A tasting menu generally makes one think that there will be little food to eat. Having a cook at home may sound like a little too much, well imagine having a 10-course tasting menu prepared at home by three aspiring chefs, oh and of course, in the culinary capital of the world.
french cuisine is known to be as one of the main pillars of modern gastronomy. We all come from different latitudes to enjoy it and learn it, and, sometimes try to reproduce it in our own countries and with our own ingredients.
For the occasion I was no cook, but a guest. Therefore, I was only allowed to participate in the “apéritif”. I hadn't the slightest idea of what to bring since the menu planned for such evening was unknown to the dining party. I asked the hosting chef, then, for either a guideline or simply to give me her choice and I would gladly comply with it. She said then that I could bring white wine and some cheese. Not a traditional cheese platter, since here in France it is mostly served at the end of the meal and not as an opening course. We were rebels, but it didn't matter. It was all about the experience, the fun, and getting together with new people.
All the cooks are in their mid twenties, which means they still have healthy systems which can devour a whole cow if need there'd be. The guests, we were in a wider range, but definitely not as young. However, the evening started in a very cordial manner full of conviviality. We were all eager to taste what our three artists had been working hard to festoon our soirée. The conversation went from culinary to business, to culture, to film making, to common friends, to say the least.
About half an hour into the evening we were called to the table. We didn't know the feast we were about to have. Very serious they came out of the kitchen and explained their dishes one by one together with the pairing they had decided for it. It all started with a salad conformed by a grilled endive, grilled yellow zucchini, cooked beets, spring onions, and a vinaigrette and paired with a cocktail based upon gin, hibiscus, and pepper. Very interesting flavours, fresh, and original, though I would have appreciated a little less bitterness surely provided by the endive. Afterwards, we had a cold cream of peas accompanied by a beef tartare seasoned in a quite original way, since it was Mexican-cuisine inspired. I have to say that both preparations were quite savoury and paired extremely well with the gin beverage we had been served during the first course. It may have been the colors or the textures, but I have to say this was a very well-balanced dish. The guests were all happy, satisfied so far, and willing to continue tasting. Only we didn't know these had only been the starting courses.
Between you and I dear reader, I could have gone directly to the desserts. But, these chefs had worked for hours and hours, and they deserved that we taste it all.
The entrées started parading the dining room with the fourth course of the evening, together with the beers and the pickled preparations which accompanied them proudly. I personally am not a fan of pickles, but I have to say these were all very well achieved and were not aggressive to my taste buds at all. Firstly, we enjoyed a waffled-sandwich with maple syrup and spicy chicken, oven-dried pear chips, and pickled red cabbage. Now we start to struggle, for I want to eat more, but I have to save a bit of space for whatever there is still being plated in the kitchen. So, I decide to be more discrete in my intake, though I was really enjoying my dinner. As the fifth plate enters the room, the guests start expressing ourselves almost purely in interjections. It was a mixture of surprises while researching within our systems.
We were not sure we would be able to finish the re-visited version of a Po'Boy prepared in traditional French baguette. Believe me, this was everything but poor, for it had plenty of textures and flavors that exploded in my mouth. Fresh, creamy, minty. It was like having a fresh summer shellfish salad in a sandwich. As a last “main course” a new plate came along together with its own beer as well, and whilst we were all stuffed, the look of it, and the explanation of the plate made us all desist and fall into the foie-gras filled hamburger with a side of sweet potatoes and an Espelette Pepper Mayonnaise.
I couldn't eat more than half of it, but believe me it was reeeally good. Not only was the foie-gras filled piece of ground steak delicious, but the bun was something that resembled more what my flavor memory looks for when eating the typical fast food preparation, however, I would have appreciated more the typical salted french fries or wedges… just because I am a fan of them -I found the choice of the sweet potato did not work as well as our hard-working chefs had expected.
Finally, a breather came. It seemed that neither more beers nor more salty food would come out of the kitchen. But we SERIOUSLY underestimated our cooks. We were allowed to clean our palates with a mango sorbet accompanied by champagne and a small raspberry. We were all happy. We needed that little freshness. It gave us also a little bit of composure. The last parade was about to begin. Yes, my dear reader, there were more to come. And having a sweet tooth myself, I had to find the force -there was no space left- to continue eating.
Hence, from the kitchen a new plate came out. This time it looked like some kind of tart had been deconstructed. To conform it, the chef used vanilla biscuits, a banana compote, whipped cream, and some crushed nuts. I am no fan of bananas, only when they are a bit green and mostly as a whole. However, I have to say this dessert was a very pleasant surprise for me, it invited me to continue eating it, even in the situation I was facing of difficulty to move, and this was only while sitting on my chair. But not all was lost, there were still plenty of laughs around the table. The conversation had turned to a much less intellectual one, and I have to say it felt like we were all drunk by the amount of ingested food. Nonetheless, we all agreed that it had all been delicious and that we would gladly repeat the experience if we were asked to. Oh innocent souls, there was ANOTHER dessert coming out… this time it was a tart with a rosemary-aromatized dough, a creamy rhubarb filling and decorated with some dry shredded hibiscus, which reminded us for a second about that first sip with gin. It rounded out perfectly. And we were rounded up as well. Hahahaha!
Sadly, there is no picture of that last dessert. I'm sorry, but I ATE IT ALL!
By now, it was almost 2:30 in the morning. We had been eating for hours, and even though we had a marvelous evening, we needed to say our goodbyes hoping to repeat it all again, with a little less amount of food, but equally flavorful.