Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sunday Supper 01

Before I take the liberty to use this space as a forum to voice sweeping generalizations and my philosophies on food culture, the act of eating, the act of killing and preparing food, hospitality, people management, money management, and how all these experiences and thoughts resolve themselves in our first concept, I should post a few thoughts on this tradition-turned-experiment of our Sunday Supper. In the past, our Sunday supper was a party; we would invite a group of our friends to our home and cook what we fancied. When TM and I decided that this would be the year we launch our restaurant - which if you cannot tell from my last post, will be Spanish-inspired - we decided not only to feed our friends, but to use them for feedback, support, and general discussion on menu items intended for our restaurant. Hence, our first Sunday Supper happened on 01.02.11, partly to welcome in the new year and partly to involve our best friend visiting beautiful Los Angeles from NYC.

In attendance were Ayla, Sam, Raul, Nephresha, Lesley, Gabe, Reyna, Justin, Kersu, and of course us, the instigators. We started the night with a Sparking Shiraz, which admittedly wasn't Spanish or even intended for that night, but was nonetheless delicious and a befittingly bodied bubbly beginning the bash. We must have something similar on our menu, simply because it makes sense. It was richly colored, bold, risky, well-balanced, tasteful, tasty, playful, and serious, all adjectives I imagine will describe our first restaurant.

To start the feast, we plated Stuffed Piquillo Peppers - kumquat jam, caramelized onions, piquillo peppers, fried shallots, lemon zest, and LOWFAT CREAM CHEESE only because we intended to make a sardine terrine with piquillo peppers and kumquat jam but were foiled by water-logged sardines. Plan B was literally made from scraps we had on hand in the garden, in the fridge, behind the fridge. They came out surprisingly well, and were quite a hit!

Very fittingly, this Plan B dish partly inspired Part B of our restaurant concept (Part A is obviously the Spanish-inspired element), which is an extension of sustainability, something that TM and I hold close to our hearts. I know I said I would try to hold back on my philosophical banter, but I cannot. Modern food culture extols everything that is "prime," i.e. prime cuts, perfectly portioned vegetables, the most rare ingredients. This is all wonderful, until you work in the BOH and come to understand the level of waste produced in cooking this way. Something that I have learned from TM is to shop for and cook with what is in season, what is fresh, what is discounted because of an inconsequential blemish or the end of a sales day. Though you walk away with sometimes an odd assortment of items, you learn to be creative when you cook and resourceful when you reach the end of your provisions for the week. One of the first times TM cooked for me, I gave her a challenge by purchasing a random basket of foods for her to prepare several dishes. The first thing she said to me when she saw what I had purchased was, "oh, you took it easy on me." I thought I was providing her with a challenge, but now I know she needs more. So, what if our restaurant concept was not only Spanish-inspired cuisine, but also included an element of resourceful sustainability (I need a better catch-phrase)? What if we could use whole animals in their entirety to produce an assortment of dishes that are not immediately identified as "peasant food" or sub-par? What if we could demand superiority AND creativity to change the way restaurants ordered, prepared, and eventually wasted (or not) their food when it reached the consumer? What if, what if? But I digress. Let's talk about Sunday Supper 01, item no. 2: Braised Lamb Shoulder with Lentils and Grapes., gamey lamb braised until it separated with a fork, TM's specialty. Al dente lentils and grapes that matched the sherry braise. Very Spanish, and very much a hit. TM wants to use a fattier cut. I don't mind experimenting if it means that the lentils will gain natural fat. I'm not a fan of beans or legumes, but I agree that the dish could be made into a homerun with a little tweaking.

Chorizo and Littleneck Clams. These clams are not for the faint of heart, cook or eater. They overcook quickly to become tough, big morsels, which was a small problem the first time TM made these for just us. But when cooked just right, they are tender and so much more flavorful than the smaller, stingy Manilas. I liked the chorizo in the dish, but the broth needs tinkering. Not as full and luxurious as I would have liked. I would have also liked more bite from the fennel. Overall, however, this is easily one of my favorite menu items so far.

The last item of note was the Pan Con Tomato, which was so unexpectedly delightful, I'm just pleased with everyone involved. We grated the tomato and then rolled cubes of bread in the puree before baking. The result: crispy, tomato-y outsides and soft centers. Not only does this dish inspire me to bake my own bread, it makes me want to grow heirloom tomatoes, and learn about fine olive oils. It is the epitome of simple, healthful, delightful eating. And so, for me, this Sunday Supper 01 was not only an inspiration for the Part B of our concept, but it also summed up what we have always hoped to do with our food and our hospitality: serve delicious, artisanal, healthful foods in the comfort of our own home and in the company of our friends.

1 comment:

  1. But what I really want to know is: How do you institutionalize culture?