On Wednesday, April 18th, I headed to another Cleveland West side favorite of mine for the Emerging Chefs event, Garden Party:
The spring planting always portends to a crisp summer bounty. Join Emerging Chefs and Chef Jeff Jarrett of AMP 150 as we celebrate the planting of AMP 150’s garden with a sweet collection of cuisine inspired by the carnival of a Garden Party. This is sure to be an extraordinary offering of fresh, local food with Chef Jarrett’s creative twist.
BEFORE I CONTINUE: Last weekend at teacher training (yes, yoga is everywhere nowadays), we taught our first sun salutations. As we each took our turn, we were encourage to share our feedback via a positive comment, then a comment for improvement, and then another positive comment; also known as the PIP method of evaluation – you knew I was all over that!! As I think about my thoughts on this event, this evaluation system seems to be the right way to do so…
A POSITIVE: THE FOOD: I’ve been to several of Emerging Chefs events in the past year so I admit my expectation for the quality of the food is high. The offerings at this Garden Party definitely met my foodie expectations.
The evening started with Chef Melissa Khoury’s teaser to her upcoming May 24th Emerging Chefs event, Snout to Tail. Her “mystery meat” (our words, not hers) board included dry-cured pork loin, pork rillette and a fennel mustard mortadella. It was a happy sight to us very hungry diners.
The first course was a Spring Pea Soup with ramp creme fraise and lemon oil:
This was good. REALLY good. Once placed in front of the diners at my table, I finished my portion before some people were even done taking notes on the dish. It was super smooth, uber flavorful and served at a lovely chilled temperature. When the broth was combined with the creme fraise and the lemon oil, it made for a miraculous spring filled slurp. I thought about requesting another bowl for dessert.
The second course was a Mushroom Mousse with fennel cherry compote and grilled artisan bread:
Made in the style of their chicken liver pate, it featured mushrooms from Killbuck Valley Mushrooms and fennel from The Chef’s Garden. The mousse was rich and silky. You definitely could get the “chicken liver pate” style in every bite. The mushrooms weren’t over powering because they were balanced so well with the fennel/cherry compote. Again, I had to restrain myself from licking my plate.
The third course was a Goat Cheese Gnocchi with pork belly croutons, shaved asparagus, drunken fig jam and pepper cress:
Featuring goat cheese from Lake Erie Creamery, I suggest you head over to Brad’s blog for a proper description on how this tasted.
The fourth course was a sous vide lamb loin with farro, peas, cauliflower and truffle:
My portion was without the farro/pea offering, but the lamb loin was enough for me. This may be my new favorite prep for this protein as my portion was at a perfect medium rare. The addition of sitar gave the lamb a nice spice and boost of flavor. I savored every bite thinking of how much Hans would have enjoyed it as well.
The last course was a baked apple barley pudding with cinnamon tuile and Snowville Creamery anglaise:
For gluten reasons, I passed on this dessert, but it was getting rave reviews from the other diners at the table. I loved the use of barley as the grain by Chef Jarrett. Points for creativity indeed!
TWO COMMENTS FOR IMPROVEMENT:
What I did notice immediately was the lack of the Garden Party theme in the visual non-food aspects of the event. This event producing group is known for taking a blank canvas of a location and transform it into something special – to so much more that its original being. When I heard we’d be “celebrating the garden”, I had a hope that perhaps we’d be outside under a tent next to the Marriott’s garden where AMP 150 grows its own produce. Perhaps there would be a planting ceremony or a harvesting… I had brainstormed all these crazy ideas. Perhaps I should blame myself for building up a grandiose idea of what I was getting into. Instead, it felt like I was dining in the AMP 150 dining room – like I could do on any other night. It’s something I normally have no issue with, but for a special event, was a point to note.
On another note for improvement: Not only do you expect high quality food at an Emerging Chefs event, they’ve also set an expectation for a large volume of adult beverages. Like one of my fellow diners, I wasn’t planning on drinking that evening so it wasn’t a big to-do for me. However I heard several comments from around the dining room from others that they were disappointed with the lack of drink pairings and the cash bar. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes but it was a noticeable subtraction from the usual.
THE POSITIVE: THE SERVICE: What really made this event shine for me was the human component as the people engaged with this event made its dishes soar.
First, the service staff at AMP 150 worked their behinds off that night. Not only did they serve the folks attending the EC event, the restaurant was open to the public and was busy. As they passed by our table located near the kitchen, I could see some faces of exhaustion fade away as they put on their game faces. It’s not easy to hold composure in a busy dining room so I give them all kudos. A familiar face – Stephanie – also took wonderful care of our table that evening, so I owe her a thank you for her kindness and attentiveness.
Secondly, Jeremy Lisy of KJ Greens was on hand to share his vast knowledge of growing these veggies that were featured in the above dishes. We learned a plethora of information. Did you know that peas are traditionally planted on St. Patrick’s Day? Or that ramps are only available for four weeks of the year, that their growing period is ten to fifteen years, and that you shouldn’t take an entire clump of ramps when you find them? Save some for your other NEO foodie friends!
But most importantly, Chef Jeff Jarrett deserves a gold medal. Not only did the man lead his team through an evening filled with a busy dining room, he took the time to connect with the guests individually in a variety of ways. For most, this meant visiting their tables to answer questions throughout the evening. But for me, he surprised me with some additional care. For this gluten free girl, he subbed me AMP 150’s Broccolini for the gnocchi course…
…and a fruit plate for the dessert course. Chef Jarrett even mentioned to me when he looked at the guest list and saw my name, he remembered my gluten intolerance and made a mental note to do his best to accommodate my dining needs during the event. Seriously?! I would have barely remembered what I was serving that evening, but he took the time to make sure every.single.diner was content. This little thing solidified that not only is he an excellent chef, he’s one hell of a guy. Rock on, Chef.
LONG STORY SHORT: Sure, there was no booze or a ridiculous tent set up outside, but the Garden Party still celebrated all that planting and hard work can bring. I was very happy to attend this event surrounded by good people that reminded me to let go of expectations and embrace the goodness in front of me. An evening filled of tasty food and great people – I’ll take any night of the week.
Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to the Emerging Chefs’ Garden Party event. As always, my thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.