Last night, a pop-up dinner by Chef Will Goldfarb took place in Miami. I was very fortunate to participate in this event along with some other local chefs and would like to post a few quick notes, shots, and thoughts. Although feeling physically drained from this demanding week, my excitement and inspiration are at peak levels. It's hard to walk away from a weekend like this without feeling completely re-motivated. The dinner would not have happened without the passion and drive of many individuals and definitely without the support of the many diners who came out (another very motivational aspect of the event).
The last year in Miami has shown that maybe we are not so far behind other major American cities when it comes to alternative dining. We've seen an increase in the numbers of trendy casual restaurants and chef-driven spots, the food truck scene has exploded with vengeance, underground dining has been successful, farmers' markets don't seem as lame as they used to be, diners are coming out and supporting these ventures, and service... well, we still need improvement in this area but things are looking pretty good overall. Regardless, pop-ups are on the rise as well and events such as this one spark conversations and ideas and the ball keeps on rolling around. The organization, smoothness, and success of the R4D pop-up cannot be mentioned without giving full credit to Randy Rubins who put in many hours to make this event happen. Randy is owner of Ciao Imports which supplies a wealth of amazing imported ingredients for local chefs and is also the sole distributor of Will Powders, Chef Goldfarb's line of modern ingredients. Blooming Events supplied the venue and decor. The evening was broken down into 2 seatings for 50 each (an 8:00 & 10:00). A bar/lounge area was set-up outside for guests to utilize both before and after their meals.
Will arrived mid-week to prepare for the dinner, and utilized our kitchen at the Trump International to get everything ready. Although we were busy with other business, I was very fortunate to be able to assist with prepping a couple of the recipes. Working with Will was a great learning experience. His methods and processes are right on point, and his years of experimenting and tweaking shine through in the flavors and textures. His mind runs a mile a minute and it's hard to keep up with his thought processes. After watching him work for a few days, I can simply sum things up by saying that Will Goldfarb is a total badass. The guy rocks. His level of organization was on another level and he can spit out calculations and ideas all day without ever touching a calculator or computer. A very humbling experience.
Since the Room 4 Dessert dinner was a 'dessert' dinner, Randy arranged to have a few local chefs participate by adding in some savory courses to begin the meal. These were a few of the usual suspects: Chef K and I included along with Jeremiah of the Gastropod and Alberto Cabrera of The Local. With all modesty, I must say that we represented well. Jeremiah's cryo-shucked oyster was nicely balanced, rich and savory from the oyster and dashi (along with a nice touch of Ciao Imports caviar). I did not get to taste Alberto's dish in its entirety, but the tongue terrine was incredible and the red pepper kimchee sauce was a great balance.
This was a great event for pastry in general. I can understand how the concept of a 'dessert menu' would turn some diners off, but this wasn't like eating a pound of sugar or the equivalent of 6 courses of your grandma's banana bread pudding. Goldfarb's awareness of flavor balance made the course transgression quite interesting. The way he played off the levels of sweet to salty and sour made for some very nice transitions. Flavors were bold and spot on, but never tipping the scales so far in any one direction that he couldn't reel the tastebuds back in for more.
The Princesses of Pastry (as Goldfarb described them), otherwise known as local pastry chefs Malka Espinel of Johnny V's and Jenny Rissone of Pastry is Art were very instrumental in making this dinner successful. They assisted Will in our kitchen with the prep, and kept things rolling throughout the night of the event. They are also part of the usual suspects.
While on the subject of assistants, I must mention the small handful of students from Le Cordon Bleu Miami who helped out (Will's culinary Alma Mater is Le Cordon Bleu in France). A small number of these students took advantage of the opportunity to work with such a great chef and will reap benefits from this experience that I'm sure they are not yet aware of. By keeping the right mentality, jumping in with their heads down and mouths shut, and taking on each assignment with a simple 'yes, chef' they are training themselves for success. On the flip side, it is rather dissappointing that some other students who had volunteered never actually showed up for work on the last day (possibly after finding out that would have to bust their little candy asses a little too hard for comfort). It's very difficult for me to understand why someone who commits themselves to becoming a chef would allow such an opportunity to slip away or shy away from hard work. Work of advice to these individuals... if you're scared of breaking a sweat or getting bitched at, then you're training for the wrong line of business.
Finally, I can't conclude this post without mentioning our dish submission for the evening. Considering Will's background in modern cuisine, it seemed appropriate (and expected) that we should each utilize such ingredients and techniques in our preparations. Chef K and I did a version of 'spaghetti and meatballs' that consisted of lamb tartar, lamb jus noodles, compressed green apple, pea tendrils and arugula, and scallion ash oil.
The lamb loin was cooked at 50º then minced and folded with an aioli flavored with rosemary and fennel. Pressure cooked black mustard seeds were also folded in. The noodles were lamb jus gelled with agar agar and locust bean gum. The green apples were compressed with honey, black pepper, and lemon juice. The tiny salad is simply local pea tendrils and arugula tossed with Ciao Imports olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.
Hopefully this experience will leave Miami with an appetite for more pop-ups and other adventures in alternative dining. You are the fuel that drives this. If you want it and support it, it will happen. The chefs will come. Local chefs will let their passions push them harder. Venues will increase. The whole scene gets better, and we all live happily ever after.