Wednesday, January 22, 2014

EC Tasting Gallery -- Our Secret Agent Enjoys Howard County's Pop-Up Dinner And Reports

Kevin Brothers and Tom Coale -- snapped by Nicole's secret "fake button" camera
I think my friend Tom Coale will make a fine state legislator, and he was an excellent secret agent.  But he has too much class to be a food blogger.

Tom and his wife Nicole attend Sunday's truffle dinner by the EC Tasting Gallery.  That's the new operation run by some local chefs to put on "pop up" dinners with exotic foods and unusual locations.  They're single-night shows.

Tom -- who is running for state delegate in a district that runs on the north side of Rte 108 and Rte 100  -- came home raving.  They spent the night eating in the dining room that the EC Tasting folks borrowed from Portalli's on Main Street.  It was cool food, but, even more, Tom loved that the night was a complete experience -- the only time that you'll ever have this meal, the chance to hear chefs Colin Bickley and Kevin Brothers and sommelier Brandon Thornton describe the food and wines.

The only thing that our secret agent couldn't do was snap pictures of the food.  I completely understand.  It's the most awkward part of blogging.  One of my greatest laughs was the night that Mrs. HowChow stopped cringing and asked for my phone so that she could take a better picture.  But Tom came home with a course-by-course report that will keep me watching their Facebook page for future events:
It really is cool to have each wine explained regarding why it was selected for that dish, where it was produced, and, in some cases, why this is completely different from what a run of the mill "wine app" would recommend. Plus, the passion and focus Colin and Kevin have put into the food is apparent. They put everything they have into this meal
Smoked quail egg + fried thyme + shaved Italian truffle 
Tuna tartare + jalepeno + meyer lemon + shaved Burgundy truffle  
Wine Pairing:  Chiarli Lambrussco Vecchia Modena – Emilia-Romagna, Italy  
So here we go.  I went with the quail egg first, followed by the tartare. Quite frankly, it didn’t matter.  The table went quiet, only broken up by sporadic references to the Almighty.  The quail egg was perfectly cooked, with a “just-loose-enough” yolk, perfectly complimented by the meaty accents of the truffle.  The tartare was refreshing and light.  As with all of these dishes, the wine was spot on.  Lambrussco may have a bad rap, and may not be what someone would think of when preparing to eat quail egg and tuna tartare, but it was perfect.  It brought out the savory flavors of the dishes without overpowering with tannins.    
Beef Carpaccio 
onion jam + fried shallots + truffle aioli  
Wine Pairing: Matteo Correggia Roero Arneis 2012 – Roero, Piedmont, Italy  
Happy folks at Sunday's EC Tasting Gallery dinner
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night (although hard to pick). The Beef Carpaccio came apart with a pull of the fork.  All of the flavors pulled together perfectly.  A strong Italian wine held up to the strong flavors of the dish.   
Goat Belly Confit                                                                                       
radicchio + fennel + truffle honey + blood orange + goat’s milk pine water foam   
Wine Pairing: Zind Humbrecht Pinot Blanc 2011 – Alsace, France   
The neatest thing about this dish was how the blood orange paired with the salty goat belly.  It was wow.  I can’t imagine Brendan trying to figure out the wine pairing on this, but he made it work.  The Pinot Blanc flowed with the acidity of the orange and the buttery fat from the meat.  As with all great wine pairings, the food changed the taste of the wine and the wine changed the taste of the food.   
Potato Truffle Bisque with House-made Honey Truffle Beer Bread
celery root + herb oil   
This was a treat from the Portalli’s kitchen.  There was nary a spot of bisque left in anyone’s bowl when this course was finished.  It was substantial enough to present its own unique flavors, while light enough to let the truffle shine through.  
Black Truffle Tagliatelle 
wild mushroom + Madeira   
Wine Pairing: Terredora Di Paolo Aglianico 2010 – Campania, Italy  
If I have learned nothing else in my EC Tasting Gallery adventures, it is that Kevin and Colin make some mean Tagliatelle.  Light, fresh pasta mixed in with hearty mushrooms – a very happy place to be.  This dish also seemed to bring out the best in the wine.  This wine is in love with mushrooms.  All together, this stick-to-your-bones dish was worth the trip alone.  
Porcini Crusted Venison Tenderloin 
Delicata agradolce + ricotta chestnut gnocchi + arugula + Taleggio + leek confit   
Wine Pairing: Chateau Haut-Monplaisir Tradition 2011 – Cahors, France   
The pinnacle – venison tenderloin.  I may lose some respect in saying this, but my favorite element of this dish was the gnocchi.  Ricotta chestnut gnocchi.  Yes please.  Kevin and Colin again put everything you need right on the plate with flavors that complement one another, yet stand unique on their own.  The wine pairing drew out the rich flavors of the meat and even complimented the arugula’s bitterness. Another dish that kept the crowd quiet, studied, and happy.  
Olive Oil Gelato 
butterscotch + black lava salt + pistachio crumble + candied beech mushrooms  
Wine Pairing:  Romerhof Riesling Beerenauslese 2009 – Mosel, Germany  
Read the second line of the description again.  All the way to the end. “Candied beech mushrooms.” We had mushrooms for desert.  No one goes to EC Tasting Gallery to eat something they’ve had before.  I have never had mushrooms for desert before, but I will welcome the opportunity to do so again. The Riesling was thick, almost like a Sauternes, and would have been a desert all its own.  If you can find this wine, buy it. 
Candied beech mushrooms? Goat belly?  Olive oil gelato?  This sounds really fun, and I'm keeping my ears open for the next EC Tasting Gallery event.

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