Friday, July 24, 2015

Foodie Field Trip- Iowa Pork Blogger Tour Part 2- Iowa Bloggers Tour Dinner

Bet you have never heard the term "porkcentric" before, have you? Executive Chef Dominic Ianarelli made porkcentric happen for all of us lucky lucky Iowa food bloggers. After our long roadtrip and tour of Brenneman Pork we joined fellow food bloggers Cristen Clark of Food and Swine and the husband and wife blogging team Sam and Anna Konchar, who blog at Midwest at Its Best at the gorgeous downtown restaurant Splash for this amazing 6 course dinner and wine pairings event.

If you are not familiar with Chef Dom, you need to get to know him. He is the Executive Chef of Splash Seafood Bar and Grill in the heart of downtown Des Moines, and a owner/partner in the hugely popular Jethro's family of restaurants. Chef Dom is a very well respected chef in the Des Moines culinary scene and was one of the chefs "fighting" to raise money for Central Iowa Shelter Services during the Culinary Fight Night event. 

Our evening started with an absolutely  sublime selection of artisan hams. The first ham was a 400 day aged Surry-ano Serrano style ham. It had a drier texture than the ham most people think of- almost a jerky-like quality, intense ham flavor and moderate salt. It was worth every minute of those 400 days. The second ham was Benton's Smokey Mountain Country Ham. This ham had a tender texture like we are used to, beautiful flavor and pale pink color. It was dry-aged for 18 months. Chef Dom tells us he has been on a waiting list for a year and a half to get this ham! The third ham was produced right here in Iowa, La Quercia Prosciutto Americano. If you like prosciutto at all you need to try La Quercia. It's truly a treat. The hams were served with a house-made lemon parsley pickle and a blend of Dijon and grainy mustards. I really enjoyed tasting first the ham by itself, then with a bit of mustard. The pickles were sensational and acted as a palate cleanser between hams.

Wine pairings were part of the evening's festivities as well and Splash's sommelier, Andy Crounse, has chosen the perfect wines for each course. To accompany the hams Andy chose LaMarca Prosecco. If you aren't familiar with prosecco, it's basically a Italian champagne. It is fermented a little differently resulting in a lighter wine with bright flavors.

Our first course was a stunningly beautiful Roasted Beet Salad with Pork Pate, Pickled Mustard Seeds and Crisp Bacon. Don't get too excited about that bacon. Chef Dom's goal was to create delicious pork dishes that were NOT heavily baconized. The bacon on this plate was nicely subdued. The beets were tossed in a dressing that was made with Jasper Winery's popular All Night White wine, served on top of baby lettuces with the creamy pate on the side. Don't be squeamish about pate either- you need pate in your life. This was phenomenal.

The salad was paired perfectly with my favorite of all whites, Riesling, in this case Julien Frey Riesling. Made in the Alsace region of France this is a dry Riesling with an earthy minerality and green fruit notes. It's nothing like it's cousin sweet Riesling, but very refreshing.

Cheeks are the new It Girl of the meat world and the second course was a flawless presentation of this trendy cut. Braised Pork Cheeks with Shrimp Tortellini, Local Peas and Goat Cheese Fondue. I am almost at a loss for words to describe this dish. The pork cheeks, which were braised in milk, were cooked to the perfect tenderness- they weren't braised to mush, they had a short rib quality to them. The shrimp tortellini were stunningly beautiful as well as delicious. Pork and seafood is the new surf and turf according to Chef Dom and if this dish is representative of that, I'm all in. The goat cheese fondue was creamy and decadent, very mild and was the perfect compliment to the meat and pasta. This dish was a favorite of many of the bloggers!

The second course was paired with my favorite of all red grapes- Grenache- which is blended with Syrah and given only a brief time with the skins to create Commanderie de la Bargemonie Rose. This wine was so elegant, with all the big fruit notes of a full-red Grenache or Syrah but with a lighter touch. I am not normally a big fan of rose wines but I will be looking for this one for myself to enjoy at home.

This dinner took place at Splash, after all, and that of course means lobster. Cooked sous vide for 22 hours, the Lobster Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Maytag Havarti New Potatoes, Corn Sauce and Green Bean Succotash, our third course, was a beautiful dish to look at. The lobster was sweet and tender, wrapped in the gorgeous cut of pork, cooked so gently in that sous vide until it's just the perfect temp. So tender and delicious, I just can't describe it. Rolled up in a red cabbage strip and presented atop the potatoes- oh the potatoes....they reminded me of my mom's scalloped potatoes but kicked up about 300 degrees- creamy with Havarti (who knew Maytag also made Havarti??), golden brown and crusty on top, smooth and melt-in-your-mouth creamy inside and the succotash was so fresh and still barely crunchy, just how I love it.

For this course we are venturing into the reds with the perfect red for pork, Pinot Noir. Andy's choice this course was Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir. Raptor Ridge comes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and is filled with juicy red fruit notes- cherries, pomegranate, berries and plums. A little hint of warm spice is in there too. Beautiful wine, just beautiful.

Molecular gastronomy was at play in the fourth course, as pork shoulder was disassembled, and reassembled with "meat glue" to create Reworked Pork Shoulder Steak with Creamed Zucchini and Smoked Peanuts. Oohs and aahs accompanied this beautiful dish which was garnished with a Parmesan tuile with black truffle. The pork was beautifully cooked with crispy edges, layers of fat that was reminiscent of pork belly, browned and crispy on top. Chef Dom remarked that in the summer too much zucchini forces a little creativity and this creamed zucchini was a unique way to use this squash, accented with oyster mushrooms, ricotta cheese and mint. The smoked peanuts added a subtle crunch and salty flavor. This was just so delicious, and we were all complaining about how full we were- but we wanted MORE!

Our last wine was just as spectacular as the rest, this red was Qupe Syrah. Dark, dark red fruits and a hint of white pepper make this wine spectacular to drink. I love deep bold reds with those spicy tones. I think they are very warming, and with this pork shoulder steak, as hearty as it was, this wine was the perfect pairing. 

The Chef has quite a sense of humor, and as dessert was being served he told us he thought after all those courses it would be best to finish with something "a little light"..........and then we were each presented with a SLAB, yes, a slab, of Chef Dom's version of Christina Tosi's Confetti Birthday Cake, topped with house-made white chocolate ice cream and crunchy cereal brittle. I could have cried, because the cake was so perfect, so memorable, and I had no more room!

After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a night of much-needed rest, but our "Iowa Tour de Pork" is not over just yet- lots more enticing pork cuisine to come tomorrow, and stay tuned for those hamballs I promised earlier. They are coming up soon!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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