meet, greet, eat

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Some times this little blog has some perks.  Tonight was one of those times.  The very, very lovely folks over at Alchemy sent me an email several weeks ago, and invited me to a meet and greet with their new chef, Nick Seabergh.

Now, I have been a big fan of Alchemy since they opened last November.  I find myself there on a regular basis enjoying a small plate (or four) with friends and coworkers – heck we even celebrated Mother’s Day there last year. I love the concept, the food, the drinks  – Alchemy just does it right.

So when I heard about this new chef, my ears perked.  All I really knew about him was that he was most recently the Executive Chef at Giardina’s in the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood, Miss. For those who aren’t food nerds like me – The Alluvian is home to the Viking Cooking School and is on my vacation bucket list.  So I figured that this guy might know how a thing or two about cooking a dish. Most likely, right?

Eager to see what Chef Nick had in store for Alchemy, I grabbed my bestie Katie to check it out.

Let’s talk about the plate that you see above, which doesn’t even scratch the surface of what we actually ate.  Of course I forgot to take photos of everything, so when my friend and fellow food blogger, Thomas, posts his much better photos – I’ll share that.

So above left to right.

  1. Herb Roasted Mississippi Shiitake Mushrooms with Parmesan and sherry vinegar.  Yes, you do remember correctly that I usually run far, far away from mushrooms, but these were really good – salty, meaty, un-mushroomy.  Maybe? Could I be turning a corner on my mushroom-phobia? Maybe it’s just these.
  2. House cured smoked salmon with a yummy caper cream sauce. Of course I didn’t take great notes to tell you exactly what the sauce was – but trust me – Yum.  The salmon was salty and smokey and tender. This was not your Sunday brunch lox – but a hot smoked salmon with a great smokey flavor.  Can I have lots more?
  3. Truffle deviled egg. He had me at deviled egg. Stop me before I go off on a tangent about my love for deviled eggs…
  4. Hangar steak carpaccio with a grapefruit vinaigrette. I love it when chef’s pair ingredients that I just can’t imagine. This is one of those dishes.  The steak was barely seared on each side, then cut thin.  This dish shows how important really good ingredients are for simple dishes.  With a great cut of beef that is nicely marbled, the fat in the beef is in perfect contrast to the acid in the grapefruit.  I really wish I had gotten seconds on this one.

IMG_2431Then all of a sudden more food just started pouring out of the kitchen. Before I knew it there were 4 more plates and I only snapped this one picture of the Gulf Shrimp on a charred green onion grit cake with jalapeno butter. Essentially – his version of shrimp and grits.

I believe that Chef said that the tasso ham in the sauce was house made.  The shrimp was nicely cooked from the gulf.  But I really couldn’t stop thinking about the grit cake – crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. So delicious.

I’m really bummed out that I didn’t get a picture of the roasted asparagus with parmesan cheese, crispy Benton’s bacon and a fried poached egg.  Yes, you read that correctly, Chef Nick takes a perfectly poached egg, breads it and fries it – perfectly runny yolk while crispy outside.  That’s my kind of poached egg.  This dish was like the perfect breakfast on a plate, and I am convinced that there is nothing better than a runny yolk covering asparagus and bacon – nope, nothing.

While we were stuffing ourselves silly, Chef Nick came by to say hi and asked if there is anything else that we wanted to try.  Of course we flipped the question back to him and said – what should we try?  Well, this is when Chef started to describe the flattened fingerling potatoes that they fry in the leftover duck fat from making duck confit.

A little background here – Once upon a time at my office, my coworkers and I read a recipe that called for “your favorite fat.” When described that way – everyone was a little grossed out except for me.  Without a blink of an eye – I said “Duck Fat. No question, duck fat.”

Now understanding that my appreciation for duck fat runs deep, I looked at Chef trying to play it cool and said – “yeah…we could try that.” One bite and all I can say is…Oh. My. Word. The best part of these potatoes (other than the duck fat) is that they immediately took me back to my trip to Spain.  Chef serves the potatoes with a smoked paprika aioli, and with one bite, I was back in Barcelona. The potatoes are served with a seared hangar steak that is simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  But as far as I’m concerned – gimme a plate of the potatoes and I’m a happy girl.

Other highlights that we tried were the beef sliders with pimento cheese on rolls made by bread making genius Chef Jason Doty and the redfish tacos with a radish and cabbage slaw.

Part of the reason tonight was so much fun, was that I got to hang out and talk food with food people.  Chef Jason came by and said hi and told us about his plans for expanding Bluff City Coffee and a new bakery.  High fives for a real bakery in town! Can’t wait for fresh bread from a guy who knows how to do it right.

EatLocalMemphis.org’s Thomas and I have been talking and tweeting about grabbing lunch for months, and tonight we were finally able to hang out, catch up, talk food, and plan our next lunch.  Sometimes ya just got to keep kindred spirits close by, and Thomas is definitely a kindred spirit when it comes to food.

So in case you didn’t deduce from this post – I am giving Chef Nick at Alchemy rave reviews. He took a menu and concept that I already loved, and put his unique name on it.  Staples like mac and cheese and tomato soup with grilled cheese are still there – but his new dishes are great additions.  Can’t wait to come back and try some more dishes and have some more potatoes. (yes, they really were that good. :P)

Save the date! Alchemy has a couple special dinners planned.

  1. February 27 – New Belgium Brewery Beer Dinner with Special Guest Todd Dudley of the New Belgium Brewery
  2. April 16 – Bourbon Dinner with Sazerac Family Master Distiller Harlan Wheatley

Thank you to Bert, John and Shantih for a great night!!!

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