Roast Duck at Sopra’s in Lake Geneva, WI
There are very few instances where I, an admitted snob, will claim that a meal changed me as a person in some way. I’ve eaten many things, prepared by many skilled and highly regarded culinary artists around the world. Each dish was wonderful and many were unique, but this is the first time I’ve ever eaten a perfect meal.
Art is a culmination of experience, both expressed and absorbed. With food, it is no different. I have had duck before and I consider it my favorite bird to eat, but this passed Thursday night, I was treated to a meal that requires serious consideration. I was treated to a meal that I will never forget.
It was duck breast. Two, juicy, perfect cuts, seared skin-down and seasoned in a way that changed nothing about the flavor of the bird but amplified it instead, while managing to curb any gaminess that one might encounter with water fowl. The skin was crisped but tender and the meat unrelentingly juicy. Medium around the edges and a perfect medium rare throughout the center.
But while the duck was the main attraction, it was the sides that made this dish perfect. They balanced the entire meal while remaining interesting. No plain, common mash with this bird. No. Instead, a hearty helping of buttery, cinnamon-accented sweet potato fries. I’ve never had sweet potato fries this delicious - crisp and flaky exteriors with a gooey, melting interior - and would gladly eat them for dessert with vanilla bean gelato or simply by themselves in a basket. On the other side of the entree was a pile of warm, lightly grilled nectarines. Fruit with duck is common. Some sort of berry or oranges are the norm, but these are usually used to garnish and glaze the bird and rarely served as a side-dish.
It might help you to know that the events of the day leading up to this meal were far from pleasant. I’d spent all day feeling miserable about my floundering relationship/friendship with someone very dear to my heart as well as my failure as a producer/director on my latest would-be film project. My life-force was sapped and I spent the appetizer sequence of dinner-with-my-parents as an unentertaining, unenthusiastic mannequin of myself. Then a glass of blue-label comes around as a treat to lift my spirits slightly, followed shortly by this amazing plate of foodstuffs.
My first bite of succulent duck left me speechless.
The second bite, mixed with a chunk of warm nectarine left me putting my fork and knife down to chew and contemplate. That perfect… literally perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors, offset by the mild zest of a chipotle cream sauce… it fixed my day. My parents couldn’t tell and I lacked the energy to express it externally, but on the inside I was welling up with tears of joy. I wanted to break down and cry.
And yes, that seems wildly dramatic, but I swear to you it is the god’s honest truth. This picture hardly does the dish justice, and I must take into account that my own personal experience may have been wildly influence by the misery of the day prior to eating at Sopra’s, but I would gladly eat there again and try the same dish under different circumstances, and I’m almost certain it will still be - for lack of a better term - a religious experience.