Glamorous night of restaurant awards - 900 guests, mood lighting, mirror balls, black table cloths, glinting glassware, ice-buckets heaving with beer, butter in pretty shapes, spilt wine, extremely high heels and delicious décolletés.
Our food was uniformly excellent (900 guests!) with all pregnancies, allergies, glutards and possible phobias carefully attended to. It all worked. How do they do it?
That said, they must employ a bard of Shakespearian virtuosity to write the menu. Our main course was a treasury, a plethora, a cornucopia, an abundance, a superfluity, a profusion, a torrent, a deluge, a surfeit of words, words, words.
"Herb-crusted lamb rack with pulled shoulder, skordalia, caramelised beetroot compôte, garlic-fried beans, pumpkin crisps and pinot jus." (What about salt and pepper? Which herbs? It could have been even longer!)
Why do they do this?
All joking aside, I must say the dish was delicious and to use a cliché, cooked to perfection.
The hero, a small rack of lamb, was tender, and nicely pink inside, the pulled shoulder an interesting contrast of texture. The skordalia, (posh mashed potato with a hint of garlic) was a perfect foil for the beetroot in both flavour, texture and colour. The beans ensured we got our quota of greens as well as a verdant (posh word for green) component. The crisp pumpkin shavings gave a nice crunch. The whole dish was held together by a jus (posh for gravy) of balanced acidity and abundance.
It's a given surely that vegetarians will announce themselves beforehand, as will those allergic to say, seafood, gluten or peanuts. How much do you need to know?
I was at one of the legendary dinners of the Symposium on Australian Gastronomy (1993) in Canberra where the menu was a simple list of words.
They knew their audience. We sat with an open mind and generous spirit of adventure. It wasn't at all scary and was impeccably produced. "Bones" referred to a rich consommé accompanied by roasted marrow bones, "Milk" naturally was the cheese course, "Fruit" a course where the table was piled with grapes. I think I remember rightly that "Skin" referred to Atlantic salmon topped with crispy strips of seared salmon skin.
Would it have been too terrifying a challenge for today's food phobics? Would there be a worrying loss of control, knowing so little?
I recently came across the dish below at a local eatery, very different from my lamb rack or the Symposium dinner. Once again it was delicious.
On the menu, it was "Compost". Now that's a challenge. Was it a hard or an easy sell for a bunch of roasted vegetables sitting on "charcoal brioche soil"?
This reminds me. We did "soil", in 2010. We got the idea from a book. The dish was called "Terroir". Imagine beetroot and chocolate soil, topped with a goats' curd sorbet, spears of baby asparagus poking through a snow of sorrel granita, assorted freeze-dried berries, and micro herbs (of course). We thought we were pushing boundaries. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
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