Following last week’s little whinge on the artistry of plates, it seems that the internet responded with a little counter-slap. First, The Guardian presents the results of an Oxford study that shows that not only do people like their plates to look pretty, but subjectively, they’re perfectly willing to pay more for artistically arranged plates, regardless of how the food tastes. But then, io9 jumps in pointing out that rarity, or obscurity, or maybe it’s the “extreme eating” factor, comes into play too, and people are willing to pay for stuff that doesn’t even taste good, just because it’s there. So who knows?
A weird week. Well, at least two of the nights. One night, purely by chance, all Canadians. Not that they came together as a group, it just happened that we had folk from across Canada filling every seat. It wasn’t a deterrent to the enjoyment of the evening, on anyone’s part, just an oddity. Oh, and two of them were chefs. Another night, starting off in the morning with eight folk reserved, two cancelled in mid-afternoon, and three simply never showed up. Of those, two locals I had a phone number for – they didn’t answer the phone, but when I sent a text message asking if they were still coming, I got the reply that they were in the midst of a marital argument and no, they would not be, sorry.
The third, a person from Brazil, who more or less disappeared. Made the reservation, never paid the deposit, never responded to several emails, so I guess I can’t really count it as a confirmed reservation. And, in fact, I sent an email saying that we were going to go ahead and assume it wasn’t confirmed unless we heard back – we did, by email, about half an hour after dinner started, saying “I’m just getting ready to leave my hotel and now I see that you don’t consider me confirmed, what a pain.” I immediately responded with, “come right over, we’ve got your space, we just hadn’t heard from you for five days nor received your deposit.” Nothing… Five hours later, apparently checking email again, “I just got this, you know I didn’t have any internet access for the last week and was planning to come.” Well, no, we didn’t, you never mentioned it, we had no way of knowing if you’d even received the info from us, and obviously you’d had enough internet access to have gotten the reservation info and were planning to head out of your hotel to come here, so had you read the whole thing, you’d have also known we expected both a response and a deposit. All you’d said was you were going to Ushuaia before coming to BA. They have internet there.
All that left us with three folk here for dinner, who I think still had a great time, it just made for a fairly quiet evening – and an easy one all around. My friends who run closed door restaurants in the States and around Europe think we’re insane here in BA for not requiring prepayment, in full, non-refundable – taking away the financial concern of whether it’s a viable evening, and also separating the financial from the experience, which is more of a concern in places where these sorts of things are more underground and off the grid. Treat it like a ticketed event they say – if people change their mind or can’t make it, let them deal with giving their seats to someone else by giving or reselling the spaces. I wonder if it would fly here? I don’t think anyone’s doing it that way. Interestingly, also this week, an article on how some top restaurants in Spain are dealing with this exact issue some of them precisely by doing that (in Spanish).
On to the food of last week (another oddity of the week, probably the first time in a couple of years that there wasn’t one single food allergy or dietary restriction to comply with):
Our ever popular heart of palm, manchego cheese and chipotle chili tart with balsamic glaze and an arugula salad.
A new soup, which was a hit. Roasted butternut squash soup – the squash roasted along with a whole head of garlic, then pureed with freshly made chicken stock, evaporated milk, toasted cumin, togaroshi, salt, and “the scarborough fair” quartet of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Drizzled with a little salted yogurt, our pink peppercorn oil, and some scattered chopped herbs (the same).
Our ramen dish for the week after experimenting with getting the noodles the way I’d hope (previous post). The sauce, a slightly Peruvian twist on bolognese – instead of the usual ground veal that I’d use, I went with an anticucho theme and used ground beef heart, and then added to the classic Italian spice and herb blend some toasted cumin and pureed ají panca, and, finally, replacing the white wine in the sauce with red. Loved the sauce. Not convinced on the ramen noodles as a sub for spaghetti or, better yet, something a bit wider. Henry thinks we should serve it with our homemade whole wheat pasta, done as fettucine or even pappardelle. Probably a really good combo, and shades of our “deli bolognese with pumpernickel linguini” (which we did two years before all the hub-bub over Wylie Dufresne’s rye noodles with shaved pastrami, just sayin’).
New version of our various roast chicken dishes, I’m really liking this one, not just in flavors, but I think the presentation is kinda purty, don’t you? Roast chicken breast served over a creamed chard, roasted daikon medallions (I was surprised how many people this week had no idea what a daikon was), chives, a parsley puree and a beet and rocoto caramel. Yum!
Inspired by an episode or two of the current run of The Great Irish Bake Off (I do watch a lot of cooking competition shows from all over, one never knows where inspiration will come from). Here, a “bakhlava cake” – three layered sponge cake, the layers are pistachio, almond and rosewater, walnut and vanilla. The filling between the layers is rosehip jam, the frosting is a honey buttercream, and the whipped cream on the side is flavored with rosewater and honey, and, a crumble of walnuts, pistachios and almonds scattered about. Let them eat cake!
Overall, quite happy with the menu, though I’d change up the pasta component of the third dish. It’d probably even look prettier with a wider, more substantial noodle.