notes and scribbles: personality, with a side of perfection…

Here are some additional notes on the dishes I had at The French Laundry.

1. The Moulard Duck “Foie Gras en Terrine” was unbelievable smooth, silky, and light – much more like mousse than pâté. I didn’t get much truffle flavor from the black truffle sauce on the plate, but the compressed strawberries were intense with flavor.  This course was served with warm brioche and a flight of three salts: sel gris from France; deep sea salt; and a fine-grained, slightly pink-colored salt from copper mines in Montana.  I preferred the first two, which were larger-grained, for the crunch.

2. I wished that the Fairytale Eggplant “En Persillade” had been warmer. The tiny, Japanese eggplants had been confited in oil, rendered silky and soft. But they were served cool.  A little warmth might have helped the “en persillade” flavors bloom a bit more.

3. At the risk of coming off as impossibly pedantic, I can’t help but note that, together, the fennel, Niçoise olive, basil, and the nectar from the Compressed Summer Melons reproduced the flavor of umeboshi or, more specifically, Chinese salted plum powder, with uncanny precision. I admit that this is a far-flung food trigger that only someone with as strange an eating habit as I have would experience, so its occurrence here might have struck me as particularly interesting. (I’ll sometimes use Chinese salted plum powder to give under-ripe stone fruit a needed kick of flavor.)

4. As the quotation marks suggest, the Salmon Creek Farms “Tête de Cochon” wasn’t actually a true tête de cochon.  This little breaded puck only contained the pork jowl. The meat had been rendered impossibly soft, pocketed with stretches of fat and collagen. While I found it a bit heavy for such a long tasting menu, I can’t deny that it was indulgently delicious (a Southern comfort from a Southern chef).  The chunky sauce gribiche was incredibly rich and creamy, laced with bit of acid.

5. Were the thin slices of beet-red “48-hour brisket” on the Hand-Rolled Beet “Tortellini” dish actually beef, or its marvelously accurate vegetable proxy? Unless I misunderstood our server, he confirmed that the brisket was made of beet. However, one of my friends, who had the same dish the week before, said that his server claimed it was beef (which is corroborated by the fact that the words “48-hour brisket” did NOT appear in quotes on the menu). Honestly, the texture and flavor was like beef, not beet. And, I’d be disappointed if it was beef, since it was a bit grainy and dry for brisket. But, if the brisket was beet, the this dish was not only ingenious in its construction and composition, but also for its ability to reach beyond the plate and become the vegetable equal of the beef course on the Chef’s Tasting. The server noted that the kitchen tries to coordinate courses on the two different menus such that two people with two different menus might share a wine pairing with each course.

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