In my first Dinner Lab event in awhile, I saw an all-French menu and had to go. Chef Jacques Richard lived and cooked in France until moving to Austin and is now a chef at Whole Foods. His menu is a tour around the different regions of France, with each course representing a different place.
Course 1: Gironde, Atlantique Ocean. Baked stuffed mussels, ham, butter, pastis, bread crumbs
The mussels were really tiny, but the clam itself was nice and light, and they didn’t dry out in the oven, either. Not sure if it was just a garnish or not (most of the snobs around didn’t eat it), but the sautéed spinach was also delicious.
Course 2: Lyon. Lyonnaise Salad, red wine dressing, Lardons, croutons, poached eggs
The problem with an event like Dinner Lab, where a chef is serving 50 or more people without a real kitchen, things have to be cooked in advance and they have to sit around. Poached eggs are just not going to be good if they sit around. The egg had to have been quail or some other small bird, so it was small, and was overcooked, rubbery, and the yolk was so small none of it was runny. The intent of the salad was good in theory, had the yolk broken open and combined with the vinegar dressing to coat the salad, but it ended up flopping.
Course 3: Provence, Mediterranee. Omelette terrine, eggplant, zucchini, tomato-basil sauce
As I’m learning, I can kind of give or take terrine. It’s okay, but it’s certainly not my favorite and I probably wouldn’t order it. This dish was sort of like a frittada in Italian cooking and it was fine, but what I couldn’t resist was the tomato sauce. I was liking it off the plate.
Course 4: South Alpes. Braised lamb leg, thyme jus, bayaldi, pan fried potatoes
Could take or leave this dish, too. Nothing memorable and the veggies in the corner needed seasoning.
Course 5: Touraine. Trio of goat cheese from the Loire Valley, cumin, black pepper, apple compote
I love cheese so yeah, I loved this shit outta this. The dried nectarines got way stuck in my teeth, though.
Course 6: Paris. St. Honoré puff pastry and profiterole cake, cream pudding mousse, caramel
This dish unfortunately put a damper on the evening. The dish tasted fine, but the pastry was dense and impossible to cut and the caramel hardened nearly immediately to the consistency of very sticky candy. You’d put a bite of that caramel-covered dessert into your mouth and its like you were attempting to glue your jaws together. I think I still had caramel residue jammed between my teeth three days later. My jaw hurt from trying to eat this dish, and I was definitely not the only one. Without the caramel of death the dish would have been better for sure.
Overall not the best dinner lab, but still a cool idea, location and overall experience.