After the last event from Chef Moran, highlighted in our recent piece “On the Backs of Giants”, it was clear to me that these planned, special engagement, “pop-up” extravaganzas were truly special. My friendship with the family (both Gary and Amy) has developed since the opening of their last restaurant. I get to know them better with every bite of food. They graciously gifted me a pair of tickets to the last dinner as a giveaway to one of our fortunate readers. Well, a hearty congratulations to Moriah Maddux, the lucky winner to the Spanish tapas showcase. What follows is a special guest post, with accompanying photos, written by Moriah.
Last night I was invited to eat a five course meal at the Ybor City Wine Bar, prepared by the revered local chef, Gary Moran and his wife. I was very excited to have the opportunity to go, and the event was unforgettable.
Sadly I missed out on the first course, which I’d been told was a delicious soup paired with a glass of Grand Passion wine; I was however, able to start with a very unique appetizer. We were all served a calamari salad with watermelon, olives, and feta. It all went surprisingly well together, a combination of sweetness and a slight crunch from the watermelon, the fresh and tender calamari. The dressing is what brought everything together though. It was an oil and vinegar dressing which tasted minty and was also made with dandelions, which gave the salad a pleasant and slightly bitter taste. This was paired with a glass of Lobetia Chardonnay.
After a delicious start to our meal, we were served what to me was the highlight of the night a braised Spanish onion. It didn’t sound to be particularly fancy, and that’s because it wasn’t meant to be. Gary explained to us that this particular meal is considered poor man’s food. It was even stuffed with the belly of tuna, a part that is often thrown away. But Gary Moran did his best to transform a simple meal into a gourmet one, and I believe he did. When I took my first bite it melted in mouth. The onion was sweet and extremely tender, while the top of the onion was braised and slightly crunchy. The sauce was a creamy artichoke vinaigrette. In addition to the tuna, which was tender and full of flavor, the onion was also stuffed with capers to give the meal the perfect amount of tartness. This meal was served with a glass of Lobetia Tempranillo. This wine a juicy, slightly bitter and tart wine that I thought went great with the meal. I was also impressed when Paul Clear told us that this wine was voted the world’s best organic wine. I couldn’t have been more impressed and was ready to see what else was in store for us.
The next entrée was a pork with a braised milk sauce. The sauce had lemon zest and juice in it which caused the milk to curdle. I never thought that was a good thing but it gave the sauce an incredible texture and flavor that was mild and very complex. It went very well with the pork, which fell apart even when I lightly pressed it with my fork. This was also served with some crispy potato squares and a room temperature salad made with cooked spinach, almond slices, and white raisins. The course was paired with a glass of Campo Marin Garnacha. This wine was more tart and less sweet than the last, and was also very impressive. Finally, we were served dessert! This was a pickle cherry and parsnip flan. The flan was of course cooked to perfection, but it was the sauce that really impressed. It tasted sweet, tart and had a vinegary bite from the pickled cherries, and the parsnip gave it a smoky, earthy flavor. The pairing was a glass of Italy’s Wine Batti Cuore. This (champagne?) was sweet and crisp, cleansing my palette in between bites. I can’t imagine a better end to the meal.Gary’s food was incredible. He now does catering and I’m sure he will continue to impress others in the future. I can’t wait until the next time I get to try his food again