Saturday, September 5, 2009

The D.U.K. #2

Do you see that tall dude in a chefs coat in the front of this picture? And do you see how all of us are smiling huge, goofy grins? Well, that's because that tall dude is a Real. Live. Professional Chef. And he had just cooked us dinner. Also, probably, because we drank 11 bottles of wine. But mostly because of the chef.

The chef is Chef Jason Dady, and indeed, he came over to John and Lauren's house on Thursday to make us a fabulous dinner. It was all part of D.U.K., or Dady's Underground Kitchen for those of you not in the know. Basically, it is a super cool idea on Dady's part to set aside some dates for private cooking for a group of ten. It's underground, because he sends out the dates at random on his Twitter feed, and the first to respond get the date. We provide the kitchen. We bring the wine. He cooks a five course meal, and we eat it. Yum.

The D.U.K. became a reality thanks to my dinner club compadre and fellow food nerd Lauren. Lauren is good with social media, and she astutely harnessed the power of the interweb to secure a private dinner, cooked by San Antonio chef Jason Dady, via Twitter a few weeks ago. Now, to understand the magnitude of this experience, you must understand that Lauren, her husband John, me, and my husband Sam have an above average infatuation with food. This includes of course home cooking, but extends much farther into the culinary adventures of fine dining out, as well as into the current events of our city's culinary activity. We are the kind of friends that get together and gossip about new restaurant openings. We eagerly share in detailed descriptions of meals we've recently eaten. We take cooking classes at the local school. We plan our weekends around eating out at new restaurants. And of course we know who San Antonio's big chefs are, and we follow their work (some of us even stalk them at Costco on occasion...).

And that is how we knew about Chef Jason Dady. John, Lauren, Sam and I have eaten at several of his restaurants together. He has a fancy and romantic restaurant, The Lodge, in a 1929 mansion in the Castle Hills neighborhood. He operates my favorite Italian restaurant in town (and conveniently near my house), Tre Trattoria. He has a great wine and tapas place up north, Bin 555. And he has a smokin' BBQ joint not to far away, Two Bros BBQ. And, rumor has it straight from his mouth (in which case I guess it is not really a rumor) that he is opening another restaurant soon in the Fairmount Hotel in downtown San Antonio. So when Dady offered to cook for us and an intimate group of friends, we freakin' jumped at the chance. That's just what food nerds do.

And it was delicious. And really relaxed. Chef Dady didn't just cook for us, he spent the whole night interacting with us too. He was such a nice guy. He let us watch his every move without making us feel like we were creepy stalkers. He indulged all of our questions and encouraged us to interact while he cooked. He even conversed eagerly about our favorite reality television show "Top Chef" and different Food Network stars. Usually when I try to talk to chef-like people about food TV, they get all hoity toity and judgmental and tell me they are too busy being "real" cooks to indulge in television. But not Chef Dady. He is cool enough to understand that us food nerds take our culinary entertainment where we can get it, and he was happy to bond over the TV shows. Totally cool.

Dinner was amazing. The food was delicious and creative. Our 3rd course was a rabbit, head to tail, and it involved the loin and a combo of the offal meats encased in cured meat, poached, then pan seared. As he was plating he said to me "I can guarantee you there is not a better dish being served in all of San Antonio tonight." It was really cool to see his pride and confidence in his work, and after tasting it, I seriously believe him. It was amazing. And the coolest part is that his inspiration for the dish was eggplant, and he built the rest of the amazing plate around its flavors. His inspiration was not the rabbit, not the sauce, but the vegetable. Neat.

The dessert was a special treat for me, because I am the Dady Crostada's #1 fan in San Antonio. Seriously, I think about it more than any other dessert. And for those of you that know me, you know I love dessert. I think about dessert about as often as men are accused of thinking about sex. That is to say, I think about dessert about ever six seconds or so, and I most certainly think about it morning, noon, and night. Anyway, once long long ago at Tre Trattoria I had a pear crostada served with cinnamon marscapone, and it was damn near the best thing I have ever tasted. The next time I went to Tre, I saved room for dessert, but alas the crostada was no longer on the menu. So I wrote a comment card, and I have written a comment card every visit since. I have even channeled my longing for crostada through Sam and his Twitter account. And so imagine my delight when I arrived to our D.U.K. dinner and saw "Samwar's Crostada" on the menu. My heart did a little skip. I had been waiting for that dessert, longing for that dessert, and at last I had the dessert. I enjoyed every D.U.K. course, but especially dessert.

Below is the menu, and photos, to commemorate the meal.

D.U.K. #2
September 3rd, 2009

Chef Jason Dady presents:

Hors de oeuvres:
"Smoked" Popcorn
Nutella, Chorizo and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Filet Mignon Meatballs with Horseradish Crema
"What's in Your Fridge" Challenge - aka Peach, Leak, and Cheese Bruschetta

1st Course:
Fresh Seasonal Figs with Local Chevre Goat Cheese, Honey, Marcona Almonds, Balsamic and Proscuitto de Parma

2nd Course:
Forbidden Rice Crusted Scallop with House-cured Guanciale, Heirloom Tomato, Sweet Corn, Fresh Texas Peas, White Polenta, and Lemon Beurre Blanc

3rd Course:
Rabbit "Head-to-Fluffy-Tail" with Celery Root Puree, Summer Bulb Onion, Japanese Eggplant and Vanduvan

4th Course:
Samwar's Crostada with Organic Nectarines and Made to Order Chantilly

When the meal was over, Chef Dady teased us about our impressive wine consumption (9 bottles of wine and one bottle of Port were already dry) and helped us celebrate our achievement by opening a second bottle of port. It was not necessary, but was very well received. As Dady said himself, "DUK was a smashing success (and I mean smashed)!" So we cheersed, and we drank, and we even whoo-ed a little bit (we were, after all, smashed at that point). All in all it was a delicious, libatious, one-of-a-kind dinner that goes down in my book as one of my best ever.

p.s. Do you see that look of adoration in Lauren's eyes? Looks like ohmypuddin has found a new hero.


ohmypuddin said...

I am so flattered you think I'm a food nerd! Oh man, that was a delicious night - delicious food, delicious wine, delicious company!

Jen said...

While the gourmet-ness of the meal would be lost on my family, I think this would be an awesome thing to do! This chef looks to be a whole lotta fun himself, and that's really essential to the whole meal, don't you think?

Unknown said...

Someday if Jon and I ever move to Texas we want in on this dinner party action. Looks like you all had one heck of a great time!