One of the best things about being in the food industry: industry discounts. And industry friends who enjoy geeking out on food as much as you do.

Walking into the small, narrow space at SPQR on Fillmore, the sun was bright and shining at 5:30pm. We were immediately graced with a glass of bubbly which, in my opinion, is the only way to start a 4 hour 10 course meal.

As a teaser, Chef Matt Accarrino sent us out something I can only describe as squid fried à la pork-rind. It was light and airy, we theorized breaded in tapioca flour, served with black garlic aioli.

Our first course was chicken liver pâté topped with balsamic gelée and rhubarb marmelata, served in a mason jar with garlic and olive oil grilled bread. I’m not a huge fan of chicken liver pâté, but the tart acid in the gelée and marmelata balanced out the heavy liver nicely.

The second course was a beautiful mélange of crudo yellowtail, smoked almonds, bergamot, pickled jalapenos, citrus, and mint. The smokiness of the almonds paired magically with the clean crisp flavors of the mint and bergamot and complimented the fresh fish perfectly. I could easily eat this every day and be happy about it. Plus it was so aesthetically pleasing.

Next we had carrots done three ways. One was pickled– fresh, crunchy, slightly spicy. Another was what I would describe as a carrot ball that tasted a lot like stovetop stuffing– and I mean that in the tastiest way possible (although it was slightly on the dry side). The last way was a carrot poached in an herbal broth heavily perfumed with thyme. It was plated on a black slate slab and was topped with shaved lardo and some very interesting cheese “snow” that disintegrated upon tongue contact.

The fourth course was probably the best preparation of artichoke I’ve ever had: slow cooked carciofi (artichoke) stuffed with stracciatella (the inside most buttery part of buratta) served with thyme-poached cherry tomatoes and a quenelle of sundried tomato marmelata. Thin, crispy fried artichoke hearts added a nice crunch and elderflowers graced the dish as an edible garnish. It was seriously like tasting vegetarian heaven. Making a slice into the tender, herbaceous artichoke , the buttery, rich stracciatella oozes into your mouth and you swear there has never been an artichoke like that in your life. That plus the sweet, earthy sundried tomato marmelata was a combination so harmonious it was like they started singing If I Fall by The Beatles inside my mouth. It was all slow motion, cheesy running, love song playing montages in my head with each fork full.

Next was the veal and fontina stuffed agnolotti in a browned butter sage cream topped with shaved parmigiano. The flavors were nice, but the textures were all off. The pasta itself was either too al dente or was too cold upon serving. The cheese was shaved too thickly– it was pretty granular and didn’t marry with the texture of the pasta. Maybe this too wouldn’t have been a problem if the dish were warmer.

The smoked fettuccini with bacon, sea urchin, and a fried quail egg (a play on carbonara), was a beautiful marriage of smoke and fat. It can be very easy to overpower flavors with smoke, especially since there are two smoked elements in this dish, but it was so subtly done that it was delicate, not overwhelming. Adding the buttery uni and runny yolk made for a full-bodied, elegant flavor.

The quail we ordered was a tiny little tasty guy. Served with sour-cherry sage stuffing (where do they stuff a quail?!) and burnt orange sauce on a bed of turnips and carrots, it was cooked to perfection: fork tender inside with crispy skin. The stuffing was everything I wanted in a stuffing– flavorful with the herbaceous sage and fruit, texturally interesting with nuts, and most of all moist.

For dessert, the pistachio cake with honey marscapone cream and poached rhubarb was heaven. The cake itself wasn’t too sweet, so it was nice when paired with the sweet marscapone which was insanely rich and satisfying. The rhubarb was tart and fresh and crisp. Granola added a nice crunch.

Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous is a bomb diggity ice creamery in the dogpatch that I had not yet had the pleasure of trying. Their cookies & cream gelatto was gorgeous and luscious. I’ll be making the trek down there to try more flavors ASAP.

We cleansed our palates with a fresh lemon vanilla granita. The flavor of the lemon was so potent it tasted like they used essential oil from the rind. It was a refreshing way to end a big meal.

Then you must finish with an espresso. And a long walk. Rinse and repeat (with exercise, fatties).

Thanks to everyone at SPQR for an awesome meal. And Congrats, Chef, on winning Cochon 555 tonight!