It was the perfect evening for a taste of Alaska, as snow was falling all over the Greater Los Angeles area. The new culinary series, Dinner With Dres, a year of intimate rooftop pop-up dining experiences that appear and vanish in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, hosted by chef Andres Dangond, kicked off with an eight-course “Within the Wild” wine-paired dinner in the Sky Lounge overlooking South Park last week.
Dangond, best known for his award-winning food truck Cut, apprenticed under three-Michelin-starred Alinea chef Grant Achatz. For this evening, he created a menu inspired by the lush blueberry fields, glaciers and smoky alder he encountered during his four months working in a remote lodge resort in Alaska and an Into the Wild–type expedition that took him from Wolverine Ridge to the elusive Mint Hut and the wild blueberries he picked on his way to Denali National Park.
The first course was Dangond’s Sea-Bitch, a fresh halibut ceviche with jicama and lime, celery leche de tigre, serrano chili oil and cilantro, paired with an Arnaud Lambert Saumur Blanc, followed by All Hail Chinook. The Alaskan king salmon was slowly poached in olive oil to mimic the buttery texture of wild-caught salmon, served with smoked beets, pickled kumquat, goat cream, burnt hazelnuts and fried capers.
A favorite memory of the chef’s personal journey became a feast for the eyes and stomach, as nights of star-gazing in Alaska were transformed into green star fruit with powdered chorizo, yellow pea shoots, crispy coconut flakes, South American loroco flower and dots of pine bud syrup.
“After three months of constant summer and light, it finally became dark and we just laid on our backs on the grass watching the shooting stars,” Dangond said. “There’s no visual pollution to distract you, just clear skies with billions and billions of stars and satellites. This dish reminds me of that moment.”
There was a Piedmontese dry-aged steak prepared with fanfare outdoors on a Lynx Grill and a alder-smoked mushroom consommé with matsutake and wild rice, inspired by cold mornings of gathering alder wood for the fire, paired with a delightful Spanish Blue Label Juan Gil.
Dangond's last bit of artwork, dessert, was drawn from flashbacks of his treks through the infinite valleys of wild blueberry thickets in Denali National Park. Nestled in a green nest, it was a bowl of wild blueberries and blue cheesecake foam over graham cracker crumbs, topped with a root beer granita. Memories of the clouds and the dew on the muddy berries inspired the root beer granita.
Check iamdres.com for upcoming dates. It’s a reasonable experience at about $130 per person for seven to eight courses with wine pairings, depending on the dinner, and an intimate experience for couples and singles, with friendly course-by-course curation by the chef. The June and August dinners will have an “Eyes Wide Open” theme: iamdres.com/menu3