Friday, March 30, 2012

Harding Dinner Series with Chef Jeremiah

harding dinner series

It's only going to be around for a week, so I've moved my writeup of the first "Harding Dinner Series" with Chef Jeremiah to the front of the queue. As I mentioned here earlier, the original Chow Down Grill in Surfside is being converted into Josh's Deli & Appetizing during the day, and a pop-up dinner venue for visiting chefs in the evenings. The first guest chef is Jeremiah Bullfrog (of the gastroPod and also a two time Cobaya veteran) and several of us got a preview dinner[1] on Wednesday. It bears repeating once more:
There are some genuinely interesting and exciting things going on in Miami's dining scene right now.
The format of this dinner was a lot tighter, more focused than the sprawling 17-courser Jeremiah did for his last Cobaya: seven courses plus a cocktail to start. But the style and spirit was very much the same - playful, but with a serious focus on maximizing depth of flavor.

(You can see all my pictures in this Harding Dinner Series flickr set).

You want local flavor? How about the "Instagram"? Not a popular new photo app, this was the other kind of gram. But the fine white powder in this baggie, unlike many others commonly seen in Miami, was only baking powder, which reacted with the acid in the drink (Bombay gin and lemon) to make for a fizzy, frothy cocktail. It's the same chemical reaction that powered the volcano you made for fourth grade science fair.

beet composition
beet composition

The first course, a "Beet Composition," was like a terrarium:[2] inside a glass jar were beets in various forms - salt roasted garnet beets, sous-vide candy-cane beets, ribbons of pickled red and golden beets, magenta-stemmed micro beet greens, plus bits of creamy cheese, all nestled in a black sesame "soil." Not merely a presentation ploy, this had great vivid flavors, ranging from the more deep roasty notes to brightly acidic pickled notes.

duck pastrami
duck pastrami

The next course was one of the best things I've eaten this year. Jeremiah' s duck pastrami was cured  in salt, sugar and pink salt for about five days, then thin shavings of the duck were plated on a long communal plank[3] with brussels sprout "kraut" and a spiced pumpernickel streusel. It was just a perfect combination of flavors: the duck, meaty and fatty; the sprouts, bright, vegetal and tart; the streusel providing an earthy, spicy anchor for it all. Great stuff.

(continued ...)

cracked conch
cracked conch

Conch is a popular ingredient but one that often disappears into the batter of fried conch fritters, not getting a chance to shine on its own. Here Jeremiah treats it simply, barely cooked and mixed with a bit of lemon, celery leaf and micro cilantro, a shrimp toast serving as vessel, a baby purple onion as garnish, and a little squeeze bottle of hot sauce for a little DIY dose of spice.

arepa 2012

Jeremiah's dishes rarely have more than three primary flavor notes. This dish effectively had one: corn, in many forms. It came as a creamy corn pudding, as a fluffy Adria-inspired microwave cake, as sweet, chewy freeze-dried kernels, as big kernels of pressure-cooked, reconstituted cancha corn, and as fresh, surprisingly vividly flavored corn shoots.

quail wing
quail wing

Another of my favorites of the evening: a quail "wing" - actually, half of a deboned quail, rolled back on itself and formed into a plump quail "lollipop." It was glazed with a smoked soy caramel that went more smoky than sweet that perfectly complimented the mild gaminess of the bird. Paired with it was a light-as-air potato "takoyaki" (it could have just as easily been called a croqueta, but who's quibbling), a delicate frond of baby bok choy, wispy pencil-thin white asparagus, and smoked soy infused Kewpie mayo. Great stuff.

A similar technique was used with the "porketta," a sort of turducken of pure pork which rolled a loin chop with the belly and skin, all in single-serve packages on the bone. It was paired with crispy, savory flecks of chicharrones and lightly pickled ramps (yup, it's the season) in a light vinaigrette.

peas & porridge, hot & cold
peas porridge hot and cold

To close things up, a nursery rhyme: "Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold."[4] A two-way riff on four ingredients: rice, peas, young coconut, and mint. In one iteration, a warm pea risotto; in the other, cool rice pudding, with fresh peas, ribbons of fresh young coconut, coconut water and wonderfully fresh mint bursting with purple flowers. This had promise but was the one dish that I most felt hadn't completely pulled together yet (this was a preview dinner after all).

Jeremiah's Harding Dinner Series starts tonight and runs through Thursday April 5. There are set seating times and it's reservation-only, by calling the number below. It's a small window of opportunity to experience a fun, delicious meal - don't miss it.

Harding Dinner Series
9517 Harding Avenue

[1] Paid, not comped.

[2] A word which always makes me think of Pavement's "Type Slowly":
One of us is a cigar stand.
And one of us is a lovely blue incandescent guillotine.
The edge of creation is blurred and blushed.
Not a lot of room to grow inside this leather terrarium.
[3] The faux-natural serving pieces were courtesy of the Lowe's flooring section.

[4] "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold. Peas porridge in the pot, Nine days old." I don't believe ours had been aged for nine days.

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