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SideDish Supper Club: Details From Andrew Chalk

Thanks to Andrew Chalk for covering the event last night while I emceed with Willy Warner and Robert Chandler. Go, Andrew:

Sevy’s Grill was full last night as the fifth SideDish Supper Club rolled in and turned the place into Seafood Boot Camp. Interestingly titled “Mythbusters Seafood Dinner: You Be The Judge”  the courses of the meal contained three blind tastings of competing seafood ingredients where diners got to compare the taste and texture and guess which was which. This complemented the seafood story in the current issue of D Magazine. Expert commentary was provided by Willy Warner and Robert Chandler of Steve Connolly Seafood in Boston. At the front of the room they set up a display of some of the fish that currently appear on our plate. There was Pacific Halibut, Wild Sockeye Salmon, Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon, and a Monkfish. John Rector of Sigel’s provided commentary on the wines.

Jump for more and photos by Mathew Shelley.

The night began with a reception of Jonah Crab Crostini. Jonah crab is found on the Atlantic coast of the US and is a small but increasing part of the crab catch. This was served with a cocktail, pictured above, called a “Ketel One Oceantini”. Brad Allison, Sevy mixologist, explained to me that this is “Ketel One orange vodka, a splash of Grand Marnier, a splash of crème de cassis, a head of lime juice. Top it off with freshly squeezed orange juice. Shake very well with an orange twist as a garnish.”

The first contest of the night was Scallop Battle. Two identically seared scallops, one a true diver scallop, the other a dredged U-10 scallop (U-10 means 10 scallops per pound. ie. these were fairly large) arrived, but we had to taste and decipher which was which. One was marked with a cocktail stick. After chewing each I decided that they tasted totally different. The one without the toothpick was much mealier and earthy, and I suspected it was the diver scallop. I was wrong – and so was most of our table but we recognized that the two did taste very different. After making our decisions we tucked into the supporting pieces of the dish: a triangle of crispy polenta, lemon thyme sauce and tomato corn relish. The wine was 2008 Quinto do Feital, “Auratus”, Minho, Portugal a blend of two grapes Trajadura and Alvarinho.

Next was the Battle of The White Fish. Pacific Halibut  vs. Atlantic Cod. This one was much easier and most of our table scored their first points of the night. The cod was much flakier than the halibut (large finger-sized flakes) and the halibut had an earthiness that the cod did not. These samples were served with Roasted Artichokes, New Potatoes, Spring Onions, Red Peppers, Tiny Beans and a Saffron cream passed separately to drape on the fish after judging if that is how you liked your fish. With this dish the accompanying wine was 2008 Domaine Cordier, Macon Allier from Burgundy, France.

Robert Chandler and Willy Warner from Steve Connolly Seafood in Boston.

Next up was the latest round of the wild-caught vs. farmed salmon contest that hostess Nancy Nichols started at TJ’s Seafood Market a year ago. The contestants here were Bay of Fundy farm-raised versus wild King Salmon from the west coast. Both had been pan-seared. Once again they tasted very different. The farmed variety was moister but not less flavorful than the wild salmon. Most of the diners in the packed house picked the wild-caught over the farm raised.  These were served with creamy orzo, fresh peas, smoked bacon and red wine butter. The wine was 2008 Momo Pinot Noir, Seresin Estate, New Zealand. (That ugly fish below is a monkfish.)

The ugly but extremely edible monkfishFinally, not a contest but an old favorite. Surf and Turf in the form of Maine Lobster and Beef Tenderloin with Red Flannel Hash, Grilled Fresh Asparagus and Tarragon Shallot Hollandaise. The wine was the just released 2007 Robert Craig Vineyards, ‘Affinity’, Napa Valley. At a tasting last week we discovered that this 96/100 point is a bruiser of a Cabernet Sauvignon so it was opened several hours earlier. It had softened considerably and was a good match with the steak. However, the lobster had to be enjoyed separately to fully appreciate its delicate taste.

Dessert broke with the fish theme (ever had a good fish dessert?) in favor of Tangerine Crème Brulée. The evening had come full circle from Orange Vodka to orange-ish dessert.

7 comments on “SideDish Supper Club: Details From Andrew Chalk

  1. Andrew – nice synopsis. And, Nancy – congratulations on another successful and very enjoyable event. I particularly liked the charts at the end that indicated optimal seasons for various seafoods. Thanks for putting these events on – I’m looking forward to the next!

    For me, the most educational dish was the scallop tasting. Although both types were outstanding, there is unquestionably a distinct difference between the two. However, I strongly believe that there was a scallop mixup somewhere, either at this event or at the previous Chamberlain’s tasting. Here are three quoted observations from the Chamberlain’s post:

    “The first noticeable difference between the two was the color. The raw dry packaged U-10s were light, almost white while the divers had a grayish, tan tint.”

    “the diver scallops seared to a gorgeous caramel brown while the U-10s stopped at a light “biscuit” brown.”

    “The diver scallops were “denser” with a “meatier” texture while the U-10s appeared “looser” with a “springy” texture.”

    to me, all of these observations suggested that the “non-toothpick” scallop was the diver scallop. I think a third tasting is in order :)

  2. For most of the dishes it seemed to me that the diners were evenly split as to which one they preferred. Some of the dishes had more of a taste distinction than others. The differences in salmons was most obvious while the scallops were virtually identical — day boat vs diver versions of the same animal just aren’t that different. But even though the salmons tasted different, one wasn’t necessarily better than the other and a big part of the overall taste of both was the light salt crust the pieces developed after searing. What this convinced me of most of all was that when you’re buying seafood of this quality there’s just no advantage to the super-high-end. That is, the $1.50 scallops were just as good as the $7 scallops. That was a revelation.

    I also want to echo my thanks to all who put on this event. It was top-notch from beginning to end and taught me a lot.

    The thing that amazed me the most:

    After the dinner Robert was showing us the scallops in their shells. He mentioned that sometimes the scallop provides shelter to a little fish with which the scallop has a symbiotic relationship. Sure enough when he eased apart the shell of one of the iced scallops a thin, silvery 4-inch fish dropped out. Amazing!

  3. Nancy,
    last night was incredible. We sat with total strangers and by the second course we were having a ball trying to figure out which fish was what! I saw Gene Street there. I used to work for him and it was great to see him. Your menapausal mermaid outfit was great Thanks again. We had a great time and will be at the next
    June Rodgers

  4. Kristin,
    Andrew is a frequent contributor to SideDish and has reviewed a few restaurants for D. He knows a great deal about food and wine and he “donates” a good portion of his time and knowledge to SideDish and I appreciate his input more than you will ever know.
    Hi, June. thanks!

  5. I actually thought the taste difference in the scallops was bigger than the difference in the salmon, which tasted similar to me, but had a different texture and level of fatiness. One of the scallops (diver) had a primarily mineral flavor and the other (day-boat) was sweeter and more complex. It would have been interesting to get to try both pieces of salmon raw as both were cooked through, which is not something I’m really used to.

    Nancy, you’re a hero.

  6. sounds like a great event, sorry i missed it. chef chase said he had a great time. thanks to d mag & SC seafood for reminding us why dallas can/should/IS a great seafood town.