Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dinner in the Dark: Palate Restaurant

Beverage Pairings
Last night I attended my first Dinner in the Dark, held at Palate Restaurant in Strongsville, with a group of local foodies and bloggers.  A - MAZ - ING.

No, we weren't blind folded and served scary foods; the 'dark' part refers to the fact that until service starts you don't know what you are going to be served, or the chefs that are going to be be preparing the six course, beverage paired menu.

Dinner in the Dark was created by chefs Brian Okin (Verve), Ellis Cooley (Amp 150), and Jeff Jarrett (Palate Restaurant) to bring together Cleveland's chefs and food lovers to share their passion and compassion.  Ticket proceeds benefit a local charity chosen by the participating chefs.  Last night's benefiting charity was the the Cleveland Sight Center.

Along with my favorite pie baker, Diane Sikorski from Humble Pie Baking Co., and her husband Steve, my dining companions included two fellow local bloggers, Nancy from Fun Playing with Food, and Tom from Exploring Food My Way, so there was a lot of photography at our table (with superior equipment to my toss in the purse camera), so check their blogs for the details I've missed.  Expect better photos from them as well.

We started with a cocktail of Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon with Pinot Noir Syrup, Rose Water and bitters.  I'm not a hard alcohol drinker, but this was really delicious.  The floral notes and the syrup really balanced the bourbon.  (I didn't finish it or I probably would have fallen asleep by the third course). 

The amuse bouche was a delicious little tart filled with smoky caramelized onions and figs, topped with a bleu cheese ice cream and a crispy sweetbread. Created by Adam Bostwick from Melange.

Amuse Bouche: Onion Fig Tart, Bleu Ice Cream, Sweetbread
The first course was a delicious wild mushroom bread pudding with herb smoked onions, topped with the heady aroma of truffle oil.  Even Nancy, a non-mushroom lover, cleaned her plate.  This course was created and presented by Jeff Jarrett from Palate.  It was paired perfectly with Boffa Dolcetto D'Alba, Piedmont.

Mushroom Bread Pudding

Next up, a clever take on a reuben with slaw, a tasty kimchi with tart Granny Smith apples and a mini calves tongue sandwich on rye created by Matt Mathlage from Light Bistro.  The sandwich was wrapped with a piece of parchment paper to give a bit of a 'fast food' look according to Matt, but more than a few dinners were a bit perplexed at first (including) me, thinking that perhaps the wrapper was some kind of edible garnish.  Served later, with more drink pairings, the paper may have created some interesting reactions.  It was paired with Piedmont beer, quite successfully. 

Kimchi with Calves Tongue Sandwich
The salad course was prepared by my favorite Cleveland chef/mad scientist, Steve Schmioler, from Crop Bistro.  (Side note - I am so looking forward to celebrating my birthday in Crop's new location near West Side Market).  Steve's contribution was a local yellow and red beet salad topped with a spectacular blood orange gelee along with goat cheese with touch of gorgonzola with pistachios.  The combination of ingredients and textures was delightful and refreshing.  The pairing of Pinot Noir worked well with the earthiness of the beets.  There was some serious debate at the table about licking the plates clean, but no one wanted to go for the blood orange mustache.

Beet Salad, Blood Orange Gelee
The fish course, an brown butter poached artic char served atop a smoked corn and truffle risotto with a basil sauce, was Matt Mytro, creator of Stove Monkeys, offering.  Not being a fan of salmon (I've tried...), I wasn't sure how I was going to like this, but combined with the risotto and the sauce, it was outstanding, as was the pairing of Demetria Chardonnay (Santa Barbara).

Artic Char, Smoked Corn Risotto
The final savory course was a spicy espresso crusted veal strip loin served atop a jalapeno croquette with a hidden surprise of pepper Jack cheese, along with haricot verts with a cherry glaze whose secret ingredient was Dr. Pepper.  The chef was Chris Quinn, the corporate chef from US Foodservice, who generously donated much of the food for the dinner.  The steak was smoky/sweet, but well balanced, and paired nicely with a red table wine.  The chef posted the recipe on his blog if you want to try it at home.

Espresso Veal Strip Loin
Finally, dessert was presented by Matt Anderson from Umami Asian Kitchen in Chagrin Falls, who said he wanted to make something non-Asian.  His dessert of lightly cooked local apples, paired with Lucky Penny goat cheese combined with sorghum and walnuts, was an interesting, light finish to the meal.

Dessert Course

There was a silent auction for $400 in restaurant gift certificates as well as a raffle to benefit the Cleveland Sight Center.  Dinner tab - a steal at $65, plus tax and tip.

There were amazing microgreen garnishes on many of the dishes hand delivered from the Chef's Gardens, whose lucky employee Mike and his wife stayed to enjoy the feast. 

We'd paid upfront at the suggestion of waitress to make a speedier exit, but as we waited for the silent auction results, a surprise final treat was delivered to our table - Peanut Butter and Jelly Popcorn with Peanuts.  The grape jelly had been reduced to it's concord grape flavor, and combined with the peanut butter and peanuts was a delicious, playful combination.  

News channel 5 WEWS was on hand to do a story. Check out this clip for background on why the Cleveland Sight Center is near and dear to Chef Jarrett's heart.

Channel 3 WYKC was there as well, their clip here.

To see the secret menu, plus bios of the participating and founding chefs, visit Local Food Service here.

For one of my dining companions photos, including the cocktail and popcorn visit here. 


  1. If you'd like to know more about Palate, visit their website at www.PalateCleveland.com

  2. Wow, that was fast!

    The mushroom tart was made by Adam Bostwick. He's the Executive Chef at Melange in Beachwood. I've not been to the restaurant but every time I've had his creations at various events I've been impressed.

  3. Thanks for the correction Diane - the cocktail may have gone to my head :-). I am sure Nancy and Tom took much better notes than I did.

  4. I've posted the "secret" menu and the Chef's bios as well as links to your blog on www.localfoodservice.com

  5. Jealous. I've had many meals with all of them. Its been awhile though, they are great to dine with.


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