A couple of years ago we heard about Chef Adrianne Calvo, a Miami chef who donates her culinary talent at events for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Being the foodies that we are, we looked her up and learned that she has a restaurant in Southwest Miami-Dade. We put it in our "to visit" list but time went on without getting around to checking it out. We began to follow Chef Adrienne on both Facebook and Instagram (@chefadrianne) and we got a glimpse into her world of "Maximum Flavor," a phrase she is known for. We also got the chance to watch her demonstrate her passion for cooking on Food Network's "Chopped" and locally on NBC6. Every time we caught a glimpse of her elaborate, unique and beautifully decorated dishes, our mouths would water. Each plate she creates is a little work of art. We finally got to experience it for ourselves recently at her monthly "Dark Dining" event.
Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant offers a monthly dark dining experience. Each month the theme and menu changes creating experiences that transport your senses. The concept is that by being blindfolded during dinner, your sense of smell, touch and taste are heightened, making your meal unforgettable. We made reservations for July's dark dining, which was named "The Tuscan Sun." From the moment we entered the cozy restaurant, we felt like we were in Italy. We were immediately transported to Tuscany as the friendly staff lead us to our table. The bar at the back of the restaurant was twinkling with dozens of tea lights and bunches of sunflowers were packed into tall glass vases throughout the tables. Romantic Italian music filled the air, along with laughter and chit-chat from the other dark diners.
Before the dark dining officially began, the server greeted us with a small antipasto platter that contained chunks of fresh parmigiano-reggiano and Italian hams. It was a full house in the restaurant. There were large groups of friends and many couples who came out to enjoy an extraordinary experience. Chef Adrianne introduced herself to her guests and explained that each course would come out one at a time. She suggested smelling and touching the food before finally tasting it. After we tasted the food, she would come out and ask guests to describe what they ate. Some diners were right on the money, and some had no clue what they were eating! Chef Adrianne did an amazing job explaining the history of these dishes and why they are staples in the Tuscany region of Italy. It was very clear from her descriptions that she was very knowledgeable about food, it's history, and where the fine ingredients came from. Most of the ingredients she used came directly from Italy. For example, 30 pounds of heirloom tomatoes were shipped directly from Italy to her restaurant the morning of the event. Her staff also played a crucial role in the experience. They were our "eyes" that night, as they handed us our utensils and dishes while giving us instructions on whether the dish was hot or cold, etc.
The courses for the evening included:
- Limoncello made with lemons imported from Italy
- Chicken consommé with crispy pancetta and egg white ribbons
- Goat cheese and caramelized onion crostini
- Charred octopus in a mushroom and Chianti wine sauce
- Imported heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad with a light balsamic glaze
- Glass of an imported Chianti wine
- Homemade gnocchi in a beef, sausage and Chianti wine bolognese
- 24-hour braised short rib with a large rigate pasta
- Vanilla bean pana cotta with Nutella, strawberries and salted pistachios
Hands down the flavor combinations in each of these dishes were spectacular. If we had to pick the wining course, we are tied between the gnocchi and the short rib dish. The homemade gnocchi is the best we have ever had. They were light and airy pillows tossed in a flavor-packed sauce, that we seriously craved the next day. The 24-hour braised short rib was so tender and rich. Its hard to believe that a fork-full of this delicacy has such depth and richness to it. The flavorful sauce that cooked with the meat was the perfect compliment to the rigate pasta, which was perfectly al dente.
We definitely recommend that you check out Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant. "Dark Dining" happens only once a month and is a reservations-only event. For the month of August, the theme is Northern France, we highly suggest you make your reservations ASAP as the event books quickly! For those of you who do not live in Miami, make sure to make reservations next time you are in town even though it is not for dark dining. Tell Chef Adrianne we sent you. Enjoy!