Why? Prince of Pasta Pop-Up!

On Monday, thanks to Cleveland’s a Plum’s giveaway, CLEguy and I attended the Brick & Mortar Pop-Up restaurant at Noodlecat. This dinner featured Jeffrey Michaud, a James Beard award-winning Philadelphia chef, who Jonathan Sawyer has dubbed The Prince of Pasta. Brick & Mortar Pop-Ups are a great way to experience new and different chefs and see the unique bonds formed between our CLE chef superstars and other chefs from across the country.

Having tried some of Jeff Michaud’s pasta the last time he was in town to cook with Jonathan Sawyer (read about it here), I knew we were in for a treat! Our appetizer course consisted of three small bites: a chickpea and bottarga zupetta with pastine, semolina gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese, and rigatoni with salt cod and parsley.

The gnocchi was the favorite of the table, but the zupetta was not far behind and left our mouths watering for the courses to come.

The first course was squash tortelli with amaretti and sage. The pasta literally melted in your mouth, it was so tender and fresh. And the sweetness of the squash combined with the saltiness of the cheese on top of the dish was the perfect combination. All our courses were served family-style and we couldn’t say no when Jonathan Sawyer offered us another dish of this deliciousness.

Next up was a risotto with calabrese-style octopus for our second course and rigatoni with chicken livers for our third course.

The risotto was served on huge trays and you can see one of our table companions eagerly digging in. This was different than my typical thought of risotto. I’m used to a creamy, cheesy dish, but this dish was not creamy and had a very interesting spicy heat to it. When I asked Jonathan Sawyer what the heat was that I was tasting, he explained that Jeff Michaud had braised the octopus in calabrian chiles and the braising liquid was used in the risotto, giving the finish of every bite some heat. While the dish was interesting, it was a bit salty for my taste and was not the collective favorite of the evening.

The rigatoni with chicken livers was another dish where the noodles just melted in your mouth. The chicken livers added a rich flavor to the dish that I really enjoyed.

Our final savory course was a pheasant and porcini lasagna. Both the presentationand the taste of this dish blew me away.

The dish came out like a lasagna pie, with a crispy cheesy crust. The pheasant and porcini filling provided a rich earthiness and was a great twist on traditional lasagna. I will be craving that “crust” for a very long time too. This almost eclipsed the squash as my favorite course of the night.

Then came our dessert. Despite protestations of how full we all were, somehow we managed to eat multiple helpings of the sweet treat.

Dessert was a quince crespelle with zabaione. The crespelle (the Italian crepe) was filled with quince, which had a delicious cinnamony/gingerbready flavor that just reminded me of Christmas. The rich and smooth zabaione on top was the perfect compliment. What a wonderful way to end a fantastic meal!

If you’re in Philadelphia, you must check out Jeff Michaud’s restaurants: Osteria and Amis.  He truly is the Prince of Pasta! And keep an eye on Brick & Mortar Pop-Ups: coming in January is a pop-up with Lee Anne Wong.

***Disclosure: I won 2 tickets to this event from the blog contest on Cleveland’s a Plum. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

5 Responses

  1. I loved all the courses, including the risotto. We thought the “calabrese-style” pepper flavor gave the dish a gumbo-like appeal, and the octopus was easily the most tender I’ve ever had. The wine pairing with the lasagna was a favorite of mine. The chef told us a bit about how they make their pasta, rolling it until you can see through to the prep table. Just outstanding.

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