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Help planning a birthday tasting menu


tammylc
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I've been asked to cook dinner for a friend's 50th birthday party. His wife is conspiring to have friends from far and wide come into town for the event. I regularly do tasting menus for my Supper Club and other events, but given the birthday nature of this one, I thought it would be fun to have courses that highlight different experiences/places he's traveled. We're expecting 10-12 people and my budget is $500, which should include paired wines for most courses. Looking at around 6 or 7 courses. Here's the chronology of his life, with my current menu thoughts for each.

Childhood: Jersey Shore

- some kind of cold seafood (clam?) dish. Maybe with some "boardwalk" kind of elements?

College: Year Abroad in England/trip to Scotland/trip to Morroco

- thinking either another fish (salmon for Scotland?) or a vegetarian tagine of some sort? Something on the lighter side.

Peace Corps: Senegal

- he regularly cooks dishes that he learned in Sengal, and one of my favorites is Mafe - in his interpretation it's a beef stew with a tomato and peanut butter based sauce, usually with sweet potatoes and carrots in it. I thought it would be fun to do a "deconstructed" "haute" Mafe, and was thinking to braise beef shortribs in a braising liquid with tomatoes, then do a sweet potato puree and some peanut butter powder.

Trip with Mother/Sister: Kenya/Tanzania

- My first thought for Kenya was coffee. We don't have to do anything here, but if we could think of a palate cleanser sort of thing that had coffee as an element, could be interesting.

Green: Australia, Japan

- Given the place in the menu, I'm thinking Australia is more amenable than Japan, and was thinking about something with lamb. Or kangaroo...

Mother's Trip: France/Loire Valley

- Cheese course with Loire goat cheeses.

Then I'll do something for dessert, since that's one of my specialties and can reflect the time in his life that I've been connected to.

This is my first cut thinking, but if people have creative ideas that are wildly different from what I've written, I'd love to hear them. Or just ideas on fleshing out what I've posted.

Thanks for your ideas!

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Childhood: Jersey Shore

- some kind of cold seafood (clam?) dish. Maybe with some "boardwalk" kind of elements?

Are you open to doing any sort of molecular gastronomy? You can make flavoured "sand" using tapioca maltodextrin.

College: Year Abroad in England/trip to Scotland/trip to Morroco

- thinking either another fish (salmon for Scotland?) or a vegetarian tagine of some sort? Something on the lighter side.

Peace Corps: Senegal

- he regularly cooks dishes that he learned in Sengal, and one of my favorites is Mafe - in his interpretation it's a beef stew with a tomato and peanut butter based sauce, usually with sweet potatoes and carrots in it. I thought it would be fun to do a "deconstructed" "haute" Mafe, and was thinking to braise beef shortribs in a braising liquid with tomatoes, then do a sweet potato puree and some peanut butter powder.

At this point, I think you have too many soft, stewey textures together. Can you make the england/scotland/morroco course something else? Maybe a tiny morsel of perfectly fried fish on some fat cut fries?

Trip with Mother/Sister: Kenya/Tanzania

- My first thought for Kenya was coffee. We don't have to do anything here, but if we could think of a palate cleanser sort of thing that had coffee as an element, could be interesting.

Green: Australia, Japan

- Given the place in the menu, I'm thinking Australia is more amenable than Japan, and was thinking about something with lamb. Or kangaroo...

Mother's Trip: France/Loire Valley

- Cheese course with Loire goat cheeses.

Then I'll do something for dessert, since that's one of my specialties and can reflect the time in his life that I've been connected to.

This is my first cut thinking, but if people have creative ideas that are wildly different from what I've written, I'd love to hear them. Or just ideas on fleshing out what I've posted.

Thanks for your ideas!

PS: I am a guy.

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Being from Jersey I'll weigh in on that one...My strongest memories: Italian Sausage and Pepper sandwiches, Steamed Clams dipped in butter, French Fries with Vinegar, and Orange/Vanilla twist Custard cones....and of course pizza slices the size of a small child...thats my Boardwalk

But if you actually lived there - Crabs

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Childhood: Jersey Shore

- some kind of cold seafood (clam?) dish. Maybe with some "boardwalk" kind of elements?

Are you open to doing any sort of molecular gastronomy? You can make flavoured "sand" using tapioca maltodextrin.

I'd definitely be willing to try it, with good instructions from somebody... I was thinking I'd need to do that to achieve the peanut butter powder.

College: Year Abroad in England/trip to Scotland/trip to Morroco

- thinking either another fish (salmon for Scotland?) or a vegetarian tagine of some sort? Something on the lighter side.

Peace Corps: Senegal

- he regularly cooks dishes that he learned in Sengal, and one of my favorites is Mafe - in his interpretation it's a beef stew with a tomato and peanut butter based sauce, usually with sweet potatoes and carrots in it. I thought it would be fun to do a "deconstructed" "haute" Mafe, and was thinking to braise beef shortribs in a braising liquid with tomatoes, then do a sweet potato puree and some peanut butter powder as well.

At this point, I think you have too many soft, stewey textures together. Can you make the england/scotland/morroco course something else? Maybe a tiny morsel of perfectly fried fish on some fat cut fries?

i like that idea. Maybe a tiny little newspaper cone with a bit of fish and chips?

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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: Trip with Mother/Sister: Kenya/Tanzania

- My first thought for Kenya was coffee. We don't have to do anything here, but if we could think of a palate cleanser sort of thing that had coffee as an element, could be interesting.

Coffee granita, with a touch of lemon peel, for an exotic note? HTH!

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My current thinking:

Childhood: Jersey Shore

White wine poached clams served on a bed of butter "sand" with scallion "seaweed" - what do I need to know to make butter sand? I've read through the tapioca maltodextrin thread, and assume I'll need to clarify the butter first, right?

College: Year Abroad in England/trip to Scotland/trip to Morroco

Moroccan-spiced seared scallops with grape-preserved lemon relish - came across this recipe this weekend, and it looks fantastic and fits the slot well, I thought. The cold crunchy grape relish and seared scallops will make a nice textural contrast.

Peace Corps: Senegal

Deconstructed Mafe - braised short rib, sweet potato puree, peanut butter foam - If I'm doing sand in the first course, I thought I shouldn't do peanut butter powder here. Thoughts on making a peanut butter foam? And maybe some chopped peanuts too, for texture? Other ideas?

Trip with Mother/Sister: Kenya/Tanzania

Coffee granita/sorbet?

Green: Australia, Japan

Yakitori-style Australian lamb, some kind of sauce, asian greens (bok choy, mizuna, something like that). Seemed like a fun fusion moment - will look for an Australia wine to serve here too. Would love ideas on fleshing out this course.

Mother's Trip: France/Loire Valley

Cheese course with Loire (or Loire-style) goat cheeses and Loire wines.

Dessert:

TBD

Very interested in feedback and ideas. Is the tapioca maltodextrin available from L'Epicerie reliable and easy to use?

Thanks!

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Hey Tammy, this sounds great! Your friend should feel very special.

I'm thinking about the Australia course... is kangaroo hard to source/expensive where you are? I think it would make a more interesting course than the lamb, which may still be Australian but is much more common in other places. If the people at the dinner are interested in food, kangaroo could be a new experience or something a bit more unusual at least.

I haven't got much experience cooking with it, but I think it would hold up very well to some bold Japanese flavours in marinades or sauces... it's quite a flavorsome meat in itself, and in my head, could team up well with some sticky soy or barbecue marinade/glaze.

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I had been pondering kangaroo, so thanks for the push. There's a grocery store near me that has a freezer section for exotics. I know they've had kangaroo in the past - I'll have to give them a call to see if they have any now.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just two weeks out from this dinner, so I need to start firming things up.

Childhood: Jersey Shore

White wine poached clams served on a bed of butter bacon "sand" with scallion "seaweed" - I tried making butter sand, but to get the right texture it was too sweet. So I think bacon will stand up better to the maltodextrin, from what i've read. And bacon and clams = yum.

College: Year Abroad in England/trip to Scotland/trip to Morroco

Moroccan-spiced seared scallops with grape-preserved lemon relish

Peace Corps: Senegal

Deconstructed Mafe - braised short rib, sweet potato puree, peanut butter foam

The more I think about it, the less I like this idea, since the strength of mafe is it's "stewiness," which makes the deconstruction less than ideal. Of course, this is a problem with pretty much all the traditional Senegalese dishes I know of. But this recipe for Yassa Ginaar seems more amenable to being made into something plated and "special." (For the purpose of the dinner I don't want to just cook the same things the same way that he does.) It's basically a lemon and caramelized onion sauce served over rice with chicken pieces on top of it. I am thinking of doing it layered in ring molds (rice, onion, shredded chicken) and garnished with spherically encapsulated green olives. Alternately, some kind of rice cake of some kind arranged with the other components on the plate. Also thinking of using Guinea hens instead of chicken.

My other idea was to do a play on sushi - Senegalese food is eaten with your hands, using the rice as a sort of scoop. So I thought I could make rice logs like for sushi, top them with the onion mixture, and a thin slice of boneless chicken breast. With the idea that you could pick up each piece and eat it with your hands.

Thoughts really appreciated on this one!

Trip with Mother/Sister: Kenya/Tanzania

Coffee granita/sorbet?

Another course I'm just not that excited by, that feels more like stretching to fit the theme than contributing to the integrity of the meal. So thinking of just dropping it. Or subbing passion fruit sorbet as a regionally appropriate fruit that's more palate cleanser-y.

Green: Australia, Japan

Yakitori-style Australian lamb (or kangaroo?), some kind of sauce, asian greens (bok choy, mizuna, something like that).

So, my local grocery store that sometimes has kangaroo doesn't have any. I've found some online sources, but it's spendy - $60.00 for 2 lbs of loin, plus shipping. I can get sausages or ground meat cheaper, but I'm not sure it's worth bothering.

Mother's Trip: France/Loire Valley

Cheese course with Loire (or Loire-style) goat cheeses and Loire wines.

Dessert: still TBD, although I just found out the birthday boy likes Key Lime, so I'm thinking about that.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Yakitori-style Australian lamb, some kind of sauce, asian greens (bok choy, mizuna, something like that). Seemed like a fun fusion moment - will look for an Australia wine to serve here too. Would love ideas on fleshing out this course.

How about spinach with goma-ae (sesame dressing)? It's a classic Japanese dish - or you could also do the same kind of sauce on green beans, or whatever else looks good at the supermarket. Here's the linkto Torakris's eGCI lesson on making it - scroll to the middle of the post and you'll see it.

Mizuna is nice as a salad - I liked to cut it up simply and toss it with some ponzu dressing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

2 days until the dinner. Menu is finalized and I've started prepping.

Jersey Shore: Steamed Clams with Bacon Sand

Morocco: Moroccan-Spiced Seared Scallops with Green Grape & Preserved Lemon Relish

Senegal: Yassa Ginaar with Guinea Hen and Encapsulated Olives

Tanzania: Tanzanian Peaberry Granita w/ creme fraiche and lemon zest

Australia & Japan: Lamb Yakitori “On the Barbie,” Sesame Spinach, Pickled Daikon, Lotus Root Chips (I tried to get kangaroo instead, even ordered some online, but they were out of stock of everything except ground, so we're back to lamb)

France: Selection of French Cheeses (TBD when I get to my cheesemonger on Saturday)

Ann Arbor: Pear Ginger Cake with Whipped Cream and Rum-Caramel Glaze

Souvenirs:

Scottish Shortbread with Murray River Sea Salt

Intense Orange Truffles

Passion Fruit Pate de Fruit

Over the last two nights I made my mignardises aka "souvenirs."

IMG_6794.JPG

And tonight i'm making pickled daikon and radishes to go with the meat course. They're salting right now, and I'll add the vinegar, sugar and ginger later.

IMG_6795.JPG

Tomorrow night I'll make my cake layers and pit and juice olives. (Has anyone made the El Bulli style olive spherifications? Do they benefit from being in the olive oil, or is that just to keep them if you have to make ahead?)

Then most everything else will happen on Saturday. I'll go to the market in the morning to get my proteins, cheese, bread. I've got a friend coming over in the afternoon to help prep, and then back to help serve. Should be really fun.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 2 weeks later...

pretty awesome. looks like you did a great job and really knocked it out of the park. how hard were those el bulli olives?

Thanks!

The olive spheres were harder than I'd hoped! My test batch worked out fine, but on the day of, not so much. I followed the recipe from Texturas, but did the freezing technique of dropping frozen hemispheres into warm alginate. However, I think because I didn't mix up my alginate far enough in advance, it was really cloudy and I had a hard time seeing and scooping out the olive spheres properly. So most of them broke - out of 14 that I tried to make, I actually only ended up with five.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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