Who doesn’t have a favorite food to chow on when you’ve been drinking a couple of beers? Now imagine a five course menu of elevated versions of all those favorite foods. Good, right?! That’s what Chef Brooks Hart offered to Dinner Lab diners at their second Cleveland event.
When I read the menu sent to members in the weeks leading up to the dinner, it wasn’t a hard sell for me. Billed as drunk food redefined, it also boasted beer pairings from two increasingly popular local breweries. Sold.
As is always the case, the venue isn’t revealed until about 24 hours before the event. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the second venue would be at the penthouse space of Skylight Financial Group, offering a unique and unforgettable view of the city. We drank in the scenery and the cocktail hour special, named for the chef in honor of his 30th birthday.
After the 30 minute cocktail hour, I was ready to dig in to course #1, a deconstructed fish taco with halibut ceviche, marinated in coconut milk and thai chili and crispy tortilla strips. The fish was the perfect temperature and texture. I could’ve done without so much lime juice. But still a great start! This was paired with Platform Black Eagle from Platform Beer Co.
The second course was a nod to all the Canadians and gravy fans in the dining room…poutine with crispy fingerling potatoes, a tempura cheese curd (my favorite element of this dish) and some lemon rind confit, (which was a surprise when I took the first bite, but I loved it too)
The beer offering for this one was a smooth and refreshing compliment to the food, Platform Symon Says Saison from Platform Beer Co. It’s brewed exclusively for Iron Chef Michael Symon’s “B Spot”, (their website describes it as a citrus driven peppery saison utilizing a specialty yeast blend specific for this beer)
Our third course was a tale of two dishes, for me. It was listed as a pizza, but you could hardly eat it that way The raclette flatbread with butter roasted mushrooms that served as the base was tasty, but a little tough. And it was impossible to pick it up, or slice into the braised bacon and eat all of it as one bite as it was likely intended. When I gave up and ate the elements separately, I was happy again.
As we ate and chatted with our guests, some friends who also enjoy food and these kinds of experiences as much as we do, I made sure to jot down a few notes on my comment card. No, I’m not one of those people who does this at every restaurant I go…this is a huge part of the process for Dinner Lab and its chefs. They take the feedback back to “the lab” and make changes (or not) according to the comments from their diners.
Course number four was the crowd favorite by far. It was a pretzel croissant with marinated gouda and blueberry mustard. I know…sounds a little crazy. But I wanted a whole box of those pretzels and a vat of the blueberry mustard to take home!!
One diner even stood up and whistled to get the crowd’s attention so he could shout “That preztel was the bomb!” The chef told us he was relieved to hear it, as he put a lot of muscle power into rolling out enough of those for two seatings. The beer pairing for that course was also my favorite, the Albino Stout from Butcher and the Brewer. I order it every time I go there. Great choice!
For dessert we had another helping of culinary imagination…a chocolate brownie topped with pickled peanuts (in a caramel sauce) creme fraiche and ganache. I loved the bravery and spirit of adventure that this process fosters among its chefs. Who pickles peanuts?!
We had mixed feelings about the dining room. I loved the view of downtown, especially at sunset. But once dinner began, the fluorescent lights of the business space took over. To be honest, it wasn’t a distraction or something that hindered the experience…just an observation.
We also got a chance to chat with both the chef and event manager by the end of the evening. I was pleased to hear that a lot of what we ate was sourced from the iconic West Side Market and I am excited about the next venue (got the inside scoop…stay tuned…and hungry!)