If my hard drive hadn't crashed and burned yesterday afternoon, right now you might be reading a sentence that goes something like this: It may well have been the event of the year -- the food lover's version of opening night at the opera, or the debutante's ball.
But my hard drive did crash and burn, taking with it my 2,000-word post on the Manresa dinner chefs David Kinch and Alain Passard prepared over the weekend. Funny how quickly a disaster of such epic proportions will turn a writer into an editor. Now all I have to say is:
It was grand.
We loved it.*
Besides the obvious, what I most enjoyed about eating dishes from two chefs with markedly different styles was how stimulating it was, both intellectually and sensually. It forces you to define, if not with your mind then at least with your senses, how they differ from the other. As a food writer, I thought it was an incredibly useful exercise. It also helped me to understand why I so enjoy David's cooking. (If I had that draft you would understand too, but I don't, and my brain hurts enough from trying to explain it the first time. Sorry. Send your hate mail to Apple.) I know it wasn't a competition, and Passard's monkfish dish was unquestionably star material, but for me the dishes I would happily eat again and again were David's.
The menu, for those of you interested in a play by play, is below. Dishes listed in English were David's, those in French, Passard's. Translations are my own.
Garden croquettes and our radishes
Epinards et mousseline de carottes à l'orange (Spinach and carrot mousseline)
Consommé of osetra caviar, seaweed brioche with farm butter
Poireaux au beurre, émulsion à l'huître et vinaigre "cépage muscadet" (Leeks in butter, emulsion with oysters and muscadet vinegar)
Monterey Bay abalone, a broken egg and vegetables from the garden
Lotte, moutarde onctueuse d'Orléans, pomme de terre fumée au bois de hêtre (Monkfish, Orléans-style mustard, beechwood-smoked potato)
Ris de veau poêlé et châtaignes effilées à la truffe noire (Veal sweetbreads and chestnuts with black truffle)
Roast spring lamb, young root vegetables perfumed with dates
Carottes, sauce au chocolat "araguani" (Carrots, "Araguani" chocolate sauce)
Meyer lemon soufflé and other citrus "Gene Lester"
Petits four du jardin
*We loved everything except Grand Master P's dessert of carrots and chocolate sauce. Trust me, I wanted to love it. I wanted to be able to call it masterful, revelatory, genius even. But it was, for me, a flop.
(The chocolate sauce, however, made from Valhrona's Araguani 72% bittersweet chocolate, was the best chocolate sauce I have ever, ever tasted.)
If you'd like to approximate the taste sensation at home, simply steam some baby carrots until tender and split in half lengthwise. Drop in a puddle of the best bittersweet chocolate sauce you can find. Dig in. Let me know if you see stars.