Wednesday, August 15, 2012

FoodTrek: ONO Dinner at Efeste

Wasabi Mom made it a point to have me write a thank you note for just about everything. It was something I dreaded as a child, but appreciate it as an adult because it's the little notes of courtesy and gratitude that keep humanity from literally spinning off this mortal coil out into the graceless void of space. Well, maybe a thank you note can't do all that, but honestly, no one can truly explain why gravity works, so this is as good a theory as any. So, with that in mind, here is my open-letter thank-you to The One Night Only Project's most recent dinner event extravaganza, featuring a one-of-a-kind menu designed and prepared by Chef Josh Henderson of Skillet fame, and both the menu-paired wines and locale of Efeste Winery.

Theo's chocolate budino with flake salt, pasilla caramel and crumbles of popcorn - yes, please - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Dear One Night Only Project, Chef Josh Henderson and Team, and Efeste Winery Gang,

Thank you so much for putting together a truly unforgettable evening. The concept behind One Night Only (ONO) Project was to create a unique culinary experience, never duplicated, to celebrate that fleeting moment of something truly delicious.  Last Saturday's dinner was an intimate gathering to capture a sense of transition, for both Chef Josh Henderson and Efeste's winemaker Brennon Leighton. Henderson, while still associated with Skillet Street Food, is working on a whisky tavern concept in Woodinville, and Brennon Leighton, while still consulting with Efeste, is ready to embark on an adventure, heading out to collaborate with Charles Smith in Walla Walla for an all-Chardonnay winery. These recent big-news announcements punctuated the evening with a sense of both endings as well as beginnings. With every taste of seasonal, fresh perfection, I had that line from Close Encounters of the Third Kind in my head, "This is important...This means something." And no, I didn't form any weird alien formations out of mashed potatoes like some extraterrestrially doped-out Richard Dreyfuss. But maybe I would have if they had mashed potatoes.

Efeste's wine-gasmic event space, plus a sighting of the soon-to-be elusive Brennon Leighton - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I love Efeste wines, namely their reds. Their Final Final blend of Cabernet and Syrah is a favorite. Having a summer dinner meant lighter flavors, so the wines chosen included their 2011 Babbitt Rose, 2011 Evergreen  Riesling, 2010 Lola Chardonnay, 2011 Feral Sauvignon Blanc and a heavier finish with their 2009 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon. A lot of young wines, but with that whisper of the grape still present, it was a nice pairing with Henderson's menu, which had a lot of bright, nuanced flavors that would have gotten buried under heavier wines.

Delicious starters, including quail eggs topped with pork and kimchee - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It was a nice, casual start to the evening with wines being poured and a steady stream of appetizers being laid out for the incoming guests. Bites included toasts topped with burrata, balsamic and basil; little quail eggs topped with rich pork and marvelously pungent kimchee; and savory, heady anchovy-topped flatbread. Once seated inside the winery's space set up like a giant dining room, dishes like caramelized cauliflower with a golden raisin agrodolce, melon salad with fresh ricotta and cured halibut with radishes and grapefruit were served. As the sun slipped away, the evening gave way to a fork-tender braised beef cheek over cooked, then oven-crisped barley and a rich Theo chocolate budino sprinkled with flake salt, a smear of pasilla caramel and crumbles of popcorn for crunch. The dishes were colorful, woven with the flavors of a summer in the Northwest, with just a hint of the waning season and the autumn to come.

Fresh bites and summertime delights for ONO - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The naming of One Night Only, or ONO, is a nice play on words -- those familiar with Hawaiian words would be quick to point out that ono means "good" or "delicious," and I'm pleased to say this new un-restaurant venture is true to its name. Apologies for the grainy iPhone photos. I envisioned the dinner as a night-off, no Giant Camera to distract other tablemates with, but I couldn't help whipping out the phone to snap some photos to share. I was happy to see other people bringing their cameras to capture the night, so I won't feel self-conscious if I do bring Big Bertha with me next time. The experience was meant to be like being invited to a friend's dinner party -- good food, wine and meeting new people -- it was all of that! I very happily have some new Facebook friends added and look forward to seeing these familiar faces at other food events or for just a cocktail after work. The thing about restaurant dining is that it's often a private affair. You could be in a giant dining space with 200 other people, but of course you're focused on the person at your table, whereas at a friend's party, you mingle, you find out how so-and-so knows so-and-so, and you make genuine connections. As St. Martha of the Holy Stewart would say: It's a good thing. 

Culinary experience much like a concert - every night a new performance - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The next One Night Only Project dinner has already been announced for August 26th -- these sell out pretty fast, since they try to keep the gathering small, so get moving if you want a seat at the table. It will be featuring the talents of Chef Manuel Alfau doing a multi-course Dominican holiday feast that includes a whole freakin' pig, celebrating the opening of his new Caribbean-style sandwich shop, La Bodega, and instead of wine, the amazing Anu Apte, cocktailian wizard and owner of Rob Roy, will be mixing up rum cocktails for each course. The location for this dinner will be Bottlehouse in Seattle. The full details and link to purchase tickets are on ONO's blog. Hopefully by the time this post is live, there are still tickets available, but even if you miss this one, keep tuned in for the next dinner, it sounds like there's several more planned. It's a perfect way to celebrate a summer evening, where you have a good reason to wrap up the dog for a night, do your hair, and head out for delicious meal.

Summer sunsets and how Wasabi gets ready for a big night out - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Thank you again, One Night Only dynamic duo Julien and Melissa, Chef Josh Henderson and your marvelous crew, and Efeste Winery's team and Walla Walla-bound Brennon Leighton. Happy trails to those ready to embark on a new adventure.

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