Have you ever watched Top Chef, and while they’re presenting the dishes to the judges, you always say to yourself, ” I bet that tastes good” or,” man, that looks awesome!”
For me, that happens all of the time.
The only way to really find out if you’re right or not is either to go to their restaurant, or have them over to cook dinner in your house. As unlikely as that last scenario sounds, for my recent birthday I was able to make that dream come true. A dinner for 14 family and friends, beautiful prepared by Chef Hosea Rosenberg and his bad ass crew from BlackBelly Catering. For those that need a history lesson, Hosea won Top Chef Season Five. Not only was he the chef for the evening, but it was the in the comfort our friends’ dining room, bringing the highbrow dining we see on TV right into our very own dining room so to speak.
Here’s a breakdown of the night and the menu, which I was fortunate enough to work with the Chef to customize:
Like any dinner party, you have to have a great cocktail hour. While people were arriving, the hors d’oeuvres started circulating and the bottles of wine started popping. First bite: Grape, Pisctachio and Goat Cheese “Truffles” PIC HERE. Second bite: Quinoa Blinis With House Cured Salmon PIC HERE. Third bite: Mini Lamb Meatballs With Crispy Polenta and Tomato. Fourth bite: Sweet Corn Custard Wrapped In Culatello PIC HERE. Fifth bite: Kusshi Oysters and Caviar PIC HERE. If these five perfect bites were any indication of what was to come, this birthday dinner might reach epic proportions.
While designing the main dinner menu with Hosea we knew that our options were infinite. So, we decided to start small and let the master do his thing. We decided on a few key ingredients: Pork Belly, Scallops, and Duck. That was all Chef Hosea needed to get crafting up some ridiculous amazing dishes.
Amuse: Smoked Bay Scallops with Cauliflower and Apples
First off, the dish looked incredible. The soft, silky, pureed cauliflower acted as a pillow for the delicately smoked bay scallops. Nestled on top of the scallops was a little roasted cauliflower and shaved almonds. The apple added a little tart to finish the dish out. A combination of each ingredient on the plate took my tastebuds to a new, fun place they had never been before. The scallops were quite possibly the most delicate seafood I’ve ever had, as the Chef described the as nearly sashimi/sushi prepared.
First Course: Ginger Braised Pork Belly, Fava Bean Ravioli, and a Quail Egg
This dish just sounds awesome. Sounds even better knowing that this is the freshest pig I have ever eaten. Quick perspective: The pig we ate on Saturday, to put it mildly, was still living 6 days earlier. It was also the best pork belly I have ever had. Although the pork belly melted in your mouth, the fava bean ravioli was insanely good, and possibly stole the show of this dish. Homemade ravioli with eggs from Chef Hosea’s own chickens, and a delicate fava bean center, this combo was something that left us wanting more, including another quail egg.
Second Course: Coffee Spiced Duck Breast, Confit Duck Leg, and Root Vegetables
This dish has all the looks of a main course. It’s definitely not the meat and potatoes you made in college though. It’s just a tad more refined. I can’t remember making confit duck that sits aside a mound of fresh beets and a coffee spiced duck breast. I also can’t remember making sweet potatoes that are so smooth. This dish was completed with the handful of pomegranate seeds that were sprinkled on top. Such a great idea and perfectly complemented the dish.
Third Course: Porcini Dusted Tenderlion, Truffled Potato, Red Wine Shallot
Just by looking at the picture it looks great, but I could smell the dish before they even put it down. From the truffled potatoes radiating decadence to the vibrant red wine braised shallots, this dish hit all of the senses. However, the rockstar on the plate was the black garlic demi glace. A little bite of the beef, a little potatoes, some sauce…those are all of the keys to one of the most perfect bites of all time.
Dessert: Lemon Verbena Custard, Grapefruit, Pickled Grapefruit Rind, and Pine Nut Brittle
Once there was nothing left on the menu except for desert, I knew one of the most epic and delicious meals of my life was almost over. With nothing I could do about that but enjoy the last dish, I slammed my 8th glass of wine and crushed my sweet, sour, cold, fresh, and crunchy dessert. The verbena was like no other texture and just literally melted in my mouth. To round out the entire dish as well as the meal, as a fresh piece of grapefruit gave my palate a well deserved thank you.
As we look back at this experience, it’s important to note that chefs have hard, hard, jobs. They are all creative and innovative in their own unique ways. This dinner we had required a week of planning and preparation and at least 72 hours of cooking after the menu was already set.
This meal was like a dream come true, one of those rare moments when reality meets expectation. Chef Hosea and his crew diligently put together a great meal that had us completely satisfied from start to finish. The ingredients and preparation were everything you would expect from a Top Chef, and it actually felt like we were filming an episode at one point. The fact that I could have any input on the menu at all made the experience that much better. I don’t know if I could have asked for a better way to spend a birthday.