Every second, our connections to history dissipate. A family recipe is eaten for the last time, unknowingly. Land-rich, but cash poor, farmers sell their land to development. A forgotten plant might simply die out in a field next to the highway. History is kept alive by those that simply document. Farm almanacs, family cookbooks, and forgotten fields offer insights into a culinary past. Without research, proselytization, and, ultimately, consumption; yesterday might fade away. Sean Brock, chef of McCrady’s and Husk, is on a mission of reclaiming and re-imagining the Carolina Rice Kitchen. He mines the past with an archeologists’s zeal but cooks through a lens of today – an enchanting modern cuisine with Jeffersonian agrarian roots.
To get away – seclusion, slow time, and the freedom to explore. To live with the land, honor its history, and work within its bounty. To be inspired by the physical connection to food and walk amongst it – on the farm, into the brush. Down to the beach: berries on the slope, stonecrop along the shore, and sea lettuce in the water. Spot prawns swim just beyond. A land of possibility. To take the ideas of noma and practice them on a nine-mile island, most of it uninhabited – welcome to Willows Inn.1
With the sting of an herb and brine of the sea, Justin Cogley’s food at Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel captures the Central Coast outside. Ocean mists and forest floors. His palette is largely the surrounding land and it clearly influences his work. And just as oranges, reds, violets, and blue swirl together during a Carmel sunset, flavors blend seamlessly in strong focused dishes. Naturalist, without masking ingredients, it also draws much from across the Pacific.
Unique ingredients are the initial allure of elements. But there is more. Chef Scott Anderson can craft tasting menus that introduce the new, present the familiar as novelty, or concoct different flavor from the known. He weaves a few popular narratives – farm and forage, cure and ferment, whole animal and plant – into his own brand of “interpretive American cuisine.” But, perhaps more apt, as DocSconz wrote, it is better described as an “interpreter of the moment“, albeit one that rode those waves before they broke.1 Exploration is at the heart of elements and drives it to be one of America’s better restaurants.
poached egg, salsify, beet puree, carrots
Every hobby is a personal journey pinned with landmarks – a map of changing interests. One a-ha moment came in Laguiole, as it probably has for so many others, where the countryside was served inside a spaceship. It was the salad that launched a thousand more. The grassy aromas, the sharp tastes of herbs – epiphanies – every bite. Meat, for all its base satisfaction, was boorish when compared to this mere salad. Drab. And then, a few years later, a hot Napa afternoon changed everything again – Feed Me the Spring.1
Michel Bras is in the DNA – carrot and nasturtium pays homage to his plating style