***Have you entered to win my Jamaican treats giveaway? You have until Sunday, April 17 at 8am to enter for a chance to win a chocolate Tortuga rum cake, 8 ounces of world-famous Blue Mountain coffee, and a Jamaica shot glass.***
By now, you’ve been able to see that one of my favorite answers to “Why Cleveland?” is the incredible food scene. And one of the newest, coolest, most interesting additions to the CLE food scene is Emerging Chefs. Co-founded by Michael DeAloia, David Moss, and Rick Turner, Emerging Chefs puts on monthly events that are a playground for both CLE chefs and devoted foodies. The food is different than what you’ll find on the chefs restaurants’ menus, the venues are eclectic, and the vibe is pure fun.
CLEguy and I finally attended an Emerging Chefs event last night. The event was entitled Dinner by Design and our chef for the evening was Ellis Cooley of AMP 150. The event was held at Tyler Village Building 44. Tyler Village is one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the country – as old factory buildings are turned into new and beautiful space for businesses who want to stay in downtown CLE. Emerging Chefs Co-Founder Michael DeAloia and I talked about how the event last night was a microcosm of CLE – great food, wonderful people, in a setting that is both embracing its history and re-inventing itself.
Speaking of wonderful people, we got to catch up with some fantastic CLEbloggers last night. In attendance were Hungry in Cleveland, Poise in Parma, Cleveland Food and Brews, The Brewer’s Daughter (who it was so great to finally meet in person), The Journeyman Cook (ditto), Clue Into Cleveland, and Girl About Cleveland (who I didn’t get to meet face-to-face, but we’ll fix that soon hopefully).
The concept behind Dinner by Design was to showcase how design affects all our senses and changes our experience. And that meant not just changing the design of the food. When we arrived, the room looked like this:
And by the end of the evening, the room looked like this:
As the room changed, so did the food (or vice versa). So, let’s get to it…
First, we were treated to an amuse bouche from Chef Adam Bostwick of Melange. This tasty bite included fresh mozarella, English pea puree, and tomato leather. I already wanted to lick my plate clean and we weren’t even to the first course! This course also featured a delightful champagne cocktail with lavendar essence and fresh lavendar.
Our first course was a Yellowtail and Hamichai crudo, with a puree of dill and apple. What looked like roe on the plate was actually gelled celery. And the dill and apple puree mimicked the look of wasabi. The crudo was finished with a drizzle of olive oil. Overall, this dish was fresh and light, with great “spring” flavors. And the design of the plate, as well as the intricate weaving of the Yellowtail and Hamichai provided a visual treat.
Our second course featured foie gras, which is always a hit in my book.
Since this was Dinner by Design, there were sure to be some interesting elements to the dish. Our menu said the foie gras would be served with ice and snow and a brioche funnel cake. As CLEguy said, we know what the words mean, but still had no idea what we’d be eating. The “ice” in the dish was a gelled ice wine. And the snow, which looked like the powdered sugar you’d see on a traditional funnel cake, was actually foie gras. Really. Chef Cooley told us. And the brioche funnel cake – genius! Such an inventive and fun way to play with the traditional bread served with foie gras.
Then came the course that had everyone in the room buzzing – after they stopped inhaling the yummy-ness.
This was a pea and coconut soup, topped with a homemade marshmallow, carrot jelly, and a tuile with a dusting of carrot. The texture of the soup was spot on, creamy and rich. The flavor was fresh and somewhat earthy, offset nicely by the sweetness of the coconut milk. I’ve raved about Chef Cooley’s mushroom soup at AMP 150 and this pea and coconut soup is equally worthy of plate-licking praise. I asked Chef Cooley if he would consider being my professional soup chef (shouldn’t everyone have one of those?!).
Next came our intermezzo, also courtesy of Chef Bostwick of Melange. It was a faux tequila shot, served in a lime rind. The gel inside the lime rind had agave syrup, jalapeno peppers, and other assorted yummy ingredients. The “shot” brought together bitter, sweet, and spicy flavors in a truly unique and interesting way.
Next came our fourth course, entitled “Black and White.” The “white” were bay scallops, perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. The “black” was farro (whole grains that taste somewhat similar to rice) with squid ink. I’ve had squid ink rice before, so I knew I was in for a treat. The heartiness of the farro, paired with the delicate bay scallops made for interesting and delicious bites.
As you can see from the pictures, the room was gradually transforming as we ate, becoming darker and more intimate. As the room deconstructed from the bright light and well-defined edges when we began, so our meal was deconstructing too. Each dish was becoming more free-flowing.
Our fifth course was an herbed lamb loin, with chippolini soubise, favas, and an inverted sugar “crisp.”
The lamb was cooked perfectly and so tender I almost didn’t need a knife. Kudos to Chef Cooley, who prepared this entire meal in a makeshift kitchen with two campfire burners. The favas were delicious and of course, we all had to acknowledge the “Silence of the Lambs” reference.
Then came dessert. There was so much going on with this dish, that I can really only tell you that it was a bonanza of yum.
There was a beet and chocolate sauce, dehydrated honey, a dark chocolate and dehydrated apple truffle, a beet jelly “Sour Patch Kid,” white chocolate foam, and a bacon tuile. And all of it was incredible. Even the beets. And I thought I didn’t like beets!
All in all, the evening provided an amazing total sensory experience. From the room to the food, your eyes, ears, and especially tastebuds were delighted at every turn. I think this last picture (and, as always, thanks to CLEguy for being an amazing blog photographer) says it all:
***Want to read more Emerging Chefs Dinner by Design recaps? Check out Poise in Parma’s, Clue Into Cleveland’s, and Cleveland Food and Brews’, The Journeyman Cook’s and Girl About Cleveland’s takes on the night.***