Week 7: Friday, a leasurely boat ride down the Loire

Today, I walked into the classroom and found two students from GM polishing the silverware for the day’s table setting. No big deal except that they had presented them in such an anal fashion that I felt compelled to take a picture. Why because I love this level of detail. I aspire to it everyday. I look for it in all that I do with food. It’s Kellereske and though I mostly feel that Keller takes it too far sometimes, I can’t help but appreciate the level of detail and the OCD behavior that must run through his bloodstream (Alain Ducasse too). I’ve come to terms that I don’t have the drive of either of these two men, but I admire the detail. It is art in itself. Like nicely lined up and polished silverware.img_0239.jpg
The day of curriculum started with students rolling out croissant dough (after the quiz of course). Then I started to give a lecture on the Loire valley. But then I was hit with a barrage of questions about why we felt it was important to learn all the details of each Culinary region of France and Italy. Obvious to me, but clearly not so obvious to my students who are struggling to digest the information and regurgitate it on a quiz. So, I tried to explain that the French and the Italians have a whole culture that revolves around food and the love of great products.
They are cultures that hold these pleasures on a pedestal and that we are trying to to have them understand these dishes and products so they can grasp this same love for good things that exist in the culinary homeland. If we were learning about the Koran or Bible we would find it imperative to relate it back to its roots and we would probably urge our students to make a pilgrimage to the source of these teachings. If you were to talk to a Frenchman or woman about the Loire valley, you would certainly hear them talk about the famous chateaux or the Chartres Cathedral, but probably in the same sentence you will hear them talk of the wines and goat cheeses of the region. These are such a great part of their identity. If you were to ask an American about what is great about Washington D.C. you would probably hear about the different monuments to visit, but not the best place for Crab cakes. These are very different cultural outlooks.Does the US have a culinary identity? Yes, and it is growing each day. Can we still learn from the old country? Absolutely and imperatively. Can we develop our own culinary identity and eventually rival the European outlook on food? I believe we can. Will American Culinary Schools eventually start teaching American Cuisine as their core curriculum……………………Time will tell.Until then learn the crottin.

Anyway, we replicated a modernized menu from the Loire valley (or at least interpreted it) and it was great.

First up was a seafood consommé poured onto a salmon tartare with a sorrel chiffonade.

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Before seafood consommé. Then after.

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A quick picture of the awesome bread basket today.

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Next came our course of rack of venison with a two tone purée of butternut and chestnut served with a sauce Grand Veneur.

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Before it went in the combi at 170º with 40% humidity and taken to 120º internal temperature. Plated it looked like this.

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In true French fashion we had a cheese course, but unfortunately we were unable to get Crottin de Chavignol for the course. We found a a great cheese from California called “Purple Haze.” I would love to meet the owners. GM coated it with some lavender and fennel pollen and served it with micro greens. The US is making great strides in artisanal cheese production.

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No Loire valley meal would be complete without the most classic of Loire desserts: Tarte Tatin.

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We paired the dishes today with a white Touraine (Sauvignon Blanc) and a Bourgeuil (Cabernet Franc).

Another stellar food week cruising around France. Next week we focus on Italia.

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