Towards the end of August the Lab created a lunch menu for Gastrophysics, a new interdisciplinary symposium on science and food. It was held at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
Here is the full menu:
The Emerging Science of Gastrophysics
Symposium Lunch Menu by Nordic Food Lab
Tuesday August 28th 2012
Chef: Ben Reade
Mackerel sous-vide with samphire salt and kelp crisps
Chioggia beetroot tartare
Whipped crème fraîche infused with horseradish
Ramson berry capers
Lamb’s neck rubbed with yellow pea miso, served with lamb stock, blackberries, and beach mustard
Onion braised in milk and spices, with walnut potato mash and liquorice rye crumb
Summer cabbage with red currants
Carrots pickled with white mustard, caraway, and sea buckthorn
Fresh bread and butter
Sweet clover sheep’s milk ice cream
Clarified peach ice
Pressed oak moss
Crystallised peach skin
Spruce resin tincture
Apple and juniper
Cucumber and verbena
I was prepping and plating the whole service so I didn’t get a real chance to document the dishes. But it seemed like everything went over well. We spent more than a week prepping for the 80-cover menu, it was a lot of work with many moving parts but very satisfying and a lot of fun. A big team effort.
It was a fun chance to incorporate some of our products and techniques into complete dishes. The kelp crisps, for example, which we make by brewing a kelp tea and dehydrating it until only a flaky, umami-bomb salt is left. Or using the yellow pea miso (affectionately known as peaso) as a mega-flavour rub for meat.
But the most compelling of the dishes for me was the dessert. It was both well-thought out and well-executed, with some truly remarkable and unique flavours. The sweet clover, also known as melilot, is an herb that grows wild all over, both in urban and rural areas. In fact, we have big patches of it growing in the empty lot outside the boat. I spent some afternoons in the summer gathering it by the bucketload, drying it in the dehydrator and packing it for later use. To make the ice cream, we infuse it into milk, add sheep’s yoghurt and honey, freeze it down and blend it in the pacojet. It has a beautiful round mouthfeel and a touch of funk from the sheep’s yoghurt, mellowed by the honey and the lingering, musky coumarin notes from the melilot. For the peach ice, we juiced fresh peaches and spun it in the centrifuge to clarify it, freezing the translucent pink nectar and breaking it up into a loose snow. The oak moss grows on the branches of certain trees, primarily oak but also some others like fir and pine. It is prized for its distinctive aroma has been used as a base note in perfumery for centuries. Ben calls it a blend of “forest floor and posh lady”. I love that. In fact, the idea for this dish arose from the classic pairing in perfumery of oak moss and white peach. We tossed the oak moss in a touch of neutral oil, pressed them between two flat sheets and baked them in the oven so they would lightly crisp but not cook. To continue the perfumery theme and add a touch of antiquity we took the peach peels, cut teardrop-shaped ‘petals’ of them and crystallised them as one would a rose petal, brushing them with egg white and dipping them in sugar. The result was a thrillingly fragile flower petal with a marbled yellow/purple colour. To finish the dish, and to take the perfumery theme to its fullest, we sprayed the ice with a tincture made from spruce resin. Ben collected the resin from a spruce tree that had been struck by lightning, and was oozing resin to heal the wound. It has the most amazing smell – part wooden stage floor of a full orchestra having just finished Beethoven’s 9th and beneath the string sections a dust of rosin coats the boards, part returning from a walk in the woods with drops of sap smeared, somehow, over the hands.
The two types of coldness is a revelation – one creamy and smooth, the other fruity and ice. They melt together in the mouth and create an incredible sensation of austere luxury. The two garnishes are fragile, similarly in two vastly different ways that play off one another. The oak moss is light, almost weightless, and yields to the gentlest pressure of the tongue to the roof of the mouth; the peach petal shards, crunching in the teeth. Both dissolve in saliva, the sugar steadily and the oak moss with a sophisticated reluctance. The cloud of resin hangs over the dish, gathering in the headspace like a shroud, an invisible, diaphanous memory.