Let me just start off by saying… I’m not one to cook. I can bake brownies and cookies like no one’s business but cooking just isn’t my thing. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t, but when you’re running from work to an event or a meeting or what have you, I just don’t really feel like getting my Giada on and whipping up some baked halibut with arugula salsa verde. Sure, at the gym I enjoy watching an episode of 30 minute meals to get myself through a really grueling treadmill workout (if you know me, you know I’m kidding about going to the gym- you’re welcome for the donation L.A Fitness). But to sum things up, me + cooking = no.
One thing I will say is that I love when someone else cooks for me. So I was extremely pleased to be invited to the Epicurean for their “Dinner with a Masterchef” Whitney Miller. Friday night team NHIE was on triple duty as the boys were headed to the Food & Wine Conference in Orlando and I was off to the Epicurean for dinner, followed by Cass Contemporary for their new exhibit reveal (it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it) so I invited a friend to join me for dinner and let’s just say it didn’t take much convincing. We arrived at the Epicurean around 6:50 and headed into their theatre for 2 hours of amazingness. The room was jam packed and we made our way to our seats next to a nice couple. After we introduced ourselves they asked if we had watched her on Masterchef (umm, whoops). I’m usually one to do my research before attending an event but just didn’t have the chance to this time, so we felt a little silly after they asked as they seemed to be super fans of Whitney. I’m gonna be totally honest- after this dinner, I’m a super fan too.
We started things off with Grilled fig with Buttermilk Ricotta Cheese paired with Schiopetto Pinot Grigio. With the tiered seating and large tv screens located on either side of the “kitchen” it was the perfect place to watch her cook. About 5 minutes in I was ready to eat. It didn’t take long for our first tasting to come out and for someone that had never tried figs before, I gotta say- they were delicious (It also probably helps that I had one of the best making them for me). I will also say that arugula is probably one of my least favorite things ever, but combined with the figs, ricotta, and raisin bread I couldn’t help but eat every bit. (I apologize for the lack of picture- I told you, I was hungry).
Next up (OMG I’m so excited to tell you, I am still thinking about it and it’s days later) was her BBQ Shrimp and Cheese Grits served with Black Bird Rose. Being that Whitney is from Mississippi I had no doubts that this was going to be amazing but it definitely surpassed my expectations. Growing up in NJ I never had grits until I went to UT and still don’t eat them that often but this meal changed my mind. Like most people we were dining with, I was surprised to see that the BBQ sauce was not thick like I had expected but rather just more of the flavor of the shrimp. Like a true Southern Belle, she served this meal with a slice of toasted French bread so we could make sure to scoop up all the extra sauce and grits on our plates.
Finally, my favorite part of any meal- dessert! Tonight we would be treated to White Chocolate Bread Pudding. Prior to the meal I had looked at the menu, saw the White Chocolate Bread Pudding and made the dumb mistake of promising part of my desert to my friend because in the past I had never been a fan of bread pudding (I know, you’re probably thinking, Allison, not a fan of a dessert? It’s a rarity for sure). I am still kicking myself for passing off the other half of my dessert. Served with strawberries this was the perfect ending to a delicious meal, and paired with Rosa Regale I couldnt’ have asked for anything better.
During the dinner Whitney (who is newly engaged!) told us she would be moving to Tampa in the spring to be with her fiance and asked us to give her the down low on all the amazing restaurants here in Tampa. It was so fun to hear everyone’s favorites and offer a few of our own. Hopefully with Whitney being local soon we’ll be treated to even more delicious meals over at the hotel. It was a great night with phenomenal food and good company and if you haven’t been to one of the events over at Epicurean, what’re you waiting for? Check out their calendar for upcoming events at the theatre and treat yourself, your closest friend, mom or loved one in general to an amazing meal.
Cheers! – Allison