Archive for england

The Sportsman Tasting Menu – DIY

In short time, the (Western) food world has seemingly switched allegiances from molecular gastronomy to local foraged DIY (do-it-yourself), culminating in the crowning of noma as the world’s number one restaurant.1 Molecular food was always controversial but its legacy2 may be its insistence on challenging forms and techniques while holding nothing sacred. And in a delicious twist of irony, one could argue the molecular approach paved the way for the current locavore and DIY uber-trends in fine-dining – discarding “luxury” ingredients, taking to the fields and forest for new expressions, and mining history for forgotten seeds, breeds, and recipes – for there is always something new in the old.

the impossible tart
a manifestation of English humor I suppose

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The Sportsman (Seasalter, UK) – Give a Man A Few Miles

If someone were to tell you there was a pub, sitting on the mouth of the Thames, with a self-taught chef, serving some of the best food in England (if not Europe), you might respond you’ve heard this song and dance before. Media empires, both large and small, have been made out of trafficking these self-proclaimed hidden gems. Foodies (yes, it’s a terrible word) use them as a social currency to trade and barter; but they often only buy disappointment. So bear with this story when I say, after one visit, The Sportsman, a pub in the middle of nowhere, might be “one of my favorite restaurants in the world.”


Carrots (from the garden)

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Fat Duck (Bray, England) – Redux

It has nearly become myth – a (slightly) mad scientist, tucked away in a tiny hamlet, experimenting relentlessly, trying to create one of the world’s best restaurants. The Fat Duck left a memorable impression after a month of eating in the original 47 Michelin Stars in 24 Days trip. It held its own against experimental stalwarts such as Pierre Gagnaire (Paris), El Bulli (Roses, Spain), and Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain); and provided the experience most becoming of a three-star restaurant over the course of that (crazy, never to be repeated) month. My review, indicative of my experience at the time, basically read “good meal”, although I knew there were elements of the meal that had glossed over me. My meal last month left me with more questions than answers.

Fat Duck sign
It wasn’t really this dark outside

The food tasted fine, not quite living up to the memories 1; but, I walked away feeling unsure about the whole experience. There are fascinating possibilities in the food, and while some are obvious, much of the meal is slightly obtuse, its ultimate enjoyment buried underneath sophisticated techniques and ideas, that may only be known to the chef himself. One gets the feeling s/he is on the verge of discoveries, as there are clues scattered everywhere, but they never quite fully materialize.

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Bacchus (London, UK) – You’ll Have to Tell Me

Here’s a meal I did not eat but was told it was innovative, enjoyable, and, in London, a rare value. I know many readers, chefs, get ideas simply by viewing the pictures so here they are. The darkened room certainly led to graininess so I’ve kept the pictures small to keep them tight.

Cauliflower amuse
Bacchus (London) - Cauliflower amuse

Foie Gras amuse
Baccus (London) - Foie gras amuse

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La Maison du Chocolat (NY, Paris, London) – Macarons, The New Collection

Many bloggers have been wowed by La Maison du Chocolat’s chocolates (even Salma Hayek) but seemingly few have commented on the macaroons. The macaroon debate, among the informed, seems to be Herme vs Laduree with various regional suggestions (Payard, Jin Patisserie, Boule, Bouchon) if the writer is stuck in America for the moment. La Maison du Chocolat (LMC) has a slightly stuffy Parisian image without the long tradition of, say, Laduree but their macaroons deserve to be included in the debate. In fact, on American soil, there may not be much of an argument – they reign supreme.

There’s no shortage of accolades for their chocolates – and rightfully so. But their macaroons are deserving of the same attention. The chocolate ganache filled centers, a variation on the typical macaroon, is not so much a point of distinction as it is a confidence in their chocolatier experience. It might sound overpowering but the ganache is subtle and balanced; a complement, never a deterrent, from the shell. The flavors aren’t daring ala Pierre Herme; instead, they are more traditionally paired with the chocolate center. One approach is not necessarily better than the other as long as the execution is exemplary.

La Maison du Chocolat has a more corporate feel than Pierre Herme or Laduree. There’s no cult of personality nor a century-long tradition, but expansion does have its benefits – you can buy them in the States. Eat 2 Love says they are shipped from Paris twice a week. Surprisingly, even with this delay, they keep longer than Pierre Herme or Laduree. The macaroons had their best texture on day two but were still going strong on day four – you can bring these back for friends.

So what are the flavors and how do they taste?

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