Looking for something to do the Friday after next? Here is a letter I got in my box the other day from the JBF. Dr. Romera is a rock-star chef in Spain and a global phenomenon about to go mainstream—he is the darling of the international food press these days and soon EVERYONE will know about the good doctor. I can’t wait to eat at his restaurant next October and see what all the fuss is about, but as I was reading the invite, I began to think that the menu reads like a parody of itself. At a certain point, someone has to say to themselves, maybe we ought to change the language here a little bit—we (the food-obsessed) are starting to sound like the wine geeks! Are menus too wordy? Is the language becoming alarmingly irritating? Some menus are so minimalist, you are forced to ask too many questions of the server and are made to feel intimidated and stupid for asking about a course billed as:
BEEF . . . $34.95
The attitude of those menus is pretentious and overbearing—self-congratulation at being so clever. The antithesis are menus where every farm and cook who ever touched each ingredient is listed one after another, reading more like a list of donors in a museum's annual report than an actual menu. What do you think? See the following for inspiration.
Dear James Beard Foundation Members and Friends:
When superstar chefs like Alain Ducasse and David Bouley sing another chef's praises, people who love food listen. We did. They were talking about a Spanish chef relatively unknown in the United States whose unique culinary "constructions" engage the senses and excite the palate. A little research revealed Dr. Miguel Sánchez Romera, an alchemical chef with the mind of a scientist and the passion of the most ardent food lover, whose restaurant outside Barcelona is even harder to get into than that "other one" we've all heard about.
On March 30, 2007, the James Beard Foundation is proud to launch an exclusive new Beard House fund-raising dinner series, Beard Presents: Masterpiece Dining, with a once-in-a-lifetime dinner prepared by Sánchez Romera, the chef of Spain's L'Esguard. Sánchez Romera, who has never before cooked a private dinner in the United States, has titled his American culinary debut "Illusion and the Art of Culinary Constructionism: Self-Portrait for Spring 2007." This masterful chef has requested that we limit the event to fifty guests to ensure the recreation of the dramatic dining experience to which he is committed. One look at the menu Sánchez Romera is preparing for his Beard House dinner (it follows this letter), and you'll understand why one reviewer writing in Departures magazine happily noted, "Nearly everything I was served at L'Esguard appealed to my intellect almost as much as to my senses. The food was compellingly original and yet disarmingly logical."
In case you are wondering about his title, Sánchez Romera is also a renowned neurosurgeon who brings his intricate knowledge of sensory perception and exacting attention to detail to bear on his culinary constructions. In a press kit the size of a phone book, article after article from Spain, France, Germany, and Japan revels in the obsessive perfectionism of his presentations, the unique textural and flavor combinations of his dishes, and the sheer delight of one of his transformative, multi-course meals.
Please join us in welcoming this groundbreaking chef to New York City and the James Beard House, the Carnegie Hall for chefs. Seats are $1,000 for members and $1,250 for the general public (of which $600 and $850, respectively, are tax-deductible). And they are going fast.
For reservations, call (212) 627-2308.
Spring Plate of Extra-Virgin Olive Oils from Andalusia, Castilla, and Catalonia with Pistachio-Mint Purée, Organic Flowers, Rose Water, and Mini Fried Potatoes, Served on a Glass Board
Transparent Ginger Cylinder with Dried Flowers, Smoked White Chocolate, and Seafood with Clear Kombu Sauce
Mini Black Lentil "Caviar," Trout Roe, and American Caviar with Catalan Sardine and Frogs' Leg Stew in Cream of Onion and Chef's Special Seafood Curry Suquet
Lobster and Wild Garlic Served with Sliced Radishes Infused with Saffron, Rose, Rosemary, and Ginger Water; Sweet-and-Sour Mayonnaise; and Smoked Queso Fresco
Smooth, Brilliant, and Velvety Purée of Beets, Radishes, Tomatoes, Leeks, Spinach, Carrots, and Beans; Transparent Andean Potato Purée; and a Curry Reminiscent of the Country with Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Spices, and More
Beet-Marinated Wild Salmon Prepared al Papillote in Edible Micrifilm® with Black Truffle-Beef Jus and Micrifilm® Crystals and Garnished with White Pepper, Dried Flowers, and Black Olives
Duck Sirloin with Spices, Roasted Eggplant Mousse, and Smoked Soy Sauce Served with Laminated Rice Soufflé, Flowers, Tandoori-, Vanilla-, and Curry-Flavored Caramels, and Micrifilm® Crunch
Asymetrical Gold and Chocolate Cannelloni Stuffed with Sweet Soy Ice Cream Perfumed with Black Pepper and Roses
Chef's Special Madeleine Covered with Spring Flowers, Ginger, Saffron, and Orange with a White Chocolate Surprise
This spectacular dinner will be accompanied by Champagne pairings
Micrifilm???? And it's a registered trademark??? Egads. What is the world coming to?