Monday, July 28, 2014

My dinner with Maneet Chauhan!

I don't get "star struck" very easily unless it comes to celebrity chefs. My first celebrity chef encounter was with Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert in February 2012 in Louisville, KY. My heart skipped several beats that evening - an evening made possible by my friend Marirae Mathis of Who Cooks For You? 

On July 28th, I had the pleasure to be in the company of Maneet Chauhan. You probably know Maneet as one of the celebrity chefs from the Food Network show "Chopped". I didn't actually have dinner with her, but rather she cooked dinner for me and a small group of Nashvillians as she prepares for the opening of her new Nashville restaurant, Chauhan Ale & Masala House in late August. POP Nashville hosted Maneet on this evening. Maneet promised I would get the chance to meet Vivek Surti, a Nashville chef, food critic (he wears many titles) who helped in the back of the kitchen, but it was a school night and I needed to get home. I still hope to meet him someday...

Before I delve into the details, let me just say... Maneet stopped by our table three times during the evening, posing for pictures with me and even signing my menu as I apologized for being "such a groupie". She is beautiful and gracious. 

Duo of charred peach 
and heirloom tomato
gazpacho + salad
First up the pani puri: I would have been completely lost on this dish except for the fact that I brought my friend Vivek, who is Indian, and educated me on the fact that this is Indian "street food" and how to eat it. It is an open puff pastry filled with potato and chick pea served with a cup of layered sauce - cilantro chutney, tamarind sauce & mint water. Pour the sauce into the open pastry and devour in one bite. Yes, it is a little messy. That is why it is "street food". I wanted another... but only one was served, kind of an amuse-bouche.

First Course: Curried scallops, perfectly seared - melt in your mouth. I couldn't taste the habanero. But that was ok. Again, I still wanted another, or two or three more!

Second Course: This was one of my favorites. The salad was made of charred peach and heirloom tomatoes with a dressing of cucumber raita with roasted cumin. The gazpacho caught me off-guard - delicious, fresh, and tangy. I want the recipe! Maneet, help girl out here! 

Kashmiri lamb shank
Third Course: The lamb shank... definitely my favorite dish of the evening served along side basmati rice and daal makhani. The servers brought out knives and just as I was cutting into mine, Austin, the owner of Anthem and co-owner of Chauhan Ale & Masala House, walked up. I asked him why they brought me a knife because the lamb succumbed to my fork so easily. He just smiled, shook his head and walked away. I have never devoured a lamb shank until now. 

Gajar halwa whoopee pie
Dessert Course: Do I even need to tell you it was the best "whoopie pie" ever? Indian carrot pudding nestled between two saffron cardamom cakes. And the whipped cream, also infused with saffron was "to die for". I could have eaten a bowl it.

Overall: The best $75 I ever spent on a meal (no drinks). Would I do it again? Definitely!

I can't wait until Maneet opens her restaurant, if the food is even half this good, I will be there in a heartbeat... 


pani puri (v)

flavor explosion: semolina puffs | stuffed with potato | black garbanzo beans  
cilantro | spices tamarind chutney | tangy mint water


curried scallops pau bhaji

pickled onion habanero relish


duo of charred peach and heirloom tomato 
gazpacho + saladcharred peach | ginger | freshly roasted cumin | cilantro | jalapeno

kashmiri lamb shank
yogurt | cinnamon | cardamom | cashew | star anise | tellicherry pepper
ripped cilantro leaves | nuts | raisins

jeweled basmati | saffron | pomegranate seeds | pistachio  | currants
daal makhani
grape raita | curry leaves | coconut

gajar halwa whoopee pie
indian carrot pudding sandwiched in a saffron cardamom cake

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