For a chef, stepping outside the comfort zone to dine at a space that is hailed as one of the world's best restaurants can be both exhilarating and unsettling. There is a certain truth to the question chefs get all the time: "Are you super critical of food when you go out to eat?" There are two answers. I am not when I am dining where I know what I'm going to get. I am, when there is an enormous amount of hype about said meal. It's like going to meet your idol: what if they're an ass? I can safely say that was not the case last month when dining at Eleven Madison Park in New York City.
This is not a tribute menu to that meal, nor was it meant in any way to mimic a technique or style. Simply put, this was the first Chef's Table after having eaten at EMP. And, between the always pristine produce of Haskell's SIW Farms, just-out-of-the-water seafood and the double digit courses from my New York experience, it became a meal based on inspiration.
THE CHEF’S TABLE
UNIVERSITY and WHIST CLUB
JULY 21, 2012
Mumm Cordon Rouge, Brut NV
Warm corn fritter with corn "butter" and baby basil. Like the "grid" used to choose courses at EMP, I wanted the individual items to focus on only one ingredient and really sing. The bi-colored corn from Haskell's was sticky with sugar when husked.
RABBIT TENDERLOIN and FIG
CRISP NORI, SOY GLAZE
Imagine the sweetness of fresh water eel; rabbit was wrapped in nori with fig jam and seared. Sweetened soy and micro beet greens bridge the flavors
CAVIAR SAMPLING, SHAVED KOHLRABI
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, 2009
I've been doing a variation of a sashimi in this manner. I don't like to duplicate Chef's Table dishes, but when the quality of fish is so superior, it's hard to treat the fish any other way. Here three types of tobiko, and one of our own: persimmon-yuzu beads had all the pop and salt of a real caviar, but with a burst of citrus.
COLD WATER LOBSTER
HIJIKI SALAD, CELERY HEARTS,
Talbott, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, 2010
Far tastier than it photographed, a sous-vide lobster tail is placed atop hijiki seaweed seasoned with sesame and lotus; braised celery hearts hide beneath, adding a mellow curry flavor, and a reduced lobster stock is emulsified and spooned over the completed dish. The oak on the wine was subtle, but just enough to grab the nuttiness of the seaweed.
PIMM’S CUP AND GINGER
One of several inspirations from our dinner was this intermezzo based on a cocktail. It contained the French spirit "Suze" (largely unavailable in the US) with Italian bitters, ginger and mint. Our version was made with Pimm's Cup, cucumber water, fresh ginger and orange bitters. Remarkably floral and refreshing.
APRICOT, FOIE GRAS, WHIPPED POTATO
Marchesi Antinori Badia a Passignano Riserva,
Chianti Classico, 2006
Seared breast of duck with apricot glaze; torchon of foie gras, fava bean and foie gras whipped potatoes. Toasted lemon thyme and fennel seed crust. If I never have the lavender honey duck at EMP again, I'll always have this dish to remember it by.
“SIW FARMS” TOMATOES AND WARM MOZZARELLA
MELON CARPACCIO, SMOKED TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
So, what's so special about a caprese salad? When the mozzarella is made moments before it's served (and still warm), followed by heirloom toybox varietal tomatoes, sweet melon and smoked tomato vinaigrette, it becomes special.
“DANCE OF THE SUGARPLUMS”
PLUM TARTLET, BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM
Moet et Chandon, Imperial, N.V.
SIW Farms comes through again with sugar plums and figs, layered in buttery, rich pastry with a scoop of buttermilk ice cream (hiding) and cinnamon tuile. Served warm, naturally.
HAZELNUT ROCHER, STRAWBERRY COOKIE
Next Month: A Tribute to Julia Child
August 15 will have been Julia's 100th Birthday. We'll be creating a special Chef's Table menu that pays tribute to the dishes and cuisine Julia popularized in her books and television cooking appearances.