I write this while in a full blown food coma (#foodieproblems) with a delightful pain and taste bud/sensory overload, but more over, faced with writer’s dilemma, trying to find a way to describe the past four hours of absolute mastery that just went down at Rogue 24. Long -24 course and 8 drinks- story short, Spike Gjerde had me at hog jowl. Rogue 24 had me upon entrance. What the hell does that mean you ask. Well, in case you have been living under a rock, RJ Cooper’s illustrious Rogue 24 has been debuting Rogue Sessions, a ten week pop-up celebrating some of the nation’s finest chefs as RJ Cooper recovers from heart surgery, with ticket sales benefiting Share Our Strength. It is all a wonderful affair of chef love, community giving, and culinary creativity.
Straight off the press, I was interested in seeing Chef Spike Gjerde go Rogue. His farm-to-table concept in Baltimore, Woodberry Kitchen, is one of my favorite restaurants around, but not the kind of place you find Rogue-esque molecular gastronomy. At Woodberry Kitchen, Chef Spike works closely with farmers and growers throughout the Chesapeake Bay and Mid-Atlantic regions to supply the restaurant with the freshest ingredients available, and brought that local fever to the Rogue Session. Throughout the meal, Chef Spike proved over and over that he could break barriers and remain true to seasonal and local flavors, delivering amazing dishes that were packed with a subtle elegance and charm you would have thought he was working in that space for years.
While it is quite a journey, if not challenge, to sit through a 24 course meal, Chef Spike and the Rogue24 team created a balanced menu, where every bite built up to the next. Your palette is never overwhelmed and textures and presentation vary widely. You are convinced that you just tried the best thing you ever ate, and then on comes the next dish to challenge that notion.
Here are some menu highlights: a twist on baba ghanoush (yogurt, eggplant, benne and sumac), snow hill oyster with fish pepper and pickled ramps, yellow perch with it’s own roe, sunchoke and spelt toast (basically the best fish sandwich made for man), hog jowl on the bone (SERIOUSLY, served on the jowl bone- the use of the whole animal was never so true) served with pickled mustard seeds, brusssels sprouts with malt vinegar, blue cheese and pretzels, oyster root with worcestershire and cabbage shoots, whitmore pig hock with smoke, broth and aromatics, stuffed ham with kale and sweet potato, shabu shabu with short rib, caramelized onions and mushrooms (as fun to eat as it is to pronounce). And that’s just the half of it. For dessert, Chef Gjerde brought one of his Woodberry Kitchen classics, the C.M.P (chocolate, malt ice cream and wet peanuts) to a mini version, which though half the size was twice as good.
Throughout the meal, the drinks were paired perfectly. Fellow WLDC author, Jenn loved the match between the Chiarli lambrusco, with its deep violet bubbles and flavor reminiscent of balsamic vinegar, and the brussels sprouts, while the barbera from Barboursville Vineyard and the claret from Linden has her thinking a trip to Virginia wine country may be in order soon. Dessert in a glass was provided by lead bartender Bryan Tetorakis’s “orris julius” (ok, Jenn’s also a sucker for puns, so the name of the cocktail was a win too) – this frothy floral cocktail made with gin, orange, orris root and brandied apple (plus a bit of nasturtium) transported us to a lovely, delicate, garden of booze.
It is truly remarkable, and honorable, to see what these chefs are doing together. Half Rogue dishes and half new dishes by the guest chef, the kitchen continues to work flawlessly, creating a performance in the middle of the restaurant where various talents come together as one. The beautiful interior space and subtle soundtrack only heighten the overall delight, allowing you to fully loose yourself in the hands of real experts.
You still have a chance to try this culinary journey for yourself. Buy tickets to see Spike keeping it seasonal and going Rogue HERE.