Cedar Rapids’ Cobble Hill visits Pullman for Corridor Mash-Up

On Monday, May 9, Pullman Bar & Diner hosted the first Cobble Hill + Pullman Corridor Mash-Up. The sold-out event featured meals and cocktails prepared by the staff at both restaurants, and, thankfully, this will not be the last time the two restaurants will work together. On Wednesday, May 25, Cobble Hill returns the hospitality, hosting the second Mash-Up. If the first event is any indication, you’ll want to snatch up tickets ASAP.

Designed to unite two eastern Iowa restaurants with diverging but complementary aesthetics, “in celebration of each other’s talents and crafts,” the first Mash-Up event saw Pullman’s executive chef Sepehr Sadrzadeh and chef-partner Ben Smart, and their staff, collaborating with Cobble Hill’s chef-owner Andy Schumacher, and members of his staff, in a 5-course food and beverage pairing that showcased local, seasonal ingredients in masterful and inventive preparations. The menu featured cocktails made by both restaurants, in addition to beer from Big Grove Brewery.

As any dinner party should, the event began with a refreshing beverage created by Pullman’s bar staff; the gin, ginger, elderflower and cucumber cocktail reminded guests that we’re in the peak of spring, despite the chilly rain outdoors. The chefs from each restaurant alternated the courses that followed, highlighting the specific styles and strengths of each. Though each restaurant was responsible for individual courses, a sense of community and collaboration emanated from Pullman’s small, open kitchen; watching Schumacher, Sadrzadeh, Smart and their assistants plate, shake, garnish, pour and finish was an inspiration and a reminder of the importance of supporting and working with one’s neighbors, and the food sang with the essence of community and love.

Schumacher began the meal with house-cured paleta ham, similar to prosciutto but a bit more richly textured. Cobble Hill’s house-cured meats are always praiseworthy, and this was no exception. The thinly sliced meat was garnished with simple dollops and bits of egg yolk jam, pickled ramps, ramp cream, shaved raw asparagus and crumbled hazelnut, served alongside a Cobble Hill cocktail featuring sparkling rosé, Campari and Aperol. Each bite of ham, combined with the different flavors and textures of the varied accoutrements, was buoyed by the cleansing, slightly bitter bubbles of the cocktail, starting the night off on a sublime note.

Sadrzadeh and Smart continued the collaborative culinary symphony with their second course of smoked salmon “candy,” garnished with stinging nettles, smoked salmon roe and a panoply of baby vegetables grown locally and provided to Pullman by Green Share LLC, an eastern Iowa collective of food producers. The plate’s bright colors burst with delicate, balanced flavors and subtle textures, continuing the theme of springtime’s bounty and beauty.

Photo by Tim Taranto
Photo by Tim Taranto

The middle course, created by Schumacher, was a simple dish of gnocchi and morels served in parchment. As each paper packet arrived, diners unfolded the creased edges to release the earthy aroma of morels and butter, which filled the room with a delicate, seductive funk. Servers then garnished the plates with sliced sugar snap peas and chive blossoms, balancing the depth of the morels and offsetting the pillowy bite of the gnocchi in a truly awe-inspiring combination. Sadrzadeh and Smart finished off the savory portion of the menu with a trio of Pavelka’s Point lamb. A perfectly cooked loin chop was flanked by unfailingly tender lamb shank pavé and house-made merguez sausage, which mingled with smoked carrot hummus, green olives and preserved lemon in the sort of alchemical combination of flavors achieved by the best dishes — or, as my charismatic neighbor at the bar said, “I always like that lil’ ‘oh, how YOU doin’?’ on a plate.”

Schumacher’s dessert, a hat-tip to Denmark’s René Redzepi, a pioneer of the locavore movement, featured ice cream made with spruce needles gathered from Cedar Rapids’ Brucemore Mansion, set atop an array of blueberry preparations, including blueberry crème fraîche and densely purple blueberry cake. The subtle sweetness of the ice cream was supported and enhanced by the closing cocktail, a Pullman feature that blends Uncle Val’s gin with local honey and rhubarb.

Tickets are now available for part two of the Cobble Hill + Pullman Mash-Up, Wednesday, May 25 at 6:30 p.m. The event will take place at Cobble Hill, 219 2nd St., Cedar Rapids, and will feature beer from Lion Bridge Brewing Company.

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