Monday, November 19, 2007

What's next? Fashion Week? Feng Shui Classes at Zengo

I think we've graduated from the blogging farm team to the blogging minor leagues. We went to a press event for Zengo restaurant in Chinatown where the press (that's us - HAH!) participated in a cooking Feng Shui class.

I was hoping we'd rearrange some furniture and put in a koi pond, but it was a class to talk about feng shui in cooking and drinking. The feng shui press event was to introduce their monthly cooking and mixology classes. Starting January, Zengo will be having classes the last Monday of every month.

We figure we were asked because Zengo was on our list of places to try. Not really sure why, but we decided to give it a shot. We've been asked to promote a few places in the past several months and might have done so if we had been to the place, but we've tried to have the blog be a bit more about our experiences and how we've enjoyed food here, there, and everywhere.

So we had never been to Zengo. From the outside it looked like a bar but once we got inside it was a sleek, sexy, hip eatery. If the food matched the decor, that was in reds and rusts, then this would be a place wed come back and pay for a meal. We've never been to a press event for anything sexy before. We've been to press events for the introduction or passage of a bill or the opening of a community center. But at a hip restaurant?

We came fairly late and sat at the table with the representatives from the Herradura Tequila U.S. distributors. Herradura Silver is a top shelf tequila (bring a ladder) that J was familiar with before the event. (Texas will do that to you).

Part of the class would be margarita making, using Herradura tequila. While T is more of a rum person, good liquor is good liquor. And you know, we really enjoyed it.

We came to the table and there were lobster potstickers and edamame waiting for us. The potstickers were divine, although T did think the sweetness of the lobster wasn't allowed to shine in this dish. What did make the dish was the wasabi plum sauce. One would think that the sweetness of the plum sauce would fight with the sharp salty flavor of the wasabi but they really worked together. The wasabi gave what would be a syrupy sweet sauce a nice tang and heat.

Next up, we met Ms. Claudia, the totally awesome beverage director for the restaurant group that Zengo is a part of. Think a warm Celine Dion crossed with an Almodavarian party hostess. She beckoned us to order a drink. With such yummy tequila on hand we had to start with margaritas. And OH MY GOD. They were mindblowing. The margarita was smooth. Really smooth.

As described by our tablemates, traditional margaritas in Mexico are tequila and lime juice. Period. Sometimes with a bit more of this and that, but often not. With a really great tequila I can see how this would be possible. We had more fun with Claudia as she talked to us about her role as beverage director, developing beverages for each of the restaurants in the Modern Mexican Restaurant Group.

Before the actual class starts, we order another round of drinks, a margarita for J and a mango mojito for T. And once again. OH MY GOD. If there was ever a drink for T, this was it. It was sweet and sharp. The mango worked organically with the flavors of the lime as opposed to being a kitschy add-in. Someone's been feng shui-ing their drinks.

We were then given Kobe Beef gyoza dumplings before starting the actual learning. These were truly exceptional. The beef was tender and flavorful and the black vinegar soy sauce cut through the rich and savory flavor of the beef. Well done.

We learned from Claudia, now our favorite gregarious, badass, amazon mixologist, that she wouldn't really advise making a big pitcher of margaritas to lay around unless the goal is to just get drunk. You make it fresh -- as we were about to do. The most important part is that you don't leave the ice laying around. It needs to be separate and mixed in at the last minute. We learned how silver tequila won't fight with the juice, that cocktail measurements can be as vital as baking measurements, and more. We got to use jiggers and shakers (a great name for a girly bar) and while J made his perfectly and got a stamp of approval from Claudia, T was not so lucky, but then again T is a rum man.

After the drink class, which continued for J as he was making the drinks for some of our new friends, we were joined by a few pro journalists. An editor at DC magazine and a travel writer for USA Today. In a entry rife with exclamation points, this is taking the cake. We were hitting with the big boys and girls. Not some of the big foodie names, the marketing people told us that reviewers didn't go to these things. We also learned that we were the only bloggers at the event. Surreal considering how much we love to read some of our more popular DC foodie blogs. We may have been the only ones to say yes?

But really, whoever thought that we would be at a press event with real journalists? It was surreal. It's not really what we have been going for and probably not where we are headed, but it was very fun to step into another world for a while.

OK, back to the food: Before the sushi-making part of the class we tried Zengo's raw hamachi with cucumber and shiso on a Chinese soup spoon. It had a bright, clean flavor. Delicious.

But this was overshadowed by the Arepas Vegetariano, cornmeal cakes with shitake mushrooms cooked in what tasted like hoisin with avocado and crema. These were just divine and gave the Asian influenced meal a nice heartiness. Like the margaritas, we really wanted more. We will definitely look for these when we go back to Zengo.

The sushi making class affirmed why you leave that stuff up to the professionals. The chef de cusine deftly prepared a huge slab of sushi-grade ahi tuna for the sushi demonstration. In about ten minutes he made a perfect tuna roll garnished with a sesame-chipotle rouille. The chipotle was a nice addition to the sushi, adding a wasabi-like spice with a nice amount of smokiness.

T had to wait a while to try my hand at the sushi making since only one station was set up at first. The excellent Zengo staff noticed that there was a like of guests waiting to make sushi and set up three more stations. Unfortunately, the chef de cuisine could only focus on one person at a time. T was able to get my sushi to look like a nicely shaped log but completely fell apart when Y tried cutting the log into bite-sized pieces. A little more instruction would have helped but there were quite a few people at the sushi-making station. Luckily, however messy his sushi looked, it tasted absolutely wonderful.

While we would have liked to try our hand at some more mixology, T had to leave for Cleveland the next day so we ended our evening with the warm goodbyes from the Zengo staff. As an added bonus we got a bag of swag which included a nice cocktail shaker. To those of you who are real food writers, is it always like this? While neither of us are writing this blog to be online celebrities, it's fun to have an evening where we're treated like rockstars.


Dancer in DC said...

Wow, what a great experience!

It really speaks to how blog culture is becoming a major part of the news realm in this country.

ScottE. said...

Fun...I've not been asked to do anything like that?!!! Jealous!!! I've been asked to post announcements about some festival or trade show...sometimes I will in the hopes I get an invite...but alas, here I sit empty handed!

Stef said...

Swanky - congrats! I really need to try Zengo now, so your work is done. :-)

I was asked to blog about a CD release party just a few weeks ago, but I couldn't make it. Sounds like the world is making way for bloggers though, and it would be great to see what kind of new experiences there may be down the road!

Vegameatarian said...

Sounds like you've hit the big time! Congratulations :-)