Last Friday, Chef Michael DeMaria entertained a group of about twenty-five at the sold out grand re-opening of his Heirloom restaurant. The evening, entitled, "What's cooking @ Studio M," sought to recapture some of the flare and energy of Michael's at the Citadel, which closed several years ago. It was also the first in a series of special events DeMaria will be hosting throughout the summer at Heirloom.
The evening began with a standard aperitif of a variety of red and white wines, chosen by sommelier Scott Casey. We paired the creamy and piquant sopressata wrapped cambozola amuse-bouche with a 2008 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir.
DeMaria cooked at a grill in the center of the room, surrounded by a U of stainless steel tabletops that amplified the kitchen feel. The audience, which included some of the chef's devoted followers as well as several newcomers, bantered with one another and with the hosts through the evening. DeMaria was pleased.
"I just want them to have a great time, a good dinner, meet new folks...know that when they eat the food that we prepare for them this evening that it's quality...It's gonna be more like me cooking and people asking me questions. I don't want to interrupt, I want this to be a great social event," he said.
While waiting for the first course, diners munched on crispy bread sticks with red pepper hummus. We hesitated to dig in at first, since the long, wavy sticks seemed also to double as decorative accents.
The sommelier circled the table dutifully, giving ample details on the 2008 Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris served to accompany the first course -- lobster and garden tomato gazpacho. The soup was flavorful and refreshing and the lobster delicately steamed.
As we enjoyed the last of the first course, the sommelier came around once again, this time with an '08 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta. Its flavor became even more pronounced after each bite of the second course, a grilled pork chop with smooth granny smith apple sauce, and truffled oregano Beech mushrooms.
The sauce and silky mushrooms were splendid and the chop seemed cooked to perfection, with a slight blush of pink. Nevertheless, as DeMaria explained why it is in fact quite safe to eat slightly undercooked pork, we were surprised to find that the meat was a bit tough.
As the evening wound down the chef became more relaxed and his wife, Susie DeMaria, joined the gathering to catch up with the guests and playfully tease the man in charge. She told some stories of their travels and home life. Though we had never seen any of the people there before, somehow the event was successfully coordinated to emulate a dinner with old friends.
The dessert proved the most delectable dish of the night. Moist pistachio pound cake was served with warm, soft cream and what was probably some the season's last Schnepf Farms peaches. Not too sweet and a perfect finish to a meal that was filling yet light.
For fans of Michael's at the Citadel and M Catering, as well as for those looking for a uniquely extroverted dining experience, we recommend a trip to one of the other events DeMaria will host at Heirloom this summer, not only for the quality of the food but for the quality of the social evening. We came away feeling like we've known DeMaria and his crew forever.
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