It's been almost a year since Cameron Irons at Nieuport 17 reached out to us to promote their Aviation dinners. Our time is typically spent at the bar, talking to Tommy the bartender about his son. Yet we became designated dinner companion for this week's meal, featuring one Chef Cody Storts of The Volstead. You may recall our fearless editor referencing Storts' establishment under places with great concepts but terrible names. But enough about names, we'd rather talk about our meal!
We only made it through three courses before leaving for another engagement, but what we were served was not only pretty in presentation, but pretty damn delicious. While the price points for The Volstead may not be the same as Aviation's (since we aren't certain, an On the Line request is in order), if this is an indicator of what to expect–there's a new baller in SanTana.
Course one was bread and butter pickles, served alongside duck liver pate with sour beer mustard and toasted (Dean Kim of OC Baking shout out!) garlic crostini. Our pate was charged with nitrogen, giving it a whipped cream consistency. Once we assembled all the flavors into a solid bite, that's when it came together for us. Pickled heat, a puckered sour and the velvety texture would've been too heavy initially if not for the sum of its parts.
Our next course was a nod to his Texas roots, demonstrating how Southern foods can be more upscale. It was fennel and butter poached escolar, seared a la plancha, with wild mushroom grits topped with fennel fronds, caramelized onions and microgreens. Crispy black-eyed peas playfully garnished our plate, with a disintegrating char that was a curve ball to our palate. Our seafood was treated with care, retaining its rich flavor.
The entree featured three distinct tastes, representing the three categories Storts believes The Volstead's menu should be broken down into with regards to proteins: Swimmers, Flappers and Trotters. At one end, perfectly seared scallop in bergamot, sour orange burr blanc with a rice wine and miso glace. In the middle, buttermilk tempura-fried quail, stuffed with Dijon garlic crostini and toasted pepitas. Served over crisp Southern greens, it came with a dried Bing cherry, orange and saffron compote. And staring us down, creamed beef tongue with blue cornmeal crusted bull fries. "Lick my blue cornmeal balls!" became our catchphrase during this course. Our fondness for quail made it an easy target to devour first, with beef tongue taste made more palatable when mixed with our, um, fries.
We left before intermezzo and dessert, but we got a hold of the kitchen's notes to find out some of what we missed. Dessert by Pastry Chef Mai Phan was originally a peanut butter and jelly tart. However, someone scribbled a revision. "CB&J" contained a cashew nougat, red grape gelee, white grape fluid gel, Concord grape reduction, cashew powder and meringue.
Cody has at least one more Aviation dinner up his chef coat sleeve. Five courses with wine pairings is $125. For more information, look up Aviation Restaurant on Facebook. We may just take Storts up on his offer to return for our last two courses.