Saturday, July 2, 2011

Justus Drugstore

Photo from The Pitch
   An experience this memorable deserves its own post. At Justus Drugstore in Smithville, I was treated to an appetizer of spring asparagus, lightly breaded with a side of morels and brown butter green garlic sauce; a salad featuring a crostini topped with goat cheese and fresh strawberries and wrapped in bacon; Berkshire pork two ways (a grilled ribeye, and a tender sausage... that pork ribeye changed my life!); a lavender lady cocktail to drink; and carrot cake beignets with cream cheese icing and maple cream for dessert. 
   And it wasn't just the food: the restaurant itself was special, from the handmade wooden tables to the colors to the open kitchen. (One surprise was that aside from the large apothecary jars on the bar, there weren't any reminders that this building used to be a family drugstore.) Owner Jonathan Justus himself, a warm and humble man, talked with us from the kitchen and explained his thinking, his inspiration, and his process. He knew what we had ordered and even returned to our table after the main course to see how we liked it. There was a definite subtlety to his cooking that made every flavor stand out and yet be in perfect harmony with everything on the plates.
   Impeccable service, incredible attention to detail, and masterful cooking. Well worth the drive to Smithville, which is not nearly as far as I thought. My knees are still buckled from all aspects of the experience.

Descriptions from the restaurant's menu:
• Spring Asparagus  lightly breaded asparagus, morel, chive, sorrel, brown butter green garlic sauce
• Goat Cheese Salad  wild berry jam stuffed, house cured Berkshire bacon wrapped, local goat cheese , crostini, shallot white wine vinaigrette, mixed greens, strawberry
• Newman Farm Berkshire Pork 2 Ways #13  grilled pork rib eye, winter spice pork shoulder sausage, house made dry vermouth/ foraged Autumn Berry sauce, risotto style barley, chestnut, white wine shallot white chard
• I don't recall exactly what was in my drink, the lavender lady, but it was citrusy and refreshing, and unusual because the bartender didn't overdo it on the alcohol. Seems like most bars load up the drinks because alchohol = value, but this was perfect because you could appreciate the taste and still keep all of your faculties intact!

And Ben was kind enough to let me try his dishes too:
• Maytag Blue Cheese: maple/Port vinaigrette, pear, blue cheese/black pepper ice-cream, arugula, Missouri black walnut tuile
• Freshwater Striper Bass ginger/star anise oil poached hybrid striper bass filet, potato saffron sauce,  fennel, wild mushroom,  black eyed pea fritter, curly endive, leek vinaigrette
• Chocolate Mint Decadence: chocolate ganache, milk chocolate, champagne mousse, chocolate/rose hip ice cream, mint milk, malted Chantilly