Sunday, April 25, 2010

Special edition: "Tuesday," 4/24/10 - Artemisia's

Date: 4/24/10
Restaurant: Artemisia's
Location: Upstairs in the Campus Center at my very own St Philip's College, 1801 Martin Luther King Dr
Executive Chef: The Management class of Spring 2010, many of whom are my classmates in other labs

Tonight was a special occasion (as if any of these restaurants is anything but!) for us. It was a look into my future. One of the next two semesters, I will be taking a cooking lab called Management and Food Production, in which the students create their own recipes, order the ingredients via our Hospitality team, design and decorate the dining room, price dinner tickets to make a profit and handle the PR to sell those tickets, make the food, and serve it to everyone. In other words, hi, I own my own restaurant. This is a day in that life.

Gosh it'll be exciting!!!

I guess you could call it my "senior recital." It's the culmination of everything we learn both in technique, time management, teamwork, and additional useful-sounding things beginning with the letter T. Turkey. No, not turkey.

Anyway, tonight was their final dinner, in which the entire class collaborated and produced a multi-course tasting menu complete with wine pairings for each course. It was an amazing display of talent, creative flavors and overall I couldn't have been more proud of my classmates. So let's explore the evening, shall we?

Boo on me for not taking pictures of the dining room! I forget that not everyone has been there and can picture it like me. However, upon arriving at our table (which we shared with my Advanced Pastry Chef Martin and his family), we were greeted by this lovely tablescape.

Now that's what I call a flight of wines! From right to left, each glass accompanied a dish. The pairings really were spot-on and complemented their respective dish wonderfully, even if I didn't care for the wine on its own.

Here was our menu for the night. You can just barely see it peeking out from underneath but the menu stand was actually made of chocolate. Clever and tasty, my favorite adjectives!

Our first course, a little amuse of salmon and herbed cream cheese on a canape with a sprig of chive. The wine paired with it was George Duboeuf Beaujolais. Tasty little bite! But one sip of wine was really all I wanted, since it was just one bite of noms.

An excellent mushroom ravioli on fresh pasta, topped with crispy pancetta, a seared scallop and a deep-fried basil leaf. Wine pairing was an excellent fruity and mellow J. Lohr Wildflower Valdiguie that Tavis and I both loved. The ravioli had a really nice nutty quality and I liked the fresh pasta, even though I could've used a bit more filling. The scallop was just perfect, moist and plump and delicious.

Palate cleanser #1: mint and pineapple sorbet. Tavis loved it; I didn't. I think I have a hangup on mint when it isn't in mint chocolate chip ice cream. Regardless, my palate was appropriately cleansed. (No wine pairing with the palate cleansers, shucks.)

Our first round of entree, blackened sea bass topped with candied Macadamia nuts and a mango/cilantro sauce. Underneath it is stir-fried garlic and ginger bok choy. Once again the protein was just delicious, cooked perfectly and with wonderfully complex flavors. My only complaint is that it was cold. I can imagine cooking fish to order with everything else going on in the kitchen was pretty tough to do, but it could have been held somewhere warm until service.

Tavis found the sauce a little too zingy for his taste. He didn't even know what he was in for. But he loved the bok choy. The wine pairing was my least favorite of the night, Picket Fence Chardonnay. No picket fences for me, thanks!

Palate cleanser #2: port and black cherry sorbet. To the left you see dots of a 100+ aged balsamic vinegar. Yowza! We really liked this one; Tavis said it was "dangerous," because if given more he would have kept eating and eating it. It was a sophisticated balance of tangy, umami and sweet.

Our second entree, and isn't that just the cutest little frenched lamb chop you've ever seen? At the base of the plate is a blackberry demi-glace and you also see roasted fingerling potatoes which were just slightly too al dente for my taste. The lamb once again was a perfect protein. I just wanted more of it. The wine paired with it was Stags Leap Winery Merlot and was an example of a wine I didn't care for at all on its own--Tavis agreed--but it brought out luscious and deep flavors in the lamb and potatoes that extended the flavors long after I'd swallowed. It was awesome.

Winding down the night with a little salad with honey sauce, gorgonzola and sharp cheddar, accompanied by a delicious Biltmore Estates Riesling. I liked the gorgonzola with a bite of greens and honey. I liked the cheddar on its own. I've had more exciting cheeses but these were really generous portions, all things considered!

Our trio of desserts. From distant to close, we have a chocolate bavarian and sacher glaze; a crispy wonton with pineapple and ginger relish inside; and habanero ice cream. Yes, you read that correctly. Ho boy. Think creamy rich vanilla ice cream made with simple syrup which had been infused with diced habaneros. It is exactly like you'd imagine. Sweet...wait...uh oh...I wasn't ready for this...oh god it burns, it burns! We all tried it and wussed out to varying degrees. However, the wonton with pineapple relish was very tasty and the chocolate bavarian was lovely and decadent. Our wine pairing is one that I will be buying repeatedly because I adore yummy dessert wines. This one was Marenco Brachetto, a sparkly deep currant flavor.

It was a really nice meal. We could've used a few more bites to make it really filling, which has never been the case any other time we've eaten a "tasting menu." But all the recipes displayed excellent conception and execution, and I could easily see any of them working in an actual restaurant. Yay my school! Yay my classmates! I was so proud and happy.

Here are the chefs in question, explaining what part of the meal they prepared and thanking us for coming.

We even got a little to-go gift, a collection of truffles.

I am really looking forward to doing this myself, and I hope any and all of you are available to come and experience what my class creates when the time comes. As the culmination of the St Philip's Culinary Arts program, it is a great compliment to the program and the chefs, and a predictor of many awesome things to come in their future.