Sunday, April 08, 2012

Cooking Demo: Fifth Floor

Today's first demo was by Chef Nicoali Lipscomb from the Fifth Floor.

The Fifth Floor chefs are busy these days!  I saw a demo by the executive chef David Bazirgan at Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago and by Pastry Chef Francis Ang at the Ferry Building a few months ago.  It was actually that demo that inspired me to organize a dinner at the Fifth Floor with some out of town visitors.  They were also at the Taste of the Nation event two weeks ago, and Chef Baz was one of the guest chefs at the last Alexander's Steakhouse special foie gras dinners.  Such busy folks!

Today he prepared a pasta dish that is currently on their menu: Blue Bottle Cavatelli with lamb, ricotta, peas, and pea greens.  Overall, I didn't like the dish all that much.  It felt like a hearty winter stew (the veal stock, the lamb) crossed with a fresh spring dish (peas, pea greens, ricotta), in a way that didn't do either justice.  Perhaps given the beautiful weather and the slew of fresh peas I've been eating lately, I was just in a more springy mood!

The demo was well done, and I learned a fair amount about pasta making, particularly, about how forgiving this sort of pasta is.  I'm much less intimidated by the idea of making my own pasta now.
Blue Bottle Cavatelli with lamb, ricotta, peas, and pea greens.
This was a rich dish!  He warned us several times that this would be a small starter, not something you'd want an entire plate of.

Where does the richness come from?  The lamb is marinated and then cooked in a mixture of veal stock and chicken stock.  The sauce is later finished with quite a bit of butter.  The flavors in the sauce were fairly complex and I enjoyed it, but it was definitely rich and very intensely meaty.  The lamb was really tender, and I actually thought I was biting into one of the cavatelli rather than lamb at first!

The peas were unfortunately pretty lost in the dish, overpowered by the sauce.  If it were winter and I was expecting something hearty and more stew-like this wouldn't have bothered me, but I was wanting something more fresh and spring-like, especially since visually it looked pretty springy with the pea greens perched on top.  But then again, he did warn us this was a heavy dish ...

The ricotta paired well with the peas, but was again, pretty lost in the sauce.

I strangely didn't pick up any espresso flavors, even though it was in both the pasta and the lamb marinade.  Nor did I pick up the chocolate tones from the chocolate shaved over the top (perhaps our samples didn't have it?)

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