As soon as I heard Chef Zeb Stevenson talk of putting together a blood dinner, I thought how fun that would be to blog about. I like that this innovative dinner is taking place in the South, the new culinary hotspot in the US, and I like how it's something I've never even heard of happening before. It may just be the first of its kind...
Zeb accrued a few of Atlanta's top chefs to make this an exciting, collaborative effort. From top left to right, Tyler Williams (Abattoir), Zeb Stevenson (Livingston/ Proof & Provision), Ryan Smith (Empire State South) and Josh Hopkins (STG Trattoria). The very talented Sous Chefs included Ted Kupferman and Jason Hall from Livingston and Jeremiah Haines from Miso Izakaya.
I liked what Zeb said to Bon Appetit blogger, Sam Dean, "Throwing this dinner was admittedly me being a dick, but in another sense, I really wanted to make people aware of the fact that we're one of the few places on the planet that doesn't see blood as a legitimate ingredient."
Here in the US, we're one of the few countries that doesn't routinely make use of the whole animal. In Europe, Asia and Africa you can find sausage, soup, pancakes, pudding, stews and sauces all made with blood. Somewhere in the world, blood is being fried, steamed, baked, boiled, solidified and preserved... each and every day.
The chefs all agreed that cooking with blood posed a challenge. It's grainy, hard to balance. They had to be gentle, slow in its preparation, always checking consistency and temperature. As many of the chefs shared, it's very similar to cooking with eggs.
The chefs had been experimenting for this 8 course menu for three weeks leading up to the final night. It was a fascinating process for all. As Zeb shared, "If anything surprised us, it was how versatile an ingredient blood can be." The strozzapreti pasta, above, was made with double zero flour, salt, egg and beef blood.
When I asked Zeb what he wanted this dining experience to be like for his guests, he said, "I really want it to defy their expectations. Some may think it will be gorish but it's really a super refined dining experience that showcases flavor and textures."
Ryan, Tyler, Josh and Zeb chose to begin their innovative dinner with Hamachi Bloodline. Zeb, "Typically, bloodline is not an appreciated part of the fish but we felt like we could push that boundary with the proper treatment. We chose Hamachi for its rich buttery mouthfeel and mild flavor."
The Eel Dashi was much anticipated by the guests and did not disappoint. One of the diners, Cecilia, shared, "I was really afraid of the eel dish and turned out, that was my favorite."
This pretty dish consists of a coddled egg, beets, blood torchon and puffed farro.
Another stunner was the blood sausage with radishes and barrel-cured apples.
One thing is for sure, Zeb is highly respected in the kitchen and an excellent leader. Ted talked of how much Chef Zeb has been an incredible mentor to him, always supportive of new ideas and experimentation. It's never about failing in the kitchen, it's about, 'did you learn?' Jason chimed in, "He's more upset if we don't try."
With such esteemed chefs all gathered in one kitchen, it was fun to sit back and watch them do their dance with ease, precision and a sincere passion for their craft.
The chefs ended the night with Bloody Pebbles, paired with blood meringue and hazelnut oil. The pebbles were made from a creme anglaise (replacing 20% of the heavy cream with beef blood) which was then placed, drop by drop into liquid nitrogen. Overall, the Blood Dinner guests were contented and inspired by the experience. As I overheard one diner say, 'That dish was so good - it's not at all what I expected it to taste like." Mission accomplished...
Photos and Content: Sweet Peach Photos 20,21,30: Jason Camp