Monday, February 28, 2011

Closest Thing to Top Chef: Number 68 Project

DC Food-Loving Folk, by now, no doubt, you've heard about the Number 68 Project. It started with a Social Network-style invitation-only concept, but quickly developed into a marketing beast. We attended the first event, last Sunday, with chef Mike Isabella and mixologist Derek Brown providing cuisine and libations. The theme for our evening was "We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails: adaptability, optimism, perspective".

For us, it was less about being existentialist, and more about trying something that would be a one of a kind experience. This was as close as we were and are going to get to something like Top Chef, so it was about the experience for us, just maybe not the experience the hosts had in mind.

Let's see. Cast alumni? Check. Pre-set meal designed for one night only? Check. Guestlist predetermined? Check. Service on site in a makeshift kitchen? Check. Corporate sponsor? Check (Leblon Cachaca Brazilian Rum). Course doesn't quite make it the table? Check. Attempt to stick to a theme? Check. Yup, pretty close to Top Chef. This was our version.

Crudo: tuna, pine nuts, aged balsamic reduction
- served with aperitif of rum, pear brandy, sparkling wine, lemon
Padma: This is pleasant, but rather pedestrian, don't you think?
Tom: The flavors are nice though.
Gail: Mmm, and I really like this drink. It's refreshing.

Salad: cocoa and cashew-dusted beets, mozzarella, balsamic reduction
-served with mocktail of cacao black tea, milk, lemon,and sparkling water
Padma: Wow, the cocoa really brings out the flavor of the beets.
Tom: Yeah, the flavors are right on.
Gail: I must say, it's a nice idea to have a non-alcoholic beverage with the salad course. And, again, this is a delicious drink.

Pasta: ravioli of pork shank, mustard sauce, rye crouton
- served with cocktail of rum, maple-infused vermouth, bitters
Padma: I like the mustard and rye flavors, but I wish the pork was a bit more flavorful as well.
Tom: Would have been better had I not run to the bathroom, and come back after it got cold.
Gail: Whew, this drink is strong. I'll concentrate on my pasta; I like the wilted greens.

Meat: oxtail, pepperoni sauce, rapini stems
-served with cocktail of rum, apple juice, forbidden fruit (glass infused with bison grass smoke)
Padma: Does anyone else think this sauce is just weird?
Tom: The pepperoni is so strong. It just doesn't work. And the oxtail is overdone. I like the drink though.
Gail: Agreed on the drink, Tom. I love the unique flavors.

Cheese: panini of teleggio cheese and eggplant
- served with grapefruit juice, honey, and bitters
Padma: Mmmm....(**eyes rolling** both in satisfaction and to make sure that the others are in agreement before she says something)
Tom: No complaints. This is good.
Gail: I love the idea of grilled cheese for the cheese course. The honey in the drink sets off the flavors nicely.

Dessert: nougat, chocolate, almond torrone (according to Isabella, pomegranate sorbet did not make it to the plate)
Padma: It's very sweet. It's really too bad that the sorbet wasn't served.
Tom: That's a lot of chocolate, and the texture is lacking. I could use a cup of coffee.
Gail: I'll give him points for the idea though.

Judge's Table:

Padma: Derek (in the right foreground), your beverages were our favorite courses of the night. They were all delicious.

Tom: Mike,  you made some spectacular dishes, but the oxtail fell short, and the dessert just was not complete. It's hard to send someone home, but we have to choose one.
Padma: Please pack your knives and go...


Manimal said...

Great post! What a crazy event. The only thing missing were the judges, and you captured that in your comments. I think Tom would have looked vaguely confused while Padma smiled vacantly during the "cultural" presentation :). I also would have loved to see Top Chef end with a depressing movie short...

Angela said...

So awesome - both the event and the post. I think you have a career in scripting reality television, my friend.