SGE Experience: Neighborhood Dinner with Cerulean

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Cerulean is a restaurant up in Warsaw, Indiana at Winona Lake. In an effort to expand their audience and food philosophy, chefs Caleb, Alex and Chase are opening Cerulean in Indianapolis at City Way. I, among with a few awesome Twitter-ers, joined a dinner party at Barret Crites mid-modern home for a dinner experience I will never forget.

When I was invited to this dinner, I immediately started researching Cerulean’s menu. From the charcuterie board with Smoking Goose meats, mustards and jams to seared scallops and rabbit terrine, I knew that I would be in for a creative and unique experience.

I must thank Barrett Crites for allowing these chefs to cook in his kitchen while we mingled and introduced ourselves to each other, admiring his modern home, and for providing not one bad piece of dinner music. Also, thanks to Firebelly for reaching out about the opportunity and for being such awesome marketers for their clients. And, thanks to Tamre and Allison, my good friends, who I was able to enjoy the experience with. A fantastic dinner was made even better by good company!

During the mingling, we enjoyed a cheese plate of gouda, feta, mustard cheddar and goat cheese. I didn’t get a picture of it, but off to the side was a small round of applesauce that was perfect for dipping the gouda in. To quote Tamre, “it tasted like Christmas in my mouth.”

When it came time to sit down and eat, and the opportunity to sit at the bar in front of the stove was open, Tamre, Allison and I left the beautiful white table behind for a bar stool and a front-row view of the action.

Above you also see the sommelier, who paired wine with not only the cheese plate but every single course of the meal. However, I know very little about wine, so I’m not going to share the names or details that would make me sound like I know what I’m talking about, because I don’t.

Now, onto the food.

For the first course, the chefs prepared an Old Bay crab cake with an Old Bay aioli. Here you can see the plating of the aioli that the crab cake will sit on. No zoom here – we really were that  close!

 

The final plated dish. Not only was the crab perfectly tender and moist, but the Old Bay seasoning really warmed up our palates for the dishes ahead.

 As I sat and watch the next dish be created and plated, I couldn’t for the life of me guess what the heck they were doing. A light brown mousse? Or cream? What’s that green stuff? Chef Alex explained the second course as a mushroom custard with herb crumble.

Flavor took a back seat to the texture contrast that was playing around on my tongue, where I’d go from a bit of creamy froth to the crunch and salt of the herb crumble. The presentation was stunning – I asked myself, is this food, or art?

Following the second course was something that I couldn’t have ever guessed we would enjoy, since Indiana is not a costal state. Fresh, large scallops were salted and sauteed, heating up the kitchen and splattering oil all over our water and wine glasses. But who cares? We had so much fun watching the flames just inches before our eyes.

Plated onto a butternut squash puree with browned butter powder, walnut crumbles, sage and creme fraiche, the scallops were like fishy butter, melting in my mouth. Absolutely delicious. I’m lucky for my first scallops experience to be so awesome. Watching Hell’s Kitchen makes you think that scallops are the hardest things to cook and nobody can do them right. Not true. Chase and Alex know what’s up.

Once I licked the plate clean (well not really, but don’t think I didn’t seriously consider doing it despite those around me), I noticed a sheet pan brought out with some kind of meat on it. A leggy meat. Was it frog legs? No, it was quail, which I was REALLY excited about. I’ve never had quail, but I was interested in trying it so that the next time I saw John’s dad I could tell him about my experience. This man will hunt a squirrel, skin it and cook it, so he’ll be proud of me on this one.

Quail is fatty and has a similar taste to duck, but there’s not much of it. So even though it looks like a lot on your plate, you can’t eat the bones in the legs, but it was delicious because it was smoked with hay. Yes, hay – the chefs rolled in a barrel of hay to smoke the quail in before they brought it to our plates.

Underneath of the quail sat a small puddle of wood stock. No, not a harmonious mixture of music and drugs from the 60s, but a stock made of maple, hickory and oak. It complimented the hay smoked quail perfectly. Along with it was a sweet cherry puree and braised swiss chard. From sweet to rich and vinegary, my taste buds were having a dance party in my mouth.

Quail wasn’t the only meat we experienced. For the fifth course, we watched Chase pour a squishy, white, crumbly mixture out of a plastic bag.

I’m not going to lie. At first, I thought it was brains.

Thank goodness it wasn’t. I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

Mustard spaetzel, it was, that they made in advanced but browned in a skillet in front of us. Laid on top of a cranberry puree, it made a perfect bed for the braised pork shoulder, topped with a slice of pear. I ate the whole plate.

Last, but certainly not least, was dessert. At this point I was feeling spectacular – the food had me in such a state of awe and happiness that I was in my own little world, dreaming about how I could possibly recreate some of these things in my own home.

Here we watched soft chocolate being delicately removed from cylinder molds, chopped in half, and plated with orange foam, brown butter cake, cocoa nibs, lime powder and compressed oranges.

Overall, I am 100% impressed with the dishes that Cerulean created for us. I cannot wait for the restaurant to open next Friday in City Way. Indianapolis needs creativity like this, and I welcome it with open arms. 

Disclaimer: I was invited to a Neighborhood Dinner with the Cerulean chefs. Views presented are my own.

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