I must admit I am a huge fan of the TV show Top Chef. As far as reality television goes, I think it dispenses with most of the drama and just shows you a bunch of amazingly talented chefs going head to head in some tough competition. Throughout the most recent season, filmed in Chicago, my wife and I quickly settled on who was our favorite to win it all, Richard Blais. Turns out he didn't win it all, although he made it all the way to the finals, but he was still our favorite. When we found out that Richard would be coming to town to serve as guest chef at McCrady's, we knew we had to be there!
If I had to describe it in one word, I'd use the word brilliant. I truly felt like for one night, I was Tom Colicchio (one of the Top Chef judges), as eleven delicious courses were brought out, and Richard Blais came out to explain the inspiration for each dish. Richard was very entertaining, funny, and really taught us a lot about the food we were eating. It was great to see how excited he and Sean Brock (head chef at McCrady's) were about this food.
The dishes were (I got too excited about eating and didn't get pictures of all of them):
An Arnold Palmer
This was a frozen cube of sweet tea vodka with lemon soda and a lemon verbena garnish.
Compressed Melon + Pork Jowl + Almond Cotton Candy
The combination of flavors here was perfect.
Oyster and Pearls. A Remix
This one was inspired by Richard's stint at the French Laundry. The pearls were basically grapefruit sorbet dippin dots.
Hamachi Sashimi + Crispy Sweetbread + Smoked Mayonnaise
My first experience with eating thymus glands. The sashimi was so fresh that it was a favorite even among non-sushi lovers at our table.
This one was a tribute to Richard's childhood. Inside the can was a fresh green tomato gazpacho, but the can was a reminder that even great chefs can be raised on Campbell's.
Charleston Crab + Cole Slaw Sorbet
Described by Richard as "a beautiful person in jeans and a t-shirt". In other words, with delicious crab, you don't have to do much with it for it to be good!
Foie Gras Rocks + Fig + Pancakes + Maple
One of the more unique interpretations of pancakes and syrup I've seen, this plate provided an endless number of flavor combinations, and I'm pretty sure they all were delicious.
Country Fried Grouper Steak + Potatoes
This was a fairly simple dish, but quite possibly one of the most perfectly cooked and seasoned pieces of fish I've ever had. This one got huge raves around the table.
Pork Belly + Root Beer + Apple
The only dish of the night to get any complaints. Mine was delicious, but a few people got pieces that were a little tougher. A tough dish to pull off for 125 people simultaneously!
McLamb Rib + Butternut + Peanuts
Yes, this was actually inspired by the McRib sandwich (of which Richard claims to have eaten 4 in one sitting at one point). A few pieces of lamb "meat-glued" together, over a butternut squash puree, and topped with boiled peanuts, a sign that Richard is now a Southerner.
Cornbread + Sweet Tea + Creme Fraiche
A little dessert to finish things off. The cornbread was very rich, and offset by the sweet tea ice cream. I am definitely going to be firing up the ice cream maker sometime soon to try to duplicate that recipe!
It was a night to remember. I'm not sure I've ever seen the chefs come out to a standing ovation after a dinner, but it was well deserved!