Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chef Marion Ohlinger's 11th Annual Aphrodesia! Cena de Amor: St Valentines Day Dinner for Two

Chef Ohlinger, the authority on farm-to-table dining in West Virginia, has opened his newest restaurant: Hill & Hollow in the Seneca Center. The previous chef/owner of both Richwood Grill and Solera is continuing the farm-to-fork dining theme with a focus on global cuisine using local ingredients at the new restaurant.

Hill & Hollow is in the former Glasshouse Grille space, which was an iconic Morgantown restaurant. It's only fitting for MK's new restaurant to be in this space (+ parking!). I've been to Hill & Hollow and will write a full post about it later - but first, I wanted to touch on the 11th Annual Aphrodesia! Valentine's Dinner held this past weekend since it's timely! 

This dinner is part of Ohlinger's Global Feature Dinner Series, which began in 2009 at Richwood Grill as a way to highlight the role of Appalachia in Global culture, to celebrate the diversity of our local agriculture, and to introduce new and adventurous cuisines to Morgantown. Chef Ohlinger would combine dishes he's learned through his travels with Appalachian ingredients for these inventive dinners at Richwood Grill (and Solera). These dinners, after being hosted in a series of guest kitchens over the past year, now have a home at Hill & Hollow. And I am very, very excited.

[I'm sorry the lighting is so low in there, and I didn't have time to run home to get my camera.]

Aphrodisiac dinner at hill & hollowThe Valentines Dinner for Two was designed to include ingredients that have been thought throughout history to possess aphrodisiac qualities. We started with an aperitif of a hibiscus flower-infused cava. This sparking wine was slightly sweet, and the edible hibiscus flower at the bottom was maybe pickled? It was so tasty! It was a surprising bite at the bottom. Very cool way to kick off the dinner.

Aphrodisiac dinner at hill & hollowThen, it was onto our first course: Broiled avocado filled with crab and artichoke hearts on spring greens with ginger passion fruit vinaigrette. Let me just start by saying plain greens with that ginger passion fruit vinaigrette was phenomenal. The dressing had a sweet tang, and then add the creamy avocado and crab. Super smart. Super delicious. 

Aphrodisiac dinner at hill & hollowNext! Second course: Chincoteague oysters on the half-shell with pickled ginger and caviar. They're not everyone's cup of tea, and my friend was not the biggest fan. But I do like oysters. I took minimal amounts of ginger, though, as to not overpower the delicate flavor of the oyster. Lovely plate.

Aphrodisiac dinner at hill & hollowThe entree was free-range beef chateaubriand and broiled petite lobster tails with grilled asparagus, rosemary black beans, saffron rice and citrus chili butter. I was at first surprised to see MK put butter on a plate - MK isn't down with ketchup or soda, so I didn't think butter would make an appearance. But this ... this wasn't any ordinary butter. This was unreal. I wish you could taste via Internet, because it was truly incredible. The steak was cooked perfectly, melt-in-your-mouth and had a perfect char on the outside. The lobster was fresh, sweet, delicate. Divine. This butter made its way to everything because I just could not get enough. It has this sweetness and citrus flavors ... just wow.

Aphrodisiac dinner at hill & hollowDessert was a single origin heirloom chocolate torte with lavender-infused honey, apricot fig chutney and fresh berries in a sweet cream. A darker chocolate is a bit bitter for me at times, but this had a nice balance of sweetness between the berries, cream, and apricot. A nice finish.

Did anyone else get the change to go? Did you love it as much as I did?