Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Most Spirited Dinner

Last Thursday our rowdy crew of Turks descended upon Stella! for the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Dinner. Stella! is an absolutely beautiful restaurant with brick and linen walls, exposed wood, candlelit, and my favorite breath mints in the bathroom. However the food has a definite modern twist and technique.

Peter and I arrived and began sampling the cocktails. The first drink was by far the gem of the evening. A St. Germain Redux combined Beefeater Gin, St. Germain Elderflower, Club Soda, and Champagne with a twist of grapefruit. Delightfully dry, and refreshing; causing more than one guest to remark, "This is like an upscale Gin Bucket."

A shrimp and veal gyoza dumpling with a jalepeno emulsion and coconut curry. It was very good. The heat of the jalepeno and the coolness of the coconut curry combined to enhance the shrimp in the dumpling. While none of us got much of a veal flavor, this amuse was certainly delicious.

First Course Cocktail arrived, groans came next. The Fresa Brava combined Jalepeno infused Tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice, simple syrup, and strawberry. Tasted on its own, this drink was barely palatable. The jalepeno had to much force, leaving one with a tingly feeling reminscent of a Night Spent in Paris.

The First Course was Peanut Butter and Jelly Fish with a Summer Melon Kimchee. The heat advertised on the menu was absent, however that was a smart decision considering the drink more than adequately "brought the heat". Jellyfish if you are wondering, when battered in tempura and deep fried, tastes like deep fried tempura.

Second course cocktail was the "Ewwwwww Ewwwwwww Gypsy Woman": Tequila, Vermouth, Green Chartreuse, and Celery Bitters. Ehhh, good; but really anything was an upgrade over the Fresa Brava.

Accompanying the gypsies, tramps and thieves was a beautiful pink lobster roe agnolotti with edamame puree, crabmeat, and a cognac-soy creme. Boy was that good. An interesting note on this dish. To prepare the pasta dough, Chef Boswell uses raw lobster roe which is green. And as the pasta cook the pasta turns that rich pink/red that cooked lobster has. I thought this was cool. Of course I also loved Winds of Change by the Scorpions.

Next cocktail, The Chaplin, really hit a comfort zone. Combining Bourbon, Dry Sherry, Amaro, Cointreau, and Orange Bitters, this dish stood up to and complimented the accompanying course. The dish reminded one of those cold weather bourbon drinks (Old Fashioned's, Sazerac's, etc...) while also tasting totally distinctive.

Last savory course was a Surf and Turf. Tender filet topped with grilled shrimp, Sake glazed sweet potato, and Kabayaki butter. Kabayaki is a paste made of soy, sake, and carrots. It added a good amount of sweetness to the dish, which by the end came slightly overwheleming. All in all this dish had it all. The beef was incredible tender, the shrimp provided the grilled flavor and texture, the sweet potato and butter the sweetness, and the fried brocolli rabe the bitter.

Dessert cocktail was strong. And by strong I mean seeing stars, hair on chest, moonshine blindness strong. Cognac and Ginger Liqueur swirled with a cinnamon stick. Great drink , if it had been 20 degrees outside.

Dessert was interesting. A green tea ice cream with a forzen ginger and Grand Marnier Creme Brulee. Frozen Creme Brulee to me is not much different than ice cream, so I didnt quite get it (texturally). However, the flavors were interesting and the presentation very well thought out.

Finally a dessert amuse: homemade marshmallows and cinnamon meringues. I love that little touch. Peter, Pope, Lady and I are contemplating tackling the tasting menu at Stella!; anyone interested may join.

We had a wonderful evening. I have one observation though. If I told you you could go to a dinner with wine snobs or a dinner for cocktail afficionados, you would most likely opine that the cocktail dinner would be more fun. I suggest this is because wine seems so serious and and require special waiters with french titles, decanters, and special phrases; whereas cocktails are how you unwind at the end of a long day.

However, wine people are more fun. There is an inherent academic aspect to cocktail folks. They discuss the origins of a bitter just as serious as a wine maker talks about the varietal. Yet, somehow those discussions are more snobbish when concerning cocktails then wine. I am not sure why this is and perhaps I am wrong. But the difference can be summed up thusly. At the NOWFE Dinner, there was an aspect of group sharing and discovery of the wines that we all found enjoyable. At the Spirited Dinner, it was almost as if we were lucky to be let in on the secret of why this cocktail was over our heads.

But our thanks to the staff at Stella!, the Bar Chefs, and all who made this a great evening. See you next year.

1 comment:

Palm Room Hostess said...

the palm room hostess was, sadly, not able to attend the TOC dinner at stella (the not as much fun dinner), yet was in attendance at the NOWFE dinner at vizzard's (the more fun of the two). i'm just saying...