Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hanging out with French guys

When I posted on Loomy Tunes on Monday, I promised news of my day with the chefs from Daniel Boulud's restaurant.  Because the pastry chef, Dominique Ansel, was so prepared, I didn't get to help him with his dessert, after all.  I counted inventory in the preserve kitchen, instead, and waited for the dinner to begin.  I gave all the chefs a tour of my kitchen and made each a jar of peanut butter to take home with them.  
  Drinks and appetizers started at 6:30, and as always, it took a while for everyone to be seated and be ready for the onslaught of food.  First course was a tomato tasting, with two elements from Daniel's Executive Chef, Jean Francois Bruel and two from the Executive Chef of the Barn, Joseph Lenn.

Here's Joseph's tomato gelee, with a tiny current tomatoes captured in the gelee.  Before the plate went out, we put in tiny rye croutons and poured yellow gazpacho into the glass.

The tomato sampler looked like this:

It's just missing the tomato sorbet the Jean Francois put on top of the stuffed cherry tomato right as the servers took the plates out.  That was too chaotic to photograph, though, hands reaching everywhere to plate the sorbet as fast as possible and get it to the guests before it melted.

The next course was Joseph's fish course, sea bass with caviar, roasted fingerling potatoes and bacon jam.

I squirted the bacon jam.  That was my contribution.

 Now, I might have missed a couple of courses.  I know I missed photographing Joseph's lamb course.  It was simply too busy, because we were plating all the courses on an assembly line, and Chef Boulud was snapping orders, making us all nervous.  But here is my favorite course, the frog legs' souffle.  Chef Bruel made this course, and during the afternoon, I walked by to ask him if he was coming on the garden tour.  He said, sure, as soon as he finished piping his souffles.  After the tour, he tested one, and I just happened to walk by when he pulled it out of the oven.  "Here," he said. "Try this."  I made yummy noises and swooning motions, and he said, "That ees nossing.  Wait teell you taste the sauce."  So that night, after we plated the guests' portions, he made one more, and said, "This is for the madame," meaning me.  He put extra sauce on the plate, too.  Everyone else was eyeing it and pulling out their spoons, but I said they had to wait until I got a spoon.  They did, which they normally wouldn't have done, let me take one bite, lots of sauce and pronounce it amazing.  Then they ate every last drop.  The souffle is filled with frog leg meat, then surrounded by fava beans and more frog leg meat, with a very rich sauce veloute around it.  It was superb, absolutely delicious.
  Chef Boulud made the Grouse course, the final meat course.  It had celery root boxes, cooked, then hollowed out to be filled with celery root puree.  Alongside were beet and salsify batons.  The grouse was covered on three sides with some kind of crumb coating that Chef Boulud and Chef Brune browned on the stove top right before it went out, in very hot skillets.  That is all that cooked the meat, leaving it rare in the center, and gorgeous.  This plate sat a little while before I could take the photo, so it's not quite as beautiful as it was.

 Next came the cheese course, one wedge of our Singing Brook cheese, candied pecans and pecan vinaigrette:
  And, of course, the most important part of the meal followed.  It was coffee mousse wrapped in chocolate, with coffee ice cream, coffee pate de fruit, coffee biscuit underneath the mousse and on top of the chocolate shard that rested on tope of the mousse.  There's also some "chocolate crumb" on the plate, keeping the ice cream from sliding around.  So beautiful...
  Dominique was the pastry chef at Fauchon, the famous gourmet shop in Paris before he came to Daniel.  He opened the new branches of Fauchon around the world when they expanded.  He is amazingly talented, but very down to earth and kind.  I'm hoping he'll hire Abby to work with him when she returns from her world travels.

And he made plates of chocolates for the finish:
They also made Madelines, warm from the oven, but I couldn't find my camera, and was busy helping the chef plate them.
 It was a long day, and I'd forgotten how difficult but how fun it is to work a function like that.  Everyone gets tense and sweaty and we all work together to make the food go out as beautiful and delicious as possible.  I'm glad I was able to participate, glad that it isn't my everyday job anymore, and so glad to meet such an extraordinary team of chefs.
  And I'm glad I was able to share it with you!  Bon Appetit!


LA said...

I looked at all the pictures on FB, too! It sure looked like an amazing evening.

Sharon said...

That drops my jaw - I cannot imagine being in the thick of that environment. Ian just booked our flight for New York next month and we're trying to figure out from the New Yorker where we can get the best taste at a noon meal - retirees, ya know. Frugal but not cheap.