Sunday, October 2, 2011

C4 - Emerging Chefs

C4 was touted as "4 Chefs. 4 Styles. 4 Foodies. 1 Explosive Night."  It did not disappoint.  

Emerging Chefs is known for its distinctive dining events that put the spotlight on up and coming chefs.  C4 was set up to celebrate the distinctive styles of each chef and allow the participants to explore the culinary delights of four of Cleveland's young chefs on four consecutive days.

This four day event was supposed to be held in conjunction with the Ingenuity Fest.  That location (on the subway level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge) proved to be logistically impossible so it was reformulated into a one night feast at Light Bistro.  Because of the change in location, it became a more manageable and intimate event.

Chef Matthew Mathlage hosted us at his home restaurant.  He was joined by an impressive lineup - Chef Jeffrey Jarrett of Amp 150, Chef Brian Rosander of Rosander and Chef Pete Joyce.  Instead of four separate meals, each chef created two courses of an eight course meal.
Jarrett, Mathlage, Rosander and Joyce with Rick Turner of Emerging Chefs
The Bridge Party Room at Light Bistro was lit for the occasion with a variety of candles that glistened and were reflected off the silver napkins set upon two long tables draped in black tablecloths.  It was elegant yet cozy and the guests chatted as they eagerly awaited the first course.

Course one was a spicy crab taco served with cava, a Spanish sparkling wine.  It was a perfect start to the festive evening.  The flaky shell was loaded with Maryland lump crabmeat and the subtle spice whet our appetites.
Joyce taco
Inside was moist of full of chicken
The second course was a chicken croquette stuffed with apple, rosemary and manchengo with an apricot sauce and pepperonata.  Chef Jarrett also included some homemade apple butter.  A tiny leaf of red sorrel was set atop the croquette and added a decorative and fresh touch. This was served with a pinot gris.
Jarrett croquette
The third course was potatoes rosti with beetroot moutabel, shallot confit and blue cheese.Chef Rosander explained that he first researched this recipe when a Saudi official requested it for a meal.  The potatoes were a thicker, more refined potato pancake topped with a beet infused puree.  The bright color of the beet mixture was a colorful contrast to the potatoes and cheese.   One diner noted that this dish "tasted like the earth" because of its richness and depth of flavors of the root vegetables.
Rosander's Rosti

When I read the description of the fourth course, I was extremely excited.  It included the rarely available state fruit - the pawpaw!  This fruit is a treat because it's not something you can get easily.  It's a native tree that takes ten years to bear fruit.  It looks like a mango and had a fresh taste reminiscent of mango, banana and pineapple.  This course was a creative pairing of seared scallop, spaghetti squash, pawpaw puree and BBQ eel lardoons.  Hands down - this was my absolute favorite of the night!  
Mathlage masterpiece
The scallop was perfectly cooked and its oceany flavor was enhanced by the slivers of eel perched on top.  The squash was a delicate starch that didn't overwhelm and the sweet tropical flavor of the puree was the perfect contrast to the savory scallop and saltiness of the eel.

Another highlight of the night was a unique cocktail similar to a caipirinha but with a twist.  The boozy liquid contained cayenne threads and egg white, and the glass was rimmed in Pop Rocks.  This was a really fun and tasty cocktail!  I loved the sweetness of the Pop Rocks with the unexpected spicy heat of the cayenne threads.

For the fifth course, we were served thyme gnocchi with rabbit sauce and fried artichoke.  I was interested to see how Chef Rosander interpreted these ingredients because I had a gnocchi/rabbit dish at ReHival that I loved.  This was a totally different presentation with an emphasis on the thyme in the gnocchi and a milder sauce.  I would have loved to see larger pieces of rabbit and firmer gnocchi.  The annatto oil added a much needed jolt of color on the plate.  That being said, the show stopper in this dish was the fried artichoke topped with a dollop of pumpkin spice whipped goat cheese.  I would have loved to have several more of those to munch on! With the thyme and pumpkin, it was a perfect dish for a blustery fall day.
Rosander's rabbit
Our final savory course was a lovely lamb tagine with chickpeas, cilantro and dried fruit couscous served with a locally produced Laurello pinot noir.  This dish was rich and loaded with flavor.  The sauce was spiced perfectly to compliment the meat and the fruity couscous gave it a welcome touch of sweetness.  In fact, several non-lamb eaters not only ate the lamb, but enjoyed it.
Joyce's lamb tagine
From here we moved on to the much anticipated desserts.  The first was a nut and caramel tart with brown sugar sauce and tart cherries.  This was like a very grown up Snickers bar.  The shortbread crust was loaded with an assortment of nuts and plump dried cherries.  The piece de resistance was the salty caramel-like brown sugar sauce.  We all made sure we scooped up every last drop. This dessert was such a wonderful combination of salty & sweet and crunchy & chewy - fabulous!  I liked that it was not your typical dessert and it wasn't too sweet or heavy.This is something I would order again and again if it was available on a menu.  
Jarrett's yummy treat
Last, but certainly not least, was our final course of the night. In lieu of a traditional cheese course, we were presented a blue cheese souffle with candied pecans and a concord grape sauce.  Rich and decadent, this was a truly unique dessert.  If you are a blue cheese lover, you would be in heaven eating this!  I really enjoyed the souffle but my serving seriously needed more of the concord grape sauce and candied pecans to balance the savoriness, especially after the candy bar like previous dessert. It was a little too savory without more generous amounts of the sweet components - almost appetizer-like. Perhaps the order of these two should have been reversed so this course could be fully appreciated.  The beverage pairing was a ruby port and cava cocktail. What a great combo!  The cava brightened up the cocktail - it was very fresh tasting without losing the richness of the port.

Mathlage's souffle

port and cava cocktail with orange
I was  really looking forward to this event because I finally got to experience the food of Amp 150 and Rosander.  I've heard so many good things about these two restaurants but never dined with them.   I definitely need to pay them a visit because the food at C4 made me want to try more.  I also can't wait to see where Chef Pete Joyce sets up shop.  

This was my second Emerging Chefs event and once again I was impressed with the quality of the experience.  There is always something special and unexpected about them.  I really enjoyed being able to sample all four of the chefs' creations in one meal - normally you have to dine at four different restaurants on four different dates to experience something like this.  We had so much fun at the event and made so many new friends, a large group of us decided to continue the party at the Velvet Tango Room.  I was thrilled because it's been on my Must Do list for YEARS!  What a perfect way to end the evening.

Corpse Reviver #2

If you haven't been to an Emerging Chefs event, you certainly should!  You have another chance to experience the creativity and exceptional food this month - Feast of the Deceased.  Perfect for October!!  It's going to be a foodie fall feast/ Halloween party set in the Monroe Cemetery in Ohio City.  Chef Brian Doyle of Sow Food will be cooking up a frightfully delicious feast, DJs will be playing and costumes are encouraged.  Click here for details and tickets.

* I was provided a media pass for this event. *
As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed are 100% my own.

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