The ‘communal table’ was recently named one of the worst dining trends in the last 10 years. “… it assumes people who don’t know each other want to sit together,” our own Michael Schwartz was quoted saying. I don’t know; I happen to enjoy dining with strangers — whether it’s at a restaurant or not. It’s always a gamble, of course, but so far I’ve been lucky, and last Sunday at night two of the second Cobaya dinner was no different.
Cobaya, I’m sure you’ve heard, is a group of food-lovin’ diners willing to serve as guinea pigs for local chefs who want to experiment with their dishes. Dinner number one took place a few months back at Talula.
Sunday’s dinner was in the hands of chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, personal chef to Rick Ross and former owner of the now defunct Bullfrog Eatz. I had met Jeremiah a while back at Bullfrog courtesy of a mutual friend, so I was glad to reconnect and get a taste of his food.
While not everyone at the dinner was a complete stranger to me, most of the 12 diners were. D and I arrived in time to watch the sun setting over Miami from the balcony of the 32nd-floor penthouse where the dinner was held.
Our dinner started with ‘greek salad’ in the form of a martini of tomato water, compressed cucumbers, feta-stuffed olives and Hendrick’s Gin. I loved this dish. It was creative, refreshing and that tomato water was salty and delicious – or maybe it was the gin?
Next up was a bite of local stone crabs with a mustard emulsion, crab consommé and Meyer lemon oil. Good bite of stone crab, complemented but not overpowered by the other ingredients. Course number three, an ode to Autumn, was made up of pumpkin gnocchi and a short rib ragu. While not a bad dish – in fact, the short rib was very tasty – I didn’t get much pumpkin, or autumn for that matter.
“Bacon,” braised pork belly and eggs cooked at 63 degrees with a hint of maple syrup, was the fourth and my favorite dish of the night. The crispy skin on the pork belly was a treat and having breakfast for dinner is always a good thing for me.
The ‘Halibut like a Reuben’ dish was interesting and, in my opinion, one of the most creative of the night. The fish was topped with pumpernickel and the chef went around the table pouring pastrami dashi into each bowl. It’s just too bad that I don’t like Reubens. Still, I was impressed by the recreation of the Reuben flavors in the dish.
Photo courtesy of D’s iPhone
Next, chef Jeremiah invited us to stand up and join him for “refresh,” an ice-cold shot of red curry. I loved this for some reason. Could red curry snow cones be something for the chef’s future gastropub on wheels? Maybe not… In any event, this definitely cleared our palates for what followed: a roasted suckling pig, purchased that morning by the chef’s wife.
The pig was carved in front of us and chef Chad Galiano of Neomi’s Grill, who made a surprise appearance with chef Kurtis Jantz, also of Neomi’s, topped it with trotter cakes made from the pig’s head and trotters. Ah, I think I’m becoming a huge fan of pork.
“Everybody knows that the second greatest thing in the world – after pork – are Krispy Kreme donuts,” said chef Jeremiah introducing our dessert and last course. “Krispy Kremes are a hot topic right now. Everyone is trying something different. There’s Krispy Kreme pudding, Krispy Kreme milk shakes, Krispy Kreme ice cream …”
For us, he prepared Krispy Kreme aerated flan with goat’s milk cajeta (the Mexican version of dulce de leche). It tasted like, well, like a donut and somehow it worked.
This concluded our meal. Before heading home, we spent a little more time at the penthouse talking with the once complete strangers who may now very well be future dining companions.
For more information about upcoming Cobaya dinners, join the Cobaya Miami Google Group.