Adventurous and approachable
photography by George Culver
Names can be deceiving. The setting of our latest Secret Supper, held in June, was Esoteric, but the three-course meal by executive chef Brett McDaniel, at left, and his team was exceedingly approachable, featuring game fowl, root vegetables and a dessert that seemed simple but left us craving more.
The restaurant, owned by Kristina and Tim Chastain, has been in business in Virginia Beach’s ViBe district for four years, earning a reputation for its adventurous dishes and impressive selection of hard-to-get craft beers.
About 25 guests joined us and were immediately treated to a cocktail hour that offered a wide array of charcuterie and cheese, as well as old-fashioneds, Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut and Chateau Palmer Champagne.
It was the perfect setup for what was to come. The chef, a Kempsville native and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, worked for the Cavalier Golf & Yacht Club, and Sonoma Wine Bar & Bistro in Town Center, before joining the staff at Esoteric three years ago. He took over the kitchen in May.
For his supper, sponsored by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Towne Realty Luxury Collection, McDaniel and his staff created an interesting mix of flavors and approaches, pairing each with a craft beer selected to bring out hidden notes.
The first course featured watermelon gazpacho, made by grilling the fruit and blending it with onions, peppers, cucumbers, red wine vinegar and cilantro. The sweet and tart flavors played well with the citrusy scallop ceviche and the peach and burrata salad. The team paired this with an Arcee Gose, a sour beer aged in mead, bourbon and wine barrels from Central State Brewing Co. of Indiana.
The star of the second course was a delicious pretzel-encrusted duck breast, served with roasted fingerling potatoes, root vegetables, and a beer and honey mustard puree with broccolini. To prepare the duck, McDaniel and his team ground up the house pretzel and blended it with flour and bread crumbs. Then they double-breaded the breast and paired it with an IPA mustard puree and sweet plum gastrique. It was tender and savory and fit neatly with Super Hop, an IPA from Baltimore-based Stillwater Artisanal Ales.
We capped off the evening with a scrumptious peaches and cream streusel crumb conceived and prepared by pastry chef Jeremy Wright. The dish, which used rosemary and honey to complement the peach, was paired with a Dreadnut Imperial Porter with coconut and cinnamon from Beach-based Reaver Beach Brewing Co.
It was the perfect ending to an adventurous, but approachable, meal – and it left everyone wishing we could come back the next night and do it all over again.
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