There are many places that inspiration for a new dish is born, but for myself, this is the first time that one was born out of a dream. What makes it more unusual, is that it is rare that I remember dreams in the first place… and if they are ever involving food, it has usually been more in the form of a nightmare from being over worked and then involve a never ending flow of tickets pouring out of the kitchen Micros system. Definitely do not miss the days of staggered services and being ‘bum rushed’.
Though there were alterations made to the idea in a conscious state to take it beyond a three component dish and provide depth (gastrique), acidity (cranberries), and texture (pecans), the core of the epiphany remains. The dream paired root beer with Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, and immediately on waking I began to think what protein would work best. Ultimately I decided on venison.
On building the dish out, I walked to our dry storage and found some sassafras branches and anise hyssop powder (ingredients in root beer) that our forager had brought us in the fall. The sassafras was used to make a tea, which was then the base for the gastrique made with the anise hyssop powder, caramelized sugar and red wine vinegar. This became a glaze for the venison and also the sauce used on the plate. We ran this for a couple of weeks on our menu – and though well received – I felt that the venison was actually overshadowing the rest of the dish. In addition, we also like to feature one dish on our tasting menu that is vegetarian friendly. As a case of addition by subtraction, the nuances of the ingredients stood more proudly on their own and as a bonus, stayed more true to the dream.
Anise Hyssop Gastrique
Sprecher Root Beer Foam (using isi canister)
Anise Hyssop Blossom