A hungry girl's adventures in Cleveland and beyond.

Hopefully everyone had a fabulous Memorial Day weekend! Mine actually started on Thursday when I attended the best damn pig roast ever - what a way to kick off the weekend!

Chef Melissa Khoury of Washington Place Bistro dazzled the crowd at this month's Emerging Chef's feast. It was truly one of the best meals I've ever eaten - and I've eaten a lot of great food.

The setting was perfect for a pig roast! The event was held in the historic Dunham Tavern Museum in Midtown. The grounds have beautiful gardens that surround the rustic structures. 

Chef Khoury fully utilized the pig in every possible way but thankfully, no snouts and tails were on the menu! The menu was unique and delicious:

pork lollipops
The appetizers showcased Chef Khoury's brilliance and set the tone for the meal. She really knows her way around charcuterie!  She complimented the meat with an abundance of pickled goodness. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onions, turnips and strawberries were served with pickles, mustard and chopped beets. Everything was so good. 

My only complaint was the same as at Garden Party - no plates. Everyone at the table was grumbling over this one because the lack of plates made it too difficult to eat. This seriously detracted from the pleasure of eating everything. 
mortadella, lonzino, saussicon sec and tasso

Chef Khoury with Rick Turner
The amuse bouche was playful and creative. She made beet brioche look like a slice of bacon and served it with crispy pig ears, micro greens and kumquat gastrique. Everyone was amazed that the base layer wasn't actually bacon. I was also amazed that I liked the pig ears!
Amuse: Crispy pig ears with beet brioche
See the fennel seeds on the micro greens? Yum!
Next up was our first cocktail of the evening and it ended up being my favorite of the night: strawberry and gin lemon juice and soda. It contained pureed fresh strawberries and a touch of pineapple and vanilla - so refreshing!
Strawberry and gin lemon soda
This was paired with a green salad with thin slices of watermelon radish, baby kale, red onion and the best pancetta I've ever eaten. It added the perfect salt and crunch to the salad. I could have eaten this crispy bacon all night and I'm still thinking about it now. I always love watermelon radishes - they are so pretty and mild.

With this course we were in for another surprise: the candles that lit our tables actually contained the salad dressing for this course! The wicks were cloves of garlic that were threaded with culinary string. They were floating in votives filled with the most luscious bacon fat vinaigrette. Such a fun surprise that really illustrated Chef Khoury's personality - fun, unique and creative!

the "wick" - garlic threaded onto culinary string
Our 2nd course of the evening was braised pork cheeks with a mixed bean cassoulet and cracklins. The pork cheeks were so tender and savory. I loved the play on the classic cassoulet and liked how pork two ways were showcased in this course. Parsnips, carrots, lentils and coriander were also featured.
2nd: Braised Pork Cheeks with Mixed Bean Cassoulet and Cracklins

Old Fashioned with Mottled Oranges

Next up was the intermezzo that was prepared by Chris from Washington Place. It was a refreshing pear and black walnut "jello" with a rhubarb and red raspberry puree. We were all amazed by the thin slice of black walnut that was candied and dusted with ancho chili.
Intermezzo: Pear & Black Walnut Jello with Rhubarb
The 3rd course was nothing less than a feast! A platter of pig head and hocks were served first much to the delight or horror of the guests, depending on how adventurous of a diner you were. Then came platter after platter of pulled pork, roasted loin, and sides. The glazed carrots and parsnips were gobbled up by everyone, included some who even declared that they never liked parsnips before this meal (way to go Chef!)
Misc Pork Parts

Shandy with Wheat Beer
Pulled Pork with Roasted Loin
Glazed Carrots and Parsnips
3rd: Family-Style Pig
Romano beans with shaved garlic and braised greens with ham hocks were also on the menu. Loved all the garlic on the thin crisp beans. Much to my disappointment, our table didn't have any greens. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to. I thought that maybe they ended up not making them for some reason after the menus were printed but I saw a bowl of them being removed from another table after this course. And they looked great!

My favorite side was the asparagus. White and green spears were tossed with tasso peperonata. The ham was lean and flavor packed. I loved how the acidity in the peperonata enhanced the savory ham and grilled asparagus. I was especially happy for the family style nature of this course with this dish because I made quite the pig out of myself. hee hee 
Asparagus with Tasso Peperonata
My overflowing plate...
At this point, everyone was getting stuffed so we forced ourselves to stop eating because we knew we were in for a real treat with dessert. 

First we enjoyed another fun twist - the Adult Shirley Temple. I remember loving Shirley Temples as a kid - the cherry, the fizz and feeling oh so grown-up when sipping my very own cocktail at a restaurant. This version got its kick from vodka and a touch of ginger.
Adult Shirley Temple
Dessert really was a show stopper! It was entitled "Ode to Bacon" but should have been called "Swoon." A chocolate tart had bacon fat in the super flaky crust and was topped with whipped cream. Bacon pop rocks added a nice pop of flavor.

But this was only HALF of the finale! We also were treated to a milk chocolate "frosty" served with a bacon salted rim. By this point, I think we all thought we must be dreaming because this meal was too good to be true! As an extra touch of whimsy, we also had a pink piglet on the plate: it was a bacon marshmallow nestled in bacon dirt. Seriously cute!

Piggy Marshmallow! 
Beautiful and delicious!
The little burlap bag is a goodie bag filled with candy - sweetness to go. Thanks!
Chef Khoury not only knocked it outta the park with the meal, she was a friendly and gracious hostess and took the time to mingle with the guests after the meal.  

She also made a special point to thank all her helpers, including a very special guest: long time friend and former co-worker at Amp 150, Ellis Cooley. He traveled all the way from his new home in Florida to help out and support his friend.
Chefs Reunited! Ellis Cooley and Melissa Khoury
This was what every foodie event should be! The setting matched the food perfectly. The food was plentiful, delicious and creative. And the cocktails were fun and enhanced the meal. If you have not yet experienced Chef Khoury's food, you need to pay her a visit at Washington Place Bistro - you are in for a real treat!

Next up for Emerging Chefs is Last Tango in Tremont on Monday July 2nd. Chef Brian Rosander will be at one of my favorite places in Cleveland, the Velvet Tango Room. This one might just be and ode to the cocktail and is sure to be a real treat. You can get your tickets here.

*Disclaimer: I was provided a media pass for this event. My thoughts and opinions are my own.*
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