Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cobaya Experiment #22 - Back to School with Chef Michael Bloise

When we set out to do this whole Cobaya thing, the rules were simple - give chefs a blank canvas and have them use their creativity to cook a badass meal for a group of people willing to put their faith (and tastebuds) into the skills of that chef.  That rule pretty much means that, for a chef, there are no rules.  No restrictions.  No limits. 

Over the past two plus years our concept has been embraced by both chef and diner alike, with our group growing from a small number of about a dozen or so people to a list that is approaching 600 members, all whom are in search of a different dining experience.  That's pretty awesome.  It's also challenging since our dinners are limited to 30-40 people at a time on average and most of the time we receive more requests than that.  We've even had to develop a high tech "lottery system". Well, our lottery system was worked to the hilt on this last dinner held this past Monday.  With 30 seats available we fielded over 100 seat requests!  Again, pretty frickin' awesome.

Diners gathered at SushiSamba on Lincoln Road for a dinner served by Chef Michael Bloise that certainly beared no resemblance to anything that has come out of that kitchen on any other night.  Chef Bloise greeted everyone and announced that we'd be going "back to school" for this dinner.  Menus were presented, class was in session.

"Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm no fool..."
Just looking at the paper that this menu was printed on was enough to bring a smile to everyone's face.  Yeah, this was gonna be fun.  The first course came out as a juice box and a brown bag lunch, the bag filled with chef Bloise's homemade lunchables and a note from Mom.  Sweet!
Lunchables!  Thanks, Mom!

The chef had dismantled the juice box from the bottom, refilled it up with unfiltered apple juice, vanilla, and acai vodka, and sealed it back together.  Pop in the straw and you're good to go! This drink was really refreshing with a nice alcohol bite.  With that came a legit lunchables container where the processed supermarket junk had been removed and replaced with homemade rabbit ham, truffled mozzarella, and manchego thyme crackers.  I loved this dish.  The rabbit ham had a nice gamey flavor and the texture was firm but not too tough.  Piling the ham on top of the mozz and the cracker made for a flavorful bite with a texture that went from firm to soft to crunchy. 

Next up - taco talent show!  Chef Bloise presented a trio of tacos, their crisply-fried shells filled with a belly of tuna, lamb, or pork.  That's the order I consumed them in and the lamb belly was the winner of the bunch with the tuna a close second.  The pork belly taco to me was the weakest of the bunch but still good.

Not your average lunch tray...
 After that, the Triple Lindy of lunch trays appeared stocked with country fried beef tongue with foie country gravy; a paiche linguica corn dog with kabocha mustard; a spicy pork cheek empanada with black bean ice cream; scallop tots with kimchi ketchup; and a vegetable medley pudding cup.  My favorites were the empanada and the scallop tots.  The tots were fried perfectly and the kick from the kimchi ketchup was a nice play.  Great stuff.  The tongue was a little overdone and the foie flavor couldn't really be found in the gravy.  I thought the corn dog was ok but the mustard was bland.  Others at my table said they loved the mustard so maybe it was just me.  I liked the first few bites of the vegetable pudding but after that it became a little too sweet for me.  The concept was pretty cool though.

Tripe churros & marrow cobbler, anyone?
A couple of desserts came next.  First up were some tripe churros paired alongside a berry cobbler with a fried bone marrow topper.  I liked the churros and the fried marrow was gluttonously awesome.  After that came another ridiculously creative dish.  It was a dessert spaghetti, a panna cotta taking noodle form with a strawberry sauce studded with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.  A chocolate marshmellow ice cream ball played the role of meatball.  It was a great presentation but it was too sweet for me.  My classmates didn't have any problem licking their bowls clean though!

I gotta say, this was one of the most fun Cobaya dinners we've had.  It's awesome when a chef hears, "do whatever you want" and has a creative explosion like this.  He was teacher and entertainer all at once.  Big thanks to Chef Bloise and all his staff who made this dinner possible.  Class dismissed!

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