There’s nothing for a foodie like a food event with a celebrity chef at a hot restaurant, we love those and attend them whenever we get the chance. My expectations are usually low however for a food event, having sat through a bevy of “easy to churn out” dishes for a mass price fixe crowd. So when I attend a food event that moves from those expectations to a true foodie experience, that is when I know I’m in the middle of something special. And that is exactly what happened when I attended Heirloom’s “Top Chef Culinary Weekend” event last night featuring Food Network star Joe Sasto.
You start the experience by entering Heirloom’s fantastic bar. The minute you walk into this bar you know that they know how to make a cocktail. The furniture and the lighting are perfect, and it creates a sexy vibe that makes you feel the tingles that were likely felt when one stepped into a speakeasy back in the day. The bartenders, with their droplets of essence carefully dipped into their well-crafted cocktails are true mixologists. In this snapshot moment I could be in Greenwich Village, having the same experience at a hot new bar and one wouldn’t know the difference. I always order the “white lady” cocktail when I come here.
I remember it floated by during my first visit to Heirloom’s bar months ago and as I watched it whizz by I had to ask the proverbial “what’s she having?” Since then, everywhere else I order it it’s just not the same, only at Heirloom do they make it in a unique way that it has become my favorite signature drink when I visit here, with fresh lime, vodka, and orange liquor it’s a lively way to start the night.
When Heirloom started the event last night they gave us all a cocktail from a select menu, and then introduced us to the Chefs. Chef David Viana, the head Chef at Heirloom, and the guest chef, which last night was Joe Sasto. He has quite the following. They both welcomed us and encouraged everyone to get to know the people around us who were clearly as excited about the food experience as we were. This created a buzz within the room for the dishes to come. You could see the passion in the Chefs’ eyes and hear the excitement in their voices when they spoke about their creations, and as they walked us into the dining room we were immediately transported inside their kitchen and were part of the action.
The chefs, servers and sous chefs all work together bending stretching mixing and plating in a culinary ballet and you are invited, and welcome, to watch. There’s a sense of pride when the servers place the food before you, you can see the sly smile on their lips and feel the energy in their manner.
They know they work at a culinary gem, and that have served something that is going to be thoroughly enjoyed. And it is. It’s a collaborative menu and the first dish is Chef Viana’s beef tartar take on a cheeseburger. It was so creative and incredibly delicious that I had to include a photograph of it with this article. That way if you didn’t get to attend last night you can at least have a feast for the eyes. The plating is beautiful at Heirloom, each dish is plated with careful attention, beautiful colors, and an array of textures and tastes. The beef tartar was so smooth and delicious It honored the classic it was created to mirror. The next course was a Sasto creation, a scallop seared to perfection with a sunchoke purée that gave just a hint of sunchoke. It was beautifully done and a mouthful of flavor.
They followed these delights with a Sasto bread course and for this carboholic I was immediately excited. What they did with bread I’ve never seen before and I’ve eaten all over the world. They had fresh sourdough bread covered in a melted taleggio and fontina fondue that magically wasn’t heavy, but instead complemented the earthiness of the bread, preserved the crunch, and the herb infusion of basil leapt the freshness. It was absolutely the perfect piece of bread.
The next course for me was a game changer. Sasto’s Agnolatti pasta rolled in and stole the show, hello! A pasta rarely seen on menus in the United States it’s celebrated in Italy. It’s like a delicate thin ravioli that melts in your mouth when properly filled. And oh it was properly filled with a Taylor ham purée in honor of the Jersey Shore and it was Heaven! That bite was the perfect bite, with shaved truffle and a sauce that was so delicious I could’ve licked the bowl.
I’m a big critic, I don’t like about 98% of the restaurants I go to truth be told, and I don’t write about those, but if I do write, it’s because I have mad respect for the passion, creativity and pure talent of the chefs in that 2%.
Last nights dinner was absolutely incredible, the wine pairings were on point, the ambiance and service were stellar. To have a place at the Jersey Shore that offers these types of experiences and this level food is absolutely priceless and thankfully, for a price well earned, you can be part of it too.