My fiftieth birthday, which happened in July, was supposed to be celebrated at the Chef's Table at Restaurant Dante with friends. Instead, I spent the day going from doctor, to x-ray and blood draw, to pharmacy, to home and sleep. I tried to reschedule the dinner, but couldn't get it back together.
When I heard about Northeast Ohio Media group's debut of their "Taste of NEO Chefs Dining Series" featuring Chef Dante Boccuzzi and Dante Next Door on Sunday October 5, I decided that even at the somewhat pricey tag of $125 (including tax, gratuity and wine, so perhaps not really so pricey), this would be a nice consolation prize to the birthday washout. And it was.
Upon our arrival Sunday evening, the always genial manager Phil Hockey was pouring a signature cocktail (or other libation or soft drink as guests preferred), the Ninho Pacifico, composed of Watershed Vodka, passion fruit puree, muddled cilantro, lime juice, and topped with Fever Tree Ginger Beer,
Over at the pizza making station, Chef Dante guided each guest who wanted to make a pizza in that process.
|Chef Dante assists a guest in making her pizza|
I've always wanted to learn how, but had never actually made pizza, though Bob had done it a couple of times. Our oven just doesn't get hot enough. Oven heat was no issue here, as Dante demonstrated and watched me take the ball of dough to topping-ready. It came out amazingly well.
|Nancy's Pizza with Sausage and Sun Dried Tomato|
After receiving our pizzas from the oven, we headed to our table. In true rustic Italian style, seating was communal and we met a lovely couple with whom we shared the rest of the meal. The bread service included an assertively seasoned hummus and hot bread, ensconced in Dante's signature re-purposed record album-bread basket.
The evening was hosted by NEO Media's Joe Crea, on the right below. Dante took us through the first three savory courses, and his new line of signature wines named for his children, as we enjoyed them. Then, before dessert, Joe moderated a question and answer session between Dante and the guests.
|Joe Crea introduces Chef Dante|
|Tinted Hamachi Sashimi|
Dante made this dish for the James Beard Awards Gala in NYC last May. The Hamachi was marinated in beet juice to obtain the unique color and plated with beet variations, yuzu, red oak leaves, and topped with a wasabi leaf that lent a unique bit of spice to the dish, which was paired with Dante's Sparkling Ocean-prosecco.
|Maine Lobster Napoleon|
What could be more luxurious than slices of seasonal Jonagold apples cooked in browned butter and layered with pristine Maine Lobster (which was probably poached in more butter)? Paired with a lemon confit that gently cut the richness and topped with "tarragon essence," this was the favorite dish of the evening at our table. We enjoyed this dish with the Dante Sole Bianco-pinot bianco.
|Duo of Angus Beef & Butternut Squash|
Which is not to say that we didn't all enjoy this hunk of Roasted Ribeye, accompanied by two made-from-scratch Short-Rib Ravioli atop creamy squash, and topped with crispy sage leaves. I believe the the green vegetable under the ribeye was kale. The accompanying wine was Dante's Red Zephyr-primativo blend.
|Nutella Mousse Tartlet|
The dessert was topped with Salted Caramel Pumpkin Ice Cream and paired with Dante's Dolce Luna-moscato. A sweet end to a lovely dinner. Not quite the Chef's Table, but a worthy consolation prize. And speaking of prizes, we took home a bottle of the lovely Sole, courtesy of a raffle of "Dante Signature Items" that was included with the dinner tickets. We all enjoyed all four of the signature Dante wines, and I look forward to trying them again. Phil tells me that three of the four have arrived and can be ordered at the restaurant, and the last is expected momentarily!
Northeast Ohio Media Group says that they have additional dinners in the works for this series, which will likewise feature a hands-on cooking experience and interaction with the hosting Chef. If Dante's event was any barometer of the series, I'd say it's a fun way to play with food and wine in Cleveland!