Friday, October 7, 2016

Arcadian's Middle West Spirits OYO Cocktail Dinner

Arcadian Food & Drink has been open for little over three months and we have enjoyed some memorable dinners there in that short time. From the seafood tower and caviar tasting before a Joe Jackson concert to a simple break for a pizza and some tempting happy hour turkey wings. One of its greatest features is a flexible menu that allows for nearly every occasion (not to mention the most reasonable price on a bottle Dom Perignon in the 216). The versatile, well-planned menu also attempts to address the Gordon Square area's disparate incomes as it continues to grow as an entertainment district. There is an early and late night happy hour, and some well-priced Detroit-style pizza and fried chicken on the regular menu. This week, we discovered they can also deliver a flawless prix fixe cocktail dinner.

Caviar Tasting 
Seafood Tower
Oysters Rockefeller 
Happy Hour Turkey Wings 
In celebration of  “Cocktail Week Cleveland,” Arcadian collaborated with OYO Middle West Spirits. Thomas Haywood presented OYO’s product in a knowledgeable and entertaining manner. Jeffrey Rowe, Arcadian’s Bar Manager, and Erica Coffee created five imaginative cocktails that took OYO’s spirits to new heights. In the kitchen, Rebecca Hess, Chef de Cuisine, and her staff provided a menu with complementary flavors. The result was a cohesive, well-paired cocktail dinner. Most restaurants can do some fine improvisational special dinners. We’ve been to many over the years; generally they will only offer the special menu for the evening. On this Wednesday evening, Arcadian offered this special dinner on their second floor while serving their regular menu on the first. Running both through one kitchen can be challenging. They rose to the occasion: our dinner was exceptional, the pairings were creative, and the value [$50 per], quality and service were indisputable.

OYO Middle West Spirits - Photo: Thomas Haywood
To get things underway, an “amuse booze” consisting of prosecco, OYO Stone Fruit Vodka, Carpano Bianco and Lemon Falernum Gelee greeted us as we were seated. The fresh lavender and thyme sprigs lent the perfect herbal notes to this finely crafted, albeit potent, aperitif. 

Amuse Booze - Photo: Thomas Haywood
The mood in the room was already festive as the Smoked Mussel Shooter came out with a couple of flawless smoked mussels along with a light, crispy, slightly salty cracker. The pairing with OYO Un-Aged Rye Whiskey, herb-infused Dolin Dry, squash and yellow pepper, was not only a complement to the briny appetizer but a new riff on the classic Bloody Mary.

Smoked Mussel Shooter 
A rich, velvety course of scrambled eggs, oyster and caviar followed. The crispy fried oyster and those creamy eggs married beautifully. I was excited to hear that this dish will be available on their regular menu and brunch menus by month’s end. I look forward to enjoying it again soon. The companion cocktail may have been my favorite of the evening, but that’s bound to happen when a drink includes vodka, limoncello, spiced Carpano Bianco and tantalizing smoked olives.

Scrambled Eggs, Oyster, Caviar
OYO Vodka, Limoncello, Spiced Carpano Bianco, smoked olives 
An area where I’ve always felt our local culinary scene could stand some improvement is in the availability of fresh pasta. The garganelli that were served in the clam garganelli, anchovy and bacon dish were reminiscent of the delicate, light pastas I’ve enjoyed in Italy. The genius of this briny dish was that it wasn’t overwhelmed by either the anchovy or bacon — two strong ingredients deftly kept in check to buoy the clams rather than sink them. The paired cocktail’s charred lemon, barrel-aged maple syrup and cider soothed the dark OYO Pumpernickel Rye, creating a perfect layering of flavors and viscosity. 

Clam Garganelli Anchovie, Bacon 
OYO Dark Pumpernickel Rye, Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup, charred lemon, Bent Ladder Heirloom Cider 
The pork shank, spaetzle and fennel was undeniably a salute to the coming fall season — as warm and comforting as a favorite sweater. The expertly braised pork was fork-tender and had a luxurious texture. Author Calvin Trillin once wrote that Thanksgiving should be about eating your favorite dish. He insisted he would be more thankful if he could enjoy his favorite Chinese carry-out instead. There is no question that Arcadian’s pork shank dish would be my choice this year. A Germanic-style osso bucco for pork. It too will be on their regular menu soon. The complementary cocktail only enhanced the autumnal aesthetic. If the pork was a comfortable sweater than the cocktail was the perfect pair of warm, suede boots. OYO Wheat Whiskey added a smooth, creamy texture to the Fernet Branca and the roasted pecan-apple shrub. They could probably sell those savory "Arcadian" crackers alongside the crisps served with the first course. They were addicting at first bite.

Pork Shank, Spaetzle, Fennel Photo: Leo Jeffries
OYO 'Oloroso' Wheat Whiskey, Fernet Branca Roasted Pecan-Apple Shrub
This is when you actually want a devil tending to every detail, like a savory cracker with an “A” for “Arcadian.” Especially when the devil is CIA-trained Erica Coffee who lent some creative assistance to the menu too. She saved her best for last: her butterscotch pumpkin cake was the perfect finish, served with a potent blend of OYO Barrel Aged Honey Vanilla Vodka, chai tea, whipped cream and nutmeg. Butterscotch is one of the first "American" flavors I was captivated by when I came from Italy at age five. It did not disappoint here. The pumpkin married with the butterscotch, enhancing it with rich sweet overtones. 

Butterscotch Pumpkin Cake
OYO Barrel-Aged Honey Vanilla Vodka, chai tea, whipped cream, nutmeg 
All in all, it was a splendid evening, pulled off by a talented team of professionals both in the kitchen and behind the bar, featuring great product — not the least of which were the OYO Whiskeys and Vodkas. Each course was better than the last and there were no weak links. It is no wonder that Arcadian Food and Drink has become another favorite refuge.

Our consummate host, David Hridel
From L to R, Rebecca Hess, Chef de Cuisine; Matt Snyder Sous Chef; David Hridel, FOH Manager; Tanasha Robertson; Erica Coffee; Thomas Haywood, Middle West Spirits Rep; Alyssa Murray; Alfonso Cody; Sadly missing is Jeffrey Rowe, Bar & Beverage Manager [someone has to keep serving the bar] - Photo: Leo Jeffries
Thomas Haywood Middle West Spirits Rep - Photo: Leo Jeffries

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