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A Look at Chef Todd Ginsberg’s Dinner at The Second Floor

A meal with a cause.
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Vital Farms egg salad with caviar. Photo by J.P. Gaffney.

The Second Floor, owned by chef-partner Scott Gottlich and his wife and sommelier, Gina, recently hosted a dinner aimed at raising funds for a myriad of philanthropic entities. Given the turnout to the culinary philanthropic endeavor, there have been murmurs of future ones to come.

Chefs Todd Ginsberg and Scott Gottlich all photography by J.P. Gaffney.
Chefs Todd Ginsberg and Scott Gottlich all photography by J.P. Gaffney.

This first dinner featured repeat James Beard Award Semi-Finalist for Best Chef Southeast, Todd Ginsberg. Ginsberg co-owns a number of eateries in Atlanta, most notably The General Muir, for which Creative Loafing awarded the 2014 “Best Overall Restaurant” designation. The establishment has also been remarked upon by numerous reputable publications including, but not limited to: Garden & Gun, Southern Living, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, GQ, and Eater Atlanta.

The event was hosted in a private room located off the main restaurant. The five-course tasting menu featured wines from Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford, California. The dinner also featured a three varietal meritage blend from the lesser-known, Washington-based Mullan Road Cellars, owned by Jack Cakebread’s second eldest, Dennis.

Tarragon peppered ostrich carpaccio.
Tarragon peppered ostrich carpaccio.

Dinner began with two passed canapés featuring Vital Farms egg salad with salmon caviar, and tarragon peppered ostrich carpaccio. The wine pairing, a 2013 Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc accentuated the egg salad more completely than the ostrich, but the latter was more endearing, with the majority of attendees conversing as to how uniquely tender was the flightless bird.

The first and second formal plates constituted heartier appetizer portions. The first consisted of Lemley’s tomatoes, La Perla burrata, Young’s Greenhouse basil, and a lemon and gin granite, which was reminiscent of lemon-flavored ice chips found atop a well-bruised martini. The second featured Sugar Queen melon and crispy serrano ham, resting in a mussel velouté with pitch-perfect salinity. With these dishes, we were served two iterations of Cakebread Chardonnay, respectively the 2013 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay from Napa Valley and then the 2012 Cakebread “Reserve” Chardonnay from the family’s Carneros property, which provided an opportunity to compare and contrast the same varietal over two separate vintages, and the terroir associated with each of the two different geographic regions.

Chef served a seared salmon filet atop a perfectly fried potato latke, complete with shallot and salmon roe crème fraiche. Gina Gottlich cogently paired the fish with a 2013 Cakebread Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley’s Two Creeks Vineyards. The cool climate pinot noir, which rested in French Oak, was soft and supple, but had just enough backbone to complement the salmon, and the salty bursts resulting from the roe.

44 Farms NY Strip, smoked cheek, Texas peas, and  Phennel Farms okra.
44 Farms NY Strip, smoked cheek, Texas peas, and Phennel Farms okra.

Chef Gottlich dedicated the final savory plate as a homage to Texas, showcasing a 44 Farms NY Strip, an in-house ravioli filled with sous-vide pork cheek, light brown peas from Side Pea Farms, and a buttermilk-encased Phennel Farms okra. This dish was paired with the most unique wine of the evening, a glass of 2012 Mullan Road Cellars blend from Columbia Valley, Washington. The meritage blend utilized three of the five requisite varietals, in this case Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (three of which, ironically, are typically recognized in Napa Valley rather than Washington). The steak was perfectly seared, and the sous-vide cheek preparation made for a delicate, luscious flavor which paired exquisitely with the red blend. The meritage provided a unique nose of potpourri, tobacco and dried berries, and the stable but supple tannic structure was fashioned by the fifty-one percent blending of cabernet sauvignon.

Dessert featured a Texas peach and blueberry croustade and On Pure Ground Dairy goat cheese ice cream which was as rewarding as it sounds. The slightly-sour ice cream was a favorite of mine, which played well with the 2014 Michele Chiarlo “Nivole” Moscato d’Asti from Italy.

A portion of the money raised from the dinner went towards the Alzheimer’s Association and Giving Kitchen, Chef Gottlich and Chef Ginsberg’s respective charities. More information on subsequent guest chef pairing dinners can be found on the restaurant’s website or by calling (972) 450-2978.

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