Simon and I were invited to attend an installation of Full Moon Foodies Dinner. Full Moon Foodies is a monthly late-night dinner event hosted by Wes Johnson, Chef de Cuisine and Brendan Noonan, Executive Sous Chef at Eclipse in the Moonrise Hotel. Each month, a melange of St. Louis food enthusiasts and culinary professionals are invited to partake in a themed meal on the night of the full moon. This month’s full moon landed on a Friday night and a vegetarian feast was on the books.
Dinner guests included a who’s who of the St. Louis’ professional food-writing community, chefs and local food enthusiasts, including Mathew Rice, Sara White, April Seager and my new friend Gilberto Pinela. Our evening began with cocktails at the bar. Packed in on the ground level of the restaurant were loads of patrons vying for a spot on the rooftop. The wait was over an hour when we arrived. With spectacular views, perfect weather and tasty drinks, that was enough to lure the crowds high above the street. But, we were looking forward to a small intimate dinner in the cozy corner of the restaurant, so the rooftop would have to wait.
As guests arrived, we took our seats and began to anticipate the bounty for which we were gathered. The meal was based on a video game played by Brendan. Harvest Moon, a Japanese farming-simulation game was developed by Yasuhiro Wada. The object of the game is to maintain a farm over a period of time, tending the crops and livestock through the seasons, while befriending the nearby townsfolk and getting married in some games. With this in mind, Wes and Brendan focused on local (when appropriate), fresh vegetables for the meal.
To start out the meal, we nibbled on spiced roasted nuts. Crunchy, spicy and sweet…they accompanied our cocktails perfectly. Secondly a serving of warm herbed olives…with a great underbelly of heat. Simon offered up a new concoction he devised earlier that afternoon at The Wine Merchant. Local goat cheese, whipped with mango honey and scotch bonnet peppers was coined The Goat Fire Ball. It was another delicious nibble that brought the spice and heat.
And thus the feast began! Bowls of pickled wax beans cooled your palate. Along with watermelon dressed with pickled carrots, there was vast platters of fresh vegetables. Plates of heirloom tomatoes with Koren melon dressed in a balsamic reduction, tempura of Ozark Forest mushrooms, okra, poblano and red bell peppers. Knowing that some dinner guests were of the vegan persuasion, the tempura was executed san eggs. Even with the egg omittance, the tempura was crispy and perfect. Heaping bowls of Ozark Forest mushrooms were served. Maitake, Lobster and Hen of the Woods were sauteed with butter and thyme. One bowl was sauteed with olive oil for our vegan guests. A rich carrot and potato curry was the main course. The curry was hearty, with warm spices that satisfied. A dollop of the Goat Fire Ball gave a second layer of flavor and heat that was genuinely scrumptious. Fresh figs with cracked black pepper were piled high in a bowl.
Cocktails, such as Lemon Lime Gin & Tonic infused with sorrel were consumed…along with Champagne/Elderberry flower liqueur concoctions. On a sweet note: Brendan found some “sweet crunchy sticks” at the local Asian Market. And that was the literal translation, folks. There were rice sticks covered in a fine sugar from what I could tell. The package was brought out and in a hilarious twist of fate…fitted right in with the video game themed meal! I never got a chance to read the actual ingredients…all I heard was that they were vegan so they were OK for all at the table. Finally, a meringue topped with local peaches were the final course. The meringue was light, sweet and fluffy. The peaches, although local and fresh, were a tad under-ripe.
All in all, the Full Moon Foodies dinner was an amazing experience. Food enthusiasts and professionals gathering together to enjoy good food, make new discoveries, exchange ideas and just have fun is a wonderful concept. A giant thanks to Wes and Brendan for being such gracious hosts and putting together a delicious vegetarian meal!
I can only hope I am lucky enough to be invited back for another Full Moon Foodies Dinner!