Experiencing the Magic

Adria Ferran, the iconic chef of the now closed El Bulli restaurant in Spain (and arguably the master of molecular gastronomy), said that his philosophy about huge multi course dinners included the important point that, at the end of it all, there should still be some magic.  I couldn't agree more.  

With a full year of travel ahead of us, we scaled our entertaining down to include only one magnificent dinner party.   So for a BFF's birthday, we pulled out all the stops and did a 12 course tasting menu.  I am not a huge molecular gastronomy girl, but there is an element of the haute cuisine that appeals to me.  I may not be drawn to foams and crumbles, but there is nothing sexier than food showing itself in the best form on a plate and stretching your own comfort level.  I have done many, many multi course dinners in my day, but none this extensive.  

The inspiration for this dinner came from a picture of a dessert from the legendary Chicago restaurant Alinea, where a beautiful chocolate dome was cracked open to reveal a gorgeous and exciting dessert.  The chef there, Grant Achatz, also has one of my favorite quotes ever about creativity.

“People like to think the creative process is romantic. The artist drifts to sleep at night, to be awakened by the subliminal echoes of his or her next brilliant idea. The truth, for me at least, is that creativity is primarily the result of hard work and study.”

~Grant Achatz
Chef / Owner, Alinea~

Photo credit: thegastronomer.com
I was intrigued by the idea that at the end off all of the courses, there was still magic and wonder and mystery.  Thus the menu planning began.  As I delved further into the MG world, there were lots of things I wasn't interested in perfecting and other things that I wanted to incorporate.  The resulting menu, I believe, was a little outside my comfort zone and challenged me as a cook and my guests as diners.  There were some favorites for the birthday girl that couldn't be omitted, some old favorites served in completely new ways, and some new dishes altogether that actually included fun things like balsamic caviar and goat cheese mousse, salmon in smoked glass domes, venison carpaccio, and cucumber ice.  I will say that after three attempts and fists shaking in frustration through gritted teeth, the domes were abandon to save my sanity.  One dome survived for the birthday girl, but I wasn't going to sacrifice any more of my sanity over a 5 second component of one course of a twelve course dinner.  I was kind of over those damn domes.  I'm still shaking my fists at them.

The other part of this dinner that I loved was a craft project.  I was inspired from a Tumblr post I saw with a resume design from a designer out of Mexico, Marcela Garza Garza.  When I saw it, I gasped and swooned and new I was going to replicate the general design elements in some way.  The result was a 16 page hand bound menu that was a keepsake for the evening for guests to take home with their bourbon balls and splits of champagne.

My friend and master calligrapher, Jan Hurst, did the front cover, back page and first quote and did a stunning job with a not-so-easy design task.  I have been embracing the idea of "chosen family" more and more over the past few years.  I have been blessed with an amazing immediate blood family, whom I would choose whether we shared DNA or not, but I am also lucky enough to have several members of a chosen family with whom I share no DNA.  There are lots of words that can be used to describe what that is.  The front cover reflected some of those names; family, tribe, kin, clan, coterie, ilk, friend.  The interior pages included some favorite quotes, a dedication page, and all of the menus for the evening- food, wine, and bourbon.

The evening ended in front of the fire with bourbon and good conversation.   Always a favorite.  

We are now swapping the dozens of plates and dishes and china in favor of travel itineraries and passports and sunscreen.  I can't wait.  Bring the summer travels on!

The coming weeks bring wedding planning for a client and garden mapping.  The chives are coming up!  Spring will be here soon, friends!  Hang in there!

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  1. It was my pleasure to play a bit part in your wonderful night. Thanks for the mention!