When we first met chef Kevin Nashan after arriving in St. Louis we knew that he would become an integral person to us in the local food community. He is so vibrant, full of passion for creating delicious food, and just having a great time while doing it. His two highly successful restaurants in town, Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker, have become inspiring spots for Michael and I. So it was a no-brainer when we got together that at some point we needed to cook together.
After brainstorming for months, we all felt that the beautiful urban garden that SSC has created (and just so happens to be in their parking lot) would make for a very cool and one-of-a-kind setting for an evening of al fresco dining celebrating the best of what's around us. Kevin threw out that he wanted to build some fire pits, which was right up our alley, so we knew we were on to something good.
The way the entire Urban Garden Dinner came together was truly special, and the creativity put forth by Kevin and his team in building a series of wood-fired ovens blew us away. We kicked off the evening with snacks prepared by the chefs at the various grill stations, including fresh and grilled oysters, grilled pita and spit roasted duck, white asparagus gazpacho with trout roe, and tomato tartare topped with lardo. It was a hot evening so we refreshed everybody with sangria (a Nashan family recipe!), a chamomile gin and tonic, and vinho verde.
Guests sat down for dinner at communal tables dressed with flowers and herbs from the garden. Michael prepared the first course, a salad that celebrated the best of local fruits and vegetables like strawberries, peas, squash, garlic scapes, and rhubarb with buratta and pistachios. Kevin and crew served the most beautiful spring paella, cooked over a fire pit, topped with crawfish, rabbit sausage and a bounty of peas. Sides of oven grilled asparagus and ramps were shared family style.
The night concluded with fermented strawberry snow cones and a liquid nitrogen ice cream station, manned by pastry chef Bob Zugmaier, where he dipped an umami mushroom ice cream in a chocolate magic shell. The perfect ending to a perfect night!