Local Bites - At Dine with Design / Jeff Schlesinger
On June 9, the second annual Dine with Design Event occurred on the incomparable grounds of the Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan and presented some of the most imaginative and brilliantly-designed food selections that have ever graced this legendary compound. Six extraordinary chefs who exemplify the farm-to-table philosophy of Darryl Eckstrine's "Harvest to Heat" cookbook and numerous artisans converged in the morning, braving the mist and light rain and created dozens of culinary delights including foie grasprofiteroles; farro pasta with a duck heart ragout; citrus-cured sardines with Calabrian chilies; plus numerous interpretations of lamb and pork bellies. As I marveled at the chefs' creativity and tasted each of their dishes, it became apparent that the guests would experience an amazing culinary adventure.
Chef Gabriel Rucker from La Pigeon in Portland created three incredibly creative dishes. His lamb belly BLT included a slice of simply grilled white bread topped with romaine lettuce, tomato and a touch of aioli and crowned with a slice of perfectly roasted lamb belly. The second dish, a thick slice of beef carpaccio was accompanied by half an egg, accented with truffle vinaigrette and topped with trout and truffle caviars. The flavor combinations presented in these two dishes were superb. The highlight of Chef Rucker's dishes was his signature dessert, the foie gras profiteroles with caramel sauce and sea salt. I twas my favorite presentation at the event. A scoop of foie gras ice cream sandwiched between choux pastry puffs brought a deep and rich flavor. It was perfectly complemented with a drizzle of sweet caramel sauce and a touch of sea salt. Chef Rucker's dishes were all spectacular.
Chef Missy Robbins from A Voce in New York created extraordinarily delicious presentations. Her first dish included citrus cured sardines with Calabrian chilies and fennel. The sardines were amazing, with a soft and succulent texture and a mild, citrusy tartness; plus a background of spiciness from the Calabrian chilies. This was one of my favorite dishes of the event. Her second presentation was a sandwich that included a thick slice of roasted pork belly encased in a delicious pecorinoaccented roll. Chef Robbins again added a hint of spiciness that was revealed as a surprise aftertaste. All of Chef Robbins' dishes were outstanding.
Chef Tony Maws of Craigie on Main in Cambridge prepared the event's only pasta dish plus two delightful combinations that employed rarely-used ingredients. The farro pasta with a duck heart ragout was a simple dish that burst with great flavors. The central ingredient of the Chef Maws' meatballs was pork hearts and the rich earthy flavor was complemented by the sweetness of currents in the delicious sauce. On a lighter note, Chef Maws' third dish was a smoked bluefish pate topped with a touch of caviar. All of Chef Maws' dishes were incredibly inventive and delicious.
The second chef from Cambridge, Chef Anna Sortun from Oleana delivered three Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Her interpretation of spanakopita included phyolo packets filled with creamed nettles and topped with a delightful sauce of wild herbs and pistachios. Her second dish was bite-sized hummus "tarts" topped with field cheeses and then finished with thin slices of radishes. Her last dish combined perfectly prepared quail served on a pita in the style of shawarma and topped with a green garlic sauce and nasturtiums. All of Chef Sortun's dishes were fabulous.
Local Chef Tim LaBant of the Schoolhouse at Cannondale prepared three very light dishes that allowed the natural flavors of the local ingredients to shine. His cold lamb belly was a simple presentation on toasts topped with local greens. His second dish was a baby green salad sitting atop a slice of guanciale and accompanied by fresh polenta croutons. The polenta croutons were fried and delicious and the guanciale gave a salty complement to the creaminess of the polenta. The last dish was a puree of beans on toast, topped with a delightful ricotta and finished with a beautiful, fresh orange flower. All of Chef LaBant's presentations were beautiful and delicious.
The Bedford Post Chef Jeremy McMillan delivered two appetizers and a dessert. His first dish consisted of sliced biscuits topped with a whipped lardo (a cured and dried fatback) and drizzled with honey. His second dish was a simple flatbread topped with a bone marrow spread and finished with a touch of gremolata. His dessert featured delicious fruits plus a scoop of coconut mascarpone.
Of special note were two of my local favorites. Wave Hill Bakery of Wilton and Norwalk baked several delectable breads plus a few toppings; we are very lucky to have such an extraordinary baker in our area. Likewise Blue Pig Ice Cream from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., prepared four wonderful confections including a grapefruit sorbet, plus three ice creams, a garden mint chip, a low dairy cappuccino and my favorite, the chocolate cabernet, which was rich with a chocolatey flavor and then left a delightful cabernet after taste.
The 2012 Dine with Design was a huge success. It is rare that you can experience such a visual and culinary experience as walking through the compound of an architecturalgenius and sampling food prepared by some of the great chefs in America. I am already looking forward to next year's event.
Jeff Schlesinger is a food critic in Fairfield County.