You’re probably still hung over from your gravy-soaked Thanksgiving weekend, so we figured it’s as good a time as any to take a quick look back on one of the wackiest (turkey-free!) events of the past few months: a raucous costumed dinner on Halloween night, starring COOK’s friends from the nearby a.kitchen. Sous chef Val Stryjewski is a COOK regular, but for this all-offal affair, he took on the persona of zombie Georges Perrier, complete with a legit blood-spattered Le Bec Fin coat he saved from his days working for the legendary Frenchman.
Joined by a.kitchen cohorts Tim (above left, as island-holiday Jesus) and Jake (above right, as a walking-dead version of he and Val’s boss, chef Bryan Sikora), Val put together a meal based around offal elements some might find spooky — crispy tripe flavored with five spice, skewered duck hearts, monkfish paired with black garlic, quail stuffed with foie gras (complete with a “cross” of salsify). The adventurous crowd, many of whom were dressed up themselves (Juggalos! zombies! Karl Lagerfeld!), gobbled up each plate with the famished gusto of an undead horde descending upon a defenseless group of schoolchildren. Peek, if you dare, after the jump for more of Yoni Nimrod‘s photos from the terrifying evening — and yes, everyone did indeed eat braaaaaains.
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The cows in the photo above? Totally wasted right now.
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At the end of last week, COOK could have changed its name to DRINK. Last Thursday and Friday, we had back-to-back classes that were primarily booze-focused and, no surprise here, they were two of our liveliest classes yet.
First up, on Thursday, Michael McCaulley, Tria’s Wine Director and Partner, alongside Executive Chef, Brett Naylor, brought the Catalonia region of Spain to COOK for a night of delicious wines and equally delicious food.
Michael has spent a great deal of time in Catalonia and introduced the class to the region by discussing its history and what makes it special as a wine-producing region. He even brought samples of the rock and soil that make up the Catalonian terrain.
Michael was thoroughly engaging throughout the evening, discussing wines in detailed yet accessible ways. Periodically, Brett chimed in to discuss the food and their flavors and teach us how to make a dish or two. The tortilla was out of this world! And the cheeses: to die for!
The big crowd pleaser of the night was the surprise porron Michel brought for everyone to pass around and drink from. If you don’t know what a porron is, click here. Honestly, we had some really talented drinkers in our class that night – and very few spills.
Here is a rundown of what we ate and drank:
- Upon arrival: Cava Brut, Parés Balta, NV (Penedès, Spain)
- 1st course: Sherry-Marinated Arbequina Olives with Orange Zest and Rosemary Marcona Almonds
- 2nd course: Xarel.lo, Castellroig, ’10 (Penedès, Spain) / Prawns and Tortilla Espanola with Aioli and Romesco Sauces
- 3rd course: Montsant, Celler el Masroig, ’05 (Montsant, Spain) / Pan de Tomate
- 4th course: Priorat “Terra d’Hom,” Celler Ardevol, ’01 (Priorat, Spain) / Cheese and Chocolate
The guys from Tria will be back in the New Year to for a night of Tuscan food and wine. Stay tuned for that!
Monday night’s class with John & Kira’s Chocolates, Penns Woods Winery, and Shellbark Hollow Farm was a COOK-style salute to the artisans of the greater Philadelphia area.
John Doyle of John & Kira’s provided bite-by-bite analysis of the twenty-some chocolate varieties he brought with him, explaining each type’s unique characteristics and capacity to be paired with various wines. John was quick to mention that pairing wine with chocolate (or any type of food) is always a hit-and-miss endeavor – and he took the time to explain why certain pairings work so well and why others, well, don’t.
Cliff Lewis of Penns Woods Winery brought several varieties of wine from Chadds Ford, PA, including a few discontinued types that he shared with our lucky COOKies. Cliff eagerly shared his extensive knowledge of wine and the stories behind each bottle and the winery itself in such a welcoming and unpretentious way that even the few novice wine drinkers around the table felt at home from the start and more and more confident as the night went on (and it wasn’t just the wine and chocolate-induced bliss!).
After the first course of (six!) chocolate and wine pairings, Peter Demchur of Shellbark Hollow Farm brought out chevre from his goat dairy in Chester County. The cheese course was followed by Chef de Cuisine at Audrey Claire Lou Boquila’s Arugula Salad with warm goat cheese, fresh mission figs, raspberries, French lentils, and honey, followed by Audrey Claire’s Pappardelle with sautéed portabella mushrooms, sauteed arugula, toasted sunflower seeds and shaved Locatelli.
But of course there was more chocolate to come. The final ten-piece fruit and ganache plate and accompanying pairings of wine built subtly on the palate, eventually erupting in precisely the kind of overwhelming joy we were anticipating from the start.
Each component of this evening, while delicious on its own, was combined artfully and explained expertly. Wine paired with chocolate and cheese is enough to get anybody’s heart going, but the accompanying knowledge and personality that we Philadelphians are lucky enough have come to expect from our artisans is what made this date night at COOK divine.