January 15, 2013

Baller Pocket Brunch

I really came in at the top here - attending my first Pocket Brunch on Sunday, where the theme was "Baller" and the guest chef was Rob Evans of Duckfat (and formerly Hugo's). Pretty baller of me, if I do say so myself (I feel I must disclose that I bartered with a generous friend for the $100 a head tickets, lest you think I'm actually bragging). 

Pocket Brunch is a monthly brunch series started by Josh and Katie Schier-Potocki, Joel Beauchamp, Nan'l Meiklejohn and friends - all assorted restaurant owners, chefs, and talented cooks. This month's brunch was at Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, housed in various outbuildings and greenhouses, decorated with a farmhouse-chic vibe - bundled boughs, milk glass, and white paper poofs. 

Bartender Nan'l Meikeljohn, known as the Bearded Lady, started the morning off with cocktails - I had the Ball-ionaire: gin, green chartreuse, blanco sweet vermouth, orange biters, topped with Cristalino (cava). The drink looked and tasted like sparkling wine, with herbal, citrusy notes. 

I heard raves about the Dean Martini: a savory, clear martini of vodka, tomato water, and spices with a celery garnish, and so I tried one next. The fresh, grassy flavors were unexpected from such a clear, simple drink. A. and I shared it and sipped it slowly throughout the six-course meal. 

As we milled around the cocktail hour, exclaiming over people's 'ballin' outfits and meeting new people, we snacked on 'Pocket Bacon' bites of skewered Broadturn mozzarella balls and thick-cut bacon cubes resting in a fermented tomato sauce. We debated how many of these constituted our fair share (somewhere in the neighborhood of 5). 

We then were escorted by our fabulous hostess (decked out in bling and fur, natch) to the greenhouse, which had been outfitted with two long tables, set with white linens and glasses of bubbly. 

While we were presented with printed menus that looked like a wedding invitation, I wanted to keep the details a surprise. I read the description for each course only after I was presented with the dish, and so was always amazed to take in each dish after it was placed in front of me. 

The meal started with a Maine sunchoke soup, garnished with a fried egg yolk, black truffle oil, and a beef tongue grabiche, which is a sauce that in this case contained capers and chopped egg whites. 

The soup was wonderfully smooth, with the additions adding different textures of crunch and tender meat, salty capers, and earthy truffles. 

Next, my favorite course, the salad of spicy gravlax, trout roe, fried Maine potato shreds, creme fraiche, and pistachio marmalade. I was really wowed by this course - so simple and perfectly done. Roe that pops in your mouth, crunchy potatoes, creamy sauce, spicy salmon, and the sweet, salty, crunch of the pistachios. 

Because this dish was fried to order, we had plenty of time to get to know our table mates and to get to know the "Brunch Monkey," a half-full bottle of sparkling wine, filled with various juices and liqueurs.  Each one was different, all of them good. 

By far the most baller of the courses, the 23K gold flaked foie gras, with apple butter, pickled apples, quince, and brown bread was buttery, spicy, and rich. We joked that our insides were now worth considerably more, being coated in gold leaf.  

The sunnyside duck egg over a Mortadella ball with Brussel sprout has and saffron-tabasco hollandaise was a fun dish, as the Mortadella at first looked more like a carb-based product. But why carb when you can meat? 

I ate carefully around the clear whites of the egg (shudder) and cooed over the adorable cubes of veggies in the sprout hash. 

After our plates had been scraped clean and our flutes drained, we were invited to migrate to the cocktail room again and to enjoy our dessert. 

We applauded the hosts, servers, bartenders, chefs (Chef Evans and Potocki seen above) of Pocket Brunch, before grabbing our Broadturn yogurt parfait, made with almond milk tapioca, blood orange, and couscous granola and heading outside. 

By now the place looked more like your typical farm party, with various bonfires erupting, groups of smokers, and people tromping through the snow and mud on the way to the outhouse.  

A. and I had to jet, as we'd now been at the farm for almost six hours and had a kickoff to make. I enjoyed my parfait in the car as we zoomed down the country roads back to Portland. 

Warm from the sparking wine, I was so happy to be a part of a creative food community, to be able to enjoy a fantastic event such as this one. I do hope to see you at another Pocket Brunch (sign up on their website to be notified of ticket sales), since it the food is so good and the greenhouse is always full of characters.