What is “Modern Midwest”? There were certainly things at last night collaborative dinner between Sepia’s Andrew Zimmerman and St. Louis chef Gerard Craft (Niche, Pastaria, etc.) that aren’t native to the midwest— from scallops to chocolate— though many others that are, from nettles to pork belly. For Zimmerman and Craft, it seems to be not only bringing in local ingredients but reflecting who we are in the midwest— this was a meal with signs of a long winter (like the deeply nourishing, meaty amuse of nettle tea topped with a dash of schmaltz) and the first hints of spring poking up in the form of spring garlic and English peas. For Zimmerman, who met Craft at Cochon Heritage Fire and rekindled the friendship last year when both were James Beard Award nominees, it was also a chance to make use of Sepia’s year-and-a-half-old private dining room, a few doors north of the restaurant (but separated by an alley), as a space for events like this that create a meeting place for the food culture of the entire midwest. “If we did this in the restaurant, we’d basically have to buy the place out, which is a lot of seats to sell,” Zimmerman explains. “Here, we can do forty seats on top of dinner tonight, which gives us a a lot more freedom to do something interesting.” Check out our behind the scenes look at this dinner in our slideshow.
Previously: Chef Gerard Craft On Modern Midwestern Food (Which He’ll Be Making at Sepia Tomorrow)
Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia) tells the wait staff about tonight’s dishes, while Gerard Craft (far right) and team listen in.
Sommelier Arthur Hon checks the wine before service. Hon had to guess at his pairings without tasting the dishes, but chose some outstanding wines whose minerality was perfectly balanced with the food.
Chef Zimmerman’s wagyu beef cheek pastrami and housemade sauerkraut on house-baked rye gougere.
Foie gras crème brulée with hazelnut herb salad.
The amuse was from Chef Craft, a nettle tea topped with rendered chicken fat— intensely savory, with a deep flavor something like olives.
Raw garlic marshmallows, root vegetable soil, and dabs of bergamot and meyer lemon oil, awaiting…
Chef Craft’s spring garlic soup, poured tableside. This was simply a stunning dish, full of the taste of spring but with little surprises of flavor, texture, and temperature in every bite.
Chef Zimmerman’s seared scallops, English pea custard and bacon dashi, topped with pea tendrils and bits of almond and country ham.
Chef Craft’s braised pork belly.
Chef Craft shows how he wants the dish plated.
The assembly line goes to work.
Pork belly, preserved trout sauce, honey-radish puré, sorrel, hazelnut.
Chef Zimmernan’s wagyu bavette, with maitake, cippolini, sunchoke, coffee soil and béarnaise.
Sepia pastry chef Cindy Schuman’s chocolate marquise with salted caramel sauce and coffee cardamom ice.