Evolve Cuisine - Origins Dinner

>> Thursday, March 8, 2012

Date of Dining: 3/7/2012
Price: $75 for 8 course tasting
website


The Quick Bit:
+ full modern technique cuisine
+ creative and playful food
+ molecular cocktails worked into the meal
Δ some wine pairings could have been better
Δ some dishes could be refined further


The last time I had a full modern technique dinner, it was Chef Daniel Barron's "Experience" at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine. Since then, Chef Barron left that restaurant to start his own venture and try and show what food can be like.
Partnering with Flor Franco, Jeff Bonilla, and Mike Yen, Chef Barron has formed Evolve Cuisine. Evolve cuisine is a high-end catering company focused on executing fun and exciting modern technique food using fresh, local, and seasonal food. In addition to the catering events, the Evolve team plans to do several pop-up restaurants in order to show off their vision.
(left to right) Chef Daniel Barron, Chef Jeff Bonilla, Mike Yen, Chef Flor Franco
I've previously discussed Chef Barron, but I will summarize by saying he was previously nominated for a James Beard Award as a semifinalist and won San Diego's Chef of the Fest at the 2011 San Diego Food and Wine festival. His modern technique menu at Anqi also was awarded one of the top 10 menus by Gayot. Chef Flor Franco works more on the catering side of the business and focuses on weddings and other special events. Her food highlights local organic and seasonal fair and she focuses more on overall experiences rather than individual dishes. She is also the owner of Urban Chicken. Chef Jeff Bonilla is the Executive Pastry Chef at Kitchen 1540 and L'Auberge Del Mar. He has won numerous local San Diego awards including Best of San Diego and has appeared on the Food Network on numerous occasions. Mike Yen is a mixologist at Kitchen 1540 and focuses on modern techniques in cocktails. His use of modern technique in cocktails really blurs the borders of what a cocktail is.
The Origins dinner was the first pop-up event for Evolve Cuisine and was held at The Wellington. The event was really meant to showcase what Evolve was all about so that more people can be excited about the future Evolve events.
Cocktails:
Dinner began with two signature cocktails by Mike Yen:
tequila souza, 90 minute sous vide strawberries, orange bitters, aperol, grapefruit soda, serrano chile
The first cocktail was a home run for me. It opened with the sweetness of the strawberries and transitioned to a citric middle where the orange bitters and grapefruit soda shone and finished with the heat from the serrano chiles. The drink was both flavorful, playful, and a great opening.
marker's mark, averna, coke, vanilla bean, cocoa nib, sous vide bacon,
While this drink was also enjoyable, it didn't quite measure up to the perfection of the previous. The vanilla flavor meshed well with the coke and contained an undertone of alcohol from the whiskey.

Hors d'ourves:
Following the drinks, we were served a few small bites:
sesame tuna with lardo - chives
The tuna was a nice classic way to start off. The temperature was good and the quality of the tuna was high. The lardo added a nice additional element of flavor.
cucumber watermelon gazpacho - tomato water, cilantro, tempered dry ice
The gazpacho was a bit hit. The dry ice mixed with the tomato water and carbonated it, which helped develop the appetite. The bites of watermelon and cucumber were extremely enjoyable and well balance with the tomato water. This was the perfect bit of acidiy, sweetness and flavor.
65 hour brisket - uni dijon anglaise
My piece of brisket was cooked perfectly and finished off nicely on the grill. At first the uni with the brisket was a little unsettling, but once I got used to the odd pairing, I realized that it actually worked. The uni flavor really stayed with me and had a long finish, which was a good counterpoint to the fat and flavor of the brisket.
At this point, we in for a huge surprise as it was announced that we would be served the courses in reverse.

1st Dish - Eighth Course:
marscapone cremeux - kiwi bone marrow, sourdough sponge, jalapeno nigori sorbet, sweet basic air
alchohol: Jezebel blanc 07, oregon 
This was one of the really impressive courses we had of the evening. There was so many thing going on and the entire dish was a triumph. My favorite element was the freeze-dried goat cheese, which was mixed with the jalapeno sorbet to give it a nice spicy kick, but also a very nutty undertone that balanced out the dish. The cremeux was also a highlight as the texture was silky smooth and featured very rich marscapone. Overall the dish contained elements of sweet, sour, savory, and spice all mixed together.
The wine pairing was a light sweet touch that had virtually no finish. While the wine itself wasn't very enjoyable, the light sweet flavor was a nice complement to the dessert

2nd Dish - Seventh Course:
chicken and waffles - stone ipa marshmallow, freeze dried popcorn, maple sage caramel, szechuan waffle
alcohol: los alios syrah blend 08, argentina
This dish was a nice take on chicken and waffles. The panko-breaded friend chicken had a nice textural crunch, which was supported by the crunch of the waffle. The maple-sage caramel added some nice sweetness, which was dwarfed by the sweetness of the ipa marshmallow. The marshmallow was perhaps the most surprising element on the plate in both flavor and how well it integrated with the other elements.

3rd Dish - Sixth Course:
encapsulated muscles - coconut water, curry butter powder, stevia
alcohol: paco y lola albarino '10, spain
This was my favorite dish of the night. The muscle was immersed in a gelatin which contained the coconut water. When popped, the coconut water mixed into the curry butter powder, which rehydrated it into a rich flavorful curry sauce full of spice. The stevia surprisingly finished off the flavors with a twinge of sweetness that cut through the spice on the finish. This was one case where the playfulness of the modern technique mixed with the great flavors really elevated my enjoyment of the dish.
The albarino had a nice long finish and wasn't too strong in character itself, which lent well to pairing with the dish. The wine slightly reinforced the sweetness of the stevia on the finish while washing away some of the heat from the curry powder.

4th Dish - Fifth Course:
lamb - crispy lamb tongue, sous vide lamb foreshank, cocoa nibs, tortilla, cherry gels,
vanilla cinamon bubbles
alcohol: tooth and nail "the possessor" 09, paso robles
This was my least favorite dish of the night. The lamb tendon was cooked well and despite the appearance of being raw, it was definitely cooked through.
While the plating was somewhat playful (the jus was supposed to resemble blood), the dish seemed to not really work out for me in the end.

5th Dish - Fourth Course:
blueberry mojito
This was Mike Yen's take on a mojito. The flavor of blueberries really came through in addition to the kick in alcohol. In fact, the alcohol was really strong in this one as I felt quite the punch after consuming it. Further, the flavor of the mint really lingered on the palate after consuming the cocktail, which really did remind me of a mojito.

6th Dish - Third Course:
maguro - masago, chinese black beans, shitake kelp powder, sudachi gelee
alcohol: conundrum '10, napa valley
This was a well balanced dish once all the elements were mixed together. The sudachi mixed with the fish, tobiko and black beans really had a nice combination of savory, umami, and acid. If there was a slight complaint, it's that it was difficult to try to manually integrate all the elements together.
I thought the alcohol on this was a huge mistake when it came out, but this ended up being a great pairing as the alcohol really brought out a nice sweet finish to the dish that really highlighted the freshness of the maguro. This was my favorite pairing of the night

7th Dish - Second Course:
fish n chips - black cod terrine tempura, celery root, miso "tartar", malt vinegar
alcohol: j pinot gris '09, russian river
This dish was executed very well. The black cod had a very delicate flavor and was fried perfectly in the tempura to give it a light airy flavor. The malt vinegar added the needed british touch as well. The big surprise was the celery root, which acted as the chip. The rich creaminess of the celery root integrated directly into the fish, which made me feel like I was eating the fish and chip together at the same time. The terrine was delicate in flavor, but was accentuated by the flavor of the malt vinegar

8th dish - First Course:
foie gras - crispy apple structure, foie gras terrine, foie gras candy
alcohol: revelator '09, central coast
We were asked to consume the apple crisp immediately so I didn't have a great opportunities for photos
The overall flavor of the foie terrine was clean and spot on. The foie candy was a nice and surprisingly touch as well. The sauteed apples brought an element of balance to the richness inherent in the rest of the dish. The most surprising part of this dish was that it worked well as a "dessert" since it was both rich and contained a sweet element to it.

Conclusion:
As much as I enjoyed Chef Barron's "Experience," I enjoyed the "Origins" dinner even more. The dishes felt like there was some more time to think them through and there were slightly more refined. The flavors and intents were clear through the meal, and there were some truly inspired dishes.
Overall I continue to be impressed by Chef Barron and really feel like he is starting to hit his culinary stride in the modern technique area. I hope that he will continue to put on additional dinners and that they will continue to get better. Hopefully more people will have the opportunity to taste his modern menus in the future.
Further, I feel that Evolve Cuisine is really on the right track of dinner events. The molecular cocktails were surprisingly and well executed and I thought they were a great touch to the evening. I also thought that Chef Bonilla's dessert was phenomenal; it was a great mix of technique and flavors that really impressed me. While I'm unable to make the next Evolve Event, I hope it is an even bigger success than the Origins dinner.

6 comments:

Rodzilla March 9, 2012 at 12:14 AM  

Really great photos, I planned to direct people to them all along, but I'm still surprised at how well these turned out.

kevinEats March 9, 2012 at 1:27 AM  

I'm glad to see that Chef Barron's upping his game, but what was the point of the whole reversal?

James March 9, 2012 at 8:30 AM  

@Roddy - Yes I'm really surprised at the new camera sometimes. I'm still learning how to use it though so sometimes things don't turn out great

@kevin - I think it was because the way the menu was planned with the foie being sweet, it was just something they could do. They thought it would be fun. After reflecting on it, I think it would have been better in order.

f0cf168c-6c67-11e0-9b35-000bcdcb2996 March 9, 2012 at 12:47 PM  

We were there wed night. I agree with your comments 100%.

We hope to go to their next event.

Great blog by the way. I have been a long time follower....


Keith Stone

J Vineyards & Winery March 12, 2012 at 9:24 AM  

Lovely blog and pictures, as well as the great pairing with the J 2009 Pinot Gris: fish n chips - black cod terrine tempura, celery root, miso "tartar", malt vinegar.

ettible March 16, 2012 at 9:20 AM  

What fun! In all of the time I've been eatin' finely, I've never had a pipette served to me. And you had one with uni in it. Hot! As someone who likes to walk away from dinner with a sweet taste in my mouth, I was worried about the dishes-in-reverse thing, but ending with foie gras was brilliant. Looks great!

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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