This past Saturday night I strayed from my normal Mexican food binge and, instead, dined inside the garage at Performance Car Audio. That’s right. You aren’t imagining things. I ate at a garage. A huge, hot garage that was apparently owned or operated by a hunting enthusiast. One of the walls above our heads was lined with twenty-three deer heads (I counted twice), one buffalo head (with an arrow through his skull), and an antelope head (that looked out of place). If I hadn’t had two glasses of white wine and that Texas Sweet Tea concoction handed to me, I don’t know if I could have eaten my Tangy Jicama Salad and Grilled Fallow Deer without a tinge of guilt. Call it the “Bambi” effect.
This was the fifth of Chef Monica Cobb’s notorious “Renegade Dinners.” The concept is simple. You make a reservation ahead of time (or have friends do it for you. Thanks Celine and Bruce!). Then, a few days before the event, Chef Monica posts the menu, which always sounds delicious and fancy even if you aren’t a foodie. What makes these dinners so exciting and appealing is that 1. The menu is primarily composed of local food items that were grown or shot or fished by someone locally, and 2. Only on the day of the event is the location posted.
I’m going to be honest. The garage atmosphere didn’t immediately jumpstart my engine. Neither did the heat. But, I think that’s the point. It’s like having a high-class adventure. Going hiking in high heels.
The table settings were lovely. The bright yellow carnations, along with the live music really brightened up all that cement. The only thing that struck me as odd was the masseuse, but I’m not super refined. Okay, enough about all that jazz, let’s talk about the food.
As we sat waiting, we snacked on “Chili-Bacon-Maple Popcorn,” which was perfect. It didn’t fill you up, but kept you from cursing. I hadn’t eaten since noon, and it was eight thirty at this point in the evening. The bits of bacon were the best part.
When we sat down, there was a double-shot glass filled with an orange liquid. I waited until I saw other people take a sip before I tried it. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I’m always “off” when it comes to etiquette and didn’t want to down mine at an inappropriate time. It turned out to be the “Roasted Red pepper & Biscamp Pear Gazpacho. It was tasty and peppery and out of my life too soon. Is it white trash to say that I’d love to get the recipe and throw some vodka in it? Probably.
The first course was the “Wild Silver Salmon Tar Tar, Jalapeno-Sriracha Aioli, Black Hawaiian Sea Salt, & Panko-Fried Grit Cake.” Did I mention that I don’t like fish? Well, I don’t. Never have. But this didn’t taste fishy. It tasted salty and the texture wasn’t like the slimy or dry fish I’d had before. If I could describe it in one word, it would be simply “fresh.” In two words: “hella fresh.”
The “Bambi” salad, aka the “Tangy Jicama Salad & Grilled Fallow Dear” followed the salmon was sweet and spicy. The pineapple really added a little pizzazz to the dish, and the deer meat was very well seasoned, like soft beef jerky. I really wish I had a more refined vocabulary for this. My apologies. I say things like “omnommy,” so I can’t really reach for the stars here.
The main dish was my favorite: “Blue Corn Crusted Gulf Caught Reds, Specs, & Snapper, Skinny Fried 1015 Onion Straws, & Guacamole & Red Chili Roasted Tomato Salsa.” All the tastes in this dish were so different yet so complimentary. You had the sweet of the onions, alongside the zing of chili salsa, which brought out the flavor in the fish. And once again, I’m not a fish lover. I ate nearly every bite.
The dessert, which was eaten on an already full belly, was “Pear & Plum Crumble, with Dietz Honey & Mirabelle Chevre & Kirbow’s Sugar Cured Pork.”
It tasted like a richer and more decadent version of a regular fruit crumble. The fresh plums and pears really made it tart, but not overly tart when combined with the cheese and the pork.
So, there you have it. My Saturday food adventure. Let me go ahead and apologize for the pictures. I’m not a food reviewer or a food photographer. I just like to eat.
For more information on the renegade dinners, visit Chef Monica’s blog.
If exercise is worth the sweat, so is eating.