Friday night, we went to the Dine Around at FIG part of the Charleston Food + Wine Fest. FIG’s Mike Lata was joined by Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez of Lassi in NYC, Michael Laiskonis of Le Bernardin in NYC, and Suzanne Goin of Lucques and AOC in L.A.
As my tablemate Steve said, “I couldn’t believe it when I was able to get tickets. Suzanne Goin!? Michael Laiskonis?! These guys are rock stars!” or something to that effect. I was drinking a lot of wine (and wasn’t taking notes), so I can’t remember his exact words. But, his point was well taken. Other Dine Arounds sold out earlier than FIG’s (which still sold out weeks before the event), and the talent in the kitchen was extraordinary.
They put together five courses (two by Laiskonis), each paired with wine from Terry Theise Selections (as picked by wine guy Kevin Pike).
F irst up was Carlucci-Rodriguez with “Almond Shorba, S.C. White Shrimp with Bengali 5 Spice.” I still don’t know what a shorba is, but it appeared to be ground up nuts — looser than a nutbutter, but more textured than a puree. I liked this a lot and would describe it, in a word, as nutty. The dish was paired with a sweet reisling — Joseph Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenekreuz.
Lata’s course came next and it was my absolute favorite of the night. “Over Easy Ravioli with Bianchetti Truffles and Local Asparagus.” An over easy ravioli? Lata was able to get a whole egg inside the ravioli before cooking. The ravioli looked pedestrian enough, sitting on the plate in a bit of sauce (I think there was sauce), but once you cut into it, a gush of runny egg yolk hit the plate and elevated this pasta course to a magical experience. Yum. I loved it. It looked fabulous and tasted even better. This course was paired with two Austrian rieslings — one from 1982 and one from 2003. Kevin Pike explained that he wanted to present these to show that some white wines can actually benefit from age. The older vintage was a bit odd on its own, but when sipped with the dish, it paired perfectly.
At the end of the night, Lata gave us a step by step explanation of how he created his ravioli, but by that point I was at least six (small) glasses of wine in, so I didn’t really understand how he did it. I’m satisfied just calling him a magician.
Suzanne Goin’s veal cheeks came next and they were perfectly tender and served with a risotto carbonara, cavolo nero (a kale-like green), sweet potato, and black truffle butter. Simple but rich and satisfying.
Laiskonis, arguably the biggest rock star of the group, came out with a Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with grapefruit, avocado, basil seed, and vanilla oil. The two tiny little custards were scrumptious and only made us want more.
He finished with “Amedie Gianduja Parfait with Oregon Hazelnuts, Black Truffle Honey, Banana, and Brown Butter Ice Cream.” This was paired with a sweet wine called Ausbruch “On the Wings of Dawn.” Steve, my aforementioned tablemate and a wine aficionado, explained that this was a special rotten grape wine and he really enjoyed it. I thought it tasted a lot like my kid’s apple juice, but what do I know?
(PICTURED: Steve & Eileen at the FIG Dine Around)
All in all, the night was a lot of fun, the food was memorable, and Mike Lata made the most of his opportunity to work with such amazing peers.
One big improvement the F+W Fest organizers made to the Dine Around was allowing the pastry chefs to participate. In previous years, patrons were supposed to eat dessert at the separately-ticketed Bubbles + Sweets party. A good idea, if you could get tickets. If you couldn’t and you attended a Dine Around dinner, you were left with a meal that felt unfinished. This year, not only did we get dessert, but we got two courses from Laiskonis. Very exciting.
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