‘Amalur’ is Basque for ‘Mother Earth’ and the theme is painstakingly made evident through innovative techniques. The Amalur Project is the work of Chef’s Sergio Perera and Chef’ Steve Monnier that I was honored to be included in.
Each dish is a presentation of it’s ingredients in their natural form and the meal was completely curated. Even the methods of eating were designed to evoke the feelings of nature – from dishes like the ‘edible garden’ where the carrots still clung to their rye bread crumbs (dirt) to be hand ‘dug’ by diners. Each diner was provided with stainless steel tweezers imported from Spain, an homage to Sergio’s time at at Tickets, a famed tapas bar in Barcelona.
As a complement I included a Sparkling Pear Soda; aiming for something dry and reminiscent of a hard cider I used roasted bosc pears in nutmeg and cinnamon with a vanilla simple syrup to fill the palate with a light sweetness.
The highlights of the meal for me where the smoked Grissini. The goat butter was whipped and silky, a perfect balance of richness to the intensely smoked and grissini. Great notes of grass and cream from the butter, woodsmoke and char in the grissini. Excellent presentation over some pink peppercorn blossoms on a lovely wood plank.
The pork belly (sourced from Sous Chuck Kallal’s place, Jimenez Family Farm) was an explosion of both flavor and color; I think it was the most popular dish of the night. The interplay of the huckleberries releasing their juice into the granny smith apple was visually striking. This dish also contributed to one of the top staff meals in my recent memory, as we downed big hunks of leftover fatty pork with a gifted Châteauneuf-du-Pape that I quickly decanted for our staff toast. I alarmed some of the sous chefs by biting directly into the pure fat section of the belly with the resolve of a recovering vegan – a simply marvelous dish [ I had a leftover premier cru '05 Bordeaux ( Pessac-Léognan appellation) that I gave to one of the Sous Chef on the first evening; one of my favorite vintages].
I’m normally not a fan of sweets, but the dessert had so many exciting things going on. The vivid green, and almost weightless almond sponge cake that hid the passionfruit ice cream, on top a slightly chewy and nutty praline sable – flavorful. I heard Sergio tell his Sous chef’s to “place the mint leaf under the cake, almost as if it is growing out of some moss.” The chocolate dust settled like fresh snow inside the Sergio choose one of my hand glazed bowls from Japan and I think the colors were a beautiful complement.
The connection to nature and earth here goes beyond typical farm to table, it is farm in bowl, and diner as farmer.
Compressed Asian Pear, Herbs, Burnt Orange, Cinnamon
Smoked Grissini with Goat Butter
Oysters, Warm Potato Espuma, Truffle Caviar / Beet Vinegar, Passion Fruit, Yuzu Koshu
Edible Garden, Rye Bread, Horseradish Cream, Vinegar Powder
Lobster Mushroom, Celery Root Puree, Caramelized Onion, Onion Broth, Tapioca Pearl
Sea Bass, Artichoke Heart and Crispy Artichoke, Citrus Emulsion, Nasturtium Leaf
Pork Belly, Pomme Souffle, Pork Jus, Compressed Granny Smith, Huckle Berry
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, Passion Fruit Cream, Almond Sponge Cake, Chocolate Powder, Praline Sable