Experiencing Dinner Lab Nashville
You may remember back in July when I included the brand new (at least to Nashville) members-only Dinner Lab “On My Calendar” for that month. If you don’t remember, or need a refresher, hop over to that post for full details and a short video.
Basically here’s the gist of it – For $100 per year, you can become a member. Dinner Lab hosts around 2 events/dinners per week, for a total of about 100 a year. And, as a member, you can attend as many of those as you want + you can bring a guest.
Each dinner typically costs $50/person, which includes a 5+ course meal, drinks, tax and gratuity. Yep, the whole thing is taken care of with one payment in advance, and then you just show up and have a great time!
Dinner Lab in Gibson Guitar building on Church Street
Speaking of showing up- that’s also part of the fun. Up until 24 hours before the dinner, you have absolutely no idea where you’re going! A deserted warehouse, a recording studio, an alley, a rooftop – you get to see parts of Nashville that you never even noticed before. So much fun!
Now, I’ll be completely honest. I was invited to attend my first dinner lab free of charge before becoming an actual member. This very meal I’m sharing photos of is from that evening at the Gibson Guitar building on Church Street.
Even though I didn’t have to pay for the meal, I will say that if someone asked me to come to the exact same meal again, I would jump at the chance, and I would gladly pay for it!
1st course: Gazpacho Andaluz
blanca rinon (Spanish white bean) puree, grilled focaccia
The theme for the evening was Spain. When I was sent a few dinner descriptions to choose from, as soon as I saw this one, there was no doubt that it was the one I absolutely needed to attend.
You see, I’m a bit enamored with Spain — I’ve wanted to go on a trip to Barcelona for years and years and years (fingers crossed that maybe that trip will happen in the not too distant future). Have any of you seen me whining on Twitter about the lack of a tapas here in Nashville? Sigh. I digress.
Back to dinner, and the chef that wowed us with his cuisine, Chef Greg Dickson. Before making a move to the newly opened Crying Wolf in East Nashville, Greg worked at one of my favorite restaurants, Etch. Of course he did! So much talent in that kitchen.
2nd course: Pulpo
Sauteed baby octopus, tempura squash blossom, salsa piquillo
As you scroll through this post, you’ll probably notice that some of the photos are better than others. That’s because I took the time to use my good camera for some, but lazily only used my iphone for others. Oh, and for a couple of dishes, I even walked over to the brightly lit expediting area to get even clearer shots.
I just want to point that out to say – don’t judge the dish by the pics, because they really don’t do this meal justice!
For instance, that baby octopus and squash blossom shown above? Would you have guessed that it was one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth this year? Well, it was!
3rd Course: Higo y Jamon
Charred parma wrapped fig, saffron & albarino gastrique, walnut tuille
4th Course: Queso de Cabeza
Cornmeal dusted head cheese, baby artichoke, truffled mustard seed vinaigrette
For those that don’t know what head cheese is, let me offer a brief description: a terrine or meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig. To get an even more thorough description and background, check Wikipedia.
I thought the pairing with the chilled, tart artichokes and vinaigrette was perfect. My only small complaint of the entire meal is that I wish this had just a tad more artichoke because the head cheese was a large portion and very rich.
5th Course: Conejo
Torchon of rabbit, rabbit jus, roasted baby carrot
What I love most about this meal is that it was very different from any other I’ve had in Nashville this year. That’s one of the great things about Dinner Lab – they’re venturing into cuisines that you don’t have the opportunity to eat every day. They’re also working with chefs that you may not yet have heard of…sous chefs, line cooks, caterers. It’s fun seeing some of these lesser known chefs shine.
Speaking of shining, the dessert at our Spanish dinner did just that. In fact, it almost stole the show, and looking at it now makes me want to track down the pastry chef and beg her to make me another. Luckily I know where to find her – at Etch! If you haven’t ordered dessert made by the mega talented Megan Williams before, add that to your Nashville “must do” list!
6th Course: Oliva
Arbequina olive oil ice cream sandwich, sea salt caramel, marcona almonds
If some of you reading don’t live here in Nashville, you might still be in luck when it comes to experiencing Dinner Lab for yourself. Already in New Orleans and Austin, they’ve also expanded to New York and Los Angeles, with more plans for Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Miami!