Working Around It All

2012.Nov.21 Wednesday · 6 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

Some weeks the lists of what people will and won’t eat just get a bit much and I’m ready to tell them all to take a hike. I don’t, of course, except maybe here and there, politely. This last week’s four dinners combined had 27 different dietary requests, and that’s just from the people who I said yes to. I turned down a couple of gluten free folk. I turned down a couple of vegans. I turned down the “no seafood whatsoever, not even at the table while I’m there” person. I told the “no raw tomatoes and no onions” person that they were just going to have to deal with it if they wanted to come – they did, and dealt with it – ate everything and had a good time, props to them! And then I had to come up with a menu that fit the majority of the rest of the folk, with a substitution here and there as needed. I’m starting to think though that I might go back to just posting the menus in advance and saying, “this is it – no substitutions, no special requests.” It’ll never work, but it’s a thought.

Chilled Green Bean Soup

We started off with a chilled green bean soup – my favorite dish of the eve. Sweat leeks in butter. Add potatoes and vegetable stock and cook until the potatoes are soft. Separately blanch and shock green beans. Puree all of it together with some mint, salt, white pepper and clove. Splash of cream but not too much, and you could leave it out if you want to keep this dairy free or lighter. Chill well. Drizzle with sour cream and top with fresh pea sprouts.

Griddled asparagus salad

You’ve seen this before if you’ve been with me awhile – deviled egg dressing, blanched and shocked asparagus that are then griddled with farofa. Left out the prosciutto crumb because there were just too many “no red meat” and “no pork” requests.

Mixed mushroom galette

I have to admit, it surprised me how many people told me this was their favorite course. I liked it, but I’d say it was my least favorite of the eve – what do I know? A saute of mixed mushrooms – oyster mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, baby portobellos, button mushrooms – sauteed with green olives, red bell pepper, almonds, and merquén (smoked Chilean pepper). Served atop a polenta and manchego round and topped with radichetta dressed lightly with olive oil and salt and a couple of drops of truffle oil.

Olive Oil Poached Cod

Olive oil poached cod served over a carrot puree that’s spiced with cardamom, coriander, cumin and white pepper and pureed with olive oil, peach and orange juices. Topped with caramelized shallots and pistachios. Some broccoli sprouts to garnish. Same treatment with a thick slice of cauliflower for the vegetarians – though in that case, wrapped it in foil with olive oil inside and baked it in the oven.

Caramelized eggplant tartlet

A reworking of the eggplant tarte tatin that I’ve made a few times. This time as a regular, right-side-up tartlet with a rough puff pastry crust, the eggplant caramelized in brown sugar, butter, Chinese five-spice, a pinch of salt, and some orange juice. Baked to order and then drizzled with an orange juice caramel. Everyone seemed to love it except the one woman who sort of gave me a “no baby, no” response when looking at it, dumped the eggplant out on her plate and then just ate the crust. Her loss for not at least trying it. I’d bet if I hadn’t told her it was eggplant she’d have eaten it.

Link to menu and guest comments.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristine Doherty November 21, 2012 at 11:30

This was by far the best meal I have had in BA. I fully thank you for not bowing to the culinary restraints some clients have requested. The imagination and creativity put into your menus should not be restricted. It is obvious you have a passion for culinary art and a true artist. “Would someone ask an artist to only use certain colors to paint with?” I think not. I am sympathetic to those with allergies and intolerance’s. That said I would suggest a specialty cooking class to those with intolerances/allergies. They could definitely learn something about food, take control of their own cooking and stop imposing it on other diners. It is obvious that they don’t understand the closed door concept. You are not going to a restaurant to eat. You are stepping into an artist’s home and allowing them to showcase their talents and knowledge of food. Your an artist don’t conform! Cheers

dan November 21, 2012 at 12:24

Thanks for that! I agree, and if someone just says “I don’t really like…” I tend to ignore it – I don’t go out of my way to serve something, but if it’s already planned for the menu, I don’t change it. Problem is, so many people have figured out that if they tell a restaurant they’re allergic to something, the restaurant will go out of its way to accommodate them – but you’re right, they’re not understanding the puertas cerradas concept. There’s no line cook for me to turn to and say, hey, whip up vegan gluten-free main course using X, Y and Z but no A, B or C. I’m solo in the kitchen putting out 50 plates to the guests plus a portion for us to share in the back. I don’t have the time, energy, or space to make something completely different for someone’s personal preferences, especially for those who wait until they arrive to let me know – which happens at least once every 2-3 weeks. Still, if I know in advance of something that really is a serious allergy, I try to work around it – which usually boils down to things like shellfish and nuts as the most common ones that can be life threatening. Someone who gets gas because they’re lactose intolerant can take a lactase pill and cope – I used to.

Sally_Oh November 22, 2012 at 06:50

Maybe have a Surprise Night: “this is what we’re serving, come and enjoy”… That’s the night I would come! Your food always looks and sounds so delicious, I’m imagining the flavors and smells as I read and enjoy even that!!! No way can I imagine coming to a chef’s home for a unique private dining experience and telling the chef “no _____”!

dan November 22, 2012 at 08:41

In a sense they’re all kind of that way. We don’t publish the menu online before the dinners, not until after. The only thing we publish are a few key flavors. I don’t really mind people who let me know about food allergies… if they’re legitimate. The problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is many people throw that around as a way of trying to avoid things they don’t like. Maybe I should have a scratch test kit at the door… ;-) At the end of the year I usually do a wrap-up and list off some of it – it’s amazing to read through at times.

I think it was about three years ago the National Health Service in the UK did a study, and I’m going on memory here, but they had people fill out surveys with a list of the ingredients they were allergic to and then tested them for those allergies. They found that something like only 6% of the allergies were real, people had just developed these internal monologues as an excuse to avoid things they didn’t like and convinced themselves or at least went around telling people that they were allergic to things.

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