On occasion, I like to splurge – be it a night out at a play, dinner at a restaurant I haven’t been to yet or a roadtrip. Regardless of what it is, though, my “splurges” all have to have the same thing in common: they need to offer a unique and very well-executed experience. Subsequently, when I heard about previous Emerging Chefs events from friends who had attended, I was definitely intrigued.
Emerging Chefs was organized to celebrate Cleveland’s rich and diverse food scene. They accomplish this by creating distinctive events around notable up-and-coming chefs, culinary trends, and destination dining experiences. One of these events is a series of dinners spotlighting a different chef in a unique venue each month. The chef designs a challenging menu that demonstrates the talent that has garnered them recognition, but also unique from what you would typically find in their restaurant.
Previous Emerging Chefs dinners have included ThEATrical with Melange’s Executive Chef Adam Bostwick, Sacr-licious with Executive Chef Jeff Fisher of Touch Supper Club, and Matthew Mytro’s Aphrodisiacs. After I couldn’t attend March’s ThEATrical since it was the same night as Twestival, I promised myself I’d attend Emerging Chefs in April.
April’s dinner featured Chef Ellis Cooley. As I wrote for Twestival and the February Ohio Blogger Meetup, Chef Cooley definitely ranks up there as one of Cleveland’s culinary rockstars. Although he’s known for mingling hyperlocal ingredients that result in interesting and affordable dishes for the Cleveland Airport Marriott’s AMP 150, his 5-course + dessert dinner at Emerging Chefs went levels above what Scott and I have had there before.
The evening was themed Dinner by Design and the food reflected this by reinventing ingredients into forms and shapes unusual to them. For example, the 2nd course was a torchon of foie gras with a powder dusted on top. The texture of the powder was like powdered sugar. But as Chef Cooley explained while we ate it, it was actually foie gras that had been turned into powder through what I can only expect was culinary magic. Playing off the idea of powdered sugar, the dish was accompanied by a piece of funnel cake. This was an enjoyable twist on traditional foie gras which is often complemented by a small piece of toast.
Although I loved the yellowtail and hamichai crudo (the freshness of the taste popped with the gelled celery), tender scallops with farro and squid ink (definitely a new taste for me), lamb loin with fava beans (did anyone else think Silence of the Lambs?) and the 7-part dessert (including hydrated honey and beet), my favorite dish hands on was the 3rd course’s Pea and Coconut Soup.
Because it was getting darker in the room, I couldn’t see the full color of the dish (bright greens, red, white) without the flash of my camera). However, the taste of it made up for that! It was incredibly savory with a dollop of homemade marshmallow that added a subtle sweetness to it. The crisp tuile was a very enjoyable contrast in texture. While I’ve always been a huge fan of AMP 150’s renowned mushroom soup, the pea and coconut soup blew it away.
Demonstrating the camaderie between Cleveland’s chefs that has always impressed me, Chef Cooley invited Melange‘s Chef Bostwick who could not attend his own event last month to put together an Amuse-Bouche (re-labeled Amuse-Adam) and an Intermezzo. The Amuse-Adam featured tomato leather, spring pea puree and bocconcini, topped with micro greens and chorizo oil. I loved the texture of the tomato leather and the chorizo oil had a nice kick that balanced with the rest of the dish.
For the Intermezzo, Chef Bostwick created a faux tequila shot. It was a mixture of cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno, agave syrup and salt in a hollowed out slice of lime and was better than any tequila shot I’ve had because it had a much more complex flavor without the alcohol.
This month’s Emerging Chefs location tied in with the food brilliantly. Dinner by Design was hosted in the currently unfinished top floor of Tyler Village‘s Building 44 (3615 Superior Avenue). Tyler Village is one of the largest downtown redevelopment efforts ever undertaken in Cleveland.
The complex we were dining in was once used to house the Tyler Elevator Company. Since then, Graystone Properties has coupled with the city of Cleveland to bring to life a complex filled with commercial/office space, retail, and light industrial spaces that really take full advantage of the building’s history and architecture. For instance, you can find a biotech firm in one area, a charter school in another and the Indigo Imp open-fermentation brewery (who – in a tasty example of synergy – provided a beer for the evening).
Fitting for an event called Dinner by Design, the top floor of Building 44 was transformed from a raw, unfinished space into a chic dining experience. With windows that looked to the skies as well as over the city, the evening started in natural light bouncing off the white 4-seat tables, couches and cubes. Although the room itself was an expansive space, the smaller tables made for an intimate evening with our friends Rusty and Jodi.
As the courses progressed and the sun went down, the room filled with blue lights. It was such a subtle transition and the meal so engrossing we didn’t even notice until the space had completely transformed. The well-selected music that DJ Mike Filly provided complemented the vibe. Many kudos to Emerging Chefs’ signature partners Eventsource and MossMedia for creating such a wonderful evening that was well-worth splurging for.
Upcoming events from Emerging Chefs include next Thursday’s sold-out debut of their NEO Food Tours, a walking tour series of the Northeast Ohio region and its culinary flavors, as well as next month’s Mardi Gras en Mai dinner with Executive Chef Chris Quinn.
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