Monday, June 4, 2012

Experiment #24 - Cobaya Carmellini - The Whole Damn Thing

In the nearly 3 years that we've been putting on Cobaya dinners, we've had some pretty incredible meals.  Word has spread organically and our list of willing guinea pigs has grown to a rather large following.  Cobaya dinners are selling out fast and seats are increasingly more difficult to obtain.  More and more chefs are learning about these dinners and many are eager to participate.  So you can imagine it was pretty awesome when 2-time James Beard Award-winning, Michelin star-earning, Chef Andrew Carmellini, the man responsible for The Dutch NYC and Miami, Locanda Verde NYC, and The Sausage Boss NYC, reached out on Twitter to say he was down to get his Cobaya on. 

The dinner was held at The Dutch which is located inside the W Hotel on Miami Beach.  The setting was the outdoor terrace at a long table that fit all 30 guests.  The staff was great and service was flawless.  The menu?  Badass with a capital "B".

After a starter of assorted canapes, one of which being an insanely delicious foie gras meatball, Chef Carmellini greeted the guests and talked about his theme for this dinner.  He dubbed it "The Whole Damn Thing" and utilized an entire 50 pound pig as well as some whole turbot.  The results were frickin' awesome. 

This dish was absolutely fantastic and definitely one of the best dishes I've had this year.  Creamy polenta with smoked sable, trout roe, and a lemon beurre blanc foam.  Everything worked - the saltiness of the roe, the smokiness of the sable, the acid from the lemon, the texture plays of the polenta and sable and pops from the roe.  I could've left satisfied after just this one dish.

It takes a lot of balls to serve a pasta dish to a group dining outside in Miami in the summer.  This one was worth any increase in body temperature.  House made potato gnocchi with braised morels, ramp greens, english and sugar snap peas, and topped with parmesan cheese was a light dish with lots of flavor.

About that whole turbot...  Here is the resulting dish which featured the perfectly tender fish sitting atop curried cous cous salad and darted with tea poached raisins, burnoise red onion, turkish apricot, mint, cilantro, and sliced almonds.  Another masterful dish that I'll not be forgetting any time soon.

Now it was time for the piggy party.  The photo above shows what got us going - a salad of julienned crispy pig ears with arugula, shaved radish, and meyer lemon (which reminded me very much of the Pig Ear Salad at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink); house made pickled tomatoes, cauliflower, and carrots; house made pickled ramp relish; and a little boat of crispy testa (head cheese) with gribiche.  Giddy.  Up.

I don't even know how to describe the smoked ribs glazed with apple cider served to us by Chef Carmellini other than to say that they were gigantic and incredibly awesome!!!  The skin was crispy while still having that slight chewiness that pork skin has that makes me unable to stop eating it because I really just want to bite into it again and again. You see that circle of meat on the right side of the rib in the picture above?  It was so tender, so smokey, so delicious that it took a couple of pieces of crispy skin for me to regain consciousness afterward.  I've been thinking about that circle of meat ever since.  Carmellini should start a food truck that just sells those circles.  Hands down my favorite dish of the night.

I think my love affair with the aforementioned ribs possibly was responsible for me not really digging the pastrami spiced pork belly.  The belly was roasted perfectly but the pastrami spices were trying to break us up.  I didn't want pastrami anymore.  I wanted that rib again.

photo mashup courtesy of The Chowfather

I'm not a dessert guy really but the dessert was not only delicious but impressive too.  A sparkling croque en bouche from Pastry Chef Josh Gripper along with some assorted sorbets and ice creams.  Chef Carmellini said that this was served at his wedding instead of wedding cake. A great ending to an over-the-top fantastic meal. 

Huge 'thank you' to Chef Carmellini and all his staff and crew along with the team from The Dutch and The W who helped execute the plan for a great night.  That was one for the ages.  The only not-so-great part was being the only Celtics fan at the bar afterward where the Heat ripped off a huge comeback to win game two and go up 2-0 in the series.  I got over it pretty quickly though by thinking about that rib dish again.

Additional thanks to all the guinea pigs who came out and those who continue to show enough support and interest to keep this Cobaya thing going.  We see lots of new faces each meal and that's been really cool.  We've just announced that The Summer of Cobaya rolls on with two more events in June - one dinner, one brunch.  More details here.

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