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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bitchin Bloggers Dinner at Chowder House

It was a cold and blustery night in January.  But bloggers will not be deterred!   Well yes they will.  Actually this dinner was scheduled for December but blizzard conditions caused a postponement until January.  And so, we gathered.  Seven of us from seven different blogs hosted by Chef Louis Prpich of the Chowder House Cafe, located at 2028 Chestnut Blvd.  Joining me on this culinary adventure were Tom Noe of Exploring Food My Way, Nancy Heller of Fun Playing with Food, Joel Kirk of Eating Around Town, Rob Lucas of Interesting Akron, and Scott Groth of The Chubby Cook.  Katrina Marshall of Bite Buff had to cancel and couldn't make it.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  I hadn't been to the Chowder House before, but had heard great things about it.  It's very close to where I live, but yet I had just never gotten around to going.  So I was pretty excited when I got the invitation to try out Chef Prpich's offerings for his fall/winter menu. And try we did.... 9 courses worth!  I have to be honest, I'm not a seafood eater and I was a pretty concerned that we would be getting a lot of seafood.  And my fears were realized when I sat down and saw the menu.  But I decided to just suck it up, taste everything and what I like, I like.  I'd be completely honest because well, it's the only way I know how to be.

So without further ado... the food!  The first course was our choice of soup.... Clam Chowder (of course, duh... it is the Chowder House after all), Lobster Bisque or French Onion.  Chef Prpich built his whole menu around his chowder when he opened his doors back in October of 2009.   The chowder is made with lots of clams and no potatoes.  It would have made sense to have that as my starter, or to take the easy no seafood way out and and go French Onion, but throwing caution to the wind, I opted for the Lobster Bisque. 

Served with a lovely piece of crusty bread, this soup was so delicious, so creamy, so smooth and had beautiful large chunks of lobster throughout.  Did I just say beautiful lobster?  I did!  This soup was so amazing, I wanted to dive inside it and bathe in it.  We had eight more courses to go but I could have been happy with just this one.  I would have sung the praises of Chowder House like I'm going to for the rest of this blog if I had only eaten this.   Lobster Bisque... yum!   Who knew?  Lots of people I'm guessing.

Next up was the Crudo.  This is a raw fish dish which scared me even more than the soup.  Raw fish?  Seriously?   And raw walleye at that?  Is he crazy!   Well this is Ohio after all, so why not?

The dish was Ahi Tuna, Scallops and Walleye sliced paper thin, seasoned with salt and pepper and then sprinkled with olive oil and Meyer lemon juice.  It was served with wilted arugula with garlic and olive oil.   And again, my panic was unfounded.  It was beautiful and delicate.  The seasoning was perfect.  The whole plate was stunning.

Something strange is happening to me here.  I'm eating seafood and I'm liking it!   Somebody do something!  And do something Chef Prprich did, he brought out a Portobello Steudel. 

Ahh mushrooms.  This is more my speed.  The mushrooms were poached in Cabernet and garlic and then wrapped in phyllo dough with imported provolone, baked to a crispy delicious golden brown and served with a house made demi-glace and little spring mix salad.  Can you even stand it?  And we have six more courses to go!   The cheese had just the right amount of sharpness, the demi-glace added a nice saucy component to the dish and those portobello's melted in my mouth.  

Course 4 is by far my scariest course.  Oysters!   Oh. My. God.  What am I going to do with that?  Oysters are one of those things that never looked appealing to me, ever.  I'll try a lot of things, but oysters?  No thanks.   And then this was put in front of me...

Baked Oysters.  These Chincoteaque Oysters were topped with spinach, bacon, manchego cheese and a sherry cream and then baked to a bubbly golden brown.  Just try it I told myself trying to look cool as a cucumber and not about to excuse myself from the table and hope when I came back they would be gone.  And so I did, just try it I mean.  And the heavens parted, the angels sang and harps began to play!   It was a revelation.  And suddenly I was thinking, "where did my oysters go" because I had finished them already.  I looked around the table, ready with the "are you going to finish those?" but everyone had.  Darnit, I wanted more oysters!  Who is this chick?

As I sadly watched my empty oyster shells being taken from the table, with a lone little tear in my eye as I said good bye to them, Course 5 arrived, Crab Cakes.

Sauteed to a lovely golden brown so they were crisp on the outside and nice and tender soft on the inside. Wonderful!  I've had crab cakes before so this course didn't frighten me at all.  I dove in like a champ.   But let's talk about the corn that was served with it.  Roasted corn with Adam's Reserve white cheddar and topped with jalapeno vinaigrette.  Not too spicy and a gorgeous accompaniment.  For me the crab cake was a little outshined by the supporting cast.  It wasn't the only time that it happened that night either.  

On to Course 6 and we have Wild Shark.  

Served with bok choy, scallions and red peppers with a ponzu fish sauce.  A little sweet from the red peppers and a little spicy from the rub and altogether wonderful.  The veggies were tender and lovely.   But I'm really starting to hit the wall and still have three more courses to go!

And right on cue comes course number seven... Cassoulet.  Oy a robust casserole for course 7.  But look at it, how can I resist?

Chicken, house made sausage, cannelloni beans, rich and beautiful with a panko crisp topping.  I wanted to keep eating, I really did.  But my stomach was telling me that this madness had to stop!  And our lovely servers ended up boxing it up for all of us.  We were all starting to go into a food coma.  And yet, two more courses awaited!

Course 8 was Monkfish wrapped in Prosciutto.

Prosciutto!  Now you're speaking my language.  But having to be completely honest, I wasn't crazy about the monkfish.  I'm not sure if it was because I was getting so full, or because I kind of had a textural issue with this particular fish.  Either way, the stewed tomatoes on the plate did outshine the fish.  The tomatoes were to die for!  Made from a family recipe, these tomatoes are stewed with garlic and butter.  They are absolutely sigh worthy, so delicate and sweet. They melted in my mouth.  Chowder House offers an appetizer of just those tomatoes.  I see that in my future!

And it's finally Course 9!  Vanilla Creme Brulee.  

A light Creme Brulee with vanilla and served with cocoa whipped cream and a cayenne and chocolate tuille.  The Brulee had the perfect crack.  Isn't that half the fun of having Creme Brulee, cracking that caramelized sugar on top?  Funny thing happened, I was able to eat every bit of my Brulee, cream and the tuille too.  The cayenne seemed to get lost a bit because I didn't feel any heat.  Which is not a complaint, just an observation.   

Chowder House will be visited again, without a doubt.  They are open Monday thru Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner only.  On Sunday, they serve brunch from 10 am - 2 pm.  No credit cards, just cash and checks are accepted.  If you go, make a reservation by calling (330) 794-7102.  The place is small but quirky and fun with a lot of art on the walls.  It's absolutely, without a doubt, well worth your time to go pay them a visit.  

Thanks to Chef Prprich and to my fellow bloggers.  What a night!

Buon Cibo mia Amici.


MsZin said...

If I didn't like you so much, I'd hate you! Instead, I'll just have a huge fit of culinary jealousy and say thank you for the pictures and descriptions. Had I been at that dinner, I'm sure I would have had multiple multiple foodgasms.

Tino said...

A lovely review!! It was a great pleasure to have you there and I'm glad that you finally embraced your inner seafood self! His dishes really were stunning.

My review publishes on Tuesday morning. :)

Bite Buff said...

Wish that I had been able to make it!

Kesseret Steeplechase said...

You ate seafood?!?!?! This much in one sitting?!
I bet it was so awesome! Those oysters looked so good and I am super jealous!

Glad you had a great time.

cath said...

here I am post holidays and dieting and I realize that I hadn't read this post...I thought I had until I read it...needless to say I am drooling on my keyboard and envy you that experience! YUM!