Cafe Degas is one of my favorite places to dine in the city. With a similar philosophy on business and life of delivering quality without pretense and working hard but having fun with something you love, there is an unforced synergy between us. With less than 25' separating our doors, the laissez-faire attitude and relaxed environment of our two businesses seems to create a natural extension of each other's space.
We have planned many events together over the years from community festivals, to fund raisers, after-jazz-fest street parties and dinners, but I find our latest adventure something different and exciting. Our upcoming wine dinner on March 18th will combine traditional Southern French cuisine with elements of molecular cooking (see my post on "The Science of Cooking") with the menu created by Chef Didier Ardoin. To better educated myself on this event, I did an interview with Didier on what inspired him to combine these two very different styles of cooking.
Q: What excites you about our upcoming dinner?
A: That owners Jacques and Jerry and Executive Chef Ryan Hughes trust in me enough to allow me to do something so non-traditional, and that I can apply all of my years of self study and practice in a really special event such as this.
Q: Where did you get your inspiration for the menu?
A: From the food and styles I learned while working in Toulouse, France. Being so close to the Pyrenees, there is a lot of Spanish influence in the regional cuisine and the whole molecular cooking movement was first popularized in Spain by Catalan chef Ferran Adria at his El Bulli restaurant. So, it was a natural fit for me to combine the traditional cuisine of Southern France with elements of molecular cooking.
Q: What do you like about molecular cooking?
A: It's fun; it allows the diner to experience familiar things in an unexpected way through altering presentation, texture and deconstruction of ingredients.
Q: Looking at the menu, give us examples of the "unexpected".
A: Let's take "presentation" as an example using the amuse bouche take on a traditional Parisian dish, Poulet au Verjus. Normally it is a simple dish prepared by searing chicken and then simmering it in a tart, green grape juice. For the menu I'm creating a chicken mousseline with a grape gelee and rolled it into a chicken skin cracker and served it with a verjus caramel. You'll experience familiar flavors but in a very different way.
If we use "texture" as an example we can look at the salad course where instead of a traditional red wine dressing, I'm making a frozen granita vinaigrette.
As for "deconstruction", the dessert is a take on a traditional Bananas Foster where scalloped bananas will be coated in a dried caramel and butter powder, seared and then served with rum spheres created by reverse spherification ("cooking" a liquid in a Sodium Alginate bath) and homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
Q: What do you think is the most "unexpected" item on the menu?
A: The entremet which will be served after the entree to prepare your palate for dessert. It is called "liquid popcorn" and it will literally be a shot (non alcoholic) that will take you back to the movies as a kid eating caramel popcorn, but in a liquid form.
Thanks Didier, I can't wait!!
Find all of this intriguing? Join us on Wednesday, March 18th for our Dining at Degas dinner featuring the wine and food of Southern France with a post-modern twist! I'll have the complete menu with wine pairings in my "This Week at Swirl Wines" weekly email on Monday. If you are interested in subscribing to the email you can do so by following this link: swirlinthecity.com.