Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dinner Lab - Crawfish Boil

I recently read about Dinner Lab in a fellow food blogger's post on Whiskey and Soba. I had never heard of Dinner Lab before and I was curious. I had only done the underground dinners by Juniper chef, John Perkins, but this is actually a nation-wide organization to feature up-and-coming chefs.

After clicking on the link to the March edition, I found out that this month's dinner was open to non-members and since it was a crawfish boil, I knew Patience and I had to go.

I was curious as to how they would handle a four course dinner since a crawfish boil is a meal unto itself, but the southern-themed dinner was coursed by its side dishes.

While you already know the theme, the "underground" part is the unknown location and chef. For some reason, my email address did not go through so I never received a confirmation or the location email. Yet, I easily found the "support" email address and immediately received a reply. The reply contained the St. Louis contact email address and phone number, and Brittany quickly called me back. Once she had my email address, she sent me the information and all was well. (Great customer service!)

Dinner Lab turned out to be held at Create Space in the middle of the Delmar Loop! Create Space is an artisan market where you can find wares from local artists and designers with crafts and specialty foods. Our chef was a very young, Lulu Chustz, and since she was originally from Louisiana (south of Baton Rouge), I knew we were in for a treat.

Chefs in action
When we first arrived, we had a chance to pick out a drink, which was included with the meal. Local beers, Schlafly Hefeweizen and Urban Chestnut STLIPA were the choices as well as a red and white wine. A beer was definitely needed to help cool yourself off from the heat of the spices in the boil!! There wasn't a pairing with each course, but you could have as many drinks as you liked and I saw that everyone was respectful since it was a day time "dinner" at 2pm. As I understand, most of the dinners are in the evening around 7pm so the drink policy may be different then.

First course was the deliciously light watermelon salad with red onion, feta, and a balsamic dressing. I hope to see this dish around St. Louis this summer since it's so refreshing. I thought this was a good palate clenser as well.

Watermelon Salad with red onion, feta, and balsamic
Next up were both sides served together at the same time and at this point we were starving and we ate these quickly. I was happy to find that neither one of these dishes had too much spice to them and luckily they weren't too filling either since the big course was about to come out.

Although there is Cajun listed on the menu, I tasted more of the green onion in the red beans and rice.

Cajun Red Beans and Rice with cajun trinity, green onion, and parsley
I never had a Natchitoches Meat Pie before, but the meat was very mild inside of the crispy dough.

Natchitoches Meat Pie
Now for what you've been waiting for...the Crawfish Boil!

Crawfish Boil with corn, potatoes, mushrooms, and andouille sausage
I took a little bit of everything and for the first time, I saw button mushrooms added to a crawfish boil. Soon after trying the mushrooms, andouille sausage, and corn, my mouth was on FIRE. I decided one of each was enough and I quickly focused on the crawfish, getting better and better and opening them up with Patience's help. Luckily, wet wipes were provided at the end!

The best part about this meal is that opening the crawfish slows you down a bit, so I did not overeat and room for dessert. So I tried both of them!

I believe the one on the left is the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie (needed more chocolate) while the goo on the right was the Peach Cobbler and a little too sweet for me. There was even homemade whip cream that you could take as much as you wanted.

The servers were very generous and kept bringing out more crawfish. Patience was definitely the champ at our table since she asked for a third tray all for herself and wisely skipped dessert when she was done.

I'm not sure when we'll do a dinner lab again since it depends on the menu, but even for a non-member, the meal was quite affordable and fun. Definitely a food adventure for the ages!


Whiskey and Soba =

Dinner Lab =

Create Space =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

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