The chefs at Madison Park Conservatory do have a sense of fun, but they keep it under wraps. The dim lighting of the dining room, the slight stuffiness of the long room, the kitchen that you can peek into, but of which you can never get a full view - it can seem serious, even dull. The terrific food has always lifted the mood somewhat, but to experience the true nature of the chefs and their food, you need to come to one of their (numerous) special events: the second iteration of Tako Truck, as a Sunday afternoon event, or the current 'MONDAY, MONDAY, MONDAY!' producer-centric dinners.
The new Monday night feature is a great deal, and with a few tweaks could become a terrific weekly event. This past Monday was the first in the series, and featured Stokesberry Farm's chicken, lamb, and eggs, and Local Roots's vegetables. What it didn't feature, unfortunately, was the producers themselves. They were there, for certain, and while my seat a few tables away in the quiet dining room made me privy to some fantastic farmers market and restaurant gossip, there seemed to be no intention to involve the producers with the diners. A fellow diner made an effort to thank them and was spoken to politely, though the impression was that she was interrupting, rather than conversing with the producers, as the restaurant had implied in promoting the event.
With the wine marked down to half-price on all bottles and the dinner price set at $42 a person for a fixed four courses, the meal is a screaming value. Four courses of Madison Park Conservatory's food is well worth at least twice that, and seeing the chefs' talent as they work within the constraints of the specific producers made for intriguing twists on classic dishes, like the mascarpone and (Stokesberry Farm) egg frosting over a (Local Roots) carrot cake as the dessert.
From the first bite of chicken pâté on toast, where the pickled grapes hid in various cresses, offering pops of flavor, the dinner was lovely. The food and experience were well worth it, and if the producers make more of an effort to mingle with diners and open a dialogue about their products, everyone (the customer, the restaurant and the producers) will surely benefit. Next week the producer will be El Corazon Winery. Call the restaurant for more information or keep track of the dinners on their Facebook page.