Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

“Experiential” Menu Suggestions


Batuta
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi. I’ve been lurking for months, following many of the threads and EGI Institute with great interest. You have been my epicurean “deep throat”, providing vast, varied information, expertise and entertainment. e-Gullet is fully responsible for “opening my eyes” to a world of larb, Shun knives, Foodsavers, Loebel’s, and lots of other “pretty cool” stuff, I’d never heard of.

And so, I offer my first post, humbly asking for your advice and suggestions.

My husband and I are hosting our gourmet club in July. The club (four couples) has met about six times a year for many, many years. While everyone has an appreciation for good food and reasonable home cooking skills, no one is a true “foodie” (other than possibly me). After so many years, the “top of mind” themes have been done and sometimes “redone”.

It’s time to try something different.

My goal is to “stretch” their food experiences and insights. I’d like them – at least for the night - to become food-obsessed. And, it seems like a great first step would be to offer an “experiential” means for them to taste big differences based on simple changes. For example, how different wines can affect the taste of cheese (or is it vice versa?), or how different cooking methods can change the flavor and texture of the same fish, or how “aging” can affect the taste of a steak.

So, for July, I’m playing with a “Three Course Tasting Menu” concept. It’s very rough. Here are the thoughts so far:

First Course: Compare & contrast various combinations of wine & cheese (or wine and other things). This might extend to testing to see if “the right” wine glasses really do make the wine taste better.

Second Course: Toying with a few main course ideas. One option is to prepare identical cuts of meat (say a rib-eye) from three sources: Loebel’s, the local butcher, from the grocery chain and aged in the fridge, and directly from the grocery chain’s shrink-wrapped package to see if we can “taste” the differences, and whether the differences are worth the money. Another option is to get identical cuts of salmon (or other protein) and prepare them several ways to compare the differences (broiled, slow-roasted, pan seared, grilled, cedar-planked, and possibly, steamed).

Third Course: Dessert of three chocolates? Chocolate combined with various beverages? Other thoughts?

So: bring it on. What do you think? Does the idea have promise? Can or should “education” and “entertainment” be mixed? Should I even bother to try this with people who like but don’t obsess over food? Do you have specific tasting suggestions? Do you think the “tasting” idea will get old over an entire meal? Am I better off creating a “French” or “Indian” or other such menu, and letting it go?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those are intersting ideas Batuta and any of them would work great getting people to think about the subtleties of food and its relationship to environment. Just like children becoming adults influenced by their upbringing, the ingredients of your meal are affected by how they're treated while being raised. However, I believe that the kinds of comparisons you're suggesting may be too subtle for some palates. By this I mean that if you're trying to wake up peoples appreciation of the differences in foods - different vendors of the same product may not be drastic enough to create the Eureka! moment. If you had people try an aged prime porterhouse vs. a supermarket porterhouse, I'd say you were on the right track.

What I suggest is working more in the direction of teaching them about seasoning or preparation methods. Salt vs. no salt. Cold vs. hot. Saute vs. steam. Bake vs. broil. Those kinds of things have a very primary affect on the appreciation of what is being presented.

I've been playing with these concepts myself lately in a series of dinners I've given. The overlying theme is to loosen peoples hang ups and preconceptions of what food is and what it can be. We've been given the gift that we can enjoy something we have to do. Every day. More than once! And it speaks beyond who people are or what they do or where they're fom. It's universal.

Anyway, good luck.

Tastes pretty good, needs more salt

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I make no claims to be a foodie, though I love good and interesting food and am more than willing to go the extra mile (or hundred kilometres :rolleyes: ) for the right food-thing I "must" have.

My only comment is that having the whole thing be a series of tasting adventures might be... a bit... much. Overwhelming, don't you think? I doubt even the most serious and qualified gour-may is going to have anything left to give to the contemplation of three different estate chocolates after already taking the Cheese and Wine Test and the Aged Beef Exam.

Were I planning such a thing, I'd centre the evening round one such tasting or comparison, and make everything else around it wonderful, enjoyable -- but also very clearly a supporting cast, a background chorus.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In theory, I think it's a great idea, but like CompassRose, I think you should limit the "experiment" part. If you do the wine and cheese course, it's going to be pretty exhausting for your guests' palates, and you'd be better off with a non-complex, non-experimental second course and dessert.

Another idea would be to concentrate on the "main course" and do three different ethnic variations of the same basic dish, like chicken stew. You could do a classic American version (like chicken and dumplings or small chicken pot pies), an Indian or Thai curry, and Hungarian paprikash or a Mexican or South American chicken dish. Very small servings of each, so your guests don't get overloaded.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like JAZ's idea. What concerns me about the original idea is that it seems less fun and more like work, and I suspect your gourmet club friends are most interested in fun than working on testing their palates. I think starting with a taste test is great, but making them concentrate and evaluate the entire evening might be tedious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

batuta -

welcome to egullet! :smile:

thinking about your audience - i wonder if you might get more bang if you elevated the ordinary to the extraordinary. the dry aged prime beef is an example - though depending on where you live - it may be harder to get prime.

another thought (as i lunch on leftovers) is salmon. i just got some amazing yukon river salmon (copper river is also extraordinary this year) and the difference between it and farmed salmon - and even most wild salmon is unmistakable.

you could also focus on elements of taste - making your guests add ingredients to taste (like vietnamese pho) will really bring sharp clean flavors to the fore without it feeling too obvious. i went to a restaurant here in seattle once that served very simple stirfried prawns with chilies. the prawns were plated with a tiny mound of salt, a tiny mound of pepper and 2 lime wedges. it was very cool to have to combine quantities and flavors myself.

have fun!

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks! This is exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for.

Sounds like the tasting idea has some promise, but I may have gone overboard. Based on your comments, I'll:

Limit the tasting to one "Eureka" idea/concept

Make it fun, and less "like school" :cool:

So, for the "Eureka" idea/concept, it sounds like there may be several contenders:

1) Prime aged (Loebel's) vs. supermarket beef

2) Seasoning: perhaps thinking about some of the suggestions that JAZ had in herEG Culinary Intstitute class on texture and taste OR following the idea of the same dish prepared with four ethnic "twists" and

3)Wild/river salmon vs. farmed salmon.

I'm totally open. Any other ideas or suggestions?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whatever approach you decide to go with -- please post a report on how it goes. This would be great for those of us who might like to try the same thing. Good luck and bon appetite!

Oh, J[esus]. You may be omnipotent, but you are SO naive!

- From the South Park Mexican Starring Frog from South Sri Lanka episode

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something else that occurred to me would be to fix two very different cuts of meat from the same animal, like porterhouse steak (tender, cooked quickly) and braised short ribs or pot roast; or lamb chops and braised lamb shanks. You could explore both the cuts of meat and the cooking methods that way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I'm remembering right, if you can search up any menus or reviews from Eigensinn's Farm (it doesn't really sound like a "restaurant" -- not that I've ever eaten there (me and the moths in my wallet!) just read about it), they might give you food for thought.

He seems to work with the finest of what is seasonally available and what he grows, and sometimes to play with them throughout the courses of the meal. Here's a review by estufarian. I've seen others elsewhere, too.

Of course, I'm sure there are other chefs who do the same thing, only I am too food-illiterate to quote them by name! :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome! We hope you'll stay around -- AND report back how the evening went!

Along with the idea of preparing the various cuts of meat, you could expand the experiment just a tad with the pairings of wine. I always marvel how various wines change in their own flavor plus change the flavor of the food with which they are paired.

Instead of doing the wine and cheese thing first, consider a lighter first course and then when doing the meat part of the evening, have everyone bring a different bottle of a specific varietal (say, Pinot or Merlot or Cabernet). Then you can see how the same varietal of different producers pair with the food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to all you "gastronauts" :rolleyes: for all of your comments!

Based on your input, it's "shaping up" into a totally relaxing, summer menu with a 2 different salmon preparations.

Appetizer: Bacon-wrapped Shrimp with Avocado, Lime & Tomato Jam

2nd Course: Chilled Strawberry Soup

Salmon "Tasting" Main Course with:

Sugar-Cured Salmon with Ricotta Toasts

Slow Roasted Salmon with Yogurt & Cardamom

Quinoa

Sliced Cucumbers

Dessert: Caramelized Mango with Blueberries

I was tempted to try a duck "tasting" for the main course, but thought it was too much like fall.

Duck "Tasting" Main Course

Hazelnut Crusted Foie Gras with Fennel & Pomegranate

Duck Breast with Pomegranate Baste

Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Toasted Nuts

Sauteed Spinach

The party is planned for late July. What are your thoughts? I'm still "playing" and value your feedback.

Edited by Batuta (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It sounds great -- I think you have a good balance of familiar foods and different preparations to stretch your guests' palates without overwhelming them. Once you get them hooked on the fun of new culinary experiences, you can suggest more future "experiments."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Batuta, some of the things I like about your proposed salmon menu:

1. It won't kill YOU. :blink: Nothing worse than an overly-harried host.

2. It's pretty sneaky :wink: -- tomato JAM?! strawberry SOUP?!?! COOKED mango?!?!?! All in the realm of "I never knew you could do that with [fill in the food]!"

3. The contrasts are obvious enough for anyone to get. (Tasting the difference between superb meat and supermarket meat is not as easy as it seems, especially for people who are not used to analyzing all the aspects of taste, texture, etc.)

4. It all sounds delicious. And that's the best part. :biggrin:

Yes, please, do let us know how it turns out. And don't be discouraged if they don't all jump up and shout at once. :wink:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was a child, my parents belonged -- for a short time -- to a local gourmet club. The head of the club would send around a list of recipes for each evening, always on a different national theme: French, Russian, Spanish, Polish, etc. The members would cook these. Then they would get together and the head would critique the dishes. I still wonder why they didn't tell the head gourmet (a senior professor at the local Univ. where the club members were faculty) to stuff it.

It was a nightmare. Nobody enjoyed it. Batuta, your club sounds infinitely more fun.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for your encouragement and comments. I'll post the results (and possibly some pictures) on the board.

Pan, I was kidding too. Sorry to catch you off-guard.

And Jonathan, while we've had some GREAT fun at our Gourmet Club over the years, I can remember a couple "boring" ones, where the menu and the place settings were "formal", everyone was "dressed up" and overly-polite. So this time, we're thinking truly casual summer "kitsch": flip flops-Beach Boys-outside-tiki torch (we live on the water), which is a bit "out of the box" for this group. Heck, we're thinking of having the hunky college kid from across the street great them in his swimsuit and hand them "umbrella drinks" to put them casual/summer/vacation frame of mind...

:hmmm: Or maybe not...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Heck, we're thinking of having the hunky college kid from across the street great them in his swimsuit and hand them "umbrella drinks" to put them casual/summer/vacation frame of mind...

:hmmm: Or maybe not...

With or without the kid and umbrellas, if you need suggestions for a summer cocktail for your group, check out this thread: Summer Cocktails

Link to comment
Share on other sites

another thought (as i lunch on leftovers) is salmon. i just got some amazing yukon river salmon (copper river is also extraordinary this year) and the difference between it and farmed salmon - and even most wild salmon is unmistakable.

If you decide on the salmon tasting, I agree with reesek that you might consider varying what kind of salmon you use. I.E. farm vs. wild (really no contest there IMHO) or west coast vs. east (a variety of wild vs. farmed since I don't think there is such thing as wild Atlantic salmon any more), or, for the smoked, Nova Scotia vs. Scotland? If you contrasted wild with farm raised I think those that have never tried the two side by side will never go back to eating farmed again.

Edited by FunJohnny (log)

Oh, J[esus]. You may be omnipotent, but you are SO naive!

- From the South Park Mexican Starring Frog from South Sri Lanka episode

Link to comment
Share on other sites

batuta your menu sounds sooo good. and clever. and good.

sounds like a wonderful party - please let us know how things evolve.

were you planning to torch the mango? (brulee style) yum.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

So, we had the "gourmet club" meal last night. Overall, the meal was a success.

We ordered a whole wild king salmon, filleted, from the Pike Fish Market in Seattle.

Here are the pictures.

Since it was a summer "tasting" menu, we decorated the table in a summer/tropical theme:

i9973.jpg

Earlier in the day, I made brioche to serve as the base for the sugar-cured salmon:

i9971.jpg

And here's how the sugar-cured salmon looked. Basically, it was toasted brioche, topped with ricotta, and then the salmon:

i9972.jpg

The best part was the appetizer: a bacon-wrapped shrimp with avocado, lime, and tomato jam. A great combination of smoky, sweet, and sour:

i9974.jpg

While I have no pictures of the rest, here's a verbal summary. The chilled strawberry soup was substituted for chilled raspberry soup, when the farmer's market had no strawberries. It looked great, but was a bit on the sweet side: it would have been perfect topping a flourless chocolate cake.

The slow-roasted salmon (made from the same fish as above) with yogurt and cardamom was okay, but a bit overdone.

Finally, the desert: camelized mango with blueberries. A very nice refreshing end to a relatively light meal.

The group had a wonderful time, staying into the wee hours.

But did they get into the "experiential" salmon comparison? In a word, no. They got it, but it wasn't interesting to them.

All in all, it was a good meal with even better friends. What could be better than that?

Thanks to all of you!

Edited by Batuta (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...