Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jeff's Birthday Dinner - Planning and Executing

So, today is Thursday and we have decided to have a Birthday Feast for Jeff on Saturday. Amy, Jeff, 3-4 friends, 2 babies, and Cindy and I will enjoy Lunch at noon followed by an 8 course Gourmet - totally awesome - Dinner starting around 4pm. Lunch will be a everything from scratch Pizza on my new awesome Viking Grill "Pizza Oven" which consists of an insulated BBQ capable of sustaining 800 degrees - with a 2 inch think sandstone pizza stone holding similar heat. Yum!

For the dinner Jeff and I discussed whether he wanted a traditional 3-4 course or a tasting menu - he opted for the latter. I then composed menu options for each course of an 7 course dinner. The format for such a meal is pretty consistent starting with an amuse bouche and sparking wine, followed by the light courses such as soup, salad. pastas, light casseroles, and fish. In selecting the options to be chosen from and their order of presentation a lot of thought is required. You must insure a harmonious flow of tastes, temperatures, and textures while allowing the chef some work flow conveniences. All of these light courses also compliment the lighter, usually white wine that can accompany them. You then flow courses to a heavier red with the later meat courses. Following the light courses come the meats, then dessert. Obviously portion control, the proper (tiny) dishes, proper garnishes, efficient utilization of ingredients, etc is required. Since everything in this type meal has to be as fresh, from scratch, and as "of the moment" as possible you have to think thru your mis en place, sequencing, conflicts on ovens, etc,

Having done a lot of these type meals I kind of know what I can execute really well and what are the risky approaches. Actual dishes are usually inspirations from restaurant meals, Miranda's cooking, cookbooks I love, imagination based on time of year, and finally things I have been wanting to do for a while. In any event for Jeff's event (Jeff is a very adventurous eater but is also a "super taster" which basically means things he doesn't like he HATES) I gave him several options for each course. As you will she from our shared document Jeff also understands what goes with what so he knows if he chooses a crab bisque he probably should not choose a next course of a crab salad.

Here is our exchange with Jeff's note in Red:

Jeff’s Birthday Dinner Menu
Wow, heavy dishes for an amuse no? Actually the asparagus sounds pretty good, less heavy than the fried stuff for an amuse.
Amuse Ideas
Asparagus wrapped in pepper and prosciutto
Deep Fried Gougers’
It’s hard to pass on the pea soup, that’s some incredible stuff. But I’m not sure I’ve had your crab bisque before. Both sound good and would be good after the asparagus. Chefs choice here, but I think crab bisque would be my choice.
Soup Ideas
Potato/corn chowder with bacon
Crab bisque en cruet
If we have crab bisque then we would need to go with option 2 here.
Salad Ideas
Vetri flan with arugula bacon salad
Is number 1 salmon? “Skin up potato crusted” what? With spot prawn dressing. Regardless, I choose number 1.
Fish Ideas
Skin up potato crusted with spot prawn million isle dressing
Salmon Picatta
Crab deconstructed ravioli with butter and crème fraise
There’s not really any pasta on here, so I’m going with Gnocchi. It’s a good fake pasta. You really want to make gnocchi, that’s hard!
Pork Ideas
Tenderloin roulade with Swiss chard wrap with potato puree
Vetri gnocchi with braised boneless pork en brown sage butter
Rib eye = awesome. The “pasta” is the gnocchi.
Beef Ideas
Rib eye frites with shallot wine sauce
Braised short rib with pasta

There is only one choice here, fortunately you have the right one!
Dessert Ideas
Grand Marnier Soufflés with (Valrhona) chocolate

Thinking thru that I made a menu as follows:

Jeff’s Birthday Dinner Menu
Amuse: Wine: Kir
Asparagus wrapped in roasted pepper and prosciutto (cold - crunch)

Soup: Wine: Eroica - Reisling
Crab Bisque en Cruet (hot velvet)

Salad: (we ate it before anyone got a picture - sorry)

Skin-up Potato Crusted Sea Bass with Spot Prawn Bordetto w/Citrus “Million Island” Sauce (hot/cold - smooth/crunch)

Pork: Wine: Cote de Beaune
Marc Vetri’s Spinach Gnocchi with Braised Pork en Brown Sage Butter (hot- smooth)

Prime Rib Eye Steak Duck Fat Frites w/ Shallot Wine Sauce (hot- crunch, chewy)

Grand Marnier Soufflés with Melted Chocolate Heart w/Crème Anglaise (hot - smooth)

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