We recently spent a Friday evening enjoying an amazing dinner pop-up series called Jensen Chronicles, from Chef Jonny Rhodes. What makes this pop-up extra special is how the young, and uber talented Chef Rhodes infuses history, culture, and food preservation to create artistic dishes. Just like the smooth and mellow neo-soul tunes that drape and layer the room during each event! While using mainly local ingredients from within 200 miles of downtown, each dish represents a moment in time, both past, and present. The entire event is dedicated to the flow of art in the concept so much so that the plates the food is served upon (which are designed by Chef Rhodes himself) are handcrafted by local potters.
The dinners are small and intimate with dinner seating a total of eight. This opened the door for socializing and meeting fellow food lovers who were just as excited as we were to progress through each course. First to the table was the flan. Not the dessert version but a savory red beet and black garlic flan placed on a splattered dollop of malted beet milk and golden beet puree; with a pistachio crumble to add a bit of crunch to the dish. This first course showed not only the plating skills of Chef Rhodes but his understanding of the importance of balancing texture which he did perfectly with this course.
With wife Chana Rhodes on hand pairing wine that was offered at an additional price for select courses, they make one hell of a team. Just like our second course consisting of brisket barbacoa surrounded by a wonderfully robust barbecue sauce with a spoon-sized portion of caramelized tomato. The cucumber preserves, reminiscent of a sliced sweet pickle, was the highlight of this dish. Chef Rhodes is a master at preserving just about anything, and this cucumber was just an example of his abilities.
Are we the only ones that get super pumped when a blow torch comes out? Watching Chef Rhodes plate his dishes was a treat in itself. The Gourd Coils (seared summer squash with pickled zucchini, pipian rojo, and candied pecans) was just as exciting to see plated as it was to eat. The pipian rojo, a creamy mole-like sauce of pumpkin seeds and almonds, was the star here. It was the perfect complement to the tender squash. This dish will turn you into a veggie lover for sure!
The Smoked Trout was our favorite course of the evening hands down. This delicate and buttery fish, with its thin layer of crispy skin, seemed to melt in your mouth. Served with bitter greens, kumquat preserves, and fennel paste, this course had us searching the pop-up kitchen in the hopes that we would find an extra plate laying around somewhere. No such luck.
Proving that dessert comes in many forms, Chef Rhodes surprised the entire table with his heirloom tart and green tomato ice cream. This was the biggest surprise of the evening. The tart filling was mildly sweet and with its flaky pastry crust, we didn’t look back as we finished our final course in record time.
Our evening was complete from the food to the company, and the amazing knowledge shared by Chef Rhodes as he presented each course. He is truly a talent.
If you’d like to experience the Jensen Chronicles for yourself, the next one is June 2nd. Click here for ticket information.