Sunday, January 23, 2011

More Fun Playing With Dinner in the Dark

Monday January 17, we attended the fourth installment of Dinner in the Dark. It was also my first time using the new camera in "combat" conditions, so the photos are what they are.

DITD is self described as "An impromptu dinner designed to stimulate your palate and surprise your taste buds by offering you no idea of what you will eat or drink or who will be cooking for you." Some of Cleveland's top culinary talents have cooked at each of the first four events, donating time and product for a different charity each month. January's dinner benefited the Cleveland Sight Center and was held at Jeff Jarret's new Strongsville restaurant Palate. Priced at an affordable $65 (including wine but plus tax and tip), each of the three dinners we attended have offered some amazing flavors and introduced us to some new culinary ideas.

Before digging into the food, a few words about 55 Degrees. This Ohio wine distributor has provided most of the libations consumed at these events (as well as retail priced bottles for purchase after the meal, with profits donated to the charity of the month). This month, we especially enjoyed (and purchased) the Sineann Red Table Wine from Oregon, which complimented perfectly the Veal Strip Loin you will see below. Thank you to Aaron Deibel of 55 Degrees for explaining the wines and offering them to us each month! We've especially enjoyed the whites we purchased after Dinner in the Dark 2 at AMP 150.

We began with a cocktail crafted by Cleveland area cocktail meister Joseph DeLuca:

A Rose By Any Other Name

This refreshing libation contained Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon, Pinot Noir Syrup, Rose Water and Bitters.


Tonight's first bite was prepared and presented by Chef Adam Bostwick of Melange. His caramelized onion and fig tartlet was adorned with a crispy sweetbread and a large dot of bleu cheese ice cream, which isn't visible in this photo. A lovely, complex start to the evening.

The above photo, shot after the cameraman from Newsnet 5 was kind enough to bathe our table with some much-appreciated light, does at least show you the ice cream. Click the link to see the compelling backstory to this night's event.

Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding, Autumn Vegetables, Sage, Balsamic, Dried Sorrel, Truffle Oil

This slightly kicked up version of an item on the Palate menu was prepared by host Chef Jeff Jarrett. Even though I'm not a mushroom lover, I can recommend this dish, which presented the essence of mushroom, accented with truffle, in a creamy pudding that contrasted texturally with crispy herbed smoked onions.

Calf-tongue Reuben Sandwich with 7 Day Cured Napa Kraut and 14 Day Cured Apple Kimchi

Chef Matt Mathlage of Ohio City's Light Bistro contributed this tasty combo. I neglected to photograph the sandwich sans wrapping paper, so you'll have to take my word for it that the calf-tongue "corned beef" melted in the mouth and tasted wonderful, especially against the kraut and cheese in the sandwich. The Apple Kimchi delighted, kissed with a 90 day vinegar.

Roasted Beets with Pistachio Crusted Goronzola and Goat Cheese Crottin, Blood Orange Vinaigrette,  Beet Gelée, Pistachio Herb Oil

Chef Steve Schimoler of Crop Bistro, who I consider the Mad Scientist of Cleveland Cuisine, presented this amazing salad. My friend Edsel Little got a much better photo of it, which you can find here. The internet tells us this about crottin: "1. A pungent cheese made of goat's milk and formed into small disks. 2. A disk of this cheese." Lookng further, the cheese itself is described as "a goat's milk cheese made in the heart of France in the verdant Loire Valley. When the Crottin is young, it is moist and it has a light tangy goat's milk flavor. As it ages, this pretty little cheese takes on a firmer texture and a fuller flavor." The cheese balanced between creamy goat and tangy Gorgonzola, which worked nicely for me, and perfectly complemented the beets and the fabulous Beet Gelee, which tracked and enhanced the flavors of the beets.The pistachios added crunch.

Brown Butter Poached Arctic Char, Fennel Salad, Smoked Corn & Truffle Risotto, Basil  Cream Sauce

The fish course came from Chef Matt Mytro of and Crisp Catering. Arctic char bears some similarity to salmon, but is a bit more delicate. This pristine specimen featured crispy skin and a luxurious risotto, nicely cut by the basil sauce.


Ray Garman of Melange prepared this lovely blood orange sorbet with basil, served over a round of seriously frozen kiwi. A perfect palate refresher as we transitioned from fish to flesh.

Veal Strip Loin with Risotto Croquette, Dr. Pepper Demi

Chris Quinn, a Chef with US Foodservice, gave us this surprising course: spicy espresso-rubbed veal strip-loin steak with jalapeño risotto cheese croquettes and haricots verts in a sweet pepper jus. Once again, my photo does not do justice to this melt-in-your-mouth hunk of meat and the toothy sides - so do please click through to Edsel's much better photo. The flavors were perfectly melded, such that the espresso did not set off my "coffee meter" (hence the "surprise") and the texture of the veal was, well, I suppose what I'd expect a veal strip loin to be like, if I'd ever considered eating a veal strip loin - buttery, mild, and tender are three adjectives that come to mind.

Caramelized Local Apples, Lucky Penny Goat Cheese, Black Walnut Granola, Sorghum and Five Spice
Dessert was provided by Chef Matt Anderson of Umami Asian Kitchen. Truthfully, I was too full to really appreciate this, though caramel is one of my favorite things, and this plate did not disappoint. 

As diners began to say their goodbyes and leave, a final whimsical bowl made its way to the tables, courtesy of Melange's Adam Bostwick:

Peanut Butter & Jelly Popcorn

This dish epitomizes the creativity and fun that Cleveland Chefs are bringing to each table every month with Dinner in the Dark. The next event is scheduled for February 21 at Melange. Please call 216-378-9755 for your reservations, so you can join us in playing with great food and drink for another worthy (and as of this date, unannounced) beneficiary.


  1. Ohhhh does this all look and sound fabulous. thanks. keri