29 September 2011

Tonight's Episode: I thought you meant we were eating Gorillas

         One question I hear all the time is "What the #$%! is a Guerrilla Cuisine Dinner?" Okay, the only time I have heard that was when I told The Girl I spent $120 on tickets to go to one. Well, I had a really tough time explaining it. I showed her the video from their website (http://www.guerrillacuisine.com/). I explained the concept - that it is an artistic, culinary, and musical social experiment of unique dining experiences with different venues, different chefs, and menus that are never the same. I also stressed the Chef's choice charity aspect of the night. The biggest problem I had with explaining what GC dinners are, is that I really didn't have a clue.
       Let me summarize what I knew about the dinner we were going to have.  Jeremy Holst of Anson would be the chef. It would happen somewhere on a Sunday evening. jimihatt runs the show, and he has a beard. That is it. I received an email the day before the dinner to ask about food allergies, and another a few hours before the dinner with the address. This is Trust-Me dining to the extreme.
      The location turned out to be a space I have wanted to get into for YEARS! 141 East Bay Street, the old Farmer's and Merchant's Bank (The building that looks like a mosque). For those of you F&B Veterans who used to squeeze into Charlie's Little Bar, this is the building you went in the fire door at the back of in order to get drunk. The space is stunning. Two story ceilings, Moroccan Revival detail work. One long table down the center. The setting feels like a secret meeting of the Illuminati in a Dan Brown novel. Freakin' awesome!

 

       Before the dinner, our host jimihatt (only person you'll ever meet with that spelling) introduced our chef and informed us of the mantra of the evening; tonight we are the coolest people in Charleston. When you first hear that it seems absurd. Then it begins to sink in. You and the 15 or so people around you are dining in a building that no one else uses, having a menu no one else gets to eat, at a restaurant that will only exist for one night. Underground supper club MUST equal cool!

     The social aspect of a Guerrilla Cuisine dinner is also very unique. The people around you, mostly strangers, become equal parts friend-support group-peer pressure. The menu, which you first see when you sit down, can contain dishes you would never imagine eating. Having the support and friendship of these new friends is crucial to get through the meal. With this being a BYOB event, the free-flowing alcohol fuels a fun environment.

     On to the menu! First course: Tartar of Ahi Tuna, sesame cornet, uni, Peruvian pink salt, petite wasabi. This is a Nutty Buddy for adults. The uni (sea urchin) provides a beautiful salty brine to some of the cleanest tuna I have ever had. The cornet acts as a great vessel for this adult snow-cone. The wasabi cream at the base of the cone is delightful without being overpowering. The girl actually enjoyed it very much, other than the wasabi. I gladly finished that off for her.



    Second course gave her even more trepidation, being the non-fish eater that she is. Chef Holst's take on Lox & Bagels: wild king salmon, cream cheese gelato, bagel chips, capers, Mosto olive oil. Before I get into the dish, let me tell you about the process of catching the salmon. This is wild dip net caught fish. That means Native Americans on the Columbia river use techniques thousands of years old to procure these fish. Sustainable and pretty damn awesome! The dish itself was stunning. The bagel chip makes a great crisp to pile on fish and gelato. The salmon is pleasantly salted, and mixed with the decedent cream cheese gelato, it is about as wonderful a dish as anything I have ever had. The fact that The Girl cleaned her plate is testimony to that fact, though she would have liked more gelato.

  The third course was again something The Girl wasn't looking forward to, but I was dying to try. Beetssssssssss (in many forms). This included roasted, raw, powdered, pickled, juiced, and cotton candy forms of beets, with aged goat cheese and citrus. Unlike the first two dishes, The Girl couldn't be convinced she liked beets. I gladly cleaned her plate and mine. The cotton candy was whimsical and fun. The goat cheese paired wonderfully with all the different beets. If this ever goes on the menu at Anson, I'm  all over it!

   The fourth course is the first of the two most intimidating dishes for those around me: Crispy Florida Frog Legs, tempura, sushi rice "risotto", sake, beech mushroom, oyster sauce, garlic chives. I love how Chef Holst continues to play with his food, in a fun way. This is a take on Chinese street food, with the tempura frog legs tasting like a sweet and sour chicken, and the risotto having the look of cheap fried rice, while tasting like a dream cooked in sake. The Girl could have easily eaten the risotto all night long.

    The fifth course was the one I was most anticipating, though I think it was the least successful of the night. A play on McDonald's mystery meat chicken nuggets, the dish featured sweetbreads, sweet n' sour, homemade tater tots, and green tomato ketchup. The two sauces were beautiful and well balanced. The tots were weirdly soft and somewhat off-putting. The sweetbreads, while imitating nuggets perfectly, fell a little flat. Salt would have helped, but I think my biggest complaint is the masking of the sweetbread flavor. Not a horrible dish, but compared to everything else it was a little blah.

For an intermezzo, chef provided us with a champagne, mint, and strawberry popsicle. This is a great palate cleanser, though I would have preferred basil to mint. The fun factor is through the roof with this tasty treat.

   Sixth course comes, and the table goes quit for a moment. THIS. LOOKS. STUNNING. Whole Hog, Kurabuda pork "short rib", hash, skillet fried cornbread, vinegar slaw, and crispy rinds. The hash contains everything from the trotters to the head meat, and beats the snout off of any hash I have ever had. The flavor of the short rib is smoky-sweet, and can stand up to any BBQ I have ever had. The rinds are nothing more than pork-flavored popcorn, which is the best popcorn ever. The slaw is where this dish hits a speed bump. While I love the heat in the vinegar, by piling it on top of the dish, it soaks into the hash and cornbread, making it way too hot for The Girl. Wait, that means I get to eat more. SCORE!


   The dessert is the scary dish for me. PB&J. I hate peanut butter. This is a PB&J float in a martini glass with peanut butter ice cream, carbonated grape soda, grape Pop Rocks, powdered peanut butter. The ice cream has a very mild taste, and combined with the Pop Rocks is a fun and inviting dish. I have to take my bite and push the glass away from me to avoid the sent of PB, but I actually enjoyed eating it. The PB powder rim on the glass is again a mild flavor, and it has a similar texture to the Pop Rocks. Fun and tasty dessert.
   The booze is gone, dinner is done. Friends have been made. Chef Holst has taken his bow. jimihatt repeats his mantra; tonight we are the coolest people in Charleston. Truth is, he is right. For this one night we had a dining experience no one else ever has, or ever will again. 80 Guerrilla Cuisine dinners had happened before this one, each different than the rest, and every single one featuring the coolest people in town. We can't wait to be this cool again.

The Scores (Remember, every single dinner will be different)
Ambiance: 5/5
Food: 8/10
Service: 5/5
Value: 4/5
Overall: 22 out of 25, the single most fun I have ever had at a single dinner.

Anson on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. really cool!!!!!

    7/10

    i enjoy reading this, i might just re read it now!

    http://mygcarmy.eventbrite.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ohhhhh...I love that building. I wish I had gone to this one!

    ReplyDelete
  3. @joan, you missed out on a great dinner in a fantastic space, I don;t know how @jimihatt scored it, but he rocks!

    ReplyDelete

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