Eight is the magic number for Matthew McPherin, executive chef and owner of Maize Restaurant in Perkasie.
That is how many courses each guest will receive when dining at Maize, thanks to a dramatic change in the restaurant’s menu.
An acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, Maize has been known for the fresh, innovative cuisine crafted by McPherin since it opened 10 years ago. An average dinner menu would offer about seven appetizers and seven entrees and a chef’s tasting menu.
But the limited kitchen space in the pocket-sized restaurant made creating a menu increasingly difficult, McPherin said, so he decided to offer only an eight-course tasting menu with each course being small enough that the customer would not feel overly stuffed. The numbered courses range from appetizers to entrees to dessert.
Other local restaurants offer tasting menus, but they also offer entrees or small plates for those who prefer to choose each course. At Maize, the choices lie in dietary restrictions: vegetarians can order eight vegetarian courses, while those with allergies can specify which ingredients they can’t eat. Other than those, the menu each night will vary according to what the chef finds during his daily visits to area farms and food purveyors.
“I visit about six to seven farms each day,” said McPherin, in search of the best, freshest, high-quality ingredients.
During a soft opening for the new menu last week McPherin’s first course was a perfectly cooked sea scallop perched on a combination of butternut squash, bacon, bok choy, pistachios and pistachio sauce. He graciously accommodated a customer’s request for no scallop by switching the main ingredient to a piece of poached bass.
The second course was tuna tartare topped with his green bean-preserved tomato salad with a side of herb pesto and a drizzle of red chile sauce.
Pumpkin-lobster soup was the third course, drawing raves from the guests, who enjoyed the sweet pieces of poached lobster in the savory pumpkin soup with crunchy pumpkin seeds on top and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil.
The fourth course was handmade gnocchi sweetened by a sweet potato base, with contrasting flavors from poblano peppers, roasted onions, almonds and rosemary sauce.
Tender short ribs over parsnip puree with beef jus and roasted carrot were the fifth course, with a soupcon of champagne sorbet to clear the palate before the sixth course, a serving of duck breast with Swiss chard, roasted mushrooms, a sunchoke and duck jus.
Triple cream goat cheese over a roasted beet with aged balsamic vinegar was the cheese course, while the eighth and final course was apple cake. A variation on McPherin’s mother’s recipe, the small cake was accompanied by scoops of crème fraiche and cinnamon ice cream.
It sounds like a lot, but McPherin balances the flavors, textures and serving sizes to maximize his customers’ enjoyment.
The new eight-course menu is in effect at the restaurant at a trial price of $55, which lasts until November when it goes up to $85.