Cleveland diners are fortunate to have numerous opportunities to enjoy creative collaborations of multiple chefs in one sitting because, lucky for us, the local culinary community values collaboration over competition. And, as evidenced by this particular evening, they really like spending time together.
Recently, Chef Matt Mytro hosted two of his pals for a Collaboration Dinner at Flour. He was joined by Jeremy Umansky, forager, larder master, and future east side delicatessen owner, and Adam Lambert, co-owner of Ohio City Provisions and consulting chef of Banter Beer and Wine in Gordon Square.
I knew this dinner would introduce me to some new tastes and textures courtesy of three bold culinary thinkers. I was delighted to find this dinner a feast for my eyes as much as it was satisfying to my adventurous palate.
Jeremy’s locally foraged Juneberries, also known as Saskatoons, were my favorite discovery of the night. The bright, juicy berries are native to Canada and the Great Lakes region. Juneberries are not something found in stores, as they require some specific handling and have a short shelf life. These were paired with a starter of Adam Lambert’s foie gras torchine and other meaty bites. The little berries offered a satisfying pop in the mouth with a flavor somewhere between blackberries and the juiciest Ohio-in-July blueberry. I imagined them stirred into oatmeal, ice cream or as a frozen sorbet.
A fish course featured fluke crudo in three preparations, each unique and delicious. Jeremy’s fluke was koji cured, offering that underlying umami essence he does so well. Matt’s offered a slight sweet-smoky combination. Adam’s fluke was bathed in a fresh lemony-asparagus puree. Each plate was stunningly beautiful (and eaten in its entirety I might add!).
Being that this dinner was at Flour, known for consistently good fresh-made pasta, I expected to see it on this menu. Diners were treated to three different dishes – each was entirely different and reflected the culinary point of view of chef who prepared it.
Matt’s burnt pepperoni bucatini challenged this pasta-lover’s concept of what a bowl of pasta could be. I spent a lot of time just looking at this dish of octopus, squid ink noodle and cilantro. It had a subtle smoky pepperoni flavor that perplexed and delighted me at the same time. Adam’s pillowy cornmeal capelletti combined rich shredded braised lamb, beets, onion and orange zest and a touch of delicate frothy cream. Jeremy’s “forest” garganelli presented a collection of tastes, colors and forgaed edibles that was like a walk in the woods for my mouth. Included in it were three foraged mushroom varieties, sautéed daylily flowers and the blossoms of Queen Anne’s Lace, which looked familiar, but I simply could not place them in this unusual (to me) setting.
The crescendo was a sausage stuffed red wattle suckling pig, served au jus and with a bright green nettle verde. The rustic main course went well with a few lighter sides — a lemony Mediterranean-inspired white bean ragout, a green strawberry and rhubarb salad, and a verdant smashed pea bruschetta. The flavor of the roasted red wattle, a heritage variety, far surpasses the typical “grocery store” pork to which we’ve become accustomed.
This event was delicious experience from start to finish. I was impacted by the new, interesting food I had eaten, and as such I thought a lot about this trio of collaborators. Matt, Jeremy and Adam are three forward-thinking guys who are making their mark in the culinary space on their own terms, as evidenced by a menu that played to their individual strengths and interests, and their collective desire to be anything but ordinary.