When my friend Caryl inquired if I wanted to attend a pop-up dinner that chef Michael Schwartz was cooking at Animal in Los Angeles, my answer without utter hesitation was…YES! I've been following Chef Schwartz's career for a while now and due to proximity, had yet to try his restaurants in Miami or the Grand Cayman. So how lovely and convenient it was that on one balmy May evening in Southern California, this 2010 James Beard award-winning chef brought his cuisine to us.
Dinner was served family style separated into four courses (snacks, first, second and dessert). Each course consisted of two to four items. The four snacks alone, were a complementary combo and Caryl and I agreed that we could have noshed on them for the entire evening. They were that addictive. I was particularly drawn to the Caramelized onion dip with thick-cut russet potato chips and the Chicken liver and caramelized onion crostini. What can I say, I have a thing for flavorfully-prepared caramelized onions. Paired with a a NV Cremant de Bourgogne Rose, I was quite happy.
First course included two dishes from the sea including a crispy fish with mangos and a grilled, seared tuna. Both dishes were light, and appropriate for the 90 degree L.A. temps. Although Michael Schwartz's restaurants are both located in warmer climates, his food has enough of a comfort-food appeal that it would resonate well with those in cooler locations.
And speaking of comfort food, the second course items were all about the meat! The Slow-roasted pork shoulder was a generous hunk of boneless satisfaction topped with Anson mills cheese grits, vibrant pickled red onions and parsley sauce. The other main was a Fried "buffalo style" rabbit with blue cheese and hot sauce. It actually looked and tasted like fried chicken. The blue cheese sauce had a great hint of buttermilk and sour cream.
Oh desserts, my daily weakness. Two completely different ones were served, but my favorite by far were the Quick Doughnuts with anise sugar and orange marmalade. Served warm, they were made with a store-purchased Pillsbury biscuit dough. The tartness of the marmalade with the sweetness of the anise sugar was heavenly. The other bonus with this dinner, was that for the $85 per person (excluding alcohol), it also included a signed Michael's Genuine Food cookbook. The evening and experience was definitely a fantastic deal, considering I didn't even have to purchase a plane ticket to Miami. I've already marked page 198 in the cookbook and plan on making the doughnuts this week. My only concern is that the recipe produces 16 of them and yes, they are that good. To avoid over consumption, since best served warm, I better be generous and invite some friends over that day.
For more info on Chef Michael Schwartz, visit HERE