This is the dinner culmination of the previous prep post. I wanted to meticulously put each plate together during the dinner, possibly assembling one extra plate for each course, moving it aside for a flattering staged photo... didn't work out that way. Just like most dinner services go, there was a bit of scrambling and playing photographer fell way down my list of priorities. I did, however manage to squeeze a few off.
We also had a conversation amongst ourselves about new techniques in a restaurant situation. We push ourselves into learning new things everyday. We tweak and research and fail and tweak and hopefully we get the end result that we were looking for. Then what? The real challenge comes with delivering that idea to the guest. To do that consistently and with quality is not as easy. There are many pictures of nice cutting edge dishes all over the internet. Even on Mosaic, there are some members in the forums who admit that they are home cooks, and can actually pull off some of these techniques and make them work. So can we. To do that in reality is an entirely different story. It's do or die in one moment... not working 3 hours to stage one photo... and not one plate, but however many are required to feed the dining room... all perfectly the same... it's a bit more difficult. We feel good about the food we put out, but know more than anyone else just how much further we must go. This road has no end... just little rest areas with a restroom and a soda machine, and if we're lucky, a Pizza Hut and a Starbucks. Refuel and go!
The dinner we just did allowed us a chance to put forward some of the ideas the were for us, previously just ideas. We are trying hard to take them into the practical world of our hotel kitchen reality and walk them around the block. The following pics and quips will hopefully offer some dim idea of how the dinner went...
This was the first practical application of the methocel batter concept. It was a culmination of two of the most popular ways of consuming shrimp in New Orleans... bbq and fried. The methocel was used to create a batter made of bbq shrimp sauce... in N. O., that means (not grilled, but) sauteed shell-on shrimp cooked in a sauce of worcestershire, hot sauce, and butter. Other spices are added, and I personally love it when there is rosemary and laurel in the sauce. That was the purpose of the clipped herbs. We torched them lightly before they went out to release the aromatics. Aroma as a plate element is not something we utilize very much, but it seemed appropriate for this amuse bouche. We joke in New Orleans that if you get a really good bbq shrimp, you throw the shrimp out and dip french bread in the sauce... not possible with this rendition.
We are still refining our salmon. King was brought in fresh for this. Butchered and spice brined. Bagged with grilled peanut oil and cooked at 48C. A beautiful fish that didn't need much else. Soy caviar and toasted peanut on top. Brown jasmine rice with daikon seed, baby garbonzo, wheat berry, and Calrose sat in a small puddle of miso dashi. Fresh micro cilantro and shiso from Homestead finished it. This is a dish that we can fully pull off with consistency and confidence.
This was a plate we had very little to do with... just let nature and the work of the Spaniards shine. We used a jamon Iberico from Fermin. It's simply topped with shaved honeydew confit, and toasted almond microplaned at the last second. Easy.
This next picture is a little rough...
We were building a version of carbonara pasta. The 62C egg on the side, the pea dots, the herbed pasta rag folded over, pancetta powder, and an orb of alfredo cream. The orb here is what killed the execution. I used reverse spherification to create hot orbs of alfredo sauce that would sit on top of pasta... only to be pierced and broken by the diner... only most of these decided they couldn't wait that long. This is a great example of what I was speaking of earlier. I put this together in advance, ran trials, and carefully and repeatedly kept checking on these the entire time leading to dish-up. Low and behold, it was in vain because the end result at the table fell short of the intended delivery. We failed on this one (or at least I did). I'm analyzing that this is an equipment failure more than anything. The recipe was good. The additives did their job. I just think that instead of having to rely on an ice cream scoop and clumsy kitchen spoons to handle the delicate orbs, some nice molds and slicker utensils would have helped to achieve success. A frozen molded demi-sphere of alfredo would have had a much more sound casing than the ragged edged balls I was scooping by hand. Oh well... next time, Gadget... next time!!!!
Another crude pic...
This was duck reformed into the shape of petite filet mignon. I love the traditional concept of this dish. It bucks tradition while simultaneously acts as a tribute to tradition. The orange is carrot l'orange (carrot juice and orange oil set with agar agar and blended smooth). The cubes are truffled potatoes cooked at 83C... perfection! I would alter this presentation a bit... maybe utilize some nice duck thigh meat instead of the breast. Other than that... I loved it.
And some dessert (or half sweet/half savory dishes).
We did a 'southern salad' which was the 2nd rendition of this idea for us. We used to do a dessert then mignardise at the end of a meal. The result was that 99% of the time, the diners would get up from exhaustion and walk around completely ignoring the mignardise, or the waitstaff wouldn't even bring it out because more than half of the guests were no longer seated. Our solution (for now) is to utilize the French style service of presenting a salad after the entre. We have garnered a new approach to this by making the salad a stepping stone towards dessert. We include some sweetness (in this case, sweet grits cooked at 83C), and other elements such as bitter greens, fatty cracklin's (or my quacklin's made from duck skin), and also (in this case again) a pecan breaded frog leg.
The salad step leads forward into another stepping stone... the dessert intermezzo. Shades of sugar.
This is just one version of Fabian's sweet caprese dishes. Although I cannot remember all the elements, he has a tomato marmalade, cheese flan, basil ice cream, and chocolate balsamic. A little micro basil is tossed with grapeseed oil. The intermezzo then leads into a more traditional dessert... or the point where we go fully sweet.
This shot was taken before the yuzu ice cream and tuiles went on. The strange thing is that every single person that we talked to raved about the little chocolate candy stuck to the side of the bowl... and I cannot even completely tell you what it is. The rest of the dessert is a smoked chocolate 'cube' sitting above a berry and tomato gazpacho. Good flavors.
Little did any of the guest in the room know that the really great food was being eaten in the kitchen... Chef K managed to finally (after almost 3 years of trying) get in about 40 pounds of live Louisiana crawfish (at least for a reasonable price). Big Mike hooked them up good and spicy with smoked sausage, cob corn, potatoes. I literally had to pick up Mike's feet and check them for Zatarain's because I know he stuck his foot in that pot! It was like addiction setting in after a few years of rehab. Once I started eating, I could literally not stop. I was chomping on the tail meat and sucking the fat out of every crawfish head... the sight of us all standing around the pot was like a pack of hounds sucking at the teets of the mother crawfish. My lips were on fire with capsicum, and my eyes rolled back in my head as my coon-ass fingers went into auto-pilot mode for peeling crawfish.