Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a small class at The Ryland Inn, in Whitehouse Station, by Executive Chef Anthony Bucco. The class was conducted in the intimate setting of the chef’s dining room adjacent to the restaurant’s immaculate, drop-dead-gorgeous kitchen.
The Ryland Inn and Chef Bucco are aiming to offer monthly classes focused on specific ingredients. The class I attended was based on sustainable fish and the next one will be on July 16 at 7 p.m. and will showcase New Jersey corn. It will include a four-course meal with a signature cocktail.
During fish class, Chef Bucco expertly broke down two local, sustainable fish: a fluke and a black bass. The fluke is a flat fish with eyes on top of its head while the bass is a more commonly-shaped fish with eyes on each side of its head. The butchering techniques for each fish were very different and Chef Bucco made it all appear simple and effortless and he provided invaluable tips and anecdotes that left us wanting to pay our fishmonger a visit to test out our own skills after class.
As a welcome treat, Chef de Cuisine Craig Polignano sent our group an amuse-bouche of octopus ceviche. The thoughtful dish did what it attempted – tease the mouth for what was to come.
For the fluke, Chef Bucco skillfully cut thin slices of the cleaned filets and served them sashimi-style with baby radish and strawberry. Chef Bucco explained the radish would add the heat found in more typical versions of sashimi. The pristine fish was mild and the complementing condiments made this a beautiful, light starter.
While Chef Bucco was tidying up for the black bass butchering, Chef Polignano sent us one of the better salads I have had of late: a perfectly seasoned fresh yellow and green bean salad with sorrel and a light creamy dressing. He dubs this creation the Evolution Salad.
After a few short minutes, the black bass was reduced to perfect filets to be served to some fortunate guests. The information shared during the fish prep was interesting and relevant to both kitchen novices and more seasoned home cooks.
Next came dry scallops, seared to a caramelized exterior and served with juiced corn. Chef Bucco provided tips on how to get a perfect sear on the scallops without overcooking them. Juiced corn is very clever and I will absolutely “borrow” this technique at an upcoming dinner party.
Our main course arrived as the class was wrapping up and was a perfect opportunity for Chef Bucco to introduce us to his front-of-the-house and kitchen team. Our entrée, once again prepared by the skillful Chef Polignano, was seafood chowder components. Very smart dish with cut fingerling potatoes, edamame, beautifully cooked tilefish and clams over a flavorful reduction. (One can pray Polignano will host a class on how to craft this dish in the future.)
Dessert was another of Chef Polignano’s creations: raspberry sorbet, panna cotta, lychee and shaved celery. I had not had celery in a dessert before, but it is subtle enough to be interesting and adds great texture. Nicely done.
Service was stellar as always, even with the many moving parts that a class can entail and our waiter, Casey, was a delight of professionalism and attentiveness.
I am looking forward to future classes at The Ryland Inn. I cannot imagine a more wonderful setting from which to learn while eating in the Garden State. I am also looking forward to the Farm-to-Fork dinner at The Ryland Inn on July 17. It should be all the best the area has to offer, expertly prepared in a beautiful outdoor setting.
The Ryland Inn
115 Old Highway 28
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.