May 5, 2013

For a Special Occasion: The Fountain at The Four Seasons

The trend among Philadelphia restaurant openings today leans heavily toward gourmet pizza shops, food trucks and high-quality-yet-affordable eateries where jeans are always acceptable. Jacket-required, $$$$ restaurants may be on the way out, but recent experience tells us that there is still a time and place for the white tablecloth.

Case In Point

A few weeks ago we took our sister- and new brother-in-law to The Fountain at The Four Seasons as their wedding present. When it comes to family, spending time together over an outstanding meal beats out stainless steel cookware and fluffy towels any day. 

Sauteed jumbo sea scallop
We will disclose upfront that a good friend of ours is a veteran server at The Fountain so he'd been begging us to come for a long time. He provided generous pours of wine and ensured our service was A+ but we paid full price for our meal.

Also keep in mind that chef William DiStefano's five-course weekend tasting menu at The Fountain is $100 per person, plus $60 each for wine pairings, so we're talking about a big night out. 

This was an exquisite meal paired perfectly with wines that we would probably never have otherwise and service that really does make you feel like a million bucks. For the right and rare occasion, it's worth considering.

You won't walk away stuffed like at a steakhouse but you will be full of memories from every sip and bite. And likely pretty drunk, too, since we're talking about five glasses of wine. Plus we added port to the end.

The Fountain did also add an a la carte menu  - a sign of the changing times - and shorten its traditional tasting menu to three courses during the week, so you can have a lovely dinner there at a somewhat lower price point, too. 

The tasting menu will change seasonally but to give you an idea, we'll let these photos do the work.


The sauteed jumbo sea scallop to start (see above) included crispy pieces of soppressata and a smoked scallop pate on top, with chick pea veloute around the bottom. Tiny serving of just one tender scallop so you'll reach to savor every last bite. (Paired with Pinot Gris, Trimbach Reserve, Alsace, France, 2007) 

Warm marinated ahi tuna sashimi
Second Course

Hands down the best of the night, warm marinated ahi tuna sashimi was served on to-die-for creamy potato risotto, with American hackleback caviar, acidic tomato chive and olive oil green vermouth sauce. We were tempted to ask for an extra one of these at the end of the night but that wouldn't be very classy. (Paired with Carmenere, Carmen, Gran Reserva, Apalta Vineyards, Colchagua, Chile, 2009 - my favorite wine of the night, too) 


Roasted Australian rack of lamb
Main course was roasted Australian rack of lamb, with creamy cauliflower puree, roasted brussels sprouts, medjool date and smoked apple wood bacon. Delicious flavors but small amount of meat. (Paired with Syrah, Truchard, Napa-Carneros, California, 2009)

The men at the table actually substituted in a grilled Australian lamb saddle from the a la carte menu that was also great but a little heartier portion. Don't be afraid to ask for subs if something else really catches your eye. The Four Seasons "way" is to never say no. 

Soft brie de meaux cheese plate
Cheese Course

A generous portion of soft brie de meaux cheese followed, accompanied by toasted marcona almonds, fig jam, spinach leaves and jerez vinaigrette. We did not leave a speck of this delicious cheese on our plates. I'm often tempted to order cheese plates after meals and never do - this was a reminder why it works so well. (Paired with Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch, Sonoma Coast, California, 2009)

Chocolate Souffle

Lastly, our server split up our sweets, offering the ladies the restaurant's signature chocolate souffle  and the gents a flan-type dessert from the regular menu. Comfortingly soft and warm inside, beautiful detail on the outside, and not at all heavy. (Paired with Botrytis Semillion, Elderton, Riverina, Australia, 2009)

A Royal Affair

In the end, we felt like kings and queens. You will want for nothing at a place like the Four Seasons because there is always someone there to push in your chair, offer an extra warm roll and ensure you know exactly why you're drinking that wine with that dish. (Read more in this Zagat interview about how many people actually serve you at The Four Seasons, without you even realizing it)

Five glasses of wine helps ease the shock when the bill arrives but the next day we were all smiles, recalling not only the great food, wine and service, but more importantly how special the entire experience was to share with family.

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