In December, Mike Lata, chef and co-owner of FIG, traveled to New York and cooked a Lowcountry-style dinner at Aldea, the acclaimed restaurant of George Mendes, a first-generation Portugese-American who has been getting a ton of recognition for his cutting-edge Mediterranean food.
Lata and Mendes were introduced by mutual friends Michael and Heather Laiskonis (she’s the general manager of Aldea and he’s the pastry chef at Le Bernardin), and they hit it off immediately thanks to some shared sensibilities.
At his Flatiron District restaurant, Mendes makes things like arroz de pato, which Alan Richman describes in GQ as “a kind of paella but with duck cracklings, socarrat (pan scrapings), duck confit, chorizo, a scattering of olives, and rare duck breast.” New York Magazine praises Mendes’ “spare, deceptively simple Spanish recipes, like crunchy pigs’ ears tossed with apples.”
And Charlestonians should thank their lucky stars, or at least thank Mike Lata, for bringing this guy to town for a special evening at FIG. On Sunday, Mendes will be taking over Lata’s kitchen and preparing his own brand of fare. The evening begins with a cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m. for which Lata will prepare hors d’oeuvres. Then, at 7:30 p.m. guests will feast on Chef Mendes’ four-course, prix fixe, Portuguese-inspired dinner with wine pairings.
KITCHEN SWAP MENU
Shrimp “Alhinho”: garlic, pimenton, coriander, pressed jus
Wine Pairing: Esporao Verdelho 2008
Bacalao Confit: stew of early spring vegetables, golden saffron broth
Wine Pairing: Esporao Reserva White 2008
“Arroz de Pato”: duck confit, chorizo, black olive, duck cracklins’
Wine Pairing: Defesa Red 2008 & Esporao Reserva Red 2007
Gianduja Chocolate Parfait: banana tarte, cinnamon ice cream