Saturday, February 25, 2012
THE FUTURE OF FINE CUISINE
For most, the ultra gourmet life is a vicarious fantasy. It need not be, for even I, a retired educator on a limited pension, now and then can splurge on various once in a lifetime meals. I do because I'm old and can almost see the light at the end of life.
Here are some basics regarding extravagant eating. First, these experiences are very expensive. Count on spending something in the range of $300 to $500 person, with modest wines. When you travel to the major cities of the world, though, hotels generally cost the same, so look at it this way: for just the equivalent of an evening in your hotel, you can indulge in, perhaps, one of the greater adventures of your existence.
This general spending philosophy also works when faced with any guilt feeling about purchasing that great new golf driver. So I bought a Cleveland with a 39 ounce Miyazaki shaft, and now drive the ball, surely, at least a few feet further. It only cost as much as a typical hotel room for one night.
At one time, Paris and various other smaller cities in France and, too, Belgium, were the epicenters of great dining. No more. A posting earlier this month was entitled:
Mind you, three stars are the max on the Michelin scale. However, Japan is not the new center of epicurean splendor. It is Spain.
Much of the credit is given to Ferran Adria, of the late elBulli in the town of Roses in Catalonia. Late because he closed his restaurant on July 30 of last year, and expects to open a creativity center in 2014. Many of the currently top chefs spent time here, including the #1 in the world, Rene Redzepi of Noma, the #1 restaurant on the Pellegrino Top 100.
Part of the shift from French to fusion and molecular gastronomy is because the former featured centuries old menus, heavy in sauces and cholesterol. I began to experiment with fusion perhaps a couple of decades ago when I asked the Concierge where was the latest synthesis of local and international food. Click on this link to some of my more recent ones: Italian-Japanese, Korean-French, and Japanese-French. Generally, the most successful combinations involve French, so their reputation has evolved. Many of these fusion chefs trained in Paris, although Spain is catching up.
The hottest trend has to do with the science and technology of cooking. Click on this piece from the Smithsonian. Then invest in Modernist Cuisine (for 2,438 pages, only costs as much as one night in the Tokyo Park Hyatt...$625, but you can get it for $450 if you order now from Amazon.com, and shipping is free). The latest kitchens now use centrifuges, liquid nitrogen, a welding torch, vacuum pumps, freeze dryers, ultrasonic homogenizers, and a few more gizmos you will only find in a top chemistry laboratory, as well as chemicals such as methocel and calcium lactate. You get foam, gels and spheres. All these newfangled notions give you hot and cold tea (in one cup), pop tart veges and dessert in a bubble. Pork might be served pink (for trichinosis is no longer a concern in developed countries), but they are very very careful about any salads, for fear of E. coli.
According to the Gayot guide, here are the top ten restaurants in the USA for MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY:
The French Laundry (French--Yountville, California)
Alinea (Modern American--Chicago, Illinois)
wd-50 (Contemporary--New York, New York)
Moto (Eclectic, Chicago, Illinois)
Nine-Ten (La Jolla, California)
Hugo's (Contemporary--Portland, Maine)
AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean (Vietnamese--Costa Mesa, California)
Vu (New American--Marina del Rey)
Baume (French--Palo Alto, California)
Lounge ON20 (American--Sacramento, California)
In addition to the above, there, too, is a return to your roots as another new pathway, featuring authentically traditional preparations using local ingredients. Although Chef Rene (second from right) studied under Adria, the theme at Noma is simplicity, with little of that foam stuff. Some of those "local ingredients," however, are in the realm of weeds and branches, with maybe too much vinegar, so I was not all that excited about all the served dishes. However, this is the #1 restaurant in the world, located in Copenhagen.
Oh, I might finally add that many of these next generation eating establishments create works of art, such as this masterpiece by Chef Atala from DOM in Sao Paulo:
So, what is the future of cuisine? If you can afford it, try any of the above, at least once. In any case, I do, though, now use less sodium, have a lot more fruits/vegetables and increased the ratio of seafoods. A balanced and meager diet is best for longevity, scientists say. Most important of all, though, don't get too hungry! At least my body gets very angry when not fed. Finally, most deaths occur when one just awakes, so be careful, and at least eat something small as soon as possible, but not too much, for obesity begins with a hearty breakfast. But, I do live to eat, and enjoy an occasional Whopper or Rainbow Drive-In bento plate or Zippy's meal, maybe even too much, actually.
For certain, I will continue to maximize my enjoyment of life by continuing to seek new adventures in fine cuisine. With pal Ed Jurkens, we have just about tried all the steak houses in Honolulu. I am now officially a Chaine des Rotisseurs, where Bruce Liebert (right) is the Bailli Provincial, representing something like the Grand Poobah of the Hawaii gourmet society, On my next global adventure in April, I will seek the best in Japan, Europe and Las Vegas, for all of a sudden, here is where some of the greatest chefs have come.