Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ReHival featuring Chef Kimberly McCune by Emerging Chefs

This August was a whirlwind of a month!  It started and ended with wineries and lakes - first to Niagara on the Lake and then Geneva on the Lake this past weekend.  Ate Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian over a dozen times. Attended my first Tweetup.  Went to an NEO Food Tour of Shaker Square. Went on vacation to Put in Bay. Had family visit from out of town.  And was even in a family wedding with lots of showers, parties and company too.  Wow - no wonder I haven't had any time to blog!  

In spite of all the activities this month, I was very fortunate to attend an Emerging Chef's event called ReHival. It was the night before the wedding but I knew I didn't want to miss what sounded like a perfect summer event.  It was advertised as a farm to table gathering but ended up being so much more.  I'm so glad that things have finally settled down a bit so I can share my experience with you.

Chef Kimberly McCune was the featured chef.  She showcased her cooking talents with a family style feast with a gourmet flair.  Chef McCune describes her cooking as "comfort food with a European twist" and it was fantastic! This was fine dining but in a relaxed outdoor atmosphere that felt more like a grown up picnic.  She took ordinary elements from a farm and elevated them to a dining experience that was both unique and fun.  

As I drove across the cow pasture that included the expected bumps and cow pies (it shook my little car like riding over a washboard!),  I was excited to catch my first glimpse of a handsome longhorn steer in the adjacent field.  I immediately felt a sense of  home.  For those of you who don't know, I'm originally from a little town in Portage County called Mantua (sounds like man-away for you non-locals) that is best known for its being the hometown of Jack Lambert, the Ox Roast Fair and Potato Festival.  Yes, we even have a Potato Queen!  And lots of potato, dairy and other farms.  While my family was not farmers by any stretch, we did have a huge garden and tons of grass to mow.  After the parking attendant proceeded to park me directly on top of a cow pie, I hopped over it and hurried to see the steer.  He was really sweet and friendly and even let me scratch his head a little while I dodged his tongue.

 I headed up to the event so I could check out the mini farmer's market that was set up outside the venue.  I was disappointed that I forgot my cooler because I would have loved to take advantage of the fresh corn.  They even had ground cherries and after having tried them for the first time earlier this summer, they are a new favorite.  If you haven't had the chance to try them, you really should.  They look like a papery tomatillo but are actually sweet and delicious.

I met up with the other bloggers attending the event (Cleveland Food and BrewsWhy Cleveland?, and Poise in Parma) and we eagerly awaited the opening of the doors.   Chef Kimberly greeted everyone as she passed out the welcome snack "Face Meat Sammy."   



We also were able to sample some decadent chocolates from White House Chocolates in Burton.  They had logs of chocolate, caramel and nuts as well as gorgeous individual candies topped with surprises like fresh blackberries, grapes and nuts.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend a stop at their store.  They are located on Kinsman Rd and are open Monday - Saturday from 10-6.  find them here


When they opened the doors, I was shocked to see the entrance decorated like an old fashioned store.  The tables were empty but I knew that they would be covered in some kind of edibles before the night was through.  More on that later!  
 There were all sorts of county themed items displayed including this adorable mechanical horse that some certain blogger took for a ride later that night.  And no, it wasn't me and I'm not telling.  You'll have to check out the other blogs to get that insider info.  

After settling in at the blogger table, we anxiously awaited our first course.  We were buzzing with excitement over the country decor, rustic and charming table settings, and very special favor  - a little jar of the Chef's Dad's very own honey.  What an unexpected treat! It was truly the best honey I have ever had.  

Our first course was the most unique and the Chef gets major points for creativity.  On a play on the phrase, "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" we started off with an egg foam filled egg shell and chicken drumettes confit.  Both were served with ingenious little syringe type dispensers for the accompanying sauces. 

I loved how it allowed me to perfectly control the amount of sauce for each bite.  A buttermilk biscuit was the perfect dunker for the egg foam and I happily sopped up every drop.  Some people chose to use the little syringe as a turkey baster and squirted their biscuit with the egg mixture.  Either way, paired with our first cocktail of the evening (The Queen's Nectar), it was a fun start to the evening. 

We moved on to course two which I was apprehensive of as soon as I read the menu "Little Crusts & Meadowlane Farms Steer Tartar with a Country Girl Terrine."  The terrine isn't what had me shaking in my boots because I actually LIKE chicken liver but I have never been brave enough to try steak tartar.  In honor of the home style theme and the cute little cow that I befriended earlier, I decided to dive in and  try everything on my plate.  This still was my least favorite course but I have to say that in spite of the disagreeable texture of the raw beef, the flavor was amazing!  If the Chef can make me eat steak tartar, that is really saying something about how tasty this was.  But once I ran out of the crunchy bread, I couldn't get past the texture.

 Course three is well documented in Why Cleveland's blog about the evening.  A certain Poise in Parma liked the creamed mozzarella, marinated backyard tomatoes, and micro herbs so much we had to request a second bowl from the kitchen.  Just like at home - if you snooze you lose!  Luckily we scored another bowl because it was the most deelish tomato mozzarella salad.  I loved how Kimberly chopped up the mozzarella and mixed it in with the juicy tomatoes and some balsamic - the cheese added a touch of creaminess to the dressing.  It was a very simple yet delicious twist on a classic - I will definitely try this at home.

 Course four was my very favorite. It was dubbed, "There's a Hare in My Food!"  This was rabbit confit and ricotta gnocchi (the pasta was sauteed and slightly browned and chewy - awesome touch!) tossed with spinach and bacon.  My ONLY complaint about this dish is there simply was not enough.  Even with Alicia of Poise in Parma getting her own special gluten -free version, we were all wishing we had more.  It was amazing.  We never got the glasses of sparkling cider with this course but hardly noticed because we were gobbling up the food.

Course five and six tied for second place for me.  They were both really delicious too.  We had a walleye cake (similar to a salmon patty but much fresher tasting) with the most interesting little corn shoots.  Those were another first for me.  They reminded me of eating blades of grass as a kid but were MUCH tastier - they had such a rich corn flavor and were super tender.   


 We were served more of the Meadowlane steer - this time in a rossini style with Killbuck mushrooms, duck liver, and  potato gallette.  All of this was served over top the most luscious creamed corn any of us have ever tasted!  Chef McCune warned us ahead of time that it was the best creamed corn ever and she was right.  

We were all very excited when the special ReHival ale was served.  
The Chef debuting her special brew

We had all been waiting eagerly for the debut of this honey infused brew - but none of us more than Brad from Cleveland Food and Brews.  Go here to check out his review.  Mine is short and simple - yum!
Happy Beer Guy!

After the group sipped and enjoyed this deceptively potent brew, we were able to peruse the country store for the desserts of our choosing. And what an assortment!  Everything from penny candy to ice wine.  
I ended up trying the whimsical chocolate cake and mousse served like mini push up pops, a date stuffed with sweetened cream cheese, rice pudding served in a tiny lidded jar with apples on top, and a glass of ice wine.  I wish I could have tried everything but after an evening of all that terrific food, I had finally reached my limit.


 The food was creative and delicious.  But the thing that struck me the most was how down to earth and genuine Chef Kimberly is.  From the moment the event started, it was relaxed and felt like we were all just invited to a family dinner at her house.  It was so much more intimate than any other food event that I've ever been to even though there were almost two hundred people there.  I'm sure it has to do with Kimberly's Geauga County roots because country folks just know how to make you feel at home.  But more than that, the love and admiration she showed for her Dad and other family and friends couldn't be missed.  Many friends and family, including her new husband, were there to support her as well.    Here is a family photo Kimberly shared with us at the event: 

looks like she was always quite the chef!
I was so happy to meet Kimberly in person and share this special evening with her.  I also met some new blogging friends (The Brewer's Daughter and her hubby) as well as Michael DeAloia of Emerging Chefs.  
Michael rocked his plaid shirt for the event

I couldn't write this blog without shouting out to all the wonderful servers we had!  They all worked like crazy and smiled the whole time.

Thanks ladies!

During the several weeks since the event I've had a lot of time to reflect.  Not only on the awesome food, fun times with my fellow bloggers and the pleasure of meeting new friends, but on the true meaning of the night. This dinner next to a cow pasture captured the essence of family better than any event I could imagine other than a wedding.  I commented later that I felt like I attended TWO weddings that weekend!  I couldn't help but think how the little jar of honey Kimberly shared with us was actually her sharing a little piece of herself - and I swear, I don't know if I could tell you which is sweeter!  I know that every time I have a cold ReHival ale, I'll be thinking of the hot summer night that a chef made us all feel like part of her special family.


So, while this was my very first Emerging Chefs event, it certainly won't be my last.  The attention to detail, creativity and exceptional culinary experience can't be beat.  Check out their video highlights of the event  - http://www.vimeo.com/28240423 .


If you want to experience Emerging Chefs yourself, you have four opportunities coming up in September as part of the Ingenuity Fest.  C4 is four times the foodie fun - learn more here:
C4 Info and Tickets




I encourage you to read the other blogs about the event - all really capture the fun of the evening.  You can also see more of my pictures on Facebook.






In full disclosure, I was provided a media pass to attend this event.  My opinions are genuine and I was not influenced by anyone.  

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up! It was wonderful meeting you in person...looking forward to seeing you at another event soon.

    And that horse looks like he's missing something...

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