St. Louis, Miami chefs experiment in Winston-Salem

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by Eric Ginburg

Chicken and dumplings, quail with black summer truffle mousse, gnocchi, chive veloute and herb biscuit. Mojo criollo porkbelly congri with garlic, citrus, black beans, rice and bacon. Southern Comfort and peach popsicles with sunflower-seed brittle, goat-cheese fritters, quince jam, peaches and ginger gastrique.

Any of the specialty menu items, from any night of Spring House’s special-event dinner last week, are enough to make you lose your mind with jealousy. Especially the lineup presented by chef Kurtis Jantz of Trump International Beach Resort in Miami, which included the peach popsicles, octopus pinchos with torched jalapeño shrub, molasses-lacquered duck confit with red-velvet waffles and a dessert featuring sea corals, mango sea sponge, pistachio, chocolate veil, something called “yuzu” and an assortment of other flair.

The pictures that Winston-Salem foodie extraordinaire Nikki Miller-Ka posted on her Instagram (@niksnacks) of Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival will give you the worst case of FOMO. And the worst part is that all the chefs rolled in from out of town, delivering one-off, multi-course meals before returning from whence they came.

 

The five-day event, organized by Spring House chef and partner Tim Grandinetti and now in its sixth year, draws on the chef’s network of talented friends scattered around the country. The affair, at $69 a head, is one of the Triad’s most creative culinary events, allowing people like Chef Wil Pelly from Sugarfire Smokehouse in St. Louis to attempt off-the-wall feats, like a pineapple upside-down Key-lime flan with candied pineapple and Key lime.

Wil Pelly
Wil Pelly

Pelly’s performance started the weeklong event kind of like a caffeine addict without the morning coffee — an hour into the dinner on Aug. 11, only one of the evening’s five courses had appeared. Tasty as the light grilled oyster with passion fruit and shaved macadamia was, anticipation of, and impatience for, the second dish loomed.

SONY DSCPelly promised a street corn dish, a trend that appeared almost as rapidly as vape pens, but his take proved to be nothing like that of other hip dish-slingers; Pelly turned the corn into a gazpacho with a slightly sour tinge thanks to yogurt, filled out with onion, cilantro and cotija, a hard cow’s-milk cheese native to Mexico.

With the proverbial espresso shot, the outdoor community-style event lurched to life, followed by a shortened wait for the grilled chow-chow salad with cauliflower, carrot, peach and celery.

SONY DSCThe pickled vegetables could’ve used a little more subtlety, a few attendees agreed, but the main fare would arrive before too long — the aforementioned pork belly congri.

Pelly wanted to pay homage to his grandmother who hailed from Havana, Cuba, he explained — congri refers to Cuban rice and black beans, and mojo criollo is a Creole garlic sauce associated with the island nation.

SONY DSCWith the porkbelly congri and the triple-threat dessert — featuring smoky and sweet flavors that played nicely off each other — Pelly undoubtedly finished strong; who knows what hare-brained brilliance he might’ve churned out had the evening kept rolling. But his moment in the spotlight, at least in Winston-Salem, would soon fade, eclipsed by four more nights of experimentation.

Don’t hold anything against Pelly; it usually takes a few tugs before the motor begins rumbling, and Grandinetti gave him the task of opening the week’s events on a Tuesday. About 40 people filled the large, round tables on Spring House’s lawn to partake that night, and the week kept rolling with chef Cassie Parsons of Harvest Moon Grill in Lincolnton, and Jantz’s mouthwatering menu.

Jeff Bannister, a South Carolina pitmaster, showed up with a lamb tartare and smoked roasted-loin as well as a house sausage with Sriracha-stuffed focaccia with garden basil aioli. The week culminated with chef Tim Recher of the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. on Aug. 15. Recher, who has won the American Culinary Federation’s Presidential Medal, started with the gnocchi and quail dish before moving on to a chilled English pea soup and seared sea bass with coriander and mushroom-shallot-pea salad.

Two specialty cocktails
Two specialty cocktails

Later the servers would bring out a bison tenderloin with smoked brisket and potato croquette, among other flourishes.

It’s too much goodness to think about on an empty stomach, and overwhelming to look at any time, even after the fact on Miller-Ka’s photo feed. But do so, regardless of whether you experienced it first hand, and you may find yourself urging host Tim Grandinetti to turn Luv Luv into more than an annual festival of food.

 

Find chef Tim Grandinetti at Spring House restaurant, 450 N. Spring St. (W-S), or at Quanto Basta one block south.