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Found 1,334 results

  1. Thomas Keller's Bouchon just arrived in the mail after 4 weeks delay from Jessica's Biscuits. I'll be cooking from it over the next couple of weeks. Anyone out there care to trade notes on successes and failures? Leek and Potato soup tonight.
  2. A great piece, by Pete Wells, appears in the March 2005 issue of Food & Wine: Brain Food | Grant Achatz =R=
  3. Sometime this week, at an undisclosed location in the city of Chicago, Chef Grant Achatz begins the next leg of his journey to open his new restaurant, Alinea. Grant will christen the 'food lab' where the menu for Alinea will be developed. eGullet will be trailing Grant and his team throughout the process -- not just in the food lab but through every facet of the launch. Over the next six months, we will follow the Alinea team as they discover, develop, design and execute their plan. We'll document behind-the-scenes communications, forwarded directly to us by the Alinea team. We will be on the scene, bringing regular updates to the eGullet community. And Grant will join us in this special Alinea forum to discuss the process of opening Alinea. eGullet members will have the opportunity to ask Grant, and several other members of the Alinea team, questions about the development of the restaurant. A Perfect Pairing? By the time he was 12 years old, Grant Achatz knew that he would someday run his own restaurant. The story of Alinea is the story of Grant's personal development as a chef and a leader. Grant was brought up in a restaurant family. He bypassed a college education in favor of culinary school, after which he ascended rapidly to the position of sous chef for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. In 2001, Grant took the helm of Trio in Evanston, Illinois, which had previously turned out such noted chefs as Gale Gand, Rick Tramanto (Tru) and Shawn McClain (Spring, Green Zebra). In 2003 Grant won the James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef" award, and other prestigious awards followed. By 2004, Grant was recognized as one of the most influential and unique voices on the international culinary scene. In January 2004, Grant met Nick Kokonas, a successful entrepreneur who was so obsessed with haute cuisine that he had traveled the world in search of it. After globe-trekking specifically to eat at such culinary meccas as Alfonso 1890, Taillevent, Arpège, Arzak, and the French Laundry, Nick was in near disbelief when he realized that the "best food in the world was 10 minutes from my house." Nick had not previously consideredbacking a restaurant, even though he has both relatives and friends in the industry. But in Grant, he saw an opportunity to help create something great. Through Grant's cuisine, a bond formed between the two men. So inspired was Nick by Grant's culinary ideas that he returned to Trio almost monthly. Finally, he challenged two of his friends, one from New York and the other from San Francisco, to fly to Chicago and experience Trio. He wanted to prove definitively to his skeptical, coastal buddies that Trio was the best and most important restaurant in the country, assuring them that "if the meal at Trio isn't the best meal you've ever had, I'll pay for your meals and your flights." Nick won his bet: his friends were blown away. Later that night, after service, Grant joined Nick and his guests at their table. The men chatted about a variety of topics and in the '14 wines' haze of the late evening, they discussed Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg's gastronomic memoir. The next day, Grant emailed Nick to ask again about the title of the book they had discussed. Not only did Nick remind him, but, within a few days, sent Grant a copy of Wechsberg's book. A friendship was born. Shortly thereafter, Grant sentNick his business plan for Alinea, sending an email after evening service. By the following morning Nick had read it and replied with his own enthusiastic amendments. With a burgeoning friendship already in place, trust developing between the two men and proof they could work together crystallizing before their eyes, it became clear that they would become a team. Says Grant, "I think most people, in a lot of ways, look for themselves in other people in order to match with and I think to a large degree, the reason why we get along so well is that our personalities align very well." Nick felt the same way. "It's one of those situations where everything just lined up right. I had the interest, I'd started a number of different businesses and I felt like it would be an opportunity to work with someone who I'd get along with very well. I wouldn't want to build a restaurant just to build a restaurant and I doubt I'll ever develop some other restaurant. I think this is the right situation at the right time." Grant adds, "I think we're both very driven and passionate people. So for me, it was about finding someone I could trust, someone that I knew was going to think like me, be as motivated or more motivated than me. Those things were very, very important--and something I hadn't seen--or something I didn't believe in--that I saw in Nick." Nick continues, "I think a lot people come to a chef with their pre-existing vision of the restaurant they want to build. I didn't even want to build a restaurant before I saw his vision, so it wasn't like I was saying 'I'm building this restaurant and I want you to be my chef' -- it was more like 'I think you should build a restaurant, what can I do to help you build it?'" Grant would have the additional supportive backing he'd need and Nick would have another venture -- and one he solidly believed in -- in which to direct his business acumen. It's All About The Container Anyone who's eaten Grant's cuisine at Trio knows that he is intensely concerned with food and the optimal ways to prepare and serve it. His dishes innovate in flavor; they challenge, tease and delight the senses. But Grant is also driven to innovate in service and technique, constantly seeking new vehicles to deliver sensations to the diner. He works closely with a trusted collaborator, Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail in San Diego, CA to create original service pieces for many of his dishes. And as Grant has searched for additional ways to expand the continuity of the dining experience, it has become clear to him that it starts before the diner even gets to the restaurant's front door. According to Grant, "You can pull it back as far as you want. The experience is going to start before someone even picks up the phone to make a reservation to this restaurant. It's going to be about their perceptions; why are they picking up the phone to make a reservation? What did they see? What did they read? What's leading them up to that point? They call to make a reservation, that's another experience. The drive to get to this neighborhood is another experience. The minute they open their door and take one step out of their car, now they're surrounded by another experience." Advancing the functional elements of how food is served is an innate part of the cooking process for Grant, who seeks to render the traditional boundaries of dining obsolete. When asked what he will be able to accomplish at Alinea that he couldn't accomplish at Trio, Grant says, "the obvious is to create the container in which we create the experience. I think that's the very exciting thing for me that I've never been able to have a part in." For Grant, a restaurant's physical space represents the ultimate container and the ultimate personal challenge. The result should break new ground in the world of fine dining. Grant and Nick are intense and competitive. In both their minds, "crafting a complete experience" is the primary focus of Alinea. According to Nick, "the whole idea is to produce an experience where the food lines up with the décor, which lines up with the flow through the restaurant and from the moment you get, literally, to the front door of the place and you walk in, your experience should mirror in some respects--and complement in others--the whole process you're going to go through when you start eating." Grant takes it a step further. "It's about having a central beacon from which everything else emanates and therefore, it's seamless. The whole experience is crafted on one finite point and if everything emanates from that point, then there's no chance that the experience can be interrupted." The search for Alinea's space further reflects not only their shared philosophy but also their separate intensities. Says Nick, "One of the things we felt really strongly about, and we both came to it, was that we wanted it to be a 'stand alone' building because if you're in something else you can't help but take on some of that identity. And it's really difficult to find the right size building in the right kind of location, with the right kind of construction that was suitable for the identity of Alinea." Nick and Grant drove down every street within a chosen geographical band, armed with a giant map and a set of green, yellow and red markers. Once they had found a set of acceptable streets, they asked a realtor to show them every space available on them. "Once we did find the building," says Grant, "whichever space we would have chosen, we would have analyzed and considered each different aspect to provoke a certain emotion, a very controlled emotion depending on how we wanted it arranged. But I also think that we wanted the neighborhood to feel a certain way, the street to feel a certain way. Is it like Michigan Avenue where I have people 4-deep, walking straight down the sidewalk, non-stop, all day and all night or is it more of a tranquil environment outside? All those things were spinning around and once you identify the golden egg, then you have to go find it." While they would probably never admit it, each innovation, each step they take together in building their venture serves as yet another a opportunity for the Alinea team to challenge the restaurant's competitors. Their attention to all the details provides countless opportunities to distinguish Alinea from other restaurants. Here the two men can share in the creation, combining their diverse skills and experiences into a unified and shared vision. Alinea will be their baby. They want it to be the best --not just the best food -- but the best everything. They even want the experience of calling for a reservation to be a memorable one. The Path From Here In that spirit, the Alinea food lab opens this week. Grant refuses to promote even one of his legendary creations to 'signature dish' status. Instead of populating Alinea's menu with previous favorites from Trio or 'trial' dishes that have been only roughly tested, Grant and his team will take six months to devise, develop and perfect the dishes and delivery modes that will appear on Alinea's opening menu. When the idea of maintaining a kitchen staff for six months before the restaurant's opening was presented to its investors, in spite of the additional expense, "it seemed like a no-brainer" according to Nick. Grant is an equity partner--a true chef/owner--in the venture and there is a solid consensus among all the backers about the priority of his vision. * * * * * In addition to being one of today's foremost chefs and culinary innovators, Grant Achatz is a long-time member of eGullet, and a lively, provocative contributor to our discussion forums. Read his March, 2003 eGullet Q&A here. Photos courtesy Alinea eGullet member, yellow_truffle, also contributed to this report
  4. Salut to everyone in the France Forum. Long time reader, infrequent poster to eGullet, I am currently enrolled as a culinary student at le Ferrandi in Paris. Officially known as Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise - Ferrandi. Bux suggested I post about my experience as a student there. A quick summary. Le Ferrandi is a French Ecole, operated by the Paris Chamber of Commerce. The school itself is quite large and along with the culinary programs there are programs in patisserie, boulangerie, catering and hotel management. There are hundreds of French students attending the school and most of them are in their late teens or early twenties. They pay nominal fees, since like most education in France it is almost entirely subsidized by the government. In addition to the French programs there are a number of international programs. I am in a program that is designed for “english speakers.” There are a total of 20 of us, and we are divided into two groups of ten. Some classes are conducted in English, most in a combination of English and French. However in other situations, for example when we are working for the school restaurant, everything is in French. Some of the chefs speak English and the students in our group are meant to be learning French, if we don’t already speak it. Our program is almost identical to what the French culinary students are learning in the first year of their studies (after the first year, a small group of the best students are invited to attend a second year). The program is 1200 hours of classical french cuisine and includes sessions on regional variations, patisserie, boulangerie, charcuterie, and french language and culture. Our weeks generally alternate between pegagogie and production. My French dictionary defines pegagogie as “educational methods.” In pedagogie we tend to work individudally on a specific menu for that day. For example, two weeks ago we spent an entire week on various preparations for rack of lamb. The chef is there to give guidance and instruction, but each student has to prepare the dish alone and present the finished product for evaluation at the end of the session. During production weeks we work the lunch service (occasional dinners) for one of the schools public restaurants. For production we are paired up with one of the groups of French culinary students. Individuals are assigned to stations, garde-manger, viandes, etc. and we work with the French group as a team for service. We have one day of patisserie every week and every other Friday we prepare a special regional menu for ourselves. Last Friday the region was Savoie-Dauphine and there was a very hearty tripe en cocette on the menu. Interesting side note: I read somewhere during my research into culinary schools that the French Culinary Institute in NYC is modeled after le Ferrandi. We started in September and we finish in June, so I am about half-way through the year now. I will do my best to post regularly on what we are doing. a bientot, Lisa
  5. I had indeed read the posts about my "rumored" departure from Trio, and I apoligize for taking so long to address the members of this board. It was important to us however to inform the staff of Trio and other appropriate individuals personnally before announcing the creation of Alinea. The parting of myself and Henry is a mutual one, each of us supporting the others goals. Trio will carry on, and given Henry's track record of successful business and talent picking, the fourth generation of Trio will be another amazing transition, just as the three previous. I suggest we keep the two topics of Aliena and Trio sepreate if possible. There are already too many threads running on this news in this forum, I feel condensing them to two would make for a more efficient read. Alinea...the name.. About two years ago the kitchen team and myself were brainstorming on a logo or symbol that we could use to express the characteristics of our cuisine. A few days after that meeting a chef brought me a piece of paper that he printed off the net. It was the Alinea symbol with a definition. I was immediately drawn to it. Not only for it's direct meaning......and the parallel to the different style of cuisine that we were producing at the time, the symbol itself with such history linked to alchemy, the asthetics of the lines, but I also felt like it perfectly captured the emotional state of a chef as they underwent the process of creating a new restaurant. I tucked the piece of paper away for two years....knowing I would use it eventually. The creative team... The staff of Alinea will constist of many dedcated passionate individuals...many of which I have not even met yet...however, I am currently working with a group of amazing people. From Trio.. pastry chef Curtis Duffy and sous chef John Peters have commited to positions at Alinea. They will also be part of the test kitchen/menu development process that wil happen during the iterim period. We will have a regimented outline designed during this period to create new techniques and produce mature dishes for the opening. They will also play a large role in the delvelopment of the kitchen design, which I believe will prove to be very different than the norm..at least in this country. They will both hold sous chef titles at Alinea. Joe Catterson will assume the role of GM/ Wine Director. I was very excited that Joe agreed to join the team. He will also contibute a great deal to the design of the restaurant and will undoubtably craft a wine/service experience at the hightest level. I imagine the restaurant to employ nearly 40 people, obviously I have only mentioned a few above, and I am excited to bring every member of the team aboard. We suspect the launch of the website to be in two weeks. I will post the link when it is available. At that time you wil be able to see the other members of the creative team's work. It is truely is a network of 12-14 people and growing whom really understand the philosophy, vision, goals, and standard. It is my intention to keep up to the best of my ability with this thread. We are also entertaining the thought of documenting the development of Alinea after August 15th on our website. Both in the physical changes to the building as far as design, and the results of the test kitchen and dish development. Maybe we can work something out with egullet to help organize this in a productive way. I welcome questions but bear in mind I will not be able to answer promply or at all...but I will do my best. Grant.
  6. Hi All, We hope that you are enjoying The Alinea Project. The Alinea Project is intended to provide a rare and uniquely interactive view of the behind-the-scenes elements of opening a restaurant--a restaurant which will push the very definition of what a restaurant is. A few logistical notes... For now, only Chef Grant and his team will have the ability to start threads. Once they start a thread, eGullet members will have an opportunity to respond with applicable follow-up questions. A 'general discussion' thread has been created to accomodate all other discussion of The Alinea Project and its tangents. Some questions presented in this forum will be answered therein, some will be split into topics of their own and some, due to time constraints, may not be addressed at all. Please, let's keep personal matters, resume requests and commercial offers out of the mix here. While we understand the genuine enthusiasm and sincerity behind such posts, for the benefit of the forum as a whole, they should not be made here. Such matters are best presented directly to the Alinea team. Please use the email link at Alinea's web site for any such inquiries. Thanks and please, enjoy the ride. =R=
  7. Albert is the pastry chef. I suspect his invovlement is greater in that they're brothers and in that this kind of work needs collaboration. We met Albert a couple of years ago when he, Klc and Conticini were doing a demonstration together at the chocolate salon in Paris. His English is not very good, but Esilda had a nice conversation with him in Spanish. Most of it however, was about dropping lunch and just serving dinner. He said it was just impossible keep the pace up all day that way. As you are well aware, the food served is very labor intensive, whether or not it's done at the last minute, and the meals last longer than at most three star restaurants. Klc should have more to add.
  8. This is my first post! My husband and I are travelling to France from Canada for the first time in November. Our best friends have just moved to Clermont-Ferrand (he works for Michelin). I have found one post recommending a restaurant in Clermont - are there others? All four of us consider fine dining and wine our only leisure pursuit! Unique cuisine, an guided wine list and exceptional service make the experience for us. Looking forward to seeking more advice as we plan our trip. Cheers!
  9. Michael: In Soul of a Chef and TFL cookbook, you talk about Keller's love for offal/variety meats. I adore offal---kidneys, sweetbreads, brain, tripe, heart, but it's rare to find them on a menu or even regularly availible at a good butcher. Is Keller's love for guts part of the French influence on his cuisine, or is it just a willingness to experiment/expose more people to the unknown joy of offal? Do you think American restaurants are doomed to serving overcooked, millimeter thin calf's liver, or will we eventually embrace the so-called 'head to toe' cooking of St. John's Fergus Henderson? Thanks! Stewart
  10. Can't believe no one has posted this here yet! chefg was named rising star chef of the year! Congratulations, Grant, on your well deserved award. New York Times list of winners Commentary on awards from Tony Bourdain
  11. Hello everyone, does anyone have any information on where to purchase the El Bulli cookbook other than the el Bulli website? I've looked around online and found nothing, but I really would to add this book to my collection. Thanks
  12. Heston, I’m getting a bit nervous about Molecular Gastronomy. I’m concerned that it may be overshadowing the tried and true, if not proven, field of Solid State Gastronomy. I may be alone in mourning its demise, but I still like a solid piece of meat; tearing into a solid whole chicken for two, perhaps with truffles under its skin; a solid, entire fish like a sea bass “en croute”. I have nothing against foams, capsules, and jellies, but my mom told me that in order to be a happy lad, I should have at least two solid meals a day. Any chance that Solid State Gastronomy will ever make a comeback? Since satire is what closes on Saturday night, let me be serious and ask you this legitimate question: I have not seen the expression in many years, but I remember food writers of 20 years ago speaking of the cuisine of certain Nouvelle Cuisine chefs as having a taste that “explodes in the mouth”. Perhaps currently less-sensitive taste buds are a bit of a factor, but I remember enjoying food at the great restaurants of France tasting better than it does in all but a handful of restaurants today. As I have stated or implied many times (maybe now too many times) on e-Gullet, I find that besides less generosity, more “control-freaking” (not only are more chefs telling you what you have to eat, but also how to eat it), I also find less succulence or naturalness in my dishes, often so with the unexpected Adria-inspired dish that I encounter. In fact, so far (and this does not include The Fat Duck which, believe me, is visit number one the next time I go to the UK) I would have to say that Adria-inspired food works best in the context of a meal “Chez Adria”. In the interest of brevity, then, how do you view cuisine that is offered in new delivery systems (or altered states) vis a vis cuisine made by complete, masterly chefs using impeccable produce stunningly prepared and made with tried and true technique, and do you think that the collaboration of chef and food scientist is slated for a meaningful long term future?
  13. I arrived home to a message from a local foodie insider...Thomas Keller will be opening a restaurant here in Las Vegas in the Venetian in April. I don't have any details yet...but will be at a Beard dinner here Monday night (and am sitting with some other restaunateurs from the Venetian)...I am sure that will be a topic of conversation!
  14. The post about Jose Andres appearing on Conan O'Brien's show sparked my rapidly fading memory button, and I remembered that I wanted to post this last weekend as a head's up ! PBS, at least in the Los Angeles market, is running a new cooking series with Jose Andres called "Made in Spain". The first show was run last Saturday, on two of the four stations in the market. It was quite excellent. I fell in love with Jose Andres when he was on Mark Bittman's show about Spain. He's a natural in front of a camera, and very charming. If the first episode is representative of the quality of the rest of the series, it should be a fun ride.
  15. Just wanted to bring this to the attention of those of us in the reception area! WNED are airing this show at 11:30 today.
  16. Controversy was stirred up in Spanish gastronomic circles when Santi Santamaria, himself a 3 Michelin Star holder, criticized Ferran Adria of "unethical" cooking practices related to his extensive use of gelling and emulsification agents. Link to article.
  17. Amazon is offering pre-orders for $53.55 with the book being released Oct '08. Rumor has it that there will be an option to buy a thermo water bath circulator along with the book for a package deal of around $500. Anyone know if this is true? Thanks.
  18. The Astor Center was the scene last Thursday night of the NY Public's first opportunity to taste Grant Achatz' cooking in their home city. Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas and a crew from the restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago were in the Big Apple to promote the eponymous new book from the restaurant and to have a party. At $250pp, there was no evidence of a recession as the Astor Center event was extremely well attended. The NYC dining public was treated to Achatz classics like "hot potato, cold potato," a dish that combines potato, hot Yukon Gold sphere and cold potato soup with a bit of Parmesan cheese, butter, chive some truffle and sea salt with the novel presentation of a pin and a paraffin bowl as well as the always enjoyable "black truffle explosion" with more black truffle, ravioli filled with black truffle "spheres", Parmesan slices and wilted romaine lettuce. Needless to say, given the crowds, the lines for these legendary delights were long throughout the event as it took time to assemble each serving. Other, newer and less well known dishes were also presented. One of which even involved a wall installation that was a play on a now classic Alinea centerpiece, the Ohio honeycomb. With this installation, the guest had to punch through the paper honeycomb to reach a shrimp crisp locate within each cell of the installation. This was clever, fun and tasty. Thanks to Steven Shaw for being the hand model in the photos. As busy as the event was, even Nick Kokonas, Achatz' business partner in Alinea, was thrown into the mix, serving "pumpkin with smoked salt" from the famous Alinea antenae. Despite all the culinary delights and theater in evidence, as always the star of the show was Grant Achatz himself. Chef Achatz welcomed the crowd to the event and over the latter half tirelessly sat at a table dedicating and signing an Alinea book for each person who attended the event. The event was a success and many a New Yorker, who had never previously been able to experience Alinea, now were able to have a taste of it. I am sure that many an appetite became even more whetted for the full experience. It was great to see a number of eGullet Society members there, too! For more photos from the event, please see my blog.
  19. Hi, I want to start giving Sous Vide cooking a go and wondering where's best to get the equipment. It appears the only barrier to getting stuck in, is the exorbitant cost of the electrical bath, thermometer & needle. Does anybody know of a way to get this equipment cheaply? is there a store perhaps in london which i can visit? many thanks fergal
  20. I've just noticed a new show to FoodTV Canada. Heston Blumenthal's "In Search of Perfection" from the BBC. In this episode he is taking Black Forest Gateau and creating the molecular gastronomy equivalent. Right now he has taken melted chocolate, aerated it with a cream siphon then put it in a vacuum chamber and evacuated it to create large bubbles in the chocolate. He then figured out how to do it at home with a vacuum cleaner. I think I'm going to enjoy watching this show. Here is a link to a topic about the show.
  21. [Moderator's Note: Earlier today, chefg, Chef Grant Achatz, wrote the post below in the Alinea topic (click here for that post). We've created this topic in member news to enable our members to share their wishes for a strong and speedy recovery. -- CA] ChefG, I'm so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, but am happy to hear that you remain positive and upbeat. Thank you very much for sharing this bit of personal news with the boards. I wish you the best in your treatment. u.e.
  22. Hi, I am going to be in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in August for 2 weeks. What are the best restaurants to try? I like restaurants that are a experimental like minibar in Wash DC. What chefs are up and coming? Also what are some casual places for breakfast and lunch. I am going to be dining alone and price is not an issue. Thanks in advance.
  23. [Moderator note: The original Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the preceding part of this discussion is here: Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 2)] Iknow 63oC for two hours gets you a perfect cooked Hen's egg. Any idea how brief & what temperature for a quails egg?
  24. Adria has been invited to the Documenta art show in Germany so is his work science... or art.... from the Independent today: Is food art? El Bulli chef creates a stir By Graham Keeley in Barcelona Published: 16 May 2007 Better known for his almost Surrealist creations in the kitchen rather than on canvas, Spain's best known chef, Ferran Adria, has created a stir after being invited to one of Europe's most influential art jamborees. The five-yearly Documenta art show in Kassel, Germany, is one of the biggest events in the contemporary art calendar. And Adria, whose artistic output so far has extended to dishes such as codfish foam and spherical potato gnocchi with consommé of roasted potatoes, is one of only two Spaniards invited to show off his talents this year. The chef, whose restaurant near Barcelona, El Bulli, was recently voted the best in the world for the second time, will rub shoulders with the likes of Britain's Tracey Emin. The invitation, however, has stuck in the throat of the Spanish art establishment, which condemned it as the "banalisation of art". One critic, Jose de la Sota, writing in the daily El Pais, said: "Adria is not Picasso. Picasso did not know how to cook but he was better than Adria [at art]. What is art now? Is it something or nothing?" The chef was unapologetic: "True, I am no Picasso, but what is art in times like these? Many people act as if I should apologise for participating. I am not going to. "I understand there might be people who are annoyed. It's tough to see a cook get invited to this. But what is art? If they want to call what I do art, fine. If not, that's fine too," the chef said. Roger Buergel, director of Documenta, shrugged off the controversy: "Why not? I almost always select things which seem strange to me," he said.
  25. As the indefatigable and amazingly accurate micropundit revealed on his blog, Blais and his team (known collectively as "Triail-Blais") have signed on to revitalize Element at 11th and West Peachtree. Here are some notes from a pre-opening party Saturday (19 May) night. Sous chef Jeff Sigler was shucking some sort of Pacific oyster, and serving it with carefully mounted garnishes of chorizo, beer reduction and microgreens. To do this, he had comandeered a section of the upstairs bar (ironically, a sushi bar when the property was known as Cherry, a couple of years ago). Similar to a shifting One concoction that sometimes featured mussels and sometimes oysters, these could only have been improved by a lower serving temperature, forgivable under the circumstances.<br><br> We sampled four other portions (one of them repeatedly): bay scallop with tortilla risotto and smoked tomato powder; "waffles and eggs": a cocoon of waffle batter, deep fried and served in a mini-tagine with a poached quail egg and a drizzle of maple syrup; A thin toast topped with beef marrow, bits of oxtail and wine reduction; and a mostly boneless half-quail, dipped in egg wash and panko, then deep fried. The quail was the winner. The mostly boneless part meant that only the thigh bone remained. The rest was flattened before frying, so the effect was that of a large, butterflied, deep-fried shrimp, with only the bone poking up as a handle. Nothing molecular about this, though the sweet/slightly hot mayonnaise that garnished it was reminiscent of other Blais romps through the emulsion garden. To give the scallop its due, I only had one small sample; it seemed promising. Likewise the bruschetta; I need to get better about hooking waitstaff elbows. The waffle and egg wasn't up to a similar dish I had at One, which used a bit of smoked sous vide belly to much better effect. In fairness, this sort of dish requires careful timing -- not a reasonable expectation in party circumstances. Still, it seems to me that the waffle component should be added to the egg and bacon, rather than substituting for the pork: breakfast in a bite.<br> Copies of a prospective new menu were circulated at the party. I found out today that there were actually several versions, accidentally publicizing the evolution of Blais's thinking. The fact is that the menu probably won't be set until Tuesday morning, and there's every chance that it will change by Wednesday dinner. The team took a bold but obvious step in closing the restaurant after the party; Sunday and Monday are being spent in staff training, menu finalization and prep. <br> Nevertheless, here are some of the ideas presented on the menu that I brought home: kampachi sashimi, ginger juice and soy caviar; chicken wing confit, barbeque carrot, celery dressing; lamb spare ribs, goya malta, sourwood honey; mozzarella, warm figs, olive oil marmalade; Riverview Farms pate, candied fennel, pistachio arugula emulsion; "Pot au Pho": shrimp noodles, shaved beef, spiced consomme; strawberries, whipped almond, cilantro sorbet. <br> The above notwithstanding, when I visited the kitchen this afternoon, I saw two immersion circulators full of sous-vide bags. I thought I recognized the contents, but asked director of cuisine Mark Nanna (most recently sous chef at Pura Vida and a former Blais colleague at One) anyway. "Yeah," he replied, "It's cool to think about what's in there: tails, feet, bellies. Nothing that you'd expect at a traditional restaurant. No steaks, no roasts . . ." I was right: pigs' feet, ox tails, pork belly. (An interesting aside: the belly, which had been given a quick cure in the morning, had been sealed up with an unmistakeable yellow smear of French's mustard.) A few minutes later, lamb rib sections (sans loins) were added. Clearly, the Tilia is working overtime. <br> As of today, anyway, Blais plans to include a "staff meal" special on the daily menu -- a gambit that might pay off big with the neighborhood clientele, which includes a fair number of business travellers looking for comfort food, as well as with the staff, who'd be less likely to dress up hot dogs with bottled Italian dressing if they knew it was going on the menu -- and that they have an opportunity to eat better themselves if the staff meal is subsidized at retail. <br> Blais has ambitious notions for Element (by the way, is there a better name for a molecular gastronomy restaurant? I haven't seen one). He's revived vendor relationships that lay dormant since his escape to Miami, and he's excited about local production -- the invocation of Riverview Farms, Sweet Grass Dairy and the legendary Dan Moore speak to this commitment. He talks about a menu that might change weekly or even daily, depending on what comes through the back door or what he can cadge from nameless sources. Kitchen shelves (what there are of them; it's a small space) are already stocked with methylcellulose, calcium chloride and a number of other reagents. There's a cannister of LN2 in the kitchen, and another at the downstairs bar. The Kennesaw initiative is still alive. In the meantime (my earliest estimate for opening Elevation is mid-July), this opportunity came along, and Blais grabbed it. A number of questions come to mind quickly: can Element overcome the reputation of the former Cherry as a singles-bar scene, and more recently, a middling lunch-dinner-brunch restaurant, and become a destination venue? Will folks from Virginia Highlands, Decatur and Druid Hills brave the parking challenges of the neighborhood? Two years after Blais the restaurant closed abruptly, is there a profitable niche for (in the adopted lingo of the new Element) a gastro lounge and food lab in the Atlanta market? Element opens for dinner Tuesday, 22 May. They're not on OpenTable yet; call 404.745.3001 for reservations.
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