This course began as a pre-dessert and was first introduced on the evening of our second Anti Restaurant Week engagement. The idea for this was born from my favorite personal snack and one that has kept me fed throughout all of my travels: Granny Smith apple smothered with Skippy peanut butter. From the time I was a kid, I always loved the way the crisp acidity from the apple plays off the fat from the peanut butter. It continues to be a mainstay in my diet today… and yes, I still usually use the butter knife to continue eating peanut butter from the jar long after the remnants of the apple are gone.
We started with a Granny Smith apple sorbet and then built a roasted peanut sauce that is seasoned with a bourbon barrel aged soy sauce. Peanut brittle serves as a bed for the sorbet, and I decided to make a marmalade with some parsnips that were being used with another set that had just come off the menu. This was seasoned with honey, sherry vinegar, and a good deal of fresh thyme (which really helped to make a harmonious flavor profile). The idea of bacon came into play as an added embellishment. And as I tell the guests in the dining room as I explain the course, “No, I don’t usually have bacon with my snack… but why the fuck not?” They like that.
The course did create a debate within our ranks. That is on the theme of bacon used as a dessert. Everyone agreed this has been done 10,000,000 times in restaurants all over the world in the last few years, and that in itself is a reason that we shouldn’t do it. I get that. The last thing we want to be is some Johnny Come Lately. And though I begrudgingly succumbed and moved this into a ‘bridge’ course on our tasting menu as soon as my theme on movie snacks was ready to hit the menu, I believe there is still something to say on this topic. From my side, I’ve never believed in being swayed by trends when they are in, and I don’t believe in being swayed by them just because they are out. If a dish is good and pertinent – and comes from a place of unadulterated inspiration – why should it make a difference if it has already been done? If bacon for dessert has been done 10 million times, where do you draw the line? Think of all the other items that have been interpreted 10 billion times: pork belly, surf and turf, tuna nicoise, and non traditional carpaccios and tartares to name a few. Not only have these interpretations been important in the forging of today’s movements, I believe that as long as a take is fresh, there is nothing wrong with paying homage to the time set these came from. Back when I was in NYC in the early ’90′s, the most exciting chefs (from Vongerichten, to Boulud, to Bouley, to Kunz) were doing takes on these concepts that seem nothing but trite today. Yes, there should probably be a note on the reflective nature behind it, but why not pay homage to those who originally saw cuisine as more than protein/starch/vege?
Though many of you reading this surely think about cuisine and related movements as much – if not more – than I do, I also assure you that the vast majority of guests in your dining room know little about what’s in and what’s been done. I would bet they would be just as enthralled with Boulud’s curried tuna tartare with celery and radish as much as any new and cutting edge offering on your menu. And if you can teach them a bit about where today’s movements got legs, then why not take a course to teach them. I guarantee many will be appreciative for the lesson, and what’s more, eat something delicious.