By Nevin Martell
Every Wednesday night for the past nine weeks, I’ve been eating and Tweeting at Rogue 24 to cover the Rogue Sessions. Now that the series is over, I’m having a little separation anxiety. I miss the action, the ambiance, the visiting chefs, and the in-house team. Most of all, I miss the food. There were numerous unforgettable dishes and one meal-of-a-lifetime.
Foie gras, oysters, and pork were popular proteins, while winter vegetables like potatoes squash were the most popular produce. But chefs oftentimes put out dishes that showcased odder foodstuffs that you won’t find at your local Whole Foods. Sometimes it wasn’t that the ingredients were that eccentric, it’s that they were used in truly unexpected ways. Just so I can appreciate these fantastical foods one more time, here’s look back at the weirdest sh*t I ate at the Rogue Sessions.
Oyster root/quince/country ham/almonds
The first look at this plate made me believe that I’d been served a small log camouflaged by a trio of uneven triangles of salted country ham. The “wood” is actually a slightly spongy oyster root, which possesses a lightly earth tone well offset by the slivers of pork.
Oyster/scampi butter/ash salsa
A single Rappahannock oyster was grilled open then topped with delightfully smoky ash salsa and a chorizo breadcrumb that had a tingly black pepper finish. Byres told me that he makes this signature salsa with some of the fine particulate leftover after a long barbecuing session. I had never looked at ash as anything more than compost, but Byres opened my eyes.
Hog jowl on the bone/pickled mustard seeds
A stripped bare jawbone was decorated with two rolling ribbons of pink and white cured hog jowl and a tiny mound of pickled mustard seeds. This playful jaw-on-jaw dish was skullinary perfection.
José Andrés and Ruben García
Olive oil bon bon/caramel
This opening number looked like a blazing meteor frozen in mid-flight, its contrail shooting out behind to form the perfect place to pick it up. I placed this celestial lollipop on my tongue, then let it sit for a moment before crunching down. That shattered the delicate caramel casing and released a warm rush of olive oil, which mixed with the grains of perky vinegar salt lingering on the edge of this delicate comet.
Posey used the most conventional shopping list to assemble his meal. However, this layered stack of nicely fatted lamb belly slabs with braised escarole draped across the top was a nice deviation from the norm. The meat had a pungent profile that lingered on my tongue until I drowned it out with a few sips of 2001 Chateau Lanessan.
Pekin duck/Tabasco/sweet potato/steen’s
For this dish, the Big Bad Chef took the leftover mash from the Tabasco factory and whipped it into the sweet potato puree. A pool of molasses-meets-maple steen cane syrup floated around it with rare, slender slices of duck on top. Though the flavors were definitely Southern, there was a Thai finish, because the sweetness and the chili heat lingered pleasantly.
This course starred a tiny inch-long baby octopus floating in a vinegary Asian chili sauce alongside a few coriander-pickled cuke cubes. The meat was springy, but soft; a real treat.
Rice pudding/chocolate sponge/peanut/cocoa nib
Cooking this porridge in coconut milk gave it a silky creaminess that elevated this oftentimes dull and lifeless grain. A speckling of cocoa nibs and candied peanuts added a crunchy counterpoint. A round of flourless chocolate cake balanced on top, while another hid below the mound of pudding. Micro cilantro sprigs dotted this array, which… Wait! Cilantro? On a dessert? Then I took a bite and I was instantly sold. The freshness of the herb was unexpected this late in the dinner game – especially alongside coconut and chocolate – but it worked excellently with the other components.
Oyster shell/oyster leaf/oyster tendon
The team pureed oyster chowder then flash froze it in an oyster shell mold to create a meltaway mollusk, which dissolved on my tongue into the traditional flavors of the rich soup. There was a pop of pork from the bacon cream hiding underneath, while a snappy oyster leaf showcased a single dewdrop of sweet yuzu preserve. On the side, the oyster’s abductor muscle was skewered on a metal toothpick. It’s usually discarded during the shucking, but that night it was highlighted.