Sunday night was the sixth installment of Cafe Momentum, a Dallas-based restaurant and culinary training program working in conjunction with the Youth Village Resources of Dallas (YVRD) to train students in all aspects of working in a restaurant. These students would be our waiters, platers, dish-washers and other such jobs that are crucial for a restaurant, giving them valuable experience that can help them get a job in the industry. In fact, several of the students present now have jobs due to their experience of working with such chefs so kudos to all who are supporting the program.
Our chef for Sunday night is a very busy man, Chef Matt McCallister, who was gracious enough to mentor these students just hours before the official opening of Campo Modern in Oak Cliff. I am sure it has been a hectic few weeks for Chef McCallister but I was glad he made time to cook for all 120 people at Hibiscus on Henderson.
As people were finding there seats, there were two passed appetizers going around, a quail rillette with sweet butternut squash and what I think was a pork rillette. The pork must have been good because it never seemed to make it 15 feet from the kitchen before they were gone. If someone got to taste the porky goodness, please let me know how it tasted. Finally everyone sat down for a relatively safe menu from Chef McCallister, who is known for his eclectic delicious style.
First course was a spiced fennel salad with crème fraiche, Meyer lemon and pomegranate seeds. This was a great start to the meal with just a hint of spice working well with the tart pop of the pomegranate to bring all of the components of this bright course together. While eating the first course, Virtuoso was kind enough to sponsor the wine for the evening and brought out their Little James Basket, a white Rhone blend of Sauvignon and Viognier that was crisp and acidic at first but fleshed itself out on the palate. Thank you Virtuoso!
Next came the Acorn Squash soup with Kale chips, pine nuts and pancetta. This is a winter soup, all creamy and sweet. It warmed the bellies of all at the table and there was not a drop left. Now if only I had some of the bread they make at Campo.
The Suckling Pig Porchetta sat atop a spelt pilaf with pickled radish, pumpkin seed sauce and golden raisins. Normally I am a meat kind of guy but the spelt was the highlight of this dish, providing a great texture along with the salty sweet pumpkin seed sauce and the porchetta.
By the way, Virtuoso had come around again to pour the 2010 Saint Cosme Cote-du-Rhone, a Syrah-based Rhone wine that could have defined thick and hearty. It was a delicious counterpoint to the pancetta and to the beef duo.
The Beef Duo was an encrusted oxtail and spinalis (yes that is a cut of meat from the back of the animal and yes I had to Google it at the table) with squash flavors, rosemary and mushroom Armagnac sauce. I had never had spinalis and would probably describe the flavors closer to the brisket you get in Pho. With the sauces, it was good but the fried oxtail was the hit of the plate. We were eyeballing other plates to see if we could snag some more but they were gone just as quickly.
Finally was the cheese curd tart with black pepper-honey ice cream. The base for the cheese was a gorgonzola blue that was a perfect ending. I do wish I had a beautiful Riesling or Sauternes to go with the tart but that is just me being greedy. And greedy was definitely not on the agenda of the many people there as donations filled in to help make Cafe Momentum an everyday experience for many of these young men.
Thank you Chad Houser and Janice Provost from Parigi for starting such an amazing project and helping make Dallas a better place for everyone involved.