Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dinner by Design Event Review (Part II): Getting Inked At Dinner

In my last post, I left you with a review of Adam Bostwick's intermezzo - a BRILLIANT lime gelatin wedge. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm no stranger to getting inked... But thanks to Chef Ellis Cooley and Emerging Chefs, last Wednesday was the first time it's ever happened during dinner.

Course Four

Course four was titled "Black and White" and was comprised of bay scallops, farro, and squid ink. Before my full-on foray into the foodie world, squid ink was something I only saw on Iron Chef Japan - and even then it was something I was half intrigued, and half horrified about. Chef Cooley's scallops were sweet and cooked magnificently - they had a buttery, pillowy texture. The farro was toothsome and almost fun to eat, while the squid ink provided an indescribable (but pleasant!) briny-ness. I really liked this one and felt the portion was just right.

Course Five

By the fifth course I was blissed out on the wine pairings, while visions of spiced lime jellies wiggled in my head. Still, we carried on! This was a lamb loin with a cipollini soubise (a soubise is a thickened, bearnaise-style sauce made with onions and cream, sometimes potato), a spice brittle and fava beans. The soubise was my favorite part of this dish, to be honest! I could have eaten that with some mashed yukons and collapsed into a carb-induced coma. The brittle was also very good, and the lamb had a lot of great flavor. The loin seemed a little tough to me, but it was worth the extra effort in my opinion. It was cooked perfectly. I was not crazy about the fava beans, but that had nothing to do with Chef Cooley's take on them - I am just not a fan of favas. The favas added a strident, earthy and bitter flavor to the dish, which was complimentary to the rest of the plate.

Course Six

Would you eat a bacon cookie? Of course you would, especially if it was made by Amp 150's Chef Ellis Cooley. The sixth and final course is what I affectionately refer to as the pièce de résistance, a dessert so busy it almost needs a traffic cop. While we're on the topic of law enforcement, this was also so fun and decadent, it should be illegal (only not really). I ate this in an "around the world" style, trying to come back to everything more than once. Starting at the bottom right and moving clockwise, we have:

- A dark chocolate truffle with sour apple. This was a very simple treat, but lovely. The sour apple balanced perfectly with the chocolate. I tried my best to make this three bites.

- Dehydrated honey. This was honey, nothing more. The flavor once again evoked nostalgic memories, this time of being six, shoulder-tied sundresses and freckled shoulders in the summer breeze. I really loved this.

- Chocolate pannacotta with "fizzy" and a bacon cookie. The "fizzy" was a powder that reminded me of the Ramune soda flavored hard candies I used to buy at an Asian grocery in Columbus. The idea was to make the flavor like that of an egg cream. The bacon cookie was spectacular, I found myself wishing for another one. The flavor of this cookie would make Michael Symon blush, it was so good. It went perfectly with the pannacotta.

- Beet jelly with citric acid (To make it tart, like a Sour Patch Kid). This was really good, and initially hard to believe it was made of beet. After the second bite I could tell. I liked this, though it was very sour!!

- The middle was a chocolate foam, which was nice but not my favorite. It seemed to be the most subdued of all of the aspects of this dessert, but I believe this was probably the idea. It was nice to come back to, especially after the sour jelly!

The Dinner by Design event was truly a night never to be forgotten. The music was fantastic (I really loved the remix of "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) and the atmosphere was charged with the curiosity and enthusiasm of of other foodies like myself. It was great to be a part of a group who may never meet again, but were for one night, kindred spirits in the name of good food.

Thank you for reading!

Monday, April 18, 2011

When Life Gives You Limes, You Cleanse Your Palate With Them (Part 1 of 2)

Emerging Chefs has hosted several events in Cleveland that feature many of Cleveland's greatest culinary marvels who expand the minds of the attendees and push the boundaries of creativity and innovation to create spectacular edibles. This is my review of their most recent event, Dinner by Design. I will be posting this in two parts.

My upcoming wedding has taken a lot of free time (and my sanity), so Dinner by Design was my first EC event. As Jeff and I rode the elevator to the top floor of what used to be the Tyler Elevator Company, neither of us really knew what to expect. Walking down the hallway, it felt like I was walking towards a room full of presents and all I wanted to do was find out what they were!

The dining area was transformed from a raw space in the historic building to something truly wonderful to behold - and the sights got even better as the sun went down, thanks to Rock The House and Event Source. Before long, it was time for two of Cleveland's culinary innovators to reclaim the transformed space and elevate the palates of about 100 lucky Clevelanders to a whole new level.

Adam Bostwick's Amuse consisted of bocconcini, tomato "leather", chorizo oil, spring pea paper/paste and micro arugula and mozzarella cheese. Accompanying the Amuse was a champagne cocktail made with lavender elixir and fresh lavender.

Amuse by Chef Adam Bostwick

The Amuse seemed like a playful take on a caprese salad. The tomato leather had a bold flavor, lending a bit of acidity and saltiness to the bocconcini. The portion size was quite generous (more than one bite, easily). I could see this being a small plate at a Mediterranean tapas restaurant.

Chef Ellis Cooley of Amp 150 Cleveland

Course One
Chef Ellis Cooley came out to greet the crowd and explain his first offering, a yellowtail and hamachi "crudo" with an apple/dill puree and celery juice "roe". Sesame was listed as a component on the menu, but it was quite subtle and went unnoticed by me. The fish was rolled and sliced thinly, and had a wonderful flavor. The dill/apple puree had a grassy flavor that I was extremely fond of. The "roe" appears on the plate with a dewy, green color. Its flavor reminded me of a rainstorm, cool and earthy. Both accompaniments complimented the raw fish, heart and soul.

Course Two

Our second course was a torchon (a method of cooking by which the foie is placed in a towel and poached - "torchon" is also French for towel!) of foie gras with ice and snow. The ice was a jelly made with ice wine and the "snow" was a powder made with the fat from the foie gras. This was accompanied by micro greens and a brioche funnel cake. The components were all great, but the magic happened when you put them all on the fork at once. Doing this resulted in a flavor that I can best describe as a savory ice cream cone, and that was a wonderful thing.

Course Three

The third course was a visually striking square bowl of pea and coconut soup with marshmallow (yes, marshmallow!) and carrot. This course was served just at sunset, hence the darker picture. When the sun went down, the room totally transformed.

View from my table

Reflection from the skylight

The soup was velvety in texture, and the accent of carrot puree added a subtle bitterness, while the marshmallow contributed some sweetness. Unfortunately, this is the only course I didn't finish. Halfway through the bowl, a man at my table asked everyone, "Does this taste burnt to you?". Perhaps it was the power of suggestion, but I did notice a scorched aftertaste. Intended or not, it was off-putting to me and once the marshmallow was gone, I stopped eating. I really want to give this course a second chance, perhaps in my own kitchen. The concept and design of the soup were both phenomenal.

Intermezzo by Chef Adam Bostwick

The intermezzo was one of the most inventive and brilliant things I've ever eaten. As the servers brought this out, I could only spy from a distance what appeared to be a slice of lime. I thought it was plausible, to cleanse your palate with a lime, but I had secretly hoped I didn't have to! It turns out the lime was actually a lime flavored agar agar gel in an actual lime peel. It was accented with agave nectar and jalapeño. This was meant to mimic a tequila shot. With the wine pairings, we definitely didn't need any more booze!

The initial flavor was lime with the pure, green flavor of a jalapeño pepper. Seconds later, the heat kicked in and put a slow, gentle burn in the back of your throat. This was a fantastic palate cleanser. Jeff remarked that he'd buy this if it was sold in stores (in a cup) or in a restaurant. I would agree with that!

This concludes the first part of my review. I've been so involved with wedding related activities (my shower and bachelorette parties were this past weekend) that I've had little time to write. I will post the second half of this review on Wednesday!

I was invited as a guest of Emerging Chefs to this event. The views and opinions in this post are my own.