Thursday, July 5, 2012

Emerging Chefs Take Their Tasty Treats to Tremont

When I envisioned the location of the Emerging Chefs event, “The Last Tango in Tremont,” I thought of a beautifully structured restaurant I’d spot immediately. Turns out, I passed it twice before seeing a small neon sign in the upper-left corner of the tall window that read “The Velvet Tango Room.”

The brick building looked like every other house on the street. I wasn’t positive I was at the right place until I opened the door and was overwhelmed by the vision painted in my head weeks earlier by Michael DeAloia, co-owner of Emerging Chefs, a Cleveland based pop-up restaurant company.

“There’s little black holes everywhere in Cleveland, and this is one of them,” said Jennifer Rome of Willoughby. Her table of five, including husband, Matthew, and Velvet Tango fan Kimberly Morris of Ohio City, are regulars of Emerging Chef events.

The July 2 event, the 17th for Emerging Chefs, featured the culinary skills of Chef Brian Rosander, owner of Rosander Ice Cream Parlour and Sweet Shoppe in Berea.

“He’s an underdog chef,” said DeAloia. “That’s the point of Emerging Chefs, to spot upcoming talent and give them the opportunity to take the next jump.”

There were five small courses, or acts, as the menu called them.

“When people eat smaller courses, they feel more rested,” said Rosander. “It allows you to eat more food.”

Each pairing consisted of a chilled dish with a complementing cocktail. Rosander prepared the dishes while the Velvet Tango Room selected the cocktails.

“We give the chef total creative control,” said Rick Turner, co-founder of Emerging Chefs. “We trust the chefs to take it and run with it.”

Act 1 was a summery pea bisque, served with fresh crab, and a White Lotus cocktail. The hint of honey and lemon in the drink illuminated the light, creamy, smooth mix of sweet taste in the soup.

Morris was in awe of the cherries served in the Manhattan, which accompanied American and Purple Majesty potatoes with Toulouse sausage topped with a blue cheese froth.

“They may be the highlight of the night,” Morris said as her friends nodded in agreement.

It was a great pairing, as long as you like bourbon. If you’re like me, it’s not quite my style, but my taste buds sang when a White Russian was served with a ginger fruit tartare and rosemary ganache to end the evening.

As tantalizing as all the pairings were, there was one act that outshined the rest: The tomato tarte tatin served over chicken mousseline with an Apricot Lady cocktail. I’m not a fan of chicken. It’s usually too dry, tasteless. However, this chicken is something I’ll talk about for years. The juices in the tomato soaked through the meat and created a dish so moist and full of flavor that it left everyone who tasted it feeling on top of the clouds.

This was my first Emerging Chefs event, but definitely not the last. Being of Italian heritage, I’m especially looking forward to the next pop-up restaurant at St. Rocco’s Church on August 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. This event will capture the talents of Chef Jeff Fisher as he prepares large dishes spread out on communal tables to immerse the audience in a genuine Italian family dinner.

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