like the pure essence of strawberry. It was one of the best drinks I have ever tasted, but I did not detect any "bubbles" that would classify it as a soda.  I know that the drink was carbonated, but maybe it was not carbonated enough. There were also compressed strawberries on the plate that tasted like very intense strawberries. The whipped cream was delicious and there was a basil garnish in top of the whipped cream. The basil added a nice herbaceous and peppery flavor to the desert.
            Overall the service was nearly perfect and friendly. The atmosphere was very comfortable. The music that was being played was at the perfect sound level so that it would not disturb your conversation. Also, my chair was very comfortable to sit in. The lights were dimmed, but there were candle lights that equated out to the perfect amount of light.
            After dinner I took my mom back to the kitchen to show her around. We chatted with Chef Anthony Bucco for awhile about the restaurant, NY Times was in the day before; also Uproot was nominated for best restaurant in NJ in NJ Monthly magazine. Additionally, they are going to cook in the James Beard House soon (Maybe I could go with them to the James Beard House, which would be awesome). Then I brought up the Summit Food and Wine Festival and Chef Anthony Bucco said I could assist him in the food preparations for the event (I am extremely excited for that. I might get to meet some really cool people).
            Uproot is just as good as the top restaurants in New York. I personally can say that the lobster at Uproot is better than the lobster I had at Del Posto. The shellfish preparations at Uproot are better than any other place I have been to (Del Posto, Jean Georges, Eleven Madison Park, and Bouley). Go to Uproot now before it gets discovered and reservations become extremely hard to obtain.

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