Why? Emerging Chefs Mardi Gras en Mai!

Last night, CLEguy and I kicked off the holiday weekend with some NOLA flair at the Emerging Chefs Mardi Gras en Mai event.  Emerging Chefs once again lived up to their tagline of “Big Flavors, Bold Venues.”  Mardi Gras en Mai was held at 2020 Center Street on the West Bank of the Flats.  The venue already boasted amazing Mardi Gras mask artwork, providing the perfect setting for our dinner.

We were greeted at the door with beads, masks, and more Mardi Gras swag, plus Emerging Chefs’ very own jester, partner David Moss.  The event space was filled with natural light and gave the venue almost an outdoor-party feel.

Of course, no party is complete without fun guests.  We got together one fabulous table – Hungry in Cleveland, Cleveland Food and Brews, Poise in Parma, Clue Into Cleveland, The Journeyman Cook, and Edsel Little, along with significant others – and we made for quite the festive bunch.

Our executive chef for the night was Chris Quinn from U.S. Foodservice.  Chef Quinn was a gracious host – spending time both with the entire group and one-on-one discussing the food and the creative process of creating the menu.  Our mixologist for the night was the always-entertaining Joe DeLuca.

Our amuse was a salad of microgreens with a jambalaya puree and fleur-de-lis cracker.

The jambalaya puree was fantastic, with a heat that built on the palate.  The microgreens added a nice freshness to the dish.  The cracker was a bit heavy for my taste, but all around this was a great teaser of the NOLA flavors to come.

Our first course was an ettoufee pierogi with an herbed creme fraiche and crispy crawfish tail.  It was served with a deconstructed hurricane drink.

The pierogi was delicious – with a creamy, spicy crawfish filling.  The crawfish tail was actually encrusted with sugar and added the Emerging Chefs playfulness we’ve come to expect at these events.

The deconstructed hurricane was a challenge.  The alcohol was in Jell-O shot form and was meant to be mixed with the grenadine in the glass.  It took awhile to get the right combination, but when you did, the flavors came together as one tasty beverage.

Our next course was toast with olive tapenade, served with sea scallop mousse and a seared scallop with tangerine sugar.  And our drink was served in an empty egg shell…this is Emerging Chefs, after all!

The scallop dish was my favorite of the evening.  Inspired by the New Orleans muffaletta sandwich, it combined salty and sweet flavors perfectly.  And I have to admit I was apprehensive about sea scallop mousse, but this somewhat creamy, somewhat gel-like creation was delicious.  The scallop on top was done just right.

The drink was a ramos gin fizz, made with gin, egg white, orange flower water, and sugar.  It was delicious and playful and I found myself wishing for more than just an eggshell’s worth.

Next up was voodoo chicken.

Chef Quinn placed dry ice in the bottom dish, so the voodoo chicken literally smoked mysteriously as it was served.  The chicken had a delicious sweet, tangy, hot sauce, with fruit and chili flavors blending perfectly.  This dish was also served with cornmeal-encrusted okra, which I’m pretty sure I could eat an entire bowl of.

Chef Quinn said he was inspired by this mask to do a voodoo dish…

I’m sure you can see why!

Our intermezzo was a habanero mango popsicle, served with raspberry “jam.”  I’ll let that sink in while you check out the picture.

Deliciousness on a stick!  This combination of hot and sweet made you feel like a kid on a hot day, but with a very advanced palate.  I think CLEguy wishes these were sold by the box at Giant Eagle!

Next up, we had a course that had everyone’s mouths watering both from the description and the smells wafting from the kitchen.  This was veal strip loin with an espresso rub and bourbon and Dr. Pepper glaze.  The veal was topped with a corn fritter and haricot verts and a skewer of Dr. Pepper jelly beans (of course).

The sauce was delicious.  I don’t like bourbon and I don’t like Dr. Pepper, but somehow, despite being able to identify those flavors, the combination just worked.  The corn fritter added great texture to the dish, as did the crisp haricot verts.  The veal was slightly over-cooked, but the sauce as well as the fat on the meat added needed moisture.  All in all, a fantastic dish and definitely my runner-up to the muffaletta for favorite of the night.

Last but not least was dessert – homemade beignets served with melted chocolate ganache, cream anglaise, and flavored sugars.  Our night cap was a cafe au lait.

My favorite was combining the espresso and vanilla sugars with cream anglaise for dipping.  Delicious!  As if that weren’t enough sweetness, we were sent home with king cake cupcakes.

Emerging Chefs put on another fantastic event, with amazing food, great company, and just a lot of fun.  What a great start to summer!  Stay tuned for more information on their June event – Sushi at Sunset!

Check out Clue Into Cleveland’s review here, Poise in Parma’s review here, and Cleveland Food and Brews’ review here.

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend Emerging Chefs Mardi Gras en Mai with a Media Pass.  CLEguy’s admission was not included.  As always, all opinions in this post are 100% my own (and the pictures are 100% CLEguy’s).***

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