SF Chefs Fall Dinner Party Project #3: Mind Your SPQRs and AQs
7x7 is proud to sponsor SF Chefs, the annual, hotly-anticipated food/wine/spirits bonanza that is the quintessential San Francisco culinary experience. The event occurs each August, and offers guests exclusive access to the city's most innovative and lauded industry professionals and personalities.
Originally staged as a build-up to the main SF Chefs event, the Dinner Party Project was revived this fall for a trio of holiday dinners. This unique series of dining events is inspired and curated by local chefs who have developed deep friendships and connections in an intense industry. "Whether they meet at the market each week, work in the kitchen side-by-side or just love getting together for late-night adventures, San Francisco chefs share a special bond. These friends collaborate for one night only, sharing with diners a glimpse into their friendships, cooking styles and culinary dreams."
Each dinner featured elements from the three presenting sponsors: Campari, theNational Pork Board, and Guittard Chocolate Company. A portion of the proceeds from each of the fall dinners benefited the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Want secret recipes and entertaining tips from these fabulous chefs? Get them here.
While the first two dinners in the fall Dinner Party Project series embraced stalwarts of the San Francisco restaurant scene, the final dinner was all about the young guns. Though they're both only 34, SPQR's Matthew Accarrino and AQ's Mark Liberman have racked up impressive credentials, working for the likes of Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, and Daniel Boulud. Liberman earned AQ a James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant this year, while Accarrino has just published his first cookbook. The pair chose to work together after dining at each other's restaurants and being impressed with the food, and their collaboration reflected a modern approach, without sacrificing the attention to ingredient quality that defines Northern California cuisine. As Liberman put it before the dinner, "In New York, I worried about what size I cut a carrot into; here, I worry about what size I should ask the farmer to grow it to."
The meal kicked off with an umami-rich veal consomme with black truffle and cubes of a tofu-like root vegetable milk, which the chefs filled with delicate, handmade tortelloni. As diners polished off the soup, plates of pinwheeled fennel rolls arrived on the table to pair with the first course, Accarrino's guinea hen terrine encased in a cider gelee and topped with a powder made from the crispy skin of the hen. The contrast between the soft rolls, creamy terrine, acidic gelee, and crisp, fatty skin was delightful, and showcased an attention to texture that would repeat itself in both chefs' dishes over the course of the evening. The second dish, a stew crafted by Liberman, was equally stirring, with firm abalone and salsify playing against a creamy green sauce and crisp topping.
One of the highlights of the night was Accarrino's duck and mushroom lasagna, a 24-layer behemoth boasting tons of meaty flavor that was only boosted by the addition of a sauce made from duck heart. Liberman stayed in the territory of poultry with his roast leg of pigeon, complemented by ground hazelnuts, cipollini onion, and an outstanding homemade blood sausage.
Accarrino spent nearly four days preparing his suckling pork dish, and the results were impressive: a perfect round of loin, juicy on the inside, paired nicely with a cut of belly with crisp skin, while smoked date and sweet potato provided a nicely sweet accent to the rich meat. Liberman finished the meal with a refreshing dessert of chocolate cake, menthol ice cream, and tiny vanilla meringues, accented with the scent of jasmine.
AQ's sommeliers and bar team contributed thoughtful beverage pairings for each dish, from a frothy Campari and Cocchi Americano cocktail with the terrine to a sweet, malty Ommegang Scythe & Sickle ale with the pigeon. Even the mignardises, like a sour cherry pate de fruit and a peanut-butter-and-jelly macaron, reflected a clear attention to detail.
Both chefs were particularly excited about the dinner's contribution to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort. Accarrino, a New Jersey native, has been especially touched by the devastation, with his uncle losing his home and his girlfriend's family in Long Beach struggling with significant damage. Young and ambitious though they may be, these two rising stars share their more seasoned counterparts' commitment to giving back.