Cigars, chanchos and churrascos: Cordúas prep for James Beard with beautifulBuen Provecho dinner
Sparkling wine, a sunset hovering over a lake view and some "taconcitas" of ahi tuna with avocado mousse: It's hard for an evening that starts like this to be anything short of exceptional, and the Buen Provecho dinner at Churrascos in Sugar Land was no exception.
In addition to kicking off the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair, the dinner was also a trial run before chefs Michael and David Cordúa head to New York in May to prepare a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House.
The hors d'oeuvres on the (rather warm) patio included a slightly smoky lamb chop with an ahi panca glaze and some impossibly tiny fried chicken wings with a sweet and spicy habanero honey sauce, in addition to the light, fresh taste of the taconcitos.
Once inside, diners were greeted with an Old-Fashioned-style cocktail made with Flor de Cana rum and a classic Nicaraguan chancho (banana leaf included) featuring succulent sous vide pork carnitas, crispy, fluffy chicharrones and slightly sweet chunks of boiled yuca.
The second course was my favorite dish of the evening, a filet of seared salmon with raw yellowtail tuna and diced tomato, served in a broth of of creamy habanero beurre blanc and left a subtle heat behind. It was followed by an impressively bold black bean gumbo with slices of bacon-wrapped quail and fried okra.
It wouldn't be a proper Cordúa event without the churrasco steak that the restaurant made famous, and though I would have preferred my tenderloin with a bit more chimichurri and a little less char, the side of lightly picked cherry tomatoes added a nice ripe flavor into the classic.
Desserts also mixed the classic with the new: Cordúa's class tres leches was in the mix, with a sweet, marshmallow-y layer of whipped cream on top. David Cordúa also showcased an outstanding new recipe for a corn flan, plus classic South American alfajores made with thinner wafers and the addition of cinnamon and chocolate to the dulce de leche in the center.
Afterwards, the crowd headed back to the patio (now a much more appealing temperature) to enjoy more wine or some Hight Cigars.
Buen Provecho wasn't the kind of superlative feast that Killen's post-Beard dinner was, but then again that's the point of a dry run. I have no doubt the Cordúas will make us proud in New York next month.