First, some blogkeeping: Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for the Spring Fabulous Food Show! After placing the entries into random.org, I am happy to announce that entry #14 of 43 — Brian Musick — has won 2 tickets to this weekend’s show! Please email me at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com by tomorrow April 26 to redeem your tickets.
Having been on the road a lot the past few weeks, Scott and I have tried more than our fair share of hotel food.
And what we realized is how lucky we are to have a restaurant like AMP 150 in our own backyard.
On its own, AMP 150 would be a fantastic restaurant. Chef Jeff Jarrett, as did Chef Ellis Cooley before him, has designed a menu that is ever-changing with the seasons and offers dishes for both the culinary adventurous and those just looking for a quick and comfortable meal. Even better, no dish is over $20.
The fact that it’s located in a hotel, a setting where you don’t always get such a high-quality meal, is doubly amazing. Not only are Clevelanders enjoying Chef Jarrett’s creations, but hopefully also the many travelers who stay at the Airport Marriott while stopping in Cleveland.
It had been a few months since I had gone to AMP 150, so when I saw Emerging Chefs’ Garden Party was going to be there, I leapt at the chance to attend.
This was not only the first time I had visited AMP 150 in awhile, it was also my first Emerging Chefs in as many months. The company works to create distinctive events around local chefs and bold venues. In the past, I’ve enjoyed their parties like Dinner by Design and Mardi Gras en Mai.
While we mingled before dinner, guests were treated to a “pork platter” from Washington Place Bistro’s Sous Chef Melissa Khoury. It featured flavors of dry-cured pork loin, fennel mustard and pork rillette and was a nice nod to Chef Khoury’s hosting of next month’s Emerging Chefs (more on that later!).
For the main event, Chef Jarrett put together a five course meal featuring garden-fresh ingredients sourced from local farms.
The dinner opened with a vibrantly colored spring pea soup. In addition to the beautiful electric-green coloring, the flavoring was equally resonant of the season. It was topped with a ramp creme fraice, lemon oil and pea tendrils.
I sampled the soup on its own before mixing in the creme fraice and oil. Either way, this was a beautiful dish and altogether one of my favorites of the evening because it really emphasized the idea of a garden party and the return of Spring.
It was followed by my other favorite: a mushroom mousse. As I’ve noted many times, I consider AMP 150’s mushroom soup the consistently best thing on their menu. It’s earthy and flavorful and that same quality could be found in the mushroom mousse, which featured Killbuck mushrooms and was prepared in the style of AMP 150’s chicken liver pate.
The mousse was coupled with a fennel cherry compote, whose sweetness helped heighten the savoriness of the mousse. Grilled artisan bread from Three Birds Bakery was provided to spread the mousse-and-compote blend on.
Next up were a goat cheese gnocchi and then a lamb dish. The gnocchi was accompanied by pork belly croutons, shaved asparagus, drunken fig jam and pepper cress.
While the taste of the Lake Erie Creamery’s goat cheese wasn’t featured prominently in the dish, I enjoyed the smoke of the pork belly and the pureed figs which had been soaked in red wine to make the jam.
The sous-vide lamb loin was paired with farro, fresh peas, cauliflower puree, and truffle oil. The lamb was expertly prepared – with an unexpected and delicious seasoning to it.
My favorite part of the dish, though, was a farro, fresh pea and cauliflower puree. The farro texture combined with the flavoring of the peas and cauliflower seemed to be a surprise winner with the entire table.
We ended the evening with a baked apple barley pudding. Out of all of the Emerging Chefs’ dinners I’ve attended in the past, this was the best dessert. It was Chef Jarrett’s twist on bread pudding using barley instead.
The texture and taste of the barley was what made this dish work really well – a very hearty complement to the fresh Haymarket apples. It was topped with a delicate, crispy cinnamon tuile and Snowville creamery anglaise.
While I am not a dessert person, I enjoyed this so much that I may have stolen another bite from an extra serving that found its way to our table.
Although the food exceeded what I had come to expect from Emerging Chefs, I did find there were other aspects of previous experiences that were missing.
For instance, although dinners in the past had paired a wine or beverage with each course, Garden Party had a cash bar setup. This actually worked out for me, because I had been planning on not drinking that night. However, if you wanted a glass or two of wine with your meal, it had the potential of adding significantly to the $65-$75 price of the evening’s ticket.
Additionally, the creators of Emerging Chefs will often set the dinner in an unusual venue to complement the event’s theme. Previously, they’ve transformed lofts, theatres and even cemetaries into one-night-only popups.
Although setting the evening inside of AMP 150 didn’t elicit the sense of ‘Garden Party’, I thought that Chef Jarrett’s garden-inspired dishes as well as bringing in a local farmer to discuss these ingredients balanced everything out.
Between courses, Jeremy Lisy of KJ Greens shared a bit about their farm, as well as how and when to harvest some of the ingredients that could be found in each dish.
I enjoyed learning more about planting peas and ramps, and as a fan of mushrooms was intrigued by his description of the unusually colored and tasting “Chicken in the Woods” mushroom (the name says it all).
It was a very fitting touch to hear from one of the local suppliers whose ingredients help make AMP 150 an excellent culinary destination.
In the end, although the evening did not feature all of the secondary elements of previous Emerging Chefs events, Chef Jarrett prepared one of the best Emerging Chefs menus I’ve enjoyed and it’s the chef and his culinary talents that are the focus of the evening.
Next month’s Emerging Chefs dinner features Executive Sous Chef Melissa Khoury of Washington Place Bistro. On May 24, she will prepare a Snout to Tail pig feast at the historic Dunham Tavern. She will roast pigs right in the heart of midtown and prepare dishes that use the entire animal.
The evening will also include a special appearance by Chef Ellis Cooley when he pays a visit to Cleveland to team up with Chef Khoury once again.
Tickets are available for $65 and can be purchased at emergingchefs2012-3.eventbrite.com.
Disclosure: In exchange for blogging about my experience, I was provided one ticket to attend Emerging Chefs’ Garden Party. All opinions are my own.