Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dinner Lab Nashville: Puerto Rican

Dinner Lab Nashville: Puerto Rican Cuisine

Since I had such a great time at the very first Dinner Lab in Nashville, I had to come back for the 2nd event! The theme for this night's dinner is Puerto Rican Cuisine and Chef Fransisco "Paco" Robert created some amazing dishes - a couple of first time dishes (for me) and one of my go-to Puerto Rican/Spanish desserts!

Most Dinner Lab dinners take place at a new location each time to offer a one of a kind dining experience. Since this is just the 2nd dinner in Nashville, they decided to keep it at the same awesome location as the 1st Dinner lab Nashville Dinner so if the backdrop looks familiar......that is why!

Enjoy my pics from the dinner below!

Hand-crafted cocktails to start the evening off!

Guests mingling before dinner starts......

Featured Chef for the evening, Chef Fransisco "Paco" Robert

Per Dinner Lab, "As a young'n in Puerto Rico, Paco spent most of his after-school hours with his abuela (grandma), helping her prepare dinner. While his grandma was an excellent cook, his mother fell far from the tree, and as a need of survival, Paco started experimenting in his own kitchen. He graduated from University of Virginia with a B.A. in Economics and Pre-Medical Studies, but took a detour from medical school and went back into the kitchen. he started his culinary career in Washington D.C., went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, and from there traveled the world, working in three Michelin star restaurants in Spain, opening a restaurant in Saigon, Vietnam, chefing alongside Grant Achatz at 3-Michelin Star Alinea, and now as Dinner Lab's Chief Culinary Officer." 

Chef Paco discussing the menu for the evening...

Dinner Preparation

Jon Yeager of Pour Taste (www.PourTaste.com) was creating the awesome hand-crafted cocktails for us that evening. Jon and his wife Lindsay started the business, Pour Taste, about a year and a half ago when they got married. They even developed a Pour Taste app for smart phones!

Passion fruit Mojito -  Passion fruit, Rum, lime, mint

Chef Paco in Dinner Preparation mode

1st course - Salted Cod Fritter with cumin-pickled squash and lime crema

The lime crema was the perfect fresh pairing to the salted fritter!

Yazoo Hefeweizen - Drink Pairing for 2nd course

2nd Course - Garbanzos y Rabo de Lechon: Chickpea stew & braised pig tails

 Soooo....yes, I live in the south but I have NEVER had pig tails before and was honestly a little nervous about this dish. However, it tastes like succulent pulled pork ( which I now assume it should since it IS pork) so there was no need to fret! The chick peas soaked up a lot of the stew's spices and had a burst of flavor in every bite!

Chef's preparing the 3rd course

3rd course - Berenjena y Pescado: Roasted Eggplant, ceviche, charred corn

This dish was, unexpectedly, not warm which threw me off initially. However there are so many great flavors here that easily make up for that

Drink Pairing for the 3rd course - Marques de Caceres Rioja: Spanish Viura varietal

4th Course - Lengua a la Fricasse: Braised beef tongue, pumpkin mash, raisin-onion escabeche

Soooooo.....this was another first for me! For the longest time, talk of Beef Tongue conjured up memories of the "Mystery Meat" episode of Ramona based on the Ramona Forever book series by Beverly Cleary. Raise your virtual hand if you ever watched this series or read the books as a child!!!! If you didn't, you were unfortunately deprived as a child LOL LOL! My sister, brother and I watched that entire series like a million times growing up! We rented a different episode from the library every Saturday :-)

(Side note: I took a chance and searched for that Ramona episode on YouTube and guess what I found....YES, The "Mystery Meat" episode!!!!! I've included it at the end of this post for your viewing pleasure!!)

 To my pleasant surprise, the beef tongue actually tastes like a really, really tender pot roast....Thank goodness! The pumpkin mash was an excellent match for the beef

Drink Pairing for Dessert - Ponche de Abuelo: Spiced Rum, coconut milk, evaporated milk, brown sugar, apricot brandy, cinnamon, egg yolks

 Dessert - Tembleque: Coconut "flan", rum-spiked peaches, ajonjoli (candied sesame seeds)

This is the best version of Flan that I have ever had! It was very smooth and creamy and the coconut flavor......Yummy!

Find out more about Dinner Lab by visiting their website @ www.DinnerLab.com

As I promised, here is the Ramona "Mystery Meat" episode! A trip down memory lane for some and a glimpse of what you missed out on as a child if you've never seen if before LOL! Enjoy :-)

--Dr. April

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