You don't eat caviar because you're hungry. But the
portion set before us at a dinner the other night
was capable of staving off a serious quantity of pang.
We all eyed the presentation set before us perched
on the tiny bases of empty, over-turned, long -stemmed
Riedel Burgundy wine glasses. This caviar "amuse"
course was done in the style of the legendary "beggars'purses"
as created by Barry Wine, once chef and owner of the
Quilted Giraffe in Manhattan. Chef Wine used to insist
that his guests use no hands, (much less
forks or spoons) when eating the purse. He favored
taking pictures of many of his guests donning elegantly
designed handcuffs he had at the restaurant, leaning
way over with their arms and hands pulled behind them
taking it between their lips or teeth and then
standing upright and eating the salty cargo within
the chive-tied crepe. I did not wait for anyone to
insist otherwise and picked up my beggars' purse with
one hand... bit half off enjoying it tremendously...
had a small gulp of the 1965 Krug... finished the
other half followed by some more of the Krug... The
evening was looking up. Did I mention that the purse
was filled with beluga caviar? There are three great
caviar. Beluga, Sevruga and Osetra. The determination
of which caviar it will be is done by several criteria.
At this level it is matter of personal taste. Malosol
in Russian is the term meaning "little salt" and fresh
caviar has very little. The presence of salt preserves
it but masks the flavors. Caviar should be served
as simply as possible. With caviar of this quality,
forget chopped eggs, capers, onions and the like.
World-class caviar is one of life's musts even if
only once in a great while. Handcuffs are optional.
consulted: A.J.McClane's, "encyclopedia of Fih
© by Norman Van Aken, 2000 All right reserved.
The English are so organized! God love 'em. There's
a specific time of the day when everyone from the
Queen Mother to the lorry drivers of Sherwood forest
take a collective "chill pill", (as we might say in
the U.S.), and have a cup or two of tea. When we say
tea, we are talking about a vast variety of flavors
that come from one plant: Camellia Sinesis, which
is actually an evergreen bush. Now, in the strictest
sense, we would not be talking about herbal teas,
which are properly referred to as infusions, not tea.
However, infused teas work quite well in the kitchen
too. "Tea as food? Not just as a beverage? ," You
may question. Well, it takes coffee to make a true
"red-eye gravy" so why not tea as a food element,
too? , I reason. The flavors of tea are as intriguing
as the diversity of wine. Black, oolong and green
teas are organized in terms of the rate of fermentation.
Black has the most, oolong is semi-fermented and green
has none. The smoky Lapsang Souchong tea was one of
the first teas to really make me think of tea as an
ingredient to cook with. I was checking out a bag
of it and passing the dark and aromatic dried leaves
through my hands one afternoon it occurred to me that
the tea looked like dried herbs and my mind expanded
one extra little inch and I thought, "Let's try to
use it as if it were an herb." So I made a caramelized
shallot, balsamic and tea mixture which I sparingly
rolled into some beautiful King Salmon Spirals that
we grilled and served on a light lemon butter, connecting
tea and lemon in a whole new way. Many people might
not have identified the mysterious flavor the tea
lent, but I got great feedback. I still serve it that
way on my menu at NORMAN'S. Tea. It's not just for
© by Norman Van Aken, 2000 All rights reserved.