Friday, June 24, 2011

Desserts are Serious Business at Restaurant Eugene

Some restaurants treat dessert like an afterthought.  Not here.  Chef Linton Hopkins works closely with Pastry Chef Aaron Russell to ensure that just as much attention is given to the meal's finish, as to every other part.
Pastry Chef Aaron Russell delivers three and five course dessert tasting menu's every night at Restaurant Eugene.
As always, a fine dish begins with fine ingredients.  “My favorite is cooking with fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs,” says Russell, as he brings a blowtorch to a Ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend infused) crème brûlée, just one of the dishes on his dessert tasting menu.  His love for seasonal fruits and ingredients follows the philosophy of the restaurant; his menu is constantly changing depending on what is freshest and best.  Currently on the menu: a lavender lemonade soda, peach-chardonnay sherbet, and a phenomenal citrus shortbread, all made with fresh, in-season ingredients straight from farms throughout the Southeast.

Caramel Ganache at Restaurant Eugene.
In addition to freshness and seasonality, Russell's desserts bring tremendous sophistication. There are things on the tasting menu that you will not see in other places. The kabocha mousse is made with a Japanese squash that many liken to pumpkin, but that is freshest in the summer, and his crème brûlée is laced with Ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend popular across Northern Africa.  “Ras el hanout” translates from Arabic to “top of the shop,” a term the refers to its use of top shelf spices.

Recently, Restaurant Eugene and Chef Russell have introduced both three- and five-course dessert tasting menus. They are available every night of the week, and come with optional pairings. The intention of the tasting menus is to show dessert’s versatility, as well as to elevate dessert to the same highly regarded level as the rest of the restaurant's offerings. Says Chef Russell, “it is not often that a restaurant’s owner regards its dessert service as seriously as the rest of the dining experience. Chef Hopkins’ energetic pursuit of excellence in every facet of this business is manifest in these tasting menus.” 

Green Apple Sorbet with Buckweat Strussel.
Dessert Tasting Menu's are available every night.  Stop by to try them by themselves or as the sweet finish to a divine dinner.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Author Dinner, Volume Eight: John T. Edge

Last night, Restaurant Eugene, was positively pleased to host Southern Foodways Alliance Executive Director, John T. Edge for our Eighth Author Dinner.  The series, which has featured authors as diverse as Mark Kurlansky, Rajat Parr, Gabrielle Hamilton and Bill Shore, is an expression of Chef Linton Hopkins love of books, learning and, of course, food.  With the Author Dinner Series, Chef Hopkins aims to clearly demonstrate the relationship between fine dining and the cultural life of a city.   To have a strong sense of identity, a city needs fine restaurants, as it needs fine art, music and literature.  Restaurant Eugene Author Dinners are the synthesis of this idea.

Blair Hobbs' Cheese Boxes

Author Dinners, limited to about sixty people, begin with a reception.  In this case, since the book was the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, we served Blair Hobbs' cheese boxes, Ari Weinzeig's benedictine spread and Jared Richardson's fried chicken livers with Brian Caswell's Sriracha and citrus remoulade --- all from the book, and paired with our own Coca-Cola cocktails.   Chef Hopkins noted with delight that one of the things that makes this particular community cookbook so special is that the recipes really work. 

Linton Hopkins Cheese Straws on the line.
Guests mingle and chat with Author and Chef until being seated, communally in the elegant dining room, where they are greeted with a little bite of something delicious.  Last night, Linton Hopkins' spiced pecans and cheese straws, David Sweeney's spicy fermented cabbage and Eugene Holeman's beaten biscuits with Allan Benton's country ham and sorghum.

Oven-bound Billy Reid's Tomato Pies.

The room had the feel of a family reunion of sorts as the author and chef shared a few words about the menu and the theme of the night. Then dinner proper begins:  Billy Reid's tomato pie; Greg Sonnier's bbq shrimp and Tankie's cornbread, Austin Leslie's fried chicken with Madge Castle's killed lettuce.  Each course brilliantly paired by our Director of Wine & Spirits.

After the main course, there is pause for a few more words from John T.  He read from a piece he'd written for Gourmet Magazine on Austin Leslie, whose creole fried chicken had just been savored.  (See above link or the article.)  Then, one final bite: Dana Logsdon's banana pudding.  Guests depart with a signed copy of the book in hand, glowing a bit, and certainly enriched from an evening of delicious discussion.

We hope you will join us for our next Author Dinner, August 23 with the legendary Vertamae Smart Grosvenor.