When I started conceptualizing for this menu project I immediately knew I wanted to represent the gardening aspect of my life. Since I began culinary school I have been on an internal journey of discovery. Discovery of myself, my passion and facing the duality of my personality. My career as a gardener has always represented balance, patience and nurturing, while the culinary side of my life is about passion, risk and adventure. Through this menu I wanted to bring harmony to the two things in my life that have had the biggest influence over who I have been, and who I am becoming.
In order to represent the garden in this menu I have chosen to use a variety of blossoms from my own garden as garnish. The desserts all have a floral theme to them. The blossoms are edible and organically grown. I have a deep fondness for bringing such a fragile product into an environment filled with fire and sharp knives. It brings a gentleness to the plate and serves to remind us that all our food comes from nature, was hopefully once outside growing in the sun, grazing on grass or buried in the soil. In our kitchens, as cooks, we will work countless hours in windowless environments, rendering these gifts of nature into an entirely different life giving, memory inducing, sensory expanding product. I truly feel that, as a cook, you deserve to be as stimulated and nurtured by what you are producing as the people who will receive the gift of your creation. That stimulation will help fuel you to further create and respect the products of the natural world.
The culinary side of me is represented by my use of wild game and offal. Several times over the course of this program my fellow classmates have referred to me as primal, an animal and the beast, all of which I have genuinely loved. Many nights through this experience I have felt like a huntress and the hunted, tracking myself and hunting my future. It extends beyond these easy words to something more like a feeling, the feeling of the rhythm of a kitchen. There is a natural rhythm of cooking much like the natural rhythm in nature. The prance of a deer is never out of rhythm with the rest of it’s environment, for it could lead to certain death. In the kitchen any misstep can lead to a cataclysmic evening of late dishes slapped together with little thought or care.
Cooking is also a very sensual experience. Much like smelling a rose on a hot summer day. It washes over you and transports you and distends your sense of time. I chose to use rosewater in my rice pudding to help convey that sense of sensuality and timelessness. Roses have religious and romantic symbolism that stretches back through the history of humans. They are medicinal and can help prevent women from hemorrhaging during child birth. They are represented in many major religions from Muslim to Christian. The rose is both wild and tame, has inspired women to passion and men to the very specific control of hybridization to create ruffles and fragrance that are purely human creations. Rosewater’s origins are as old as man and can be traced back to the Phoenician’s, Greeks and the Romans. Used in flavoring food and relieving the senses of generally unpleasant smells. We humans have been infatuated with roses since we first stumbled upon them.
I feel the harmony of these dishes is best represented by the wine pairings, which allow a mellow flow and cohesive influence to each dish. For the first course I chose a 2010 Jurancon sec clos lapeyre. The sweet and spicy notes of this wine compliment while the underlying minerality helps cut through the fat that each dish inhibits.
For our second course I chose a 2009 Pavelot- Pernand-Vergelesses for it’s light bodied forest floor qualities that pair well with the morels in the Rabbit ballantine but don’t over power the delicateness of the rabbit meat.
For the fourth course I chose a 2010 Elian da ros sua spunte , whose bright acidity helps lift the dishes rather than a typical dessert wine that would be heavy sugar on the pallet.