A couple of weeks ago, I ruminated over the current state of tasting menus. Since, I’ve done a little more thinking and eating on the matter and I’ve churned out a few more, um, matters:
1. I’d like to think I’m a pretty sensible fella when it comes to ordering food in restaurants. I know when to order molten chocolate cakes, for example (the answer is never). And I know when to avoid “Dover sole” (when the price is less than $35), or poutine (in a Chinese restaurant, for example. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it. In Canada.). Yet, why cannot I resist ordering an “heirloom” tomato dish at the height of summer regardless of the price and presentation? Is my conscience so in need of being comforted with the knowledge that I’m maximizing the summer tomato season that I turn a blind eye to reason and respect? Yes, a truly great tomato at the height of summer is stunning. But when will my patience for the $15+ “heirloom tomato salad” be set in its proper frame of reference? It’s insane. I can (and do) buy heirloom tomatoes at my local farmers’ market and can (and do) easily do to them what over half of the chefs are doing to tomatoes. So why am I paying out the nose for something I make all the time at home? I need to go sit and a corner and think on this one.
2. Corn is to summer what peas are for spring. Corn has got to be the most versatile item from the summer farm stand. Chefs know this and they use it to its full advantage. Channeling Forrest Gump for a moment: corn chowder, corn pancakes, corn puddings, corn salsa, creamed corn, corn on the cobb, Cobb salads, corn ice cream, corn flan (Sure, why not? It’s yellow. It’s creamy. It’s sweet. I’ve had it. It’s good)…
3. If you’re in a place that anyone might accuse of being schmancy, you’ll likely see at least one shellfish, crustacean, or white-fleshed fish item on the menu accompanied by corn. If your upmarket white-fleshed fish isn’t accompanied by corn, then it will most likely be sided by eggplant in one of many now-popular forms. Eggplant caviar, of course, is very à la mode. But good, old caponata-style eggplant is making a comeback, as is the never-tired ratatouille.
4. Next to the perfect summer tomato is the perfect summer peach. Why don’t peaches get more coverage on restaurant menus? Give tomatoes and corn some rest. Let’s see them peaches.
9 replies on “rumination 2: summer tropisms…”
Never Not order choc molten cake..?
I’m just saying….
@ Moby: Ah, the ghastly double negative. All fixed. Thanks!
Ripe perfect peaches…now they rank high on the summer food chain.
The perfect peach as elusive as it is brilliant. Perhaps one needs to move closer to Georgia. I believe peaches, more than most any other fruit, suffer due to transport. My wife makes a brilliant peach-cream pie, from my grandmother’s recipe, however she refuses to make it until the peaches are ‘ready’. I don’t think the peaches have been ‘ready’ for the past two years. Every time I go to the store or even the farmer’s market, the peaches are disappointing.
@ Joel and KD: Indeed. Peaches are the pinnacle when they are at their peak. Alas, too many are just hollow rounds of yellow styrofoam. GROSS.
can’t agree with you more about the heirloom tomato comment. i recently ordered said salad from topolobampo because the waitress told me the tomatoes were grown on the rooftop of the restaurant. in season + locally grown = impulse to buy a ridiculously overpriced item…
in terms of corn season, i’m not sure why, but where i go to school now (podunk illinois), corn season is in late summer and early autumn. maybe there is a bit regional difference in terms of harvest time?
Maybe you need to visit Toronto. Peach is on most menus here: salsa, grilled on salad, pureed into a soup, baked into something or other. Summer is ubiquitous with peaches. There are all these cardboard baskets filled with peaches that greet you at the supermarket. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the tomatoes. :P
But, Renee…are they any good?
I’m a bit of a purist – I like my peaches tree ripened and on their own. However the versions I’ve had at restaurants are generally ok. Sometimes the firm (less ripe) ones are used because of they maintain their structural integrity (in salsas, grilled). It’s always nice to find seasonal things on the plate esp. in desserts. Thank goodness not everyone uses canned peaches during the summer (but it happens).
I’m like UE with the heirlooms, but thankfully that’s a little rare in these areas (usually presented as part of a tasting menu, so I’m not really caught in that ordering conundrum).