Friday, September 28, 2012

Restaurant IPO Coffee Dinner and National Coffee Day

Good Morning
Chef Chris Wadsworth took on a new challenge with the attitude of an expert who had been there before.  Actually, he had.  In 2010, while serving as the Executive Chef at Nottoway Plantation, Chef Wadsworth won the annual WYES Cooking with Community Coffee contest.  He created a five course meal using ten different Community Coffee roasts.  Invited to cook again in 2012, Chef Wadsworth, who now runs the kitchen at Baton Rouge's latest smash hit, Restaurant IPO, decided to one up himself.  Or maybe two up.  He created a seven course tasting menu utilizing fourteen different Community Coffee roasts.  Since tomorrow, September 29th, is National Coffee Day, I thought I'd share the meal with you.  Chris decided to title the meal "A Day at the Office" in reference to The Office Bar that sits upstairs as well as the incessant need for coffee during a routine day at the office.  The dinner also came paired very well with wines from Republic National.  All of the pairings were fantastic despite me not really getting into them here.  

Warm Up
Cleverly naming his seven courses by activities in one's daily grind, we began with the Good Morning: creamy Louisiana grits accented with Breakfast Blend roasted grillades and garnished with a sunny side up quail egg and French Roast drizzle.  These may have honestly been the best grits and grillades I've ever had.  The pork had plenty of flavor and bolstered the grits with its fork tender form.  The use of the coffees came in huge as the drizzle had an elegant bittersweet combination that played well off the richness of the egg.  After this course, I couldn't wait to see what would come next.   Course two quickly came to be known as the warm up.  It featured a soup of garden carrots pureed in a blend of mirepoux and local honey laced with Cinnamon Roll Roast and highlighted by a Colombian Roast infused oil.  The soup brought about a sweetness from the carrots and honey in a refreshingly clean and palate pleasing way.  After the richness of the first course, this soup definitely warmed us up for what was still to come.

Getting Dressed
During any day, one of the first things we do is get dressed.  The Getting Dressed course rightly had a unique salad dressing of its own.  The dish featured baby mixed greens with baked Hazelnut goat cheese and pears tossed in an Almond Amaretto dressing.  The coffee balance had to be very delicate with the salad an Chef certainly pulled that off.  The goat cheese was crusted in ground up coffee that actually worked extremely well to deliver a unique flavor while not being overpowering.  The pears and greens worked very well with the dressing that had just a hint of the nutty sweet coffee roast.

Off to Work
After getting dressed it was off to work for the patrons at the WYES Cooking with Community dinner.  Our fourth course consisted of Pecan Praline smoked duck breast accompanied by a Medium Roast berry compote and crispy duck cracklins.  While the duck had been cooked past the ideal medium rare stage, it didn't present a problem with this dish because of the smoked flavors.  The duck didn't dry out and combined with the berry compote, made one heck of a dish.  Not to mention any time you have duck skin cracklins, you can't complain one lick!

Lunch Time

Lunch time came during the day at the office, and it most definitely did not disappoint.  This course tied with the grits and grillades as my two favorites, and it's not hard to see why.  The plate had a prime beef medallion rubbed with Cafe Special and topped with a 5-Star Hotel Blend demi.  It came served over a sweet potato hash and garlic braised spinach.  The steak's magnificent medium rare center cut apart with a butter knife.  The charred coffee rub on the outside lit up the steak with flavor while the sweet potato hash, cooked up with bacon, and the spinach were excellent choices with which to surround such a prize piece of beef.  I could eat this every day.


Our break came with a little play on a palate cleansing sorbet.  The Chocolate Almondine popsicle was one of Chef Wadsworth's more daring creations, but it certainly worked.  It had plenty of chocolate and coffee flavors in a frozen treat.  I only wish it would have served in between the duck and the steak courses to further accentuate the play on a sorbet rather than as a second dessert.  While it may not have cleansed the palate like a smooth fruity sorbet would have, it also would have broken up the two protein rich courses and the two sweet desserts.  Despite that, the popsicle worked brilliantly as a risky play to serve at a seven course wine dinner, and I applaud the chef for pulling it off!

The Drive Home
The meal ended with the way a day at the office ends: the drive home.  The Chicory and chocolate molten lava cake overflowed with Vanilla Nut ganache and came topped with Irish Cream ice cream scooped table side.  The cake had a moist brownie batter type center with chocolate and vanilla flavors, but the real highlight was the ice cream.  

The entire dinner seemed like a huge hit for everyone in attendance.  Chef Chris Wadsworth made a bold and daring dinner with seven courses and fourteen coffee roasts.  His attitude is refreshing for a chef that is new to Baton Rouge but really trying to make an impression.  He ended the dinner by saying he didn't cook this dinner to win the Cooking with Community contest.  He cooked this dinner to win it again.  After eating it, I'd be surprised if he doesn't. 

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