ohhhohoho fleming’s… fool you once, shame on me. fool you twice… HOW DID YOU NOT REMEMBER THISSSSSSS? well, truth be told, that particular event did not end in puking, so it could have gone worse, but still. come on. this place is fancy! am i fancy? ***SPOILERS:*** i am not fancy.
so they had me come to a delightful little group event, at which we previewed their new “small plates, big pours” menu. small plates. big pours. there’s something there, i just know it. i don’t know if it’s sexual or what, but there’s something. they add the catch phrase “pick a pair. any pair.”, which is easier (the answer is boobies). note: do not pick any pair… it is frowned upon, and, so i’m told, sexist. ANYWAY, the concept is as follows: tiny portions of classy food, paired with a giant glass of the wine of your choice. the glass itself is large, and the wine comes in a little carafe, providing you with about one and a half glasses worth. perfect for getting a bit more wine without looking like a lush.
i brought my buddy with me, and he betrayed me by looking super fancy. i was wearing my daisy dukes, a hackensack bulls jersey, and, having misplaced my vibram fivefingers, my finest galoshes. i was unshaven and unbathed. and i had pink eye.
we were taken to our table and met the lovely judi gallagher, who organized the event. there were other media-type people invited as well, including tracy from my other city by the bay, and stephen and ronda from tampa bay metro magazine. this took the pressure off me, and allowed me the freedom to behave as i wished (steal everyone’s wine and food) without all the attention being focused on me.
we began our seven course meal (yeah, we were gonna try ALL the small plates, big pours) with the new bedford scallops, which was paired with the sauvignon blanc. the scallops were prepared with seasoning they typically use on tuna, providing the sweet, tender, buttery scallops with a crisp, spicy, and salty crust. a nice way to start the meal. the sauvignon blanc was a light and citrusy wine, which melded with the scallops and left behind a bit of a heavy taste.
next up were the shrimp scampi skewers, served with an albariño. the shrimp were excellent, beautiful and only lightly seasoned, showcasing the inherent awesomeness of shrimps. i guess in a lot of ways it’s difficult to mess up any grilled shrimp type of situation, but that doesn’t prevent them from being constantly impressive. they were served with a chimichurri sauce, which i had never had before, but was quite delightful. it largely consists of garlic and parsley, and was a nice accent to the straightforward scrimps. it also came with a neat little salad made with avocado and onion, and what appeared to be mandarin oranges (despite their not tasting like it). it was coated in an oily vinaigrette and was pretty damn good. the wine’s fruitiness came out large with the shrimp, being one of the better pairings provided.
then came the lobster tempura with a chardonnay. this. fucking. lobster. my god. another fairly simple dish, just giving you what you want: dirty shellfish. they used to make prisoners eat lobster… wtf. so yeah, this dish was amazing. fried anything is delicious, so if you fry the king of the sea, you’re going to have a winner on your hands. the batter they used was crispy, delicate and perfect, and the lobster was served with a nice, subtle ginger sauce, which reflected the simple asian salad on the side. the chardonnay was quite sweet, almost syrupy, but finished smoothly and was not cloying in any way. in fact, when paired with the lobster, the sweetness all but dropped away except in the aftertaste.
in a world of such extravagance, eventually something will have to miss. that, surprisingly, was the tuna. seeing seared ahi tuna on the menu had both my friend and me excited, and we assumed it would be one of the winners, but its thin slicing undermined the dish. you pretty much lost any sense of the tuna’s tenderness, and were left with something upsettingly underwhelming. the outside was salty and crisp, which was nice, but overall this was just boring. it was paired with a beautiful pinot noir, a fragrant and surprisingly smooth wine, warm and pretty.
the tuna was followed by the second winner of the evening, the sliced filet mignon. what you are looking at here is basically sushi. MAN SUSHI. for mans. it literally was inspired by sushi, placing a tender, delicious cut of beef on top of a formed bed of mushroom risotto. it kept all the deliciousness of the filet (ours were cooked rare), showcasing it the same way a fresh salmon nigiri showcases the salmon, but provided an additional experience that i shamelessly equate to a home cooked, love-filled meal. it’s fucking fancy, but it is reminiscent of something your mom made for you when you were young. and it looks like sushi. incredible. and unique. and even a bit spicy! i loved it. it was paired with a wet, mildly fruity, but largely meh merlot.
the filet mignon skewers were next, and once again the goodness slipped away slightly and we were left with something somewhat disappointing. the skewers were cooked too much, robbing me of what i want in a piece of meat, especially a filet – beef. dat beeftaste. i want it. and i didn’t really get it here. they were lightly seasoned, which was nice, as though they knew what you were looking for, but the skewer format demanded they were all cooked entirely, rather than fat pieces of meat cut open to reveal their bloody interior. it was served with a fondue sauce, which was pretty unnecessary, but it also came with a salad of some sort, featuring an incredible cheese! the cheese was the best part of this course. there was also a wine of some sort. [cabernet]
our final dish were the petite lamb chops, which was a nice note to go out on. the grilled lamb was very nice, again allowing for the meat to speak for itself (which seems to be the key to good food, and makes me think that maybe fire+animal is all you really need for fine dining). the meat was very tender, and came with something called the F7 sauce, loosely inspired by the function seven key you will see if you look down at the keyboard in front of you. my notes inform me the sauce was, and i quote, “spicy/sweet ketchuppy thing, honey”. take that as you will. it was also served with CHEESE STICK, which was surprisingly good. the wine was a decent red blend, wet and fun, but again nothing special.
this was the major failing, i think, of the “big plates, small pours” menu: you are provided with a number of wines and dishes, which come paired for you; however, none of the pairings are incredibly special, with only a couple providing you with a unique illumination on the wine you are pairing the meal with. for the most part, you’re getting a good wine, a great meal, and that’s it. what i like about a good wine pairing is the thought put into how it will play with the food, and in this situation, you aren’t even encouraged to choose the wine they paired for you… you just pick whatever you want from a list! so what’s the point?
we were given a final sendoff in the form of a badass lava cake and ice cream with crushed pistachios. the lava cake exploded all over the table, coating each guest in its warm filling. without going into too much detail, i just say that things got pretty sexual. the cake was incredible, not giving way to sweetness, but instead remained warm and mildly bitter, dark and delicious. it went extremely well with the light, sweet ice cream. a wonderful goodbye.
the evening was great, and the people we dined with were unpretentious and down to earth. usually at these events i find myself uncomfortable to the point of embarrassment and deep shame, but this group was composed to people i could easily joke around with. i even got the table to discuss the finer points of consuming dog treats (i’m sure that’s where our host wanted our discussion to go). the menu was nice, but nothing i would really go out of my way for. i did very much enjoy the lobster tempura, and the sliced filet mignon was an incredible, unique experience. but again, the pairings were lackluster and uninspired. each pair comes to 25 bucks a pop, and the dishes don’t make up a solid meal.
use your best judgement. the fire+animal route may be a better bet.