Nugget chef orchestrates symphony of flavors
As a sophomore at Carson High School, Nick DeMagistris hit one of those crossroads moments, the full import of which isn’t apparent until years later.
The photography class he wanted to take was full.
The culinary class had an opening.
And with that, DeMagistris found himself on a path that would lead from Penny Reynold’s culinary program at CHS, to the kitchen at B’Sghetti’s, to culinary arts degrees from Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, from which he graduated in 2006.
After working in restaurants in Boston, Florida and most recently as a chef de cuisine in Chicago, DeMagistris, 24, has ended up back in Carson City as the Carson Nugget’s new food and beverage manager and chef.
“The Chicago economy got really horrible – it’s predicted 60 percent of restaurants were going to close,” DeMagistris said of the circumstances that brought him home. “I decided to come back and be with my family, regroup.”
One of the first challenges for the 24-year-old chef with “Balance” tattooed on one arm and Hawaiian images on the other was to plan and execute a six-course winemaker dinner with Madrona Vineyards of Eldorado County, Calif.
DeMagistris greeted guests at that May dinner with a quote: “A menu is not a moment of inspiration, as a single dish might be … it’s not a single song but rather the entire concert.”
Those six courses, planned and executed with DeMagistris as the conductor, were a concert of flavors, presented with flourishes of artistry:
Maine lobster with polenta and a dab of exquisite blackberry reduction. Mild and tender venison with organic lettuces in a key-lime emulsion. (At least two diners that night had to resist the temptation to pick up the venison bone and gnaw it to extract the last flavorful bit.)
A trio of sorbet. Delicate towers of pan-seared halibut on brioche flavored with mango and topped with ribbons of candied rhubarb.
Tenderloin with whipped potatoes made with white truffle oil and chard that achieved the impossible: made a roomful of people love chard. A vanilla spice cheesecake with berries, micro-mint buds and pulled caramel “strings,” almost – almost – too pretty to eat.
Each dish was accompanied by a selection from the boutique winery Madrona, and owners Paul and Maggie Bush circulated the room, adding information about the wines.
It was a bravura performance, and one that DeMagistris hopes to top later this month with the next wine pairing dinner featuring J. Lohr wines from Napa Valley. This event will be a benefit for Relay for Life, which raises money for cancer research.
Despite the reminder – Balance – tattooed on his arm, putting together a dinner of that complexity takes hundreds of hours for DeMagistris and the Nugget staff.
Figuring out for each course, “how can I make this dish taste amazing, look amazing, is probably 12 hours of just thinking about it,” DeMagistris said.
There will be seven courses June 29. But DeMagistris takes it all in stride, with the aloha spirit that his other tattoos keep top of mind.
“Seeing the gratification on everybody’s face – they don’t need to know how many hours the staff and I put in to get there. I can work 100 hours a week and as long as somebody’s smiling at the end of the day, Hey, it’s easy. It’s a cakewalk.”
Here are two of Carson Nugget Chef Nick DeMagistris’s favorite ingredients to work with:
White truffle oil: “adds just a hint of something else, it doesn’t take away from the dish. It adds a different depth to your meal and brings out other key flavors.”
Flavored rum: “Splash a little flavored rum into salsas, whether pico de gallo or fruit salsa.” Try Bacardi limon in pico de gallo or mango-flavored rum in fruit salsa. “It just adds a little something else in there, a subtle taste.”
IF YOU GO
Carson Nugget Wine pairing dinner
The Carson Nugget’s next wine pairing dinner, featuring J. Lohr Winery, will be held 5 p.m. Monday, June 29. The cost is $70, a portion of which goes to support Relay for Life.
Only a few seats remain; early reservations are recommended. The next dinner is July 27.
For details or reservations, call 882-1626 ext. 209.
First Course: Roasted New England Crab Cakes, grilled radicchio and frissee, aioli three ways; lemon-thyme, chipotle-peach, and grapefruit-mint served with 2007 “Carols Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc”
Second Course: Pan Seared Ostrich Filet, potatoes mousseline, house made cran-cherry marmalade, crispy carrot “strings,” living red “kaiware” served with 2006 “Wild Flower Valdiguie”
Third Course: Seared Ahi Tuna, organic greens, “constellation greens”, cilantro vinaigrette, sunflower seeds, marinated pineapple, spiced cantaloupe, wontons “chiffonade” served with 2007 “Bay Mist White Riesling”
Fourth Course: Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope Rack with herb & spice crust, fingerling potatoes, porcini melange cream, blackberry & plum compote, red currants served with 2006 “Paso Robles Merlot”
Fifth Course: Encrusted Chilean Sea Bass with cilantro & asiago crust, bell pepper coulis, nectarine and mint risotto, French micros served with 2006 “Arroyo Vista Estates Chardonnay”
Sixth Course: Applewood & Cinnamon Smoked Black Angus Sirloin dry aged angus, celery root puree’, sweet garlic & tarragon compound butter, frisee’ and arugula mix, cherry vinaigrette served with 2002 “Carols Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon”
Seventh Course: Semi-sweet Dutch Chocolate Amaretto Mousse Orange suprême, peach creme anglaise, organic “borage tops” served with 2006 “Late Harvest White Riesling”