The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

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The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

 

I’m back with another amazing multi course meal to share.  This one is exciting and special, so get ready!  You know I love The VUDE because it’s a great dining experience and you get chefs out of their “environment” and into something new and adventurous.  That’s the way I love to live life, new and adventurous.  Friday night I got a little of both at The VUDE previews Aragona and a Top Chef.

Before we talk about that Top Chef thing (yes, THAT Top Chef), Chef Jason Stratton “set up kitchen” at The VUDE for a sneak peek at his soon to open restaurant Aragona in Downtown Seattle.

Sooner the better if you ask me…

Jason Stratton’s Chef de Cuisine from Spinasse, Carrie Mashaney, will be moving over to Aragona to hold the same title.  AND…

Just announced by Bravo last week…

She’s joining Top Chef: New Orleans for season 11!

Go, Carrie, Go!

I can’t wait to watch her kick some quick-fire challenge butt and represent Seattle in one of my favorite shows!

Tonight, Chefs Jason and Carrie were our top chefs and together with The VUDE put on a meal to remember.  

Let’s EAT!

You probably know the routine by now, but if you’re new here, VUDE dinners begin with a little mix and mingle and cocktails and passed apps before you are seated for dinner.  

So let’s get “passing”…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

First out, a chickpea salmorejo, anchovy, egg, mojama presented in one of my favorite pieces of “kitchen jewelry”, the tasting spoon.

This was a great start to the evening with its subtly sweet and creamy base accented by a delicate crunch.  I considered seconds, but resisted knowing so much more was to come.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Vegetables came out next…

Look mom, I’m eating my veggies!

Fried vegetables with a salsa romesco and some leek ash to finish it off.  I mean, what dish isn’t complete without leek ash?  Don’t we all make this regularly?

NO!

Loved the flavors and crunch in the fried vegetables and the salsa romesco was fantastically fresh and creamy.  I even sopped up some of that leek ash before the plate disappeared.  I hope we see some vegetable ash on Top Chef!  We’re cool like that in Seattle, people.

After a few bites and sips, I had to take a time out and visit the kitchen.  The energy was irresistible.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Chefs were chefing…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Food was frying…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Sauces were plating…

Some serious kitchen action going on, so I let them continue and I continued eating.

Next up, pork belly!  Oh how I love pork belly, and pork belly Aragona style was served perfectly.

Crunchy…

Salty…

Tasty.

My pork belly photo…

Well, let’s just say it was not served perfectly and move on.  You’ll just have to trust me and give it a try when Aragona opens this Fall.

 

As I snacked on the apps and mingled with The VUDE crowd, I sipped an amazing Manzanilla Deliciosa, Valdespino Sherry.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Deliciosa is right!  A superb taste and beautiful scent that didn’t give me the taste I expected and made for interesting conversation with others.

Sipped successfully, my glass joined all the others I’d make use of throughout the night.

Deliciosa and conversation with new friends…

A perfect start to the evening.

 

As the “bell rang” (forks on a wine bottle of course…this IS a food and wine event), we took our seats and awaited our first course.  Chef Jason Stratton introduced the evening, the cuisine and a place called Aragon in Spain.  Jason’s inspiration for Aragona.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

It is very clear that Chef Jason loves the culture and food of Spain.  My excitement to try his wonderful dishes grew as he shared his passion and inspiration behind his new restaurant.

When he was done, I had to go back and take another peek in the kitchen, always an open and welcoming place at The VUDE!

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Sights and smells greeted me as the chefs continued to work on preparation for the evening’s menu.

Chef Jason carefully arranged a crab and chicken wing plate…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Bowls were being filled with family style servings full of color and texture…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

The finishing touches were added to send just the right flavors to the eager diners…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Styled, flavored and ready for their debut, spoons were loving placed and it was almost time to serve and dine!

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Forget family style!  I want a WHOLE bowl!!

 

Having gathered myself and not been chased down the alley for food theft, I returned to my seat as the first dish arrived.

Chicken wing confit, walnut mayonesa and Dungeness crab.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Let’s see…I’ll get the past out of the way first…

I don’t like chicken wings…

I’m not a fan of walnuts, the only nut that doesn’t seem to give me some allergy reaction…

Anything with the term mayo in it makes my stomach turn.

But, I love crab!

I was skeptical, but I’ve become an adventurous eater and I dived in.

YUM YUM is all I can say!

OK, not really, I have more.

A perfectly tender and sweet lump of crab meat that left me wanting more…like a whole bowl more.

A crunchy, tasty chicken wing that I actually really enjoyed.

A mayonesa that added a perfect flavor accent.

Seattle chefs keep turning my “I don’t likes” upside down!

Please keep it up!!

 

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

I’ll tell you about this next dish, but as good as it was, my memory is all about the COLORS in this delightful dish of food art. A food{ie} coloring moment to behold!

Officially it is salpicon, with manila clams, tomato, cucumber, and peppers.

I had no idea what salpicon was, so I got a little help from Wikipedia.  Education time:

Salpicon is preparations of one or more ingredients diced or minced and bound with a sauce or liquid.

Well, that is much more fun to say instead of “I chopped up a bunch of stuff and simmered it in some sauce.”

Salpicon people…

This salpicon equaled lots of love from me!  Fresh, soft, tasty, light.

I should have stolen the bowl when I had a chance.  I could have kept “salpiconing” all night!

 

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Remember this lovely sight?  Officially it is albacore tuna en escabeche, chanterelles, and pimenton.

Unofficially…if was fantastic and another “dislike” turned upside down.

Mushrooms….

Not a fan.  Texture, flavor…just don’t work for me.

After serving up some tuna, sauce, and quite a few of those adorable little shrooms there was nothing left on my plate.  Not a crumb or a mushroom pushed to the side to be found.

Perfect!

 

First 3 dishes from Course “uno” done, it was time to adventure back into the kitchen to see what awaited me and my camera.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Bread, beautiful bread…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Chefs continue to create and sauces and beans simmer as the bread awaits its pairing.

More bowls of colorful deliciousness were in progress and I couldn’t WAIT to taste them.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

 

As I began to make my way back to my seat, I was “color struck” by something a little unexpected.

Shoes!

Yes, shoes…

THESE shoes!

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Chef Jason knows how to rock the red shoes in the kitchen…

Talk about some “kitchen jewelry”!  These are a perfect accessory for any kitchen!

 

OK, back to my seat and food…

A black cod suquet, traditional Catalan fish stew with almonds and cherry tomatoes.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Warm, hearty, fresh and delightful.  I had the last serving and didn’t leave anything left thanks to those beautiful bread slices helping me make the most of every morsel and all of that flavorful sauce.  Perfect for dipping!!

The stew came with a lovely and light salad with toasted garlic.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

My last bite of salad piled high with crunchy garlic.

FANTASTIC.

Sorry to those who spent time with me on Saturday.  I’m quite sure these lovely bites lingered for a while.

Worth it!

SO worth it!!

 

Full yet?

I wasn’t and we weren’t done!

Kitchen stalking again.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Sights.  Sounds. Smells.  All beyond beauty!!

Plating…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Really, that kitchen is like a visual and taste playground.

And, let’s talk about the precision in that playground.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Dishes, ingredients, chefs…

Each with a role in the process.  Working together for a common goal.

Chef Jason has created an amazing team here!  You could just tell by watching.

 

Back to the table, ready to eat…

Arroz seco, spot prawns, peas, and squid ink aioli was the Aragona version of paella.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Beautiful flavors came together for a fantastic dish.  The prawns, sauce and rice fantastic.  The squid ink aioli that looked nothing like squid ink to me and tasted like a dream.

Can I have some more bread to finish off that aioli?

 

And…then… MEAT!!!

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Slow cooked Iberico pork ribs with white beans and turnips to be exact.

The meat on those bones FELL off.

Tender, juicy perfection.

The white beans provided a great contrast in flavors and texture and were a big hit in my book.

Three courses done.  All of them fantastic.

Next, came the much anticipated DESSERT!

Fond memories of Chef Carrie’s dish last weekend at the Seattle Street Food ONO Pop Up Picnic left me anxious to try tonight’s dessert dish featuring her xuxos.

Back to the kitchen for some photo fun while I waited.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Dessert in the making…

Chef Carrie’s xuxos with sheep’s yogurt sorbet and fresh fruit.

I had xuxos at the pop up picnic and found them to be a divine bit of crish and soft, sweet and creamy.

Tonight’s xuxos, fresh from the fryer were beyond description!

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Oh, and by the way xuxos is pronounced Chew Chos.  I didn’t know how to pronounce them last weekend so I called them “hugs and kisses”

xoxo

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

They definitely taste like a big hug and a kiss!

Paired with sheep yogurt sorbet…well, I’m in a passionate xoxo relationship with this dish.

That tangy, sour yogurt flavor in the soft, cold sorbet paired with the sweet, delicate crunch from the xuxos meant instant happiness.

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

Chef Carrie said she’d bring some over next weekend.  I mean how can I live without my new found “hugs and kisses” passion?

Too bad I forgot to give her my address!  I guess I’ll just have to wait until Aragona opens.

And, so will you.

But, go.  As soon as they open.

Go hungry…

Go often…

Feel free to invite me along!  I’ll clear my schedule…

But I won’t share my xuxos!

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

I agree Chef Jason!  Thumbs up to Aragona!!

Want to hear more from Chef Jason?  Check out this great video made just before dinner!  You might learn a few things about him.  I did.  But, I still want to know if there is a story behind the shoes and what his favorite color is!

 

Thanks for “dining” with me!

Until next time…

The VUDE Previews Aragona and a Top Chef

xoxo dreams…

 

Don’t forget to watch Top Chef Season 11 New Orleans and Chef Carrie Mashaney this October on Bravo TV!

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Aragona on Urbanspoon

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