Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spice Route Family Meal

Chef Sean McCarthy attended Culinary school
Johnson and Wales in Charlotte.

Sunday August 29th, 2010:: Chef Sean at Giorgio Restaurant in Cary hosted my first attended Family Meal (which was actually his second)

The idea of Family Meal stems from the family meal the restaurant staff members have on a regular basis. Where the kitchen prepares food and gathers the staff to swap stories and basically come together as a family unit. Chef Sean has extended this meal to a limited number of guests and creates a meal based on what he would cook for his close friends. So here is the tale of a Sunday night when the restaurant is closed to the public but open for 30 lucky little heathens.

Hubby and I enter the scene quite timidly. It’s obvious that many of the folks know each other and talk and laugh jovially. Belly up to the bar and I over hear this edgy-quasi-Adam Lambert looking bartender explain his love of rose. His words take me away to a vineyard as he describes how the grape was grown, what to expect from rain if the vine is on a slope or in a valley and describes the finish as kissed with citrus. I am in awe as exclaims, “You know, it’s difficult for a single heterosexual in the South to drink pink wine. But I love it.” I get a tingly sensation and officially have a wine crush on my sommelier for his candor.

Chef Sean welcomes the group and explains our dinner. We will experience Spice Route Seafood. The side room double doors open to our long white linen table. First course Kumomoto Oysters. These little buggers look small (about the size of a silver dollar), but they have a wallop of flavor. Plain, these guys are briny salty as if I had swallowed the sea.  Splash a little mignonette of champagne vinegar, local melon, shallot and pickled watermelon rind I’m ready to take my close off. There are 150 of these oysters and I restrain myself not to over-take.

Second course is Salmon Ceviche. It doesn’t sound nor look too exciting. It’s deep red from the Harissa paste Sous Chef Carrie made from reconstituted dry chilis. It’s mixed with walnuts, cilantro and mint. I’m critical. This doesn’t look like the juicy ceviche I’m used to…and made with salmon? But, one bite and I’m convinced. This dish was banging! Definitely my top two ceviche of all time. So, so good and admit it was my favorite course of the meal.   

Hamachi Sashimi was another unusual pairing of fresh local peaches and hot chili oil. This was not a flavor combination I would have mashed together, but it worked. The texture of the yellowtail and the peach swam together harmoniously and the flaky salt set it all off.

The Octopus a la plancha was daring, well at least for me. The thick purple and white tentacles popped on a salad of arugula, pickled red onion and saffron aioli. The texture was delicate and soft. Not chewy whatsoever.

The visually impressive Ethiopian Seafood Stew were huge bowls heaping with prawns that could choke a horse, mussels, calamari rings in a deep red berbere broth, a spice mixture whose ingredients usually include chile peppers, ginger, cloves, coriander, and allspice. Spooned on to our plates the broth quickly took over like the broken levees in Ninth Ward.  White rice was called in for reinforcements. Nobody dared to waste a drop.

And the pièce de résistance was the three (yes, count em THREE) whole black grouper. Each grouper was lovingly massaged with a Moroccan spice and served with an orange fennel relish.  Chef tenderly dressed the fish and saved the cheek for yours truly. I let the sweet, fleshy moist cheek roll in my mouth. I levitated.

I wasn’t the only one levitating. I looked around and noticed the conversation subsided and everyone on my side of the table had a smirkey, cat that ate the canary look plastered across their faces.  I think instead of a family meal, I just embarked on my first decadent food orgy, and I liked it.


  1. "Spooned on to our plates the broth quickly took over like the broken levees in Ninth Ward." Seriously? That was tasteless.

  2. agreed ... completely ignorant comment

  3. Thanks for reading and having the courage to make a post. Though it would make for more interesting commentary if it wasn't anonymous.