Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BBQ Bonanza With Chef Dave Martin at The Culinary Vegetable Institute

Me with Chef Dave Martin
What do you get when you combine beautiful, freshly picked seasonal vegetables, herbs, micro greens, and gorgeous proteins with an energetic, crazy-fun chef with a gift for combining seasonings and flavor profiles that honor the ingredients without overwhelming them?  Simple, you've got season one Top Chef favorite, Chef Dave Martin at the amazing Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio.

I met Chef Dave at the CVI last year when he was in town for the monthly CVI Earth to Table dinner, coincidentally held on Mother's Day weekend, so his mother and sister were in attendance at the dinner, which was so sweet.  It was refreshing to see that he was just as much fun in person, and that focusing on his true passion in food - doing events and teaching vs. restaurant work,  just like it did for me, really makes him happy.

We subsequently became Facebook friends, and I was really touched when he sent me messages occasionally during my cancer treatments to check in and see how I was doing.  When he was in town about a month ago for a dinner at The Wooster Inn with Certified Angus Beef Brand, he invited me to be his guest and we had a great time.

I wanted to repay his kindness by offering to help prep for his BBQ Bonanza class at CVI.  The written menu blew me away, and I looked forward  to working with the stunningly gorgeous produce of Chef's Garden.

 The Menu
Getting Started...

Cool French Green Bean Salad with Purple, Green & Yellow French Beans with Sherry & Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

Heirloom Tomato Caprese with Berkeley Tie-Die, Big Yellow Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Copia, Dr, Wyches, Great White, Pineapple & Velencia Heirloom Tomatoes stacked with Lime and Lemon Basil Leaves, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and sprinkled with Rogue River Bleu Cheese, Nueske's Cherry wood Bacon and Thai Basil Oil

Summertime ‘Pickle Me This' -Ver 2.0
 A medley of pickled garden veggies to include Cherry Bomb & French Breakfast Radish, Dragon, Red, White & Pink Carrots, Romanesco Broccoli, Orange Cauliflower and more

‘Crave' House Salad-Bibb & Lolla Rossa Lettuces , Olive Leaf Arugula and Gold Leaf Spinach dressed with a Fresh Lemon & Chive Vinaigrette and topped off by Roasted Mushrooms & Shaved Parmesan

Animals, Animals, Animals....

Grilled Buttermilk Marinated Free Range Chicken with Dave's Roasted Poblano BBQ Sauce

Smokey Rubbed Certified Angus Beef Brand Hanger Steak with Groovy Gorgonzola

‘Out of this World' Chimichurri Marinated Certified Angus Beef Brand Skirt Steak

Hoisin and Apple Cider Marinated ‘Duroc' Pork Tenderloin served with Dave's Killer Peanut Sauce

All About the E2T....

‘Hells Bells'-Fire Roasted Cherry Bomb, Green Jalapeno, Hungarian Wax and Poinsettia Peppers

‘Don't Cry for Me, Milan'- Bianca DiMaggio, Candy Apple & Red Cippolini Onions marinated overnight in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Greek Oregano , Thyme, Sea Salt and Green Peppercorns and Grilled to perfection

Roasted Fingerling ‘Tata Salad' SANS Mayo- Enjoy this tasty Salad of Roasted Red Thumb, French,

Purple & Peanut Fingerling Potatoes with a Tasty Asian Lime & Ginger Vinaigrette (without any mayo in sight)

Summer Squash & Eggplant Medley- Santana, Lao White, Kermit & Bambino Eggplant along with Magda, One Ball, Gold & Green Zucchini with secret sauces for dipping

The Sweet Stuff....
Butterscotch Pudding with Nutmeg Cashews and Salted Cream

House made Crème Fraiche Ice Cream Sundaes with ‘from scratch' Hot Fudge & Caramel Sauces with Banana & Penny Royal Mint

The CVI Kitchen

After an hour drive, most of it on the turnpike, I arrived at the Culinary Vegetable Institute bright and early at 9:00 am to help prep for the 4:00 class and dinner for nearly 80 guests, which included the family of one of Dave's Make a Wish kids.

The menu started with Dave's demo on making a beautiful caprese salad, using some of the amazing heirloom tomatoes from Chefs Garden.  Garnishing the salad was an amazing cherry wood smoked bacon from Nueskes, which would tempt even a vegetarian. 

Trays of Heirloom Tomatoes

So beautiful
Dave Martin's Stacked Caprese
To complete the lesson on salads and vinaigrette making, Dave's Crave Salad with Mixed Greens, Spinach, and Shaved Parmesan, plus a beautiful Grilled Green Bean and Mushroom Salad was also served.  The mushrooms, which I shot with my phone, and lost the shots, were breathtaking. Two large boxes contained 3 different types, including a golden Chanterelle, that tasted like bacon when they were roasted.

Colorful Mixed Beans & Shrooms
On every table were platters of pickled vegetables:

Pickled Vegetables
There are no photos of the proteins - there was way too much going on in the kitchen during service to even think about taking any, but there were four, including chicken, pork with an amazing peanut sauce, and two kinds of beef.  Dave has a new line of delicious rubs and BBQ sauces, and everyone got to try them in meat courses, along with some skillfully made sauces that perfectly complimented each protein.

The vegetables that accompanied the meat courses were these melt in your mouth tender grilled onions with fresh thyme:

Onions with Herbs
And a duo of baby eggplants and baby squash punched up a bit with a spicy Asian dressing:

Baby Eggplant
Baby Squash
A selection of roasted peppers that Dave called "Hell's Bells:

Hell's Bells
I think my favorite vegetable dish was the roasted fingerling potato salad. The multi-colored potatoes were sliced thin, roasted until crispy, then tossed with a spicy Asian dressing accented with fresh lime juice and ginger.

Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad
There were two desserts - a butterscotch custard topped with a salted whipped cream and nutmeg cashews, and a creme fraiche ice cream sundae, topped with a two sauces that will be available from Dave's Flavor Quest line this fall - one chocolate and one caramel. Both are amazing. Micro mint from Chefs Garden completed the desserts.

Creme Fraiche Ice Cream
After the dinner, Dave posed for photos, sold copies of his second book Flavor Quest, Volume 2 (guests received a signed copy of Flavor Quest, Volume 1 with their ticket price), as well as his BBQ Sauces and rubs.

Flavor Quest, Volume 2
Chef Dave Martin in the CVI Kitchen
If you missed this fantastic meal, you'll be pleased to know that the Culinary Vegetable Institute holds monthly Earth to Table dinners, featuring a different chef and menu each month.

On August 27th, one of my favorite local monthly events, Dinner in the Dark, will be held at CVI (on a Saturday vs. the usual Monday).  There are still tickets available, and I guarantee you it's worth the drive and you won't be disappointed.  (the 'dark' part is that you won't know which 6 local chefs will be cooking that evening, nor what they are making, until you arrive; don't worry, the lights will be on and you won't be blindfolded).  Go to Eventbrite to buy your tickets, which include the six course meal, beverage pairings with each course, plus tax & tip.  Just show up and feast!  I'll be there, will you?

Also, be sure and visit Dave's website to buy the BBQ sauces and rubs, and stay tuned for those delectable chocolate and caramel sauces.  (there are also some tees with his Top Chef signature phrase...)


  1. Tami, this looks like an amazing event! Lucky you for being behind-the-scenes and lucky Chef Dave Martin for having your help. The diners must have been blown away by the gorgeous food.

  2. It sounds like you were a great help in the kitchen and picked up a few tricks yourself!


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