Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Belly Up to the Bar

The evening featured creative cocktails and specialty beers but seating was at linen draped tables not barstools. The event was last week’s “Bar” Dinner at Melange in Beachwood. Co-executive chefs Adam Bostwick and Matt Creighton decided to riff on the wine-centric meals hosted by so many fine dining spots, by pairing spirits and brews with playful versions of standard pub and tavern fare. I was invited by the restaurant’s owner Andy Zelankofske, who wanted me to get acquainted with what his chefs can do. And I have to say that by the time I was done eating my way through the six course tasting menu I was impressed. These guys brought skill and inventiveness to the food, and infused the proceedings with an appealing sense of humor. They’ve been cooking under the radar, and I’d say it’s definitely time for them to get some well-deserved attention.

Here’s my course by course account of the experience.
1) Shot and a Beer: Thyme infused whiskey sour for sipping. A rich, creamy, lick the bowl good cheese soup for slurping made with Dead Guy Ale, Gouda, and caramelized onions. As soon as I was done I wanted more.

2) White Mary and Potato BLT: The seasonings for these pale Bloody Mary’s, made with Chopin Vodka and clear tomato water, were frozen Popsicle style. Stick was good for stirring. A slice of herb roasted potato was topped with some pork belly, bacon mayo, oven dried tomato and micro chives. Mmmmm.

3) Fish-n-Chops: Seared scallop crusted with shredded phyllo, plus shoestring pickle fries, dill dust, and malt vinegar “caviar” bubbles that burst in the mouth. It was a terrific combination set off by a sour German style ale made by Bruery, a California craft brewer.

4) Burger and a Beer: Short rib pavĂ© made by braising meat, pulling it off the bone and pressing it into a cube and searing. It was served in room temperature tomato broth- that’s the “ketchup” element, with a bit of cheddar, a dab of mustard sauce and cornichon salsa (the stand in for pickle slices). Not much more than a bite like all the dishes so far, this one disappeared fast. I was slower downing the accompanying Chimay Blue Label.

5) Wings and Champagne: This was fun food. Flutes filled with Riondo pink prosecco and a plate of three chicken wings confited to crispy perfection in their own fat and coated with an effervescent hot sauce that added a seltzer-like buzz to the roasted chile burn, along with a spoonful of shaved celery salad spiked with bleu cheese powder. I maxed out and couldn’t eat the last piece. I wish I had it here right now.

6) Coffee and Dessert: They revved up the high test mocha java with espresso syrup, Sambuca, and Frangelica. A basket was brimming over with hazelnut biscotti, zucchini madelines, donut holes with lime curd filling, and planks of dangerously delicious peanut bacon brittle- full as I was I found it impossible to stop eating the stuff.

Bostwick and Creighton came out to describe every dish. I enjoyed putting faces with names and getting a sense of what these chefs are all about. You can have a chance to do that too. At the start of the evening Zelankofske had told me that if the event was a success, he’d plan another one. Apparently the consensus was two thumbs up because he just announced that Melange will be doing these "Not another wine dinners" every other month. Tentative date for the next reservation only bar dinner is May 18. Check the website for details.


Gina said...

I LOVE Melange! It's the perfect mix of creativity and food that makes you feel good while you're enjoying it. I'm interested to try this dinner series. The only complaints I've ever had while dining there have involved parents who don't pay attention to their children who are craving it and the fact that I have left the restaurant too full maybe once...or twice...!

Laura Taxel said...

Gina- one of the things I really liked about this bar dinner were the portion sizes. They were just right for a multi-course meal. By the end I was full but not stuffed. And was happy that platefuls of food weren't ending up in the trash because I couldn't finish them.