I would (almost) always much rather give a gift than receive one. I think it’s a glorious challenge to pick out the exact perfect present for someone and experience their joy as they unveil the big surprise. That is why it was my absolute pleasure to give K, for his birthday, a night in the kitchen to cook with Mike DeCamp, chef de cuisine at the venerable La Belle Vie in Minneapolis.
Chef’s Night Off is a hands-on, small group class hosted at Kitchen in the Market (KITM) in the Midtown Global Market. Take a class a KITM. It’s the most fun you’ll have in a kitchen … probably ever. You’ll eat fantastically and learn a lot too. As if all of this wasn’t enough, the evening also benefited Renewing the Countryside, a local non-profit organization that champions rural communities through farming, business and other creative initiatives.
The hot frozen gin fizz was like a steamy, boozy frozen lemonade slushy. If @YoungChef2 (Mike DeCamp on Twitter) wants to send me the secret recipe for that drink, I’d be eternally grateful (hint, hint). Thanks to lovely celebrity assistant Joy Summers for opening our eyes to this magical cocktail.
Silky, slightly sweet egg custard with chewy, savory bacon jam — Bacon and Egg Custard.
Tart, sweet and salty Apple, Olive and Feta Salad on crostini.
After taking a few moments to have a cocktail, pour some wine and grab some small bites, it was time to get to work. We broke into four teams and got busy prepping our assigned courses.
Fish “noodles” in action.
Important things first … does everyone have a wine glass? Good. Now let’s saute those brussels sprouts.
Chef DeCamp (and his epic beard) giving instructions before the beef tenderloin gets a quick sous vide.
A siphon, Dixie cups and a microwave oven equal a mean dessert prep.
And after toiling over hot stoves (that’s a vast overstatement), we all sat down to enjoy the delicious fruits of our labor.
Smoked char with dill, potato, mustard seeds and fish “noodle.” Paired with a lovely rosé. If you see her, ask Stephanie Meyer (aka Fresh Tart Steph) what happened to all those crispy little potato chips.
We were on Team Foie with K heading up foie duty (the assignment of his dreams). I was given the task of picking through a pile of organic arugula to find the “coolest looking” pieces for garnish and gently sautéing the rest. You don’t know pressure until you’ve been asked by an amazingly talented, high-caliber chef to find “cool” pieces of arugula.
Seared foie gras with kumquat jam and arugula. Paired with a very sweet moscato.
Sous vide beef tenderloin, beef cheek terrine and Northern Lights blue cheese with sautéed leeks and brussels sprouts. Paired with a red wine neither of us can remember at this point (not because it wasn’t memorable, but because I forgot to record the wine pairings).
Spongy chocolate microwave “mug” cake (made in Dixie cups), strawberry, crushed pistachios and puffed wild rice. Paired with a very strong bourbon that I sipped once then donated to the bourbon-loving Stephanie March (a celebrity assistant).
Chef’s Night Off — heck, ANY experience at Kitchen in the Market is well worth it. This occasion was a special splurge for K’s birthday and we both had an amazing time, got to hang out with some foodie friends, meet some wonderful new people, cook and eat a unique and delectable meal and we’ll likely be talking about it for many birthdays to come. Cheers!