Monday, January 10, 2011

North Shore Bloggers Dinner at Alchemy Cafe and Bistro, Gloucester, MA

The Appetizer Board at Alchemy
Author's note: Today I'm getting my tonsils taken out. No worries, I'll still entertain you with posts over the next two weeks, but they might not be as often. You enjoy this, while I enjoy Jello and Chicken Broth. My dinner at alchemy was one of my "last meals" before enduring this very special and painful ride. 
If you bring the right people, the right food, the right beverages and the right experience together, you're sure to get a bit of magic. Last Thursday night, with a bit of this and a bit of that thrown in, an amazing little experience was born thanks to the kind of restaurant you just want to curl up in and soak in.

Alchemy Cafe and Bistro is tucked away on an off street of Main Street right in downtown Gloucester. Tucked away is the perfect way to describe it, even when you enter inside. There are little nooks and crannies to curl into, leather couches in which to settle into, and a food and beverage selection to compliment all of the above. 

North Shore Bloggers discussing what else, but food
 Mark McDonough of the Serentee Restaurant Group cordially invited a group of North Shore Bloggers to join him and his staff at Alchemy for an evening designed in creating a larger and more diverse community of "foodies" up in our area. Mark and Alchemy General Manager Matt Rose hosted good-sized group of the hungry bloggers for what turned out to be quite the culinary experience.

Troegs Magic Elf Ale

My evening began in Alchemy's bar to meet fellow blogger and friend Brian of The Gringo Chapin. You see, I'm a beer gal, and I love when a restaurant has a wide and diverse selection from which I can choose. If you're looking for selection, all around, in the adult beverages department, Alchemy does not disappoint. I was thrilled to see Troegs Magic Elf still on tap, I had been wanting to try this red ale for a while. It is a seasonal and a bit past its availability date, but really tasty. I also stole a sip of Brain's Goose Island Matilda, definitely one to try as well. 

Marilyn Cocktails
We began our culinary extravaganza with a Marilyn Cocktail to wet our palettes. It's made up of Domaine St. Michelle Blanc de Noirs (WA), sugar cube, bitters, Dom Benedictine, and a twist of lemon. It's airy, refreshing and the perfect way to get your taste buds going to start an epic meal. We quickly followed with a Root Vegetable Puree to start us off.

Root Vegetable Puree
Wild Boar
The first board (seen in the very first photograph) included these two treats. I started with the Wild Boar and Native Shrimp Chopstick Roll. It was perfectly seasoned and had everyone looking at the board to see if they could take a second. The Bluefin Tuna Poke had everyone wondering what provided the perfect amount of heat. Seriously, it wasn't too much or too little. This round also featured Beef Takaki Rolls and a salad of Tatsoi, Arugula and Baby Bok Choy. 

My glass of chenin blanc
Now here's where this entire evening really blew me away. Matt had carefully paired not just every course with a wine, cocktail or beer. He also expertly paired every item IN that course with a beverage. In my case, I chose the Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Matt had chosen it to pair with the Beef Takaki, but it stood up against the entire board perfectly. The pairings in every case throughout this night were dead-on. Ever sip complemented every bite. The folks at Alchemy were nice enough to give us little tastes of some of the pairings so we could at least experience them.

Board #2 - Cheese Course

The cheese paired with Estrella Inedit
The cheese board featured a sharp cheddar fondue, bayonne ham and swiss profiteroles and an amazing toasted walnut crusted Great Hills Blue Cheese (MA). Again, it was the pairing with Ferran Adria's (yes, that one) Estrella Inedit. I want to describe this beer as a hefeweizen on steroids, but that's not really elegant is it? It has body, and may have just become my new favorite brew. 

Black Pepper Parpadelle Carbonara with fried farm raised duck egg
I think the pasta course was by far the winner of the night. Rich, creamy carbonara, the pasta and sauce which alone were amazing, graced by the star of this dish - the fried duck egg. The egg, lovely enough, was picked up by the chef from Half Moon farm in Newburyport on his way to work. It's a farm I pass quite often in my travels. We were offered a sip of Corte Rugalin Monte Danieli Amarone Classico (Valpolicella, IT) to pair with it. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to dream of this pair, I will and have.

Board #3 - The Entree Board
The author's favorites - the tea smoked duck, the day boat scallop and the winter gratin

Can you imagine, we're just getting to the main course here. I will out myself here and say I'm not a fan of scallops. Too often, they take on too much of a spongy texture. The ones on the third board were perfectly pan seared. The Black Tea Smoked Long Island duck was my personal favorite. The black bass on this board also sung. A lot of my table mates were huge fans of the venison. It was very good, but venison simply never ends up being my thing. An unsung hero of this board were the winter squash and vegetable gratins. Those little cast iron boats of bliss would be perfect to curl up with in front of a fire on their own some cold night. 

Warm chocolate souffle with Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Nearly four-and-a-half hours later, our bellies warm, our conversation happy we settled in upon dessert. A warm chocolate souffle ended our evening. It was light and perfect to end with paired with a taste of Chicago's Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

I will say this in closing, I do not give out glowing reviews at the drop of the hat. Alchemy Bistro was kind enough to host us for this evening and their promise of an epic meal was more than met. The food was right on, the pairings even more so. It's a meal that left a group of North Shore Bloggers planning their next visit to Alchemy as we put on our coats and went out into the cold. A huge thank you to Mark McDonough, Matt Rose, Jeff Calas, and the whole crew at Alchemy for a lovely evening.

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