Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Summit Hits New Heights

I got an early start to my day thanks to Eric letting me out before he left for work.  It's a nice winter day and I'm really in the mood to hunt for a fine dining experience.  Eric and Neil always seem to know when I've enjoyed some great cuisine even if I keep it a secret from them.  They're going out with Lisa tonight so I'm hoping they return as content as I.

      We decided to take advantage of Spring Restaurant Week this past Saturday and make a return visit to The Summit, the student restaurant at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State.  Eric and I had dined there back in 2008 and found it to be a good experience, although some of the preparations seemed to be a little too ambitious, especially the desserts.  This time around the menu appeared straightforward.  

Culinary Students in Operation
      The kitchen, as well as the front of the house, is operated by the culinary students with some professional guidance.  We were seated at the best table in the house (purely serendipitous) just outside the viewing area for the kitchen.  The talent was under the guidance of chef de cuisine Paul Nagy, although there was no indication that anyone was still in training.  Kyle was our server and one of only two that are not enrolled in culinary courses.  Instead, he is attending CCM at the University of Cincinnati. 
Charming Snowman and
Lavender Moon Cocktails
He explained all of our curiosities regarding the 
menu and operations.  He pointed to several specialty drinks that immediately
tempted Eric and me.  (Lisa would be driving home as we're extreme lightweights.)  Eric went with the Lavender Moon made from vodka and lavender liquor, and I chose the Charming Snowman concocted of vodka, whipping cream, and shaved chocolate.

Seasonal Risotto and "Farmer Jones" Salad
For our first courses, Lisa chose "Farmer Jones" Beet Salad and Eric and I ordered the Seasonal Risotto.  The salad was a mixture of different beets marinated in sherry atop greens with walnuts and goat cheese.  Very flavorful!  Our risotto was perfectly prepared with shrimp, proscuitto, and peas.  It was creamy and rich.

Seared Pork Loin, Whipped Sweet Potatoes,
Cherry and Apple Chutney with Red Wine
Grilled Filet Mignon, Dauphinoise Potatoes,
Haricot Vert with Red Wine
For the second course, Lisa went with the Seared Pork Loin topped with a cherry and apple chutney in red wine and served with whipped sweet potatoes combined with maple syrup and rum.  Eric and I selected the Grilled Filet Mignon with red wine jus served with dauphinoise (pronounced do-phin-was) potatoes and haricot vert.  We're regular fans of Top Chef so we were intrigued by the dauphinoise, as they make such a big deal out of its preparation on the show (which is complicated and usually unsuccessful).  That said, we wanted to put these students to the test.  In a traditional dauphinoise, the flavor comes solely from the thickening, which occurs when baking the heavy cream.  These were baked in individual cups and very well prepared.  The temperatures of our filets were perfect.  Everything was a success.  We couldn't find any fault with our meals.  

Assiette of Pastry
Lisa's Birthday Cake
Dessert was a trio of mini treats:  peach cobbler, a Graeter's vanilla ice cream sundae, and turtle cake with blackberry sauce and blueberries.  As an added surprise, we were presented a white cake with a 
thick frosting that 
was not shortening 
or lard based from Bakery Hill to share in celebration of Lisa's birthday.  Not that we needed more sweets, but the taste gave us childhood déjà vu and the thought was touching.

      The Summit is a work in progress and the advancement that has been made by ensuring that everything is correct, rather than taking unnecessary or unsustainable risks, results in a dining experience that is really operating beautifully.  It's great news that we have such an institution in our backyard and we encourage you to experience the talent found there.  The sous chefs and cooks could be the next cooking superstars of the Midwest and beyond.

The Summit on Urbanspoon

Bakery Hill
available for orders of specialty cakes and other pastries

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