When you get offered car service in a Lexus RX450h to a celebratory dinner at Animal because Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are to be presented as the next Culinary Masters, you say Yes. Especially when last year’s anointed, Miami’s Latin fusion extraordinaire and longtime mentor to Jon & Vinny, Michelle Bernstein, is in town and also presenting dishes of her own at the dinner.
It was a great way to celebrate their joining the ranks of other culinary masters such as Daniel Boulud (DANIEL), Michael Chiarello (Bottega, Coqueta), Masaharu Morimoto (Morimoto) and Michael Symon (Lola Bistro). For the occasion, Jon actually wore a chef’s coat (he revealed it was his “first time”). The highlight of the night was a fantastic, intimate dinner shared with other food media and in the presence of guests of the chefs.
There were eight courses in all, paired with various wines (dessert with port), with the Animal guys and Michelle alternating plates. Favorites included the guys’ fried oyster with smoked potato salad made with ramp mayo (I’m still thinking about that potato salad, actually) and a fantastically flavored bouillon with poached egg, Italian sausage, fried broccoli & garlic bread – a savory yet vibrant dish that really got the rest of the dinner going.
Favorites by Michelle were shrimp paired with tempura-fried squash blossom and gooey cheese grits as well as ultra savory fennel & rye-dusted sweetbreads with a mildly sweet carrot miso and Brussels sprout leaves.
The main event came in the form of dry aged beef, onion, creamed corn, chanterelles and balsamic brown butter. I loved that throughout the meal, there were pretty brilliant combinations in each dish with there being just enough components – and edited so that they were just short being too many. Oh yes, and the wine pairings.
Which reminds me: I should be eating at Animal more often.
I left with Lexus car service; Jon and Vinny left with Lexuses. And with that, I leave you with professional photos of the courses we enjoyed. Fair trade, right?