Course One was (of course)the edible menu entitled “Chips and Salsa.” Essentially a tortilla chip printed with the night’s menu and served with a relatively standard guacamole, sour cream, and no-better-than-Pace salsa. Cute, but nothing to be wowed by.
Dish four, “Bar Food” was Chef Cantu’s famous chili braised quail with blue cheese, carrots and celery accompanied by a tiny piece of edible paper with buffalo wings printed on it. Unlike other pictures I’ve seen of this dish, there were no aromatic utensils and no ball-bearing tower structure, just a plate. Intriguingly, while the paper was the most ‘interesting’ aspect of the dish and did indeed taste like a very hot buffalo wing, it was the quail that was truly impressive and the flavors of each of the vegetables came through beautifully.
The next dish, my sister’s favorite of the night, was entitled “Stuffing Snow” and was described as the Chef’s holiday leftovers. In a small dish we were served what appeared to be a pile of snow, but in fact the snow tasted exactly like oyster stuffing and was complimented by two extremely tart dehydrated cranberries. Per my sister – what dippin’ dots is to Ice Cream, this is to Stovetop.
Dish six, my favorite of the savories, was the famous “Cuban Cigar” and although it was not served with the faux-ito (wait, I thought we were supposed to get “additional surprises,” not less) it was truly spectacular in form and flavor. Fried pork shoulder, wrapped in a flour tortilla and flash fried was then wrapped with a candied collard green and placed in an ash-tray serving dish with embers created by tomato and pepper with an “ash” of ground black and white sesame seeds. Sweet yet savory, crisp yet tender, beautiful to the eye and palate – a winner for sure.
Dish nine, Pina Colada, is a dish I’ve seen refered to in the past as “Under the Sea” and was the first of our desserts. While there was a lot going on here, the overall effect was indeed that of a pina colada and the highlight of the dish white ball filled with ginger milk that was placed whole in the mouth and allowed to explode. Additionally interesting was the tangerine fish. Other items on the dish included nitrogen frozen raspberries bits, dehydrated edamame sand, and raspberry “coral.” Pretty and tasty.
Dish ten, Smores, was truly fantastic and my favorite course of the evening. A chocolate shell housing liquid graham cracker over a burned vanilla creme with “campfire” dust sat to the left while a licorice stick with a liquid-smoke filled vanilla truffle sat to the right. While all aspects of the dish were fantastic, the graham cracker was particularly impressive and showed off pastry chef Matthew Gundlach’s talents with sweet sauces.