Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall Tasting 09: The Dishes

I'm getting much more comfortable with these elaborate meals, and I now view every dish as a potential menu item when we start serving regular dinners. My main purpose is still to show fun and great food to folks in our area since we have slim pickins (see previous rant).

When I design tasting menus, progression/transition is the foremost thought on my mind. I regularly will have 20-30 more ideas than end up on the menu because they just don't fill a slot in the progression. And its also very important to me to find the right home, the right hosts, the right dishes, make the meal perfect. This meal was the closest I've come to what I was shooting for. I'll point out the weaknesses as I describe the dishes.

Not really a course, but I made purple potato chips sprinkled with vanilla powder and asparagus dust for folks as they gathered.

For the dramatic beginning, I modified a technique of Achatz. When guests arrived the tables were dressed only in white cloth with one spoon and one water glass. Then, in silence, I had the staff roll black vinyl sheets on to the table creating a stark black table top. Next, another staff walked out with one set of items (enough for everyone at the table) and I told staff to think Jackson Pollock and to simply place the item on the table in a way that makes them happy. Staff processed one by one adding items until all of the items were on the table. Finally I walked out and wrote in olive oil jam "Welcome" and "Fall." On one table I added "Happy birthday" for a birthday boy. The finished product was stunning.

I'll try to remember everything that we put on the table. The idea was that this would be their menu - each item eluding to something later to come.

In the foreground was a shot of Hacienda de Chihuahua dos años sotol tequila - possibly the best tequila I've ever tasted. Above that are organic local rose petals and local bee pollen. The whitish balls are lemongrass/coconut croquettes. The semi-transluscent pouch is a rosewater leather pouch filled with Jade Pearl Green rice that I puffed. I added dried cherries.

Continuing on...the brownish things below are salmon skin cracklin', to the right in a large geleé of cucumber topped with squid ink and bottarga.

Somewhere else in the picture is a terrine of yuzu macerated melon, sunchoke chips with curry, and manchego puffs.

And while it has been done to death elsewhere, I was safe in guessing that carbonated grapes would be making their inaugural debut in Silver City.

Alright - enough messing around. Time for some real food! Sunchoke soup with sweet potato gnocchi finished in browned butter with roasted pumpkin paper. Drizzled on were parsley oil and lapsong souchong oil. (Sorry for the bad pic) This was also the debut of my new lotus dish.

This was a chance for me to play with my new toy.

18 feet of continuous sweet potato strip!

I also made roasted pumpkin paper which I then ran through my computer printer with edible ink to print a poem - then forgot to get a picture of it.

Next was a variation on my previous avocado dish. This time we only served half a dipped the bottom in the coating. It was served on a basket of fried carrot threads, pork hibiscus adobo, and drizzled with prickly pear tuna tequila sauce. The sauce could have used a little thickening.

A while back I made a hot chocolate (more savory than sweet) with a salmon marshmallow which was surprisingly good. I re-envisioned that combination here with salmon crudo set in cocoa geleé with yellow tomato, goat cheese, red bell pepper, cucumber and mango. That was all set on top of a purple potato pedestal and savory lemon pudding.

For a bit more fish I had fresh hamachi flown in.

My fish processing skills need some work, but I managed to get some nice fillet off of this beautiful fish. That resulted in a pan seared hamachi set in pineapple broth, with muscat soaked melon and garnished with a purple seaweed/salt.

And finally the dish that inspired the whole meal - rabbit leg tempura. I sous vide cooked the rabbit legs for 10 hours, then finished with a quick tempura fry. These were set on top of a basket of fried carrot threads with banana pudding and banana foam, parsley and carrot dust and fried pumpkin seeds.

Some of you might not enjoy seeing this but...

The rabbits were harvested on Friday morning and and I processed them on Friday night. I had never done this before and became quite proficient at maximizing the meat, especially the long, tender loin. You can see in this pic how tired I was on Friday night.

And the final entree: Rabbit vin jaune, Israeli cous cous and fried shredded rabbit. The sauce is morel with vin jaune wine.

Now to slow things down and refresh the mouth a bit of cucumber sorbet served with tempura fried prickly pear tuna and black currant paper.

Our first dessert was a combination of salted coconut lime stick rice, chilled melon balls and necatarine basil compote.

And finally, two chocolate mousse - one flavored with my nocino liqueur and the other with Kahlua, and decorated with pistachio flags.

And that's that. Another meal under our belt and I think one of the better progressions. I hope our guests enjoyed.

BTW, just for Larry and Mark - here's one more toy that I bought for the dinner:

Dual tank, digitally controlled water bath - a great eBay purchase.


Manggy said...

Another fantastic meal, Rob, though I think "meal" hardly communicates how out-of-this-world it is. For some reason, though, I'm imagining the first exercise was done in complete, creepy silence. Don't know why :)

Also am completely jealous of your rotary cutter again: I've had it in my dreams since I bought a back issue of Food Arts that described an inside-out apple strudel. I'm sure you can figure out what they did to it but I can mail it to you if you like :)

Well done with the ebay purchase. I immediately rushed to the site to see how much they went for and they were pretty reasonable, surprisingly! Though you bought this "for the dinner" I'm sure it will keep you happy for years to come. Maybe you'll cook through Under Pressure!

Tri2Cook said...

Awesome job Rob. Really nice and, and please take this as a compliment because that's the intent, I can tell you're becoming more comfy with these events. The food has always looked great but your roundup post sounds much more relaxed. In some of the earlier events there was a bit of an air of just how challenging it was to pull off. This is your most elaborate dinner yet and your description sounds completely relaxed. Like you really had a lot of fun and are happy with how things went.

I'm jealous of the entire event. It would be awesome to attend one or try doing one myself but there will be no trips or extra time for me anytime soon. The new job has been sucking up 11 - 12 hours a day plus trying to keep up with the catering stuff so I've pretty much fenced myself in for a while.

I'm also extremely jealous over that cutter and the water bath. I'm seriously considering a water bath for myself but can't really justify the cutter right now, there are a few other things I need/want more at this point.

Ron said...


The Japanese would say Gochisou sama (what a feast!) It sounds stilited in English, but it was truly a feast. The Japanese also have the notion of people being designated as national treasures. You are making a huge difference in Silver and are on your way to that designation too. The imagination and energy you bring to the table are formidable - the result seems to be always interesting. Thanks a lot for the huge effort and great results.

Gfron1 said...

Thanks guys. This was definitely a fun meal to prepare. In my old Sport Psychology days, we call this achieving efficacy - when skill and confidence align. That's when flow happens or at least a lot of fun. So Mark - the rotary cutter - they normally go for $1200, I got mine for under $500. Still a lot, but a great value. The water bath was great, but I can already see that its size will be limiting. But the digital control was super duper! And thanks Ron...I love mystery commenters. Since you said "Silver" that tells me you're from here. I really can't wait to be doing nightly dinners - not this elaborate, but something a bit more cutting edge than enchiladas and salmon fillets.

racheld said...

Oh, Dear Lord!!

I cannot imagine the imagination it took.

And I, on the contrary, was visualizing the table draping and arranging set to a particularly invigorating "Thus spake . . ."

I tell you what, Hon---you may have accomplished what myriad teachers, numerous relatives, and several bouts of laryngitis have not attained: I have no words.

Gfron1 said...

Comments like that will get you free tickets if you get your booty over here!

casey said...