Where design meets food? Most, definitely.
First of all, if you don't know about Arts and Lettuce, Please to eat you, or the Brush Factory -- check them out. Arts and Lettuce is the collaboration effort between the unique catering company, Please to Eat you, and the fashion forward manufacturing store (and a great store in Oakley), the Brush Factory. Read about them here.
I post this with some hesitation. Arts and Lettuce only seats 12 people twice a month for their multi-course dinner experience and I want to go again. However, since I don't think too many people read this blog, I'm not too worried about never getting a seat again :-)
Before I get started on the review, I need to thank the beautiful, awesome Laura for asking me to be her guest. There isn't a culinary partner like Laura and I never fail to have many good laughs and adventures. Thanks, Laura!
After signing up for their August dinner, we were e-mailed the secret location of dinner -- an old bank at the intersection of Harrison Avenue and Colerain Avenue near Central Parkway. Walking up 3 flights of steep stairs in heels was frightening, until we reached the top. What seemed like a mostly abandoned building and office spaces opened up to an airy dining room. Open windows, wooden farm table, and mason jars for drinking water. This was heaven. With the gorgeous, fall-like weather in Cincinnati this week, I can't imagine a more seasonal, worn-down, well-utilized space. Perfect venue for an imaginative dinner.
Here's a peak at the table. I intend to model my Thanksgiving table after this:
Dinner involved eight courses of delicious plates of food. The concept here is to make veggies the main course and highlight with meat and fish. You won't find a NY strip here. It's more like veggies sitting in broth infused with bone marrow or veggies with a dollop of fish. Main point -- highlight veggies.
Here's the round-up:
Oyster, bacon, lettuce, peanut sauce. The only discernable part here is the oyster in the middle. Oysters are always a great way to start a meal!
Sunchoke Gazpacho with peanuts in their most raw form, grapes, crushed almonds, olives, and a few pearls of salmon caviar. Wow -- this was in the top 2 of the night. I'd love to make something like this -- I'm now on a mission for salmon caviar.
Carrots - candied carrots, roots, and grapefruit juice. This was a really wonderful way to highlight carrots and got me thinking about how to incorporate sunflower oil and juices into my own cooking. I'm not a huge carrot fan (unless we are talking carrot cake, and then all bets are off), but this what yummy deliciousness. Nothing like a dish that manages to highlight the sweetness of carrots and add some complexity and acidity with grapefruit.
This was my least favorite dish. Zucchini with salted cod a la baby food from a jar. The chef mentioned wanting to highlight zucchini in a way that he would eat it since he doesn't like the vegetable. I guess I just couldn't get on board with the texture of this one. I prefer my zucchini grilled.
Peas and Pistachios. Yes. A hundred times yes. This little dish was sweet, crunchy, and pleasant. I loved that the peas were cooked perfectly -- tender with a little bite.
Best dish of the night. Onions. Onions in all their glory. With bacon, pork fat, and cracklings. How can this be bad? Well, I wanted seconds, but otherwise there isn't anything bad about this dish. The pickled onion in lavender was divine. The pork fat sauce tasted like my family's sausage gravy poured over biscuits. I can't say enough about this dish. So, so, so, so good.
Vanilla milkshake with dehydrated olives. A little bit of licorice, a little bit of vanilla, a little be of salty. I slurped.
Final dish - tomato and watermelon dessert with lavender. Such a simple, light way to end the evening.
Duck fat and bourbon treat to go. This tasted like duck marinated in maker's mark, just like the name. The first bite wasn't my favorite, but this little candy grows on you.
Also worth noting -- byob or byow. We enjoyed a Malbec from California for dinner. What a way to split a bottle of wine.
Community style eating isn't for everyone, but if you are interested in meeting new people and having a dining experience, Arts and Lettuce is bringing concept dining from the major cities right to our own backyard. Try it -- you won't be disappointed!