Our dear friend June had a mile marker birthday recently. Our gift to her was to go out to the “Feed Me Chef” dinner at Zink American Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.
What a wonderful experience! The premise of the Feed Me Chef dinner is to sit around the bar area that is right up to and nearly in the kitchen. The chef will then create a 5 course meal for you of their choosing.
Sitting there, you get a birds-eye view of the kitchen operations from gearing up, getting slammed with the dinner rush and then slowing down slightly as we left 2 hours later.
The hostess had called earlier in the day to ask about allergies, diet restrictions and if there was anything in particular we wanted. These parameters were given to Chef Amy who in turn gets to be creative and create a 5 course meal.
The kitchen crew operated very well together. There was clear communication, effective movements and great looking food. Everyone knew their job and did it well. It was great entertainment.
And you want to know something? In this open kitchen all the crew, both front and back of the house, were so polite not only to the guests, but most important, to each other.
“Please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me”, all used frequently amongst the staff even when they were at their slammed best. How refreshing.
Our chef this evening was Amy Kumpf who was delightful, fun, charming, very skilled and knowledgeable in her craft. If was a lot of fun to watch her and her crew work through the dinner rush, very smooth.
She planned a menu for us and paired the wine for each course. Settling in, our meal began.
Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad
Instead of using fresh basil, Amy fried the basil for the salad. The result was delicate umami touched with sweet tomato that danced around in your mouth with a party going on.
Amy reduced balsamic vinegar to a coating glaze which she drizzled over the assembled salad. She chose yellow tomatoes, delicious fresh mozzarella, fried basil and balsamic reduction.
Definitely whetted the appetite. It was beautiful and delicious.
To pair wine with this course, Amy chose Cooper Mountain Pinot Grigio from Willamette Vally.
Plancha Seared Snapper with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Cucumber Salsa
This dish alone would be worthy to come back for again and again. Fabulous!
The cucumber salsa had mango, red peppers, mint, honey and other things. It was very well made, knife skills showed.
Fire roasted tomatoes are roasted and grilled with red peppers and blended to create a lovely sauce they use on several dishes from pizza to our snapper. This was served in crisp white Moroccan style tangine.
Wine paring: Chamisal Vineyards 2011 Central Coast Stainless Chardonnay (unoaked) Crisp and perfect with the complex flavors of this dish.
Hickory Salmon with Slow Cooked Potatoes and Asparagus
Another genius dish. The potatoes went so well with the salmon, sweet 100 tomatoes are slow roasted to add a sweet acid punch to the richness of the potatoes and salmon. Additionally on the plate were fennel confit and melted leeks. Eating this was a pure pleasure experience.
Wine pairing: For some odd reason I didn’t record the Pinot noir chosen for this dish. It was the only one we thought didn’t complement the food. We enjoyed the wine tremendously, just didn’t like the paring.
Perhaps another Pinot with a fruitier base as most US Pinots are known. This one was in the “Burgundian” style which made it rich and robust with full tannins. These rich robust wines are normally my preference. But not with this dish.
The sweet salty nature of the salmon and the delicate texture of the fish wanted something a bit milder.
Grilled Flank Steak with Smoked Tomato Cream Sauce and Shaved Asparagus
Seasoned and grilled to perfection. The meat was tender, juicy and full of flavor.
Shaved asparagus was created by peeling asparagus length wise with a “Y” peeler. You can do a lot with a vegetable and a Y peeler. Here, Amy created ‘pasta’ for us with thin shavings of asparagus.
By this time we were getting full. So I tasted everything and then decided to bring the rest of this dish home to eat for lunch and jump into dessert.
Wine Pairing: Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, 2009
Warm Apple Compote, Whipped Caramel Cream, Orange Confit, Dulche de Leche and Dark Chocolate
I got a pleasant surprise when the dessert chef came out. She was a student of mine. She said she was nervous but for no reason. Her dessert fit the bill perfectly. (No flour products – part of Junes diet; hence the asparagus pasta.)
Although our tummies were full, we managed to consume every bite.
Brilliant wine paring and fine ending to a great meal: Late Harvest Mer Soliel
All in all, we had a great meal and an outstanding evening. I could eat like that every time we go out. The idea of not knowing what your next course will be is intriguing.
We will have to do this again soon and I suggest you go find a place near you who does this kind of service. Ask at your favorite restaurant. Sometimes this style of dining is called a “Chef’s Table” and sometimes tables are in the kitchen. Depends on what the health code is in your area. You may discover such tables need to be reserved well in advance.
We had a delightful interaction with the staff. The entire evening was great fun.
Naturally, if you find yourself in Charlotte, NC, head over to South park and stop in at Zink and say “Feed Me Chef!”
You will be glad you did.
These photos were taken in low-light conditions of the restaurant with the i-phone 4.