Theme tasting menu?
One of the most memorable dinners I've had was at Fenix (not Phoenix) restaurant, top floor at Hotel Argyle in Los Angeles, a while back in the 90's. It was a tasting menu of wild mushrooms in each course. Here's a good site about the restaurant and the talented chef Ken Frank. http://www.travel-watch.com/fenix.htm
Isn't it a great opportunity to appreciate a single ingredient, or similar, related ingredients, presented in different styles or courses? It wouldn't be so hard on my palate, either. While a typical tasting menu is made up of frantically diverse exciting dishes, it normally doesn't do a single ingredient justice.
Nothing too fancy. Just keep it simple and let each flavor show through. I wish more chefs would do it.
Know of any good theme tasting menu dinners?
Have you made dinners to showcase a single ingredient?
I think the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook might help inspire you. I attended a dinner featuring plums as the host had a plum tree. She e-mailed us with a nice variety of recipes to choose from. It turned out great and perfect for summer. Simple yet sophisticated. Given that it is winter in the US, I'd love to do lemon as a theme.
East Coast Grill in Cambridge has Hell Nights a few times a year. Everything from Habanero Martinis to Red Chile Ice Cream. And chile in everything in between. Wonderful, but perhaps not what you are looking for.
They're also doing a series of dinners featuring roast pig (not all in one dinner), each time in a different style (Cuban is the next one, according to their website).
All sorts of high-restaurants showcase the ubiquitous truffle when it is in season, for which I am eternally grateful. Manresa in Los Gatos showcased heirloom tomoatoes, but I'm allergic and couldn't go. I am also charmed by restaurants who, in the late fall, start to showcase game meats.
Mushrooms are, however, my absolutely favorite and because there are so many varieties that are so seasonal, I applaud any restaurant that can get and also showcase rare and obscure types.
Restaurants with different regional styles are well represented in most cities, and the style which is most compatible with the local ingredients (by whatever means they get them somewhat fresh) tend to be the most authentic tasting.
Now, if we have a fabulous local ingredient, why not showcase it, make it a specialty.
I have a bad habit of "craving" something which has yet to exist - or should I call it "yearning"...?
When we go to a sushi place or a tofu place or a tamale place, the reason we do it is "because we feel like it". Well, sometimes I feel like mushrooms, or yams, or chicken three ways.