Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cibo e Beve

101 Concepts, the group behind behind Food 101 and Meehan's Public House, opened their newest venture, Cibo e Beve (pronounced Chee-boh e Bevay---Italian for Food and Drink) one year ago. To celebrate the anniversary, they invited a bunch of us blogger and media folk to a special 5-course dinner featuring some of Chef Linda Harrell's signature dishes and her newest creations.

The menu, much like any good Trattoria, is not terribly formal or stuffy. Cibo e Beve polishes familiar Italian cuisine by using local, seasonal ingredients as well as many specialty foods imported from Italy.

There is an intense attention to detail in the food and drink offered at Cibo e Beve. The bar uses only pristine block ice for drinks. No cloudy ice cubes here. Just one perfect piece of ice in every cocktail. Less melting; less diluting.

Mixologist Justin preparing his signature cocktail: gin, bitters, home made lemonade, orange zest....simple and delicious
The food is equally special, carefully executed, simply and beautifully plated and happily devoid of all unnecessary garnish (which makes me crazy...if I can't eat it, don't put it on the plate!).

Our first course was a delicate goat cheese panna cotta, set on a perfect, crispy slice of fried green tomato. Pancetta syrup (amazing!), Marcona almonds and lovely, lightly bitter, micro greens finished the plate. Now, I've got to say, I always admire a Chef who can pull off a successful panna cotta. It's not an easy task. I know that from several of my own disasters. But Chef is a panna cotta rock star. This was a beautiful dish; silky smooth goat cheese custard, perfect fried tomato, a sweet drizzle and smoky almonds. I'd eat that again, and again, and again.....

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta

Caramelized black figs with Burrata mozzarella and artisan prosciutto. A simple dish? Yes. Not too unusual? Yes. I've had this before? Yes, several times. But under Chef Harrell's hand this combination turns into something magical. Why? I can't answer. This was just sweet-savory perfection on a plate. Try to get a little of everything on your fork as you eat this and you will understand what I'm trying (and failing) to communicate. I'd also eat this one again, and again....

Caramelized figs, burrata, prosciutto
Lobster spaghetti. Who calls perfectly cooked al dente pasta sporting huge chunks of sweet lobster dressed with a lovely briny broth spaghetti? This dish was too lovely to be tagged just spaghetti. Couldn't we call it perciatelli con brodo di aragoste e pesce? I'd guess no. That would be too pretentious and this is not a pretentious place. This was wonderful. The server offered freshly grated cheese. I'm glad I said no. The flavors were so well balanced; the cheese would have ruined it. Another star.

Spaghetti with lobster...look at all that lobster!
Gulf Coast Pan Seared Black Grouper with Cauliflower Puree, Sea Beans, Citrus Olive Oil.

This was not my favorite but before I go any further I need to qualify my remarks: everyone else loved it. My fish was too long in the pan. It lacked seasoning. The sea beans were delicious, all salty and sea-weedy. The cauliflower puree was satiny smooth and rich with cauliflower flavor. But, nothing seemed to go together. For me anyway. Maybe next time just the beans or just the puree?

Grouper, sea beans, cauliflower puree
Our last course was a rich, chocolaty, liqueur soaked tiramisu. And, as I was beginning to discover, this dish is classic Cibo e Beve. Nothing unusual until Chef Harrell gets involved. The tiramisu was so light and so airy, almost like chocolate mousse. But it had all the wonderful tiramisu flavors---coffee, chocolate, mascarpone, liqueur, lady fingers. Our server offered espresso with this. It was the perfect match and perfect ending to a delicious meal.

Chef Harrell's Tiramisu

Cibo e Beve will begin serving brunch on August 5th. Based on our dinner, I expect the food will be amazing
Brunch Menu

The interior of the restaurant is comfortable and unpretentious and the wait staff is beyond professional. Be prepared to find them anticipating what you want before you know it. Well done staff! The kitchen is open and there's a counter in front of it where you can dine and watch your food being prepared.


Cibo e Beve on Urbanspoon
Cibo e Beve on Foodio54