Links To The Past

As a chef, the task of building flavor into a single dish is a constant.  If we're making a lobster ravioli, goddammit, we want that bite of food to taste like a giant lobster.  Now we might add some alternate flavor notes, some herbs, a little booze, perhaps a little acid, but lobster must permeate.  So, obviously we would fill the ravioli with lobster, but the béchamel we make to sauce the ravioli - we'll start with a base of lobster stock.  The mushrooms we serve as a garnish - toss em with some lobster butter.  Lobster on lobster on lobster.  Throw in a little tarragon, a splash of sherry and you really have something.  When a diner takes a bite of that lobster dish, we want them to taste depth, and layering, and fully lobster (yes, I can't stop thinking about lobsters).

That's all fine and good for a single dish, but what about a whole menu?  At Sunday Dinner Club we think in menus - we serve a set four, five, or six course menu that has to flow, be balanced, and feel "right."  We always attempt to find complimentary dishes and flavors as the menu progresses.  We try to balance starches, and dairy, and meat, and veg.  We try to flow from one dish to the next, focused on the progression, moving forward on the menu, but also moving away from the previous dish.  Unlike the repetitive layering of a single plate, when composing a full menu, we have always been conscious to not repeat ingredients, to move ahead in an appropriate but certainly different way from the previous dish.  Our method of menu building, to find a menu direction, and go forward has been successful, exciting and useful.

But recently I was lucky enough to dine at Goosefoot, and experienced top level execution, elegance and soul.  Goosefoot blew me away.  After the meal I could not stop thinking about the menu, and the progression.  Goosefoot operates in set menus as well, and Chef Chris Nugent and his team offered a menu that of course had direction and flow.  But it had something else as well -  it had continuity, it had links to the past.  Nugent's menu, kept returning to flavors from previous courses.  An example - rather than serving mushrooms once, and then moving along, Nugent returns again and again to mushrooms.  Currently he offers truffles with chestnut soup, maitakes with sea bass, later trumpet mushrooms served with beef.  Other flavors and herbs and aromatics return as well.  Ever finished a dish at a great meal and felt angry because it's over?  At Goosefoot, the dish keeps returning, not in a bash you over the head sort of way, but in a subtle, thoughtful, and truly generous way.

The Goosefoot menu was a revelation to me.  Rather than settling for building flavor in each dish, and then moving forward to build another separate, yes, maybe complimentary, but still distinct flavor and dish, Goosefoot keeps reminding us of where we just were, and that was truly magnificent.