The Five Best Dishes of the Month

Julia Sexton’s favorite (recent) food.

1) Potato-Leek soup at Ballyfin Demesne in County Laois, Ireland. This was during an intense, horse n’ hound week at the supremely elegant country house, now turned into a hotel. I’d just blown a five-inch raspberry into my shoulder at skeet shooting, screaming, “Pull!” and blasting that poor orange ceramic pigeon right out of the sky. I couldn’t stop. I knew after I’d shattered the first pigeon that I’d just found my favorite sport. After that, we raced overland in golf carts to a picnic house, where we tucked into the most delightful lunch of smoked local salmon sandwiches and a soulful, velvet-textured, potato-leek soup. The simple, hot soup was dizzyingly delicious, but, then again, I could have just been buzzed by firing the guns.

2) Venison with oat crust at Ballyfin Demesne. Listen, I don’t apologize. This creamy, purple-fleshed loin was served so rare that it was literally cool to the touch. Plus, it was coated with feather-textured, nutty discs of fragrant, locally sourced oats. It was rich, and lavish, and almost obscenely delicious…a perfectly aristocratic dish for a perfectly aristocratic day.

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photo by James Sexton

3) Notch at 888 Distillery, Nantucket, MA. I have a long and weird personal relationship with Nantucket: In some ways, I love it; in others, I hate it. I visited recently, and I couldn’t shake the phrase, “Occupy Nantucket!” on repeat in my head. I managed to step outside of town (with its Lovey and Thurston Howell III wannabees) and found all my people: the tattooed chefs, freaks, and farmers that gather nightly at Cisco Brewery on Bartlett Farm Road. Beside Cisco Brewery is 888 Distillery. Its “Notch” (as in, not Scotch) is absurdly expensive. You can buy an eight-year-old bottle for $888, or you can sample a 2-ounce pour in the garden for $20 plus the brewery’s $10 admission fee. Happily, you get to keep the branded nosing glass and I’m a sucker for those. The Notch was smooth, mineral, and warming—it was a chilly night in the biergarden—plus, I was thrilled to be among the Finest People on the Island.

4) Mousse de foies de volaille at Saint George. Yup, poultry liver mousse—and it was damn good, too: cognac-scented with the same melt-in-the-mouth texture of cool butter or chocolate truffles. In October, this sparkling newcomer stepped into the spot vacated (after 33 years) by Buffet de la Gare. I have high hopes that Saint George will be equally long-lived. 

5) Broccoli Soup, Home As you can see, this month was a bit of a…binge. I was hoping to pull my body back off the rumble strip by juicing, but when the weather turned cold, this was hard—my house is old and drafty, and I’m too cheap to waste the oil. Instead of my usual kale juice, I sweated some shallots in butter. I added a broken-up head of broccoli (peeled stems included) and about a pint of my own chicken stock. I boiled/steamed it all together until the broccoli was tender, then whizzed it all up with an immersion blender with salt and pepper. Result: a painless way to eat a head of broccoli for dinner.  

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