My Friday dinner at Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar was a last-minute impulse spurred by spotting photos on its facebook page of porchetta being prepped for evening service. I'd been fortunate to taste Chef Stephen Williams' porchetta once before, thanks to my new farmer friend Tricia Houston of Napoleon Ridge Farm + Nature Center, who arranged for me to attend an unforgettable pig tasting dinner there featuring one of her animals. A quick call to Bouquet confirmed they could fit me in at 6:30. So I turned the car around and sped to Covington.
Bouquet's menu always embraces the season and spotlights the best local produce, proteins, and other products Chef Williams can lay his hands on. For my first course, I was intrigued by the inclusion of blackberries in this tomato salad with julienned snow peas and shaved sheep's milk cheese, dressed in a basil-flecked mignonette. I am SO going to put blackberries together with tomatoes at home after tasting this combination.
"That salad is all Tricia," the chef told me when he stopped by my table, referring to the produce bursting with summer flavor. The one component from another source was the cheese. As soon as I read the menu description of it as "Kentucky sheep's milk cheese," I had to ask my server if it was from Good Shepherd Cheese. Sure enough. I met the owners of Good Shepherd last fall, who laid claim to making the only sheep's milk cheese in Kentucky, so I figured it had to be from them. I knew they were trying to expand into the Northern Kentucky market, and am delighted to see their cheese featured at Bouquet. When a couple at a table next to me raised the same question, I was even happier to know word about Good Shepherd is spreading.
Although my dinner reservation was impromptu, there was nothing last-minute about the porchetta main course. The Napoleon Ridge pork belly was stuffed with dijon, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and lemon zest, tied into a tight roll, then cooked sous-vide for 12-14 hours.
Chef Williams served a slice of the fatty, herby porchetta roll on a bed of peaches and carrots (a little too al dente for me) with tarragon, drizzled the plate with blackberry preserves, and topped the dish with one of my favorites – stuffed squash blossoms. These blossoms were filled with mascarpone, roasted mushrooms, and more blackberry preserves.
A great combination, and I liked the medium-sized portion for a dish that remains as rich as porchetta. Still, I hesitated when it came to ordering dessert. I considered sticking with a simple scoop of one of Bouquet's house-made ice creams, which never disappoint. But the "Jar Pie," a peach cobbler of sorts, sounded tempting.
I finally chose the rum cake. And was glad I did.
I asked Chef Williams how long he thought he'd have that porchetta, and he anticipated that what he's prepped will last through part of Saturday night's service. He has more Napoleon Ridge pork belly to work with and will likely start the two-day prep process with it next Tuesday. There's a possibility he'll offer this special in future as well, depending on, er, whether he can lay his hands on more pork belly.
You can find Tricia Houston, who also supplied the squash blossoms and peaches for Bouquet's porchetta, at the Covington Farmers Market Saturdays selling produce, eggs, sausages, and sometimes pork from her farm and others. She also operates a hidden gem called the Napoleon Ridge Grocery and Deli (just past where I-71 splits from I-75 toward Louisville). Keep an eye on the deli's daily specials via facebook and drool. Or better yet, stop by.
Meanwhile, even if you're not the porkavore I am, at Bouquet you'll find delicious and thoughtfully conceived dishes – including vegetarian options – that highlight spectacular seasonal ingredients, as well as great wines (and beers) and a knowledgeable and welcoming front-of-house staff. Seize a bit of summer on a plate and get yourself to Bouquet!