The Scenic City Supper Club team hit another one out of the park this past weekend, thanks to their dedication to creating collaborative dining experiences with an incredible attention to detail. Sunday’s Plus-One Dinner at Loveman's was presented by Easy Bistro & Bar’s Erik and Amanda Niel and Nooga.com, and provided 70 guests with a carefully crafted five-course meal that was thrilling and unique.
A penthouse atop the Loveman's Building provided an idyllic setting with beautiful views of Chattanooga’s downtown. This was the eighth dinner in the series, and for the first time, the featured guest chef was from outside Tennessee. Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Café and The Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. in St. Louis, Missouri, came to Chattanooga and collaborated with Erik to create a remarkable menu for the weekend before Valentine’s Day.
Attending to other features of the evening were a number of talented artisans. Victoria Capdevielle and Alex Whitman of Bread & Butter, an all-natural bakery recently opened in Red Bank, contributed an appetizer, bread for the cheese course and the dessert. Brogan Cook of Best Brands Inc. curated the champagne and wine pairings. And Hillary Libby of Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary provided a hot tea brew to finish the meal.
The décor for the evening was created by Maggie Pate of Nåde Studio, and included a breathtaking woven panel and tabletop textiles that got their hues from dyes made with seasonal produce and food waste. The flowers came from Sarah Ervin of Southerly Flower Farm, and photography was undertaken by Jaime Smialek of Our Ampersand Photography.
Handcrafted raw milk cheeses came from Sequatchie Cove Creamery. Hand Family Cos. provided Two Hearted ale and amber ale from Bell’s Brewery, and San Pellegrino contributed sparkling and still water for the tables.
When planning an event at this time of year in Chattanooga, you never know what sort of weather you’ll get, so you plan for the worst and hope for the best—which is what we got Sunday, a very balmy day for mid-February. Dinner guests were very lucky to be treated to a springlike evening, which afforded them the opportunity to enjoy the rooftop patio and the rising, barely waning moon.
Upon stepping off the elevator into the penthouse, diners were greeted with a glass of Forget-Brimont brut and invited inside to mingle in the midst of the creative team, who were putting the finishing touches on the hors d’oeuvres. The appetizer course offerings were a buttermilk biscuit with miso apple butter and Mississippi paddlefish roe from Nashan; Louisiana crawfish toast with pickled sunchoke and wild chives from Erik; and smoked wild sockeye salmon on buttered rye bread, with Main Street Meats bacon rillette on cheesy grits from Capdevielle and Whitman.
As diners made their way to the tables, the first of the wine pairings was poured—a crisp 2014 Michel Delhommeau muscadet with a stony minerality. Erik welcomed the evening’s diners, thanked the creative team and event sponsors, and introduced the featured players. He also gave credit to the Chattanooga food community for repeatedly supporting such innovative events as the Scenic City Supper Club, which is distinctive for its noncompetitive, creative energy.
The meal began with a salad course of roasted carrots, rapini, mint, benne and bergamot orange, dressed and served with a smear of labneh. It was a delicious, light mingling of flavors and textures. This segued nicely into the cheese course, which featured a selection of Sequatchie Cove cheeses, Sonrisa Farm whole-wheat baguette, olive and lard purée, Cara Cara caviar, Aleppo candied parsnip and pear butter. We also tasted a 2014 Alexana Willamette chardonnay, which was lightly oaked and nicely balanced, and a 2012 Domaine Estates Sommières "heritage" blend of grenache and syrah from Languedoc.
The main course was an incredibly tender braised beef cheek with barley ragout, black trumpet, melted leek, parsley, baby red onions, a milk skin and a red wine marrow glaze. Paired with a wonderfully full and fruity 2013 Neyers Ranch cabernet sauvignon, the entrée was a succulent treat bursting with exciting flavors and contrasts.
The meal concluded with a salted rye crinkle cake with raspberries and assorted tea shortbreads, along with a cardamom rose chai tea with local honey and coconut milk. It was a sweet ending to a meal that was amazing in its balance and execution. I heard plenty of effusive praise for the meal from nearby diners; as for myself, I left feeling entertained, enlightened and nicely sated without being uncomfortably full. It was truly a magic evening.
Alice O'Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn't really learn to cook until midlife. When she's not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.