Dinner Lab: Anthos

Opa!  This most recent Dinner Lab experience was the most fun we’ve ever had at one of their communal tables.  Anthos was a Greek-inspired menu concept served at a cool venue.  So nice to share inspired food with interesting people.

DL Anthos crowd

The venue was Borrow, a vintage rental furniture business.  So we were surrounded by eclectic pieces, and seated at farm tables and old barn doors converted to table tops.  Plus it’s amazing what a couple strings of lights will do for the ambiance.

Our party sipped on a pair of bourbon based specialty cocktails, one garnished with fresh rosemary, the other with fresh sage.  Tasty and potent.  Then it was time to dig in to the five courses offered up by Chef Russ Bodner.

First up was a crisp Greek salad with winter vegetables, red mustard and a red wine vinaigrette.  Didn’t taste particularly “Greek” to me, but it was good nonetheless.

DL Anthos tuna

Second course was a lightly seared tuna with fennel pollen crust, thassos olives, dehydrated feta and an orange vinaigrette.  Not sure why the feta, a dry cheese as it is, was dehydrated.  I loved the olives, the tuna was nicely cooked and the portion size was good.  But the dressing wasn’t as bold as I would have liked.

DL Anthos dumplings

The third course was a favorite table-wide.  The ricotta dumplings with crab, crispy tobacco onion, spinach and leek.  It was Mediterranean comfort food as its best.  I liked every element of this dish and gobbled it up.

 Just when we thought we’d had the chef’s best…then came the lamb.  Fourth course was a slow roasted leg of lamb.  Even people the table who don’t eat lamb, liked this lamb.  What set it apart of the bulgar trahan and the harissa.

As we bargained for a second helping of the fan favorite, Chef Russ Bodner addressed the crowd, explaining the inspirations behind his menu concept.  Of all the chefs we’ve dined with at Dinner Lab, Bodner was by far the most engaged with his diners, going table to table and spending significant time with everyone to gather real feedback.

DL Anthos dessert

I dreamt about the decadent dessert that was the fifth and final course, a sticky toffee pudding with a metaxa toffee sauce and mahlepi ice cream.  To. Die. For.  It was just sweet enough…to make you want to lick the bowl.

This wasn’t necessarily my favorite menu of all the Dinner Lab events we’ve attended.  But it was the first time we spent much time talking to the other diners at our table and I really loved that part of it.  I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with other local food fans, swapping restaurant recommendations and chatting about unrelated life lessons, like “what not to say to your pregnant wife.”  It reminded me what the experience is all about.  And I can’t wait to dine again  

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Dinner Lab: Antico E Moderno

As I reflect on my third Dinner Lab, experience a single word comes to mind, synergy.  It was a truly collaborative effort of creative minds and local leaders.  And it was pretty exciting.

Dinner-Lab-St. Thomas

The location of the September event was the most interesting of all of the Cleveland dinners so far.  The site was St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, a sanctuary that won’t be around much longer.  Brickhaus Partners intends to turn the property on Lake Avenue into a collection of luxury townhomes, and call it 95 Lake.

Photo courtesy Brickhaus Partners Instagram

Photo courtesy Brickhaus Partners Instagram

So as part of the experience, the developer, Andrew Brickman, and Cleveland City Councilman, Matt Zone, were on hand to talk about the big plans for the neighborhood.

Dinner-Lab-band

And as an added bonus to the evening, there was entertainment this time.  City Councilman, Kevin Conwell and his band, The Footnotes, played during cocktail hour and through most of dinner service.

Dinner-Lab-Mytro-menu

The menu and the concept belonged to Chef Matt Mytro, (coincidentally, the same guy behind our Chef’s Table from last weekend.)  He and his partner at Flour Restaurant, Paul Minnillo, like to combine old school Italian cuisine with the occasional modern touch.  Mytro took this opportunity to take his modern approach to the next level.

Dinner-lab-burrata

First course was a warm burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream) with vanilla infused potato chips and pickled chili.  Innovative and tasty.

Dinner-Lab-beet-salad

The second course was a mock beet salad with pistachio, whipped ricotta, dried olive and sorrel.  It was definitely a favorite at our table.

Dinner-Lab-John and Dani

My friend, Dani and I were still admiring the beautiful presentation when we noticed that her boyfriend, John, had already polished his off and was asking for seconds.

Dinner-Lab-swordfish

Course number three had easily the most tender swordfish I’ve ever eaten. Had to look up what “Alla bagnara” meant to understand how it was made…steamed in a garlic broth.  Aha!  That’s why is was so fantastic.

Dinner-Lab-rigatoni

The fourth course was hearty and satisfying.  Chef Mytro said they made the corn rigatoni fresh that day.  But to me the lamb neck sugo (a rich tomato sauce) was the star of this dish.  I could’ve eaten several bowls of that!!

Dinner-Lab-panna-cotta

Dessert was a familiar treat.  The panna cotta sweetened with cereal milk that we’d enjoyed at Mytro’s restaurant, Flour, on Saturday.  This time there was a toasted marshmallow, always a good idea.

Dinner-lab-jen and ben

I love these dinners for a score of reasons.  But I appreciate them because they give me a reason to sit down through a relaxing service and enjoy my husband’s company, as well as those of good friends.  Can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Dinner Lab: Beer! Please! Drunk Food Redefined

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.

Dinner-Lab2-welcome card

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.

Dinner-Lab2-view

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.

Dinner-Lab2-ceviche

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.

Dinner-Lab2-poutine

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)

Dinner-Lab2-beer

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)

Dinner-Lab2-Pizza and braised bacon

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.

Dinner-Lab2-commet card

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.

Dinner-Lab2-pretzel croissant

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!!

Dinner-Lab2-Chef Brooks Hart.Dinner-Lab2-preztel prep

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!

Dinner-Lab2-dessert

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?!

Dinner-Lab2-dinning room view

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.

Dinner-Lab2-prep

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!)