Manresa "Seasonal & Spontaneous" tasting menu February 2007
I still haven't finished writing it up. Here's what I have so far.
An intended pairing – essentially the same refreshing dish - near the beginning of the dinner, and presented again toward the end as a gentle introduction to the dessert courses.
The dish in question is citrus salad with mostly grapefruit and blood orange, served as the second amuse bouche in a bottom-heavy shot glass. Tall but stable. An appropriate mini spoon is perfect for digging out the goodies lightly buried in translucent jasmine tea gelee, sprinkled with tiny sprigs of mint.
After all the savory courses, a citrus salad with similar grapefruit and blood orange mix was presented on a pretty rectangular white plate. In place of mint, I found the enchanting presence of whole rosemary flowers. Tiny petals packed with perfume, adding velvety texture and color to the pretty dish.
Two simple churro sticks in a tall cup, one slightly longer than the other, bent slightly, like a playful modern arrangement in a small vase. This was the third amuse bouche, placed in the middle of the table.
There is a consistent theme throughout the dinner, and that is his presentation of contrasting flavors as distinct individual flavors, mixed only after you take a bite. The hint is given early in the amuse bouches I have yet to cover, and in the butter for the bread. Unsalted butter is placed on a thin square slab of beautiful dark stone. Maldon salt comes sprinkled on top of the butter. Savory sweet and salty start out separately, but sing in your mouth in snappy harmony. (Bread choices - batard, sourdough or green olive bread.)
The churro was no exception. On the inside, the velvety parmesan (yes, parmesan cheese) was sweetly soft and demure, and all the sparkle came from the salty crispness on the outside.
The first savory course. Mesquite wood smoked duck foie gras, with miner's lettuce, rosemary vinegar infused pear slivers. Tonka bean powder was sprinkled on the plate.
The foie gras was a firm, red, generous portion of heavenly goodness. This was easily one of the best dishes of the evening.
Miner's lettuce - I was positive I was eating shamrock - the heart-shaped green I once played with (and ate). It tasted just like it. I don't know...
The third savory course was, in a nutshell, a dish of gnocchis, a dollop of creamy cheese, garden vegetables + foam.
A little dish. Not so little were the efforts which resulted in this divine creation. Luca the waiter reported, with mock sadness, that the vegetables were living in their own biodynamic garden until that very afternoon, until around 3:30 pm. I located a perky miniature carrot the size of a pine nut. A cute baby turnip. There was a tiny spinach leaf, a broccoli floret the size of my thumbnail, and a tiny piece of light green vegetable I saw in Paris but had never eaten before. More about this fascinating vegetable later. All these baby vegetables were individually poached in its own little pot, in its own rich vegetable broth, with different optimum cooking times. Then they were all assembled together, and presented with pieces of gnocchi and rich vegetable broth foam.
Burrata is a pure white cheese made with water buffalo milk. Luca with a heavy accent (I pictured subtitles on his chin - wishful thinking) enunciated “booffalo” several times. A fresh and creamy treat.
The light green vegetable which delights a Paris market shopper, which prompts musings of the Fibonacci sequence...? It's romanesque, or romanesque broccoli, the “fractal vegetable”. The geometric symmetry is mesmerizing, discernible even as a little tiny piece.
With its firm texture and taste reminiscent of young broccoli or cauliflower, it held its own among absolutely gorgeous itty-bitty vegetables in the burrata and gnocchi dish I mentioned in the previous post. A vegetable to savor? Precisely.
Fourth savory course - a lavish piece of red Monterey abalone steak.
It lay on a blanket of snow white milk skin. A simple accompaniment of delectable golden nuggets of cauliflower tempura (deep-fried in peanut oil).
I’ve played with milk skin before, and I am not talking about a skin care product. You know, the thin film which forms over boiled milk. I didn’t realize such a generous portion, the size of a wonton wrapper, was even possible to retrieve in solid sheets, but here it was, wholesome yet sensual.
I am still working on the rest of the dishes. For updates, check in at http://grocerytrekker.blogspot.com
Here's the rest, to sum up.
There is a bit of confusion regarding yellowtail. Not all yellowtail kingfish is amberjack, and not all are the premium hiramasa variety. Hamachi and kanpachi are considered to be "lower" grades by some people. (I love them just fine, though)
The second savory course at Manresa which had this prized variety, was the definition of savory.
A circularly laid out amberjack sashimi dish. Imagine a flattened magnolia blossom with thin satiny translucent sashimi petals, flavored with sherry vinegar reduction, accented with little pieces of geoduck and little neck clams. I imagined tasting concentrated konbu broth, but it’s entirely possible these flavors came from the clams alone. Sprinkled on top are white untoasted sesame seeds, slivers of nori, miniscule rings of chives and julienned white radish resembling little daisy petals. Further garnished with baby shiso leaves and flowers.
Some may say clams overpower delicate amberjack. They may be right, and David may be wrong. How deliciously wrong.
The sixth savory course at Manresa was duck in duck. Or should I call it duck two ways in one single dish.
There sat a sassy mound of white paste tinged with fresh green - puree of youthful garlic with the consistency of creamy mashed potato.
Crisp/tender duck breast stuffed with smooth confit of duck leg meat and duck liver. Luca called the stuffing foie gras, and it was, sort of. A liver confit cured lovingly over time with herbs and duck fat. Sitting on garlic puree and garnished with a bit of chives. This was a comforting dish. Sass, a neat counterpoint.
As a minimalist, David appropriately chose an ordinary farm fresh egg to express his taste and artistry, also an homage to Alain Passard's chaud-froid d'oeuf fermier, sirop d'erable.
The EGG is an ambitious concept. This deceptively simple little soft-boiled egg with the top lopped off (the 4th amuse bouche) attempts to represent almost every facet of our contrasting flavor sensations.
Sweet represented by maple syrup,
Sour represented by sherry vinegar,
Salt sprinkled on top,
Savory soft yolk
Texture contrast between the salt and the whipped cream top.
Cooked on the outside, raw on the inside,
I did taste a bit of pleasant bitterness as well,
And yes, the egg was delivered hot and cold at the same time.
As the casually Californian yet conceptually operatic dinner drew to a close, Luca the waiter drew a big circle in the air with his 2 index fingers, joining the imaginary mignardises - olive madeleine and chili “gumdrop” gelee offered at the beginning of the meal and the chocolate madeleine and strawberry “gumdrop” gelee at the end.
It all ties together.
A good way to sum it up, in an eggshell.
No formal tasting menu given at Manresa.
Here's my quick summary.
Petits fours - olive madeleines, chili gelee "gumdrops"
French batard/green olive/sourdough bread – with unsalted butter sprinkled with Maldon salt
1) Hot foie gras “winter croquette” chestnut balls
2) Citrus salad with jasmine tea gelee, mint
3) Parmesan churros
4) THE EGG
1) Wood smoked foie gras, miner’s lettuce, pear slivers, tonka bean powder.
2) Amberjack sashimi, sherry vinegar reduction, white untoasted sesame, micro greens, geoduck, little neck clams
3) Gnocchi, burrata, vegetable foam, garden vegetables
4) Monterey red abalone with milk skin, cauliflower tempura
5) John Dory grilled on the plancha, rapini green, rapini flowers, avocado sauce, chili pepper powder
6) Duck breast stuffed with duck leg meat & liver confit, young garlic cream puree, chives
7) Beef bavette, salsify, carrot puree
1) Citrus salad, gelee, rosemary flowers
2) Banana with caramel sauce, mini waffle, white coffee foam
3) Homemade marshmallow, rocky road parfait
Petits fours - chocolate madeleine, strawberry gelee "gumdrops"
Amazing post! And you're not even done yet. I think Chef David Kinch is a genius and his ability to contrast ingredients and perform alchemy with flavors and textures is extraordinary. I easily preferred his cuisine over TFL and I also like the fact that he's priming his garden for spring and will soon be using seasonal ingredients straight from that garden. Manresa is a true gem.
I might agree with you, except that I haven't been to TFL in years, so it's hard to compare. I did absolutely love it then. I regret not writing it all down... it's exhausting, but it's worth it. You think you'll remember the details forever, but you simply don't.
I've looked up your post, and I realized the only dish we had in common was the EGG!