103-Word Valentine to Shoulder-Season Dishes


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Last October, a Deuxave duck-confit special blew me away. The burnished skin was flawless, but the genius was in the plating: piquant yellow-pepper piperade; raisiny tomato jam; crispy disks of cornmeal-and-smoked-paprika-dusted green tomato. The finesse with which the chef straddled seasons—bright, sprightly late summer woven seamlessly into fall’s impending earthiness—reminded me what a revelation such shoulder-season dishes can be and how often, instead, they’re poorly calibrated mash-ups (i.e., a striper with a heavy, ill-matched chanterelle sage sauce I endured elsewhere one September evening). As winter thaws into spring, here’s hoping more kitchens nail the underlying key change with such glorious subtlety.