Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Evening at Lemaire with John Mariani

Chefs Bundy, Schroeder, Ayyash with John Mariani and my table mate who wasn't too fond of being the center of attention but was a great sport
About a month ago, one of my husband's buddies tipped us off to an upcoming wine dinner at one of Richmond's award-winning restaurants Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel featuring an evening of classic Italian cooking (as well as Lemaire's signature seasonally-inspired cuisine) hosted by Esquire magazine's food, wine and travel expert, John Mariani, who was also there to promote his latest book, "How Italian Food Conquered the World".

It took us all of about 8 seconds to buy our tickets.

Last night, as the wine flowed (served up as a crisp San Pietro Pinot Grigio and a 2008 Seghesio Dolcetto D'Alba Chiesa), guests were treated to a menu described as a "synergy of three driving forces" involving the infiltration of Italian ingredients and culinary methods in America along with Virginia's own meats and produce, all of which that was to blend seamlessly with the season.

In addition to culling from Jefferson's own urban garden, Bundy Farms, welcome appearances came from OLLI Salumeria (in the form of a pungent and simply outstanding pancetta nestled into a big pile of ricotta gnocchi topped with Dave and Dee's grated eggs) as well as a local rabbit pate (served atop a classic bruschetta) that hailed from Jamerson Farms. A very seasonal Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crab was dusted in cornmeal (a welcome change from simply flouring) and a fall-off-the-bone tender braised pork cheek rested atop Charleston Gold Rice from Anson Mills. However, I have to say, the star of the show was Pastry Chef Sara Ayyash's beautifully executed Semifreddo al 'Torrone accented with salted caramel, which arrived just as it should, half-frozen and just a little melty around the edges.

Here's a brief pictorial with a few delectable highlights. Apologies in advance for the lack of lighting, but setting off a flash during date night is a faux pax I just don't do.
Trio of Bruschetta with Jamerson Farms rabbit, puree of favas and Hanover tomato caponata
Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab w/ three bean salad & pickled okra
Ricotta gnocchi w/ OLLI pancetta, grated farm eggs and Parmesan
Chef James Schroeder's Emilia-Romagna inspired fall-apart braised pork cheek w/ gold rice and cabbage
Pastry Chef Sarah Ayyash's rendition of a semifreddo made with Torrone and salted caramel.

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  1. Such a delight and your write up is spot on, Kendra!!

  2. Great company and a fantastic evening all around :)

  3. Great review! I definitely could have eaten another semifreddo. My husband and I actually sat at your table last night. Hope to see you and your husband again at another great dining experience.

    Best, Nora & Eddie Nickel

  4. Awesome Nora. It was great meeting you guys and thanks so much for the kind words :)



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