Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Falling For You

I borrowed the title for this post from the name given to the pop-up dinner my husband, Greg, and I had the pleasure of enjoying on October 23rd. Brendan Moore is an aspiring chef who has worked for such esteemed Portland restaurants as Le Pigeon and Noisette (now closed); he is currently working at Little Bird. I heard about this dinner online, on Facebook. I did not previously know Brendan, but I follow a lot of restaurants and food-related people and I believe one of them posted about this dinner. After a few inquiries, I was happy to confirm two spots.

Brendan wrote a great post, from a chef's perspective, detailing his experience planning and preparing the dinner for us on his blog: Immersione. Here is my take as his willfully paying guest.

Dinner was planned for 6:30 PM. We were greeted at the door of the large hundred-year-old home in southeast Portland by two young ladies in formal serving attire (black pants, black button-down shirts) who offered to take our coats and bags. They showed us into the dining room, where a five foot round table was tastefully decorated with fall leaves, gourds and candles. Once we were seated, along with the two other couples already at the table, Chef Brendan emerged from the kitchen to explain how the evening would flow.
the menu
Greg and I chatted among ourselves as Brendan put the finishing touches on the first course. We noted the background music, of the twangy country variety including some Johnny Cash, which Greg and I both found entertaining since we are originally from Tennessee. I thought perhaps the other couples would introduce themselves or say something to us regarding their enjoyment of food or drink, but they seemed pretty engrossed in their own conversations as they shared with each other the day's activities and, later, their thoughts on each course.
1st course: snail tortellini with fall vegetables
When the first course arrived, beautifully presented on large butcher boards, my confidence in Brendan's skills as a chef only increased. The obvious attention to detail and care that was taken to individually prepare and assemble each of the components of this dish was astounding. The flavors and textures were so complementary, and the quality of the ingredients was exquisite; I enjoyed every single bite.
2nd course: smoked oysters, oil-poached beets, honey-soaked walnuts
The second course was another masterpiece of ingenuity. Brendan described how he had marinated the oysters overnight in a smoked Chinese tea, making me realize just how much time and planning is required to prepare not just one dish, but an entire meal at this level.
3rd course: seared quail breast with saffron rice pilaf and heirloom tomato sauce
The shaved manchego on this dish really brought out the flavor of the other ingredients. Brendan subbed in kiwi for peaches; it was amazing how well their sweetness complemented the tomato sauce and savory, salty cheese.
4th course: seared foie gras and roasted Seckel pear with truffled leeks
As I told one of the other guests, one of the big selling points of this dinner for me was the foie gras. I refer to it as my "last meal" (ie what I want to eat on my deathbed). When I saw it on the menu Brendan posted online, and when he confirmed that wine and gratuity were included in the price, that sealed the deal for me. I was so excited when this dish came out and I saw the large portion size. It was perfectly prepared and I truly savored every bite! As usual, I was the last person to finish clearing my plate.
5th course: potimarron souffle with vanilla sauce
Our final course was this delicious souffle. I generally don't care for sweets and almost never order dessert, but this dish was the perfect way to end the meal. Definitely not too sweet, with a wonderful texture and flavor. In case you're wondering, a potimarron is a small winter squash, the name of which is derived from pumpkin and chestnut.
the wines (photo compliments of Brendan Moore)
I don't want to forget to mention the wine pairings, which were spot on with the exception perhaps of the moscato, which was slightly sweeter than what I would prefer. However, I understand the need to counter the richness of the foie; I might have chosen a Riesling or Pinot Gris instead.

1st and 2nd course: Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Gaisberg
3rd course: Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva
4th course: Marchesi di Gresy Moscato di Asti La Serra
5th Course: Bereche Brut Reserve NV
the poem, written by Brendan, on the back of our menus
I believe all six of us could not have asked for a better meal and overall experience. I really appreciated the unimposing but still very attentive service of the waitstaff. They were very professional and I thought they did an excellent job. The food was truly fantastic in every way - presentation, flavor, texture, variety, etc. The quantity of food was perfect, not too much nor too little. My personal preference is that I want there to be enough of each course that I get to take enough bites to fully savor and experience the ways the ingredients come together. But not so many bites that it takes me too long to eat everything or get too full halfway through the meal. I left this dinner feeling satiated but not stuffed. Another measure is that if I'm sharing part of my food with my husband, then there's too much on the plate. I didn't do that at all on this occasion, except I think I gave Greg a couple of bites of my dessert. :)

Greg and I paid $100 per person which included five courses, the wine pairings and gratuity. If you're interested in attending a future dinner, be sure to follow Brendan's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EightarmedchefYou'll get to join me in saying "I knew him when..." 

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