Things a Chef Can Do (That I Can’t)
BY LUANNE MATTSON
IN MY BOOK, the difference between brilliant chefs and decent cooks are deliciously apparent. Maybe one of these days I’ll become a chef, but I’m happy to enjoy the chefs’ culinary skills at my favorites Southern Indiana (SoIN) restaurants.
What makes chefs rock stars? Their ability to elevate humble ingredients into magical dishes is a start. This month’s Taste of SoIN is dedicated to their mad skills. Here are just a few of them.
THE MAGIC BEHIND THE KITCHEN DOOR
You walk into a restaurant, and the dining room is beautiful. You order your food, and your server disappears through the kitchen doors. Minutes later, they re-emerge with beautifully made dishes. How does that magic happen?
At Mesa Collaborative Kitchen, you feel like you’re being let in on a delectable secret. Grab a seat at Mesa’s counter, and you can watch as simple ingredients transform into lovely dishes. Mesa is a new concept that allows you to join 20 others for dinner while you watch the chef and team work.
If you love the Food Network but wish you could be the one asking the questions, you’ll love Mesa. The chefs and their staffs will plate a 3- to 5-course meal where you’ll get a front row. Chefs talk as they cook, and you can ask questions along the way.
Grab a friend, a seat and a libation. This sport is a meal where you are a fan, interviewer, student, and dinner guest!
If you’re a cooking show fan, you watch masterful chefs set something aflame and cook it perfectly. I’m adventurous with flavors, but I’ll keep the flames on the burner, thank you very much. I leave the flaming desserts thing to the professionals. The staff at Olive Leaf Bistro can give you a show with Bananas Foster. Though bananas foster isn’t on the restaurant’s printed menu, you can order it as a special request for dessert. They’ll roll a cart near your table and expertly light it so you can watch as your flaming bananas foster is prepared tableside.
OLIVE LEAF BISTRO
130 W. Riverside Drive
HOLY COMBO, BATMAN!
Chefs can take (often humble) ingredients and transform them into something delightful. Can I do those things? Sometimes, but usually only when the stars are aligned perfectly. But these chefs can come up with things that I can’t. I’m a decent enough cook, but I’m not masterful the way so many of the chefs at our SoIN restaurants are.
Three of my favorite ingredients are goat cheese, bacon, and honey. Some genius at the Exchange Pub + Kitchen decided one day to serve delicately breaded goat cheese fritters on a bed of bacon aioli. Then, to top it off, they drizzled them lightly with smoked honey. Talk about delicious! My friend paired these with a glass of sauvignon blanc from the Exchange’s menu. It’s now my standard order.
Wine is usually my libation of choice, but on a hot afternoon, there’s nothing like an ice-cold beer. Who, then, would use it as a glaze for salmon? That’s right, a chef. The folks at Floyd County Brewing Company use their amber brew to glaze their salmon filet. Served with steamed veggies and rice pilaf, this is the healthiest and yummiest way to appreciate a good beer. Pair that with any of FCBC’s beers brewed on site.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
They say timing is everything in love. That saying is even more appropriate for a meal.
I’m doing good to get all my dishes finished at the same time (within a couple of minutes of each other). Could I do that for a group of people each night? Probably not. That’s why I’m amazed at a restaurant’s chef and staff. They work as a team to feed dozens, hundreds or even thousands of guests a night – every night!
These rock star chefs and others are waiting to prepare a meal for you. If you want to sample any of the dishes described here, search SoIN’s website for a restaurant that strikes your fancy.
Visit www.gosoin.com/restaurants/ to browse the restaurants for a memorable – and delicious – taste of SoIN.