As I began the year ready to write about college basketball and sustain myself with an endless parade of guacamole tostadas and chicken burgers, I needed to be challenged but wasn’t going to do it myself.
And then my friend Dr. Shawn Skeen asked me to come to a dinner hosted by The Grape chef Jason Rolf and event coordinator Michelle Henkel.
And they put a goat heart in front of me, albeit on a bed of farmers market ragu and beside watermelon radish and Bibb lettuce salad, so it seemed less threatening.
All of the sudden, I’m off to an adventurous start to the new dining year.
Here’s how this happened: Dr. Skeen and I will frequently meet up at The Grape. He’s become a regular there, checking the menu almost daily via email. I’ve been by at dinner time enough to know that everything they do is fantastic, especially gourmet burger night. The Grape doesn’t call itself by this description, as far as I know, but it’s a chef-driven gastropub. Check it out.
But we didn’t dine at The Grape on Monday. Instead, Rolf and Henkel had a group of eight of us into their home and made a spectacular dinner. This is something they’ve been wanting to try out and we were happy to be the testers.
They’re calling it “No Holds Barred,” which is an appropriate title and introduction into a dining adventure.
The thing is, though, it was completely comfortable. Henkel had an assortment of wines paired with each of five courses as she pampered us. Rolf gave us detailed descriptions of each course, letting us know where the farm-to-table meal came from along the way.
Before and after the goat heart (very similar to tenderloin medallions) we enjoyed French lentil soup, pan-seared scallops, twice-cooked pork belly and tin cup creme caramel for dessert.
The pork belly came on a bed of truffled potato puree and alongside garlic broccoli raab.
As usual when dining with old friends, one of my favorite parts was catching up and hanging out. We laughed a lot in between courses. It was just about perfect.
If this sounds fun, you should stop by The Grape and ask Michelle or Jason about throwing down your own “No Holds Barred” dinner with them.