Berkeley, June 16, 2009
AFTER A NUMBER of dinners out in the last four weeks — we ate "at home" only rarely in the Netherlands — it was a complete and perfect pleasure to have one more restaurant dinner on our way home tomorrow, even though — or perhaps particularly because — the menu was in many respects one we'd had a number of times in the Netherlands. There's a good reason for that, of course: we'd been eating seasonally, and chefs everywhere are happy to celebrate June. We had:
and I can only say that the dinner was a knockout. The fish was perfectly fresh and its accompanying salad perfectly balanced — the basil leaves, for example, cut into a thin chiffonnade with a sharp knife: no bruised, oxidized taste here!
Halibut tartare with chervil, capers, and nasturtiums Puréed fava beans with garlic soufflé Rack, loin, and leg of lamb with olives and potato gratin Profiteroles with strawberry and lemon ice cream
The fava "soup" was an amazing dish, pure fava flavor, delicately garnished with a trail of thin crème fraîche, and sporting the lightest possible soufflée tasting of fresh egg and green garlic. And the lamb, accompanied by well-cooked haricots verts and a light, interesting version of the potato gratin I'd enjoyed so often a year ago in Savoy, was a reminder that tonight's chef, David Tanis, is a Parisian half the year: this was a classic French plate.
I've written often about meals whose courses either do or don't complement one another. To me a meal, like a concert program or a group show of paintings, is best when each item presents itself simultaneously as complete in itself but responding dynamically to the other items in its context. Tonight's meal began unquestionably on site, in California, with perfectly local fish and vegetables (though it could equally have been perfectly local on the North Sea coast). The ingredients of the meat course were just as local, but the narrative was French. And these two courses were mediated by the favas and soufflée in an interesting, subtle, and full conversation: flavors, textures; colors; weights; and the associations of culinary history, locales, cultures.
Syrah: Ridge, 1997