April 20, 2015
Dinner Lab made an appearance in Charlotte Thursday night, hosted by Brooklyn native Chef Shanna Pacifico. Under the extravagant chandelier in the great hall of the Charlotte Museum of History, long tables covered in white paper awaited the cities eager diners. The membership-based social dining company started in New Orleans and earned such a level of popularity that it has spread into 21 cities. Dinner Lab allows a unique platform for strangers who share their love of food and city to gather at a table as an ambitious Chef presents a multi-course meal with a theme behind it; even the music that is played behind the eaters conversations help tell the story. Set to take place in an untraditional space for eating this dinner party is like nothing else in the culinary scene today.
Chef Pacifico’s favorite dishes from Pacifico’s Fine Foods made up the five course menu and included heavy influence from her Brazilian heritage. Having studied at New York’s French Culinary Institute (The International Culinary Center) the menu was greatly anticipated by all. Brazilian and French together on a plate? A story sure to inspire the palette.
First Course | Tira Gosto – Lamb croquette | Ramps & Mascarpone | Lemon Zest
The warm lamb croquette sat atop a nest of mascarpone. Biting into the soft ball, and eating with hands as the Chef instructed, the composition of the elements was perfect. Each bite made a compelling argument for the star dish. The ramp and lemon zest pairing was a fresh surprise to the palate as the first course came to a close. The advanced skill of the dish played well against the homeyness that left diners satisfied and quiet, nestling back in chairs under the dim lights of the evening.
Second Course | Fluke Ceviche – Bird’s Eye Chili | Lime | Coconut Milk | Crispy Dried Shrimp
A bowl of carefully chosen spices and refreshing milk with cubes of fresh summer flounder was the second course. Abundant in North Carolina, the fluke ceviche was paired with crisp plantain chips, the savory scoop ideal for this bright and flavor packed dish. Crispy shrimp elevated the composition of the dish and brought the experience to a truly unique place.
Third Course | Chicken Chicharròn – Daikon & Radish Slaw | Crispy Garlic | Spicy Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
Chef Pacifico’s take on southern fried chicken was a perfect harmony of juicy chicken pieces battered lightly and fried with acid and salt. Cilantro accompanied the tender pieces, highlighting each and every bite. The slaw, an invigorating accompaniment to the plate, brought all the ingredients together. Also to be eaten with hands, this Brazilian influenced dish was flawless in preparation and a true bench-mark for the meal as a whole.
Fourth Course | Bobò de Camarão – Lemongrass Scented Rice | Shrimp & Yucca Stew
A whole prawn sat delicately atop a pillow of rice flecked with sweet chilis and surrounded with a thick soup. Warming and reminiscent of a rainy day dish (if it was raining in a Latin country, of course) this advanced dish tricked the mind with its progressive technique. Clearly Chef Pacifico’s most striking talent throughout this menu was his exceptional skill with the mixing of uncommon ingredients; such skill that could convince the palate of a memory not yet founded in the mind.
Fifth Course | Passionfruit Mousse – Cashew Cookies | Fresh Whip
A cup of tangy sweet velvet pudding to round off the evening. Cashew cookies cut through the candy-like confection with briny complement. An immaculate combination of sweet and savory to finish the memorable meal. Chef Pacifico again made one think that this dish had been a long-time favorite. As if passionfruit mousse was a weeknight treat from childhood, if your mother had been a Chopped contestant and critically acclaimed Chef, that is.
A beautifully composed meal shared with strangers, strangers who came together under the lights of Charlotte’s Museum of History to share a deep appreciation for masterful chef work, was hosted by Dinner Lab on Thursday night. Littering the tables were many candles which left a luminous path of illustrations on the elegant white paper covering them. Wine glasses and water cups painted a warm splash of color and shadow, moving simultaneously along with the dancing light of the many wicks. A sure sign of a successful dinner party.
Info on the next Dinner Lab Charlotte event.