The Workshop: An Exploration of Grain

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Sometimes Alli and I get an early insight into the cool things that are happening in Buffalo’s food scene before the general public does. It’s one of the many perks of running this food blog for almost five years and having a couple friends in the restaurant industry. But even we were in the dark about what was going to happen last Thursday for the first event of The Workshop, Chef Edward Forster’s new project. I’m glad we didn’t know because it made the whole night that much more exciting.

Over the last year, Buffalo has been introduced to the idea of underground dinner clubs and pop up dinners. Starting with Omakase and Ross Warhol’s series in Chautauqua, then continuing with Bistro Europa’s “Midnight Mass” events; talented chefs in our community are finding new ways to reach adventurous eaters. What I attended last week was unlike any event I’ve been to. The first event of The Workshop (titled “An Exploration of Grain”) was a pop-up in every sense of the word. Attendees were emailed the destination less than 24 hours beforehand (similar to Omakase) but when we pulled up to Silo City, we realized there was no kitchen and no dining room. The kitchen and DJ booth were run by generators, beef was cooked on an open fire and there were deep fryers on fold up tables. It felt like you had stumbled across a private party that happened to have really great food and music.

We arrived just as Chef Ed and his helpers (Chef James Roberts and Chef Scott Crombie) were putting some final touches on the first hor d’oeuvres for the evening. One plate had a small bites of braised beef tongue with malted barley yoghurt, candied munich malts and pickled shallot and another had poached shrimp coated in burnt nori with kaffir matcha gel and cilantro on top of a rice puff. The tongue was incredibly tender and had a wonderful flavor while the yoghurt and pickled shallot provided a nice kick to offset the savory. The burnt nori and drop of kaffir matcha gel gave the shrimp a unique smokey and sour flavor combination. These bites were served on smooth stones, meant for skipping across the nearby river.

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We then made our way over to the cocktail station where bartenders Jeff Yannuzzi and Tony Rials (both from Mike A’s Lounge) were both preparing cocktails that matched the nights ‘grain’ theme. Alli ordered the cider cocktail made up of fresh pressed fig & apple cider mixed with hazelnut/vanilla grain vodka, and topped with shaved nutmeg. I tried Jeff’s version of a Manhattan made with Smooth Rambler Six Year Old Rye, spiced vermouth, corn foam and toasted corn husk. In addition to these craft cocktails were three different Community Beer Works kegs on tap. As you can tell, it was a pretty awesome selection of booze.

Shortly there after I noticed a crowd was forming around the deep fryers and saw that Ed was cooking up some croquettes. These were a little bit more adventurous than the French Onion soup ones that became so popular at Mike A’s. These were filled with Painted Meadow rabbit and puy lentils and topped with a dab of mustard. The croquette burst open with tender pieces of rabbit, perfectly cooked lentils and had just enough mustard to round it all out. As it started to get darker outside, Ed invited everyone to move inside and enjoy some more food and the music of DJ Cutler and the projector showing an old video of farmers.

The next two plates were a chicken tostada and a corn bisque, both focusing on locally sourced ingredients and of course keeping with the ‘grain’ theme of the night. The tostada was topped with chicken from Oles Farm, avocado, charred corn, mint and chicory lettuce. Simply put, it was incredible. The tostada was warm and salty, the chicken still juicy and tender and the toppings were portioned perfectly. The corn bisque, Alli’s favorite dish of the night, was poured on top of a spicy harissa aioli, panna cotta and lime tapioca. The heat from the bisque melted all of the flavors together to create a thick and creamy soup.

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The final course was my favorite and captured the entire crowd’s attention. Ed prepared a ‘family style’ dish of a multi-grain salad topped with poached eggs, slices of perfectly cooked angus beef tenderloin and some faro jus. All of this was beautifully plated on top of a large piece of reclaimed wood. As Ed was preparing each layer, the crowd started to grow larger and larger and the cell phones were coming out. It was really a perfect climax to an evening of creative food.

There were desserts served but I think most attendees took their puffed wild rice crispies and chocolates home with them to enjoy later as we were all pretty stuffed. The meal lasted a couple hours, was excellently paced and I was very full and happy at the end of the night. The location could not have been cooler (Silo City really is amazing) and there were a lot of cool and interesting people to chat with throughout the night.

It was an impressive event and every single aspect of the evening was executed perfectly (at least from my perspective), from the music and video projectors to the pacing of the food to the cocktails and beer on tap. I know I might be a little bias, but Ed really could not have held a better inaugural event for The Workshop. I think everyone in attendance felt the same. Anytime an event gets to showcase local chefs working with amazing ingredients from local farms its a win in my book. I can’t wait to see what Ed has up his sleeves next.

*If you are interested in attending the next Workshop event (and who wouldn’t be) check our the facebook or wordpress page. If you’d like to see more pictures from last Thursday’s event, you can check out our facebook gallery, Buffalo Spree’s photos or Ben Tsujimoto’s recap on Buffalo.com.

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