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A Very Big Night at Ambrose & Eve

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 12, 2019

I had a very big night at Ambrose and Eve.

I have consumed one to five meals per day for my entire life which is now one half century but only a handful of those meals are memorable. As a point of reference I am listing my other memorable meals in short order. 1998: Wine Dinner at Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta. 2002 Dinner with friends at the Minh Minh in Melbourne. Although we had a reservation and three bottles of BYOB wine at our table, the owner was determined to flip each table every thirty minutes. We assertively declined to do so until we finished our last bottle. Due to our assertive, but polite determination to enjoy our meal and resolute stance that we would not be treated like an assembly line we received a round of applause from the rest of the diners when we departed because we stood our ground. The food was good. The wine was great. The commentary from our server was surreal. 2004 Lunch in Cinque Terre with friends I made in Europe. I vowed to return to the same spot someday and I did for my honeymoon in 2014. 2008 The First Slow Food Shake The Hand That Feeds You Dinner. 2008 During the third or fourth day of a massive power failure in Columbus a feast made with all of the collective food getting ready to spoil gathered and prepared by an elite group of “foodies” in Victorian Village. 2011 My third Hot Dog Palooza Party. 2012 A whole pig pork roast led by Dan Kraus (of Baba’s) in my backyard. The guests included many of the best food truck chefs in the city and it was epic. I now add wonderful dinner at Ambrose and Eve on June 8th 2019 to this list.

A memorable meal can not be created and in this case it was not my goal but I did stack the odds in my favor (although not consciously). My wife and I rarely get out of the house. We do not have the budget or time to do so and our schedules often do not align well but in this case we had free baby sitting and a special occasion to observe. Specifically for me, I had a Saturday off. For the last six years I have worked nearly every Saturday and have only had a handful of Saturdays followed by a Sunday off. And to be honest, as a small business owner, I did not really have the whole Saturday off – but I only worked for an hour and that was close enough.

From an exceedingly long list of places I would like to try out one place stood well above the rest, Ambrose and Eve. It us run by the chef team of Catie Randazzo and Matt Heaggans. Both are excellent chefs. Both are friends and former clients. I had several opportunities to walk though the space during build out but never had an opportunity to dine in for dinner. I knew my wife would enjoy the experience. Because we rarely get an evening for us, I wanted this to be something we would both enjoy. Back in the “old days” we used to explore next places together all of the time but as parents, the few times we do go out we look for Griffin friendly spots (a 3 year old without an off switch) and as a rule, stick to a few tried and true places due to wanting Griffin Friendly places. As an added bonus, the date in question was my birthday and I had vowed for over a year that I would not work the weekend in question. In an attempt to thwart my wife trying to create any surprises, I did not tell her where we were going for dinner until the afternoon of our evening out. I did tell her who was going a few days before and she strongly approved the guest list. Getting ready to head out for dinner I was in an exceptionally good mood. I had finished spending almost four hours with my son at Chuck E. Cheese for quality guy time. I rarely get to spend any time with him on Saturdays so for the two of us to have that block of time together doing something he was excited to do was awesome. And….we did not eat while we were there so I can still say I have never eaten at Chuck E. Cheese. On most Saturdays I feel of guilt for being away from Griffin for most of the day and until recently often all day. I did not have that on my plate on this Saturday.

When I was considering my guest list, I weighed in several factors. First, having a guest list was exciting because typically when we are out on the town we are either with family or have a short window to get back home. For this occasion, we would be with adults and having adult conversations and adult food and with no need to cut food for anyone else and we had no kid gear to pack. I decided that a party of the six would be the perfect number. Not too many people nor too few. It is the perfect size for a restaurant -> parties of eight are harder to place, larger than that is a pain in the ass and I do not want to be a pain in the add to Matt or Catie….they know where I live. Also six is a good number for having good conversation and for exploring a menu in depth without someone getting lost in the crowd.

There is a long list of people I would like to have dinner with, people I have not seen in years or people I might like to know better, but for this day, I wanted my party of six to be a sure thing=. I invited Angelo and Kathy Signorino and Lenny and Joan Kolada. Angelo and Lenny are people I have worked with for nearly every Saturday for the last six years so how could I spend a Saturday without them. Angelo is the head brewer at Barleys and Lenny is the owner of Smokehouse Brewing and Commonhouse Ales. I knew both love to eat as much as I do and we would have plenty to talk about, both are great conversationalists. I know Joan pretty well too and can not think of many people that I would consider to be as kind or thoughtful. I had only met Kathy once or twice but knew her well enough to know she would be an excellent dinner companion. I was pretty sure none of us had eaten at Ambrose and Eve so I made a reservation.

We all approached the meal with the same mindset. We also started with a cocktail – none of us ordering the same thing and as seems to be a default setting, Angelo surmised that ordering a bottle or two of Prosecco was in order. Eventually we got around to ordering and did so with breadth and depth.

We started with:

CRISPY BRUSSELS
Garum, honey, pecorino

MUSHROOM BORDELAISE
Local mushrooms, Shagbark grits, red wine

SMOKED FISH SPREAD
Ritz crackers, cucumber relish

Ritz crackers with the dish (which I could not eat) of course, it was the perfect thing to serve and we all appreciated and celebrated that.

HEARTS OF PALM
Roasted beets, beet romesco, citrus salad, pistachio dukkah

It was nice to be surrounded by people that all appreciated beets, which so often are unappreciated.

I think we ordered….

PORK RIBS
Fish sauce caramel, celery root curry

However I am allergic to fish and because I was eating and talking so much, I did not take any notes as is appropriate for an enjoyable dinner.

We also ordered both bread options.

TOAST AND JAM
Stratcciatella, housemade jam, olive oil, soft herbs, focaccia

CORNBREAD (I loved this dish more than all others, and that is saying a lot)
Maple, pimento cheese, watercress

It seemed that Chef Matt had an extra order of the cornbread in the kitchen so he sent that out after we inhaled the first. I am fairly certain I ate all of it on my own and that point my memory and judgment may have been suspect.

Also, Chef Matt seemed to notice there were a few items we did not order so he somehow used his spider sense to determine that he should send out an order of ->

CUCUMBER CARPACCIO
Szechuan peppercorn vinaigrette, shiso, pumpkin seed, black togarashi

It was amazing. There was not dish we ate that anyone in our group of six thought was less than excellent but this one seems to be the sleeper hit of the evening. We almost ordered it but hesitated yet Chef Matt knew that we would be remiss not trying this, and he was right. It is a simple dish of razor thin slices of cucumber with the the right amount of vinaigrette drizzled on and pumpkin seeds which perfectly complimented every other flavor on the plate and a modicum of black togarashi to knock it out of the park.

We also ordered EGGPLANT PARMESAN (Oven dried tomatoes, capers, pecorino, thyme, tomato butter sauce) from the dinner menu. Everyone was fairly stuffed at this point but I strongly felt that not ordering the Fried Chicken Supper for Two (I could have been gluttonous by ordering the Four Person Supper) which includes several pieces of perfectly fried chicken, perfect green beans in the tradition of haricots verts, potato salad (which was delicious and borders on having the consistency of smashed potatoes) and the absolute finest biscuits I have had in my life, and I mean that, the best biscuits with no other contenders a close second. I only ate one half of one biscuit at the restaurant but I ate three for lunch two days later with nothing on them and they were still amazingly perfect.

At some point Chef Matt sent out an order of Carolina Hot Chicken (not Nashville, Carolina), that was consumed with a focus.

At this stage of the game all of us were full. I knew some of the chicken was going home (and a few green beans for Griffin who loves all fruits and vegetables) but in the spirit of Shackleton and Mallory I mustered the courage to make the group continue on. I ordered a cherry fry pie with ice cream for dessert and carefully dissected it into small portions so that each person could have a bite. Using his great wisdom, Chef Matt sent out some incredible (and completely vegan) chocolate mousse which we consumed slowly but surely, mostly by force of will.

Between bites, we enjoyed great conversations and good company. It was enjoyable to explore a new place together as a group. We wondered about some of the dishes and discussed what we enjoyed about each. We shared stories of past meals and adventures and in doing so what felt like 45 minutes was nearly four hours. I do not think I have had such an enjoyable evening since my wedding over five years ago.

Days later, it seems all of us are still thinking about and talking about this meal, which means we did it right. It was also enjoyable for me to eat and enjoy the food of Ambrose and Eve created by two people I have a lot of respect for. Catie was at Preston’s (one of their other restaurants that evening) but Matt made time to come out to see us. I was glad to see him enjoying what he was doing and I think he had at least the slightest of smirks seeing and hearing about how much we enjoyed the fruits of his labors in the kitchen. During our meal, Keith and Yanka Smith formerly of the Green Meanie Food Truck stopped in at the bar for a snack so Jamie and I had a chance to catch up with them. The Green Meanie was one of the food trucks that catered our wedding and we had not seen Keith or Yanka in almost four years. I saw a few others that I knew throughout the course of the evening and it was nice to see my circle of people….which has a very far radius these days, making the same decision to try Ambrose and Eve and love it. It was the most social evening I have had in many years. I do not think I could have experienced anything any better – food, service, company, etc., everything was what I would want it to be. It was a perfect night out and I was with the perfect people to share it with, especially my wife.

It will probably be a while before I have a night like this again, but I hope it will be sooner instead of later. Ambrose and Eve is a special space. Years ago, the Galaxy Cafe was the place for my posse, a place we dined at several times per month. We loved the food and became fast friends with the owner and and staff. I felt at home in the Galaxy space(s). I was always part of the place instead of an anonymous satellite. The Galaxy sometimes had aspects of being our private club. Alana’s was a restaurant I enjoyed very much, it was never THE “place” for me like the Galaxy but I loved the approach to food and ingredients that Alana incorporated into her menu. Ambrose and Eve is a rough fusion of the spirits of these two places and in doing so, and because of my personal connection to the Matt and Catie, I believe that Ambrose and Eve is going be my special place for the decades to come.

Thank you to my wife, Lenny, Joan, Angelo, Kathy, Matt and all who made it such a memorable night. For anyone that has seen the movie Big Night, the evening felt very much like the last meal in that film. I had bits of the soundtrack of that movie in my head as I drove home. Or maybe that was the cocktail I had at Antiques on High.

If you care to have a memorable meal, or at least a very good one, get yourself to:
Ambrose & Eve (Brewery District)

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