Excerpts from the Diary of a Three-Year-Old Gourmet
Originally published in The Beachside Resident
The morning’s menu was uninspired: cold banana yogurt followed up by a single, overripe banana, sliced into 3/4″ medallions. Pancakes with sweet syrup would have added much-needed texture to the menu. Perhaps the addition of an amuse-bouche, a chocolate caramel truffle, or even a graham cracker would have loosened the palate before the banana course. My suggestion to this effect was snubbed by the chef. A plastic yellow spoon was thrust before me, and I was instructed to eat the yogurt quickly, as it was apparently time for school.
It is ridiculous to eat banana yogurt with a yellow spoon, of course. I refused it categorically, and informed the chef that there was a perfectly good green one in the drawer. She stiffened up, but retrieved it. I had the notion, then, that purple flatware might be better suited for the occasion, and told her as much. She seemed displeased, but brought out the purple spoon nonetheless. I thought better of it, traded it out for the green one, and the meal commenced.
The top skin of the yogurt was curdled, so I scooped it out and spread it carefully along the underside of the table. The banana medallions were too soft, so I left them. The overall presentation of the meal was shoddy, even shameful.
For my mid-morning snack, a bowl of Chilean blueberries — firm, cold, plump as grapes. To best appreciate the heady flavor of this delicacy, pack a number of fruit into the cheek and let sit for at least two minutes before breaking into the skin. This technique, known as the steep and squash, may slow the pace of conversation, but it is well worth the wait, as it never fails to produce the liveliest of spirits once the juice begins to flow down your shirt!
Tonight we dined at Café Margaux. Dinner commenced with baked Brie encrusted with macadamia and cashew nuts, and drizzled with an orange merlot sauce. I have a special affinity for cheese, but this was not cheese. It was a failed art project. My companions, perplexed at my disapproval, wondered how I could judge the dish without taking so much as a single bite. Such gentle people, who are not connoisseurs, are regularly mystified by my methods. As it was no time to try and illuminate the ignorant, I moved onto the bread without further explanation.
Like most French restaurants, Café Margaux does its bread right — warm, soft and white in the middle, with a workable, flaky crust. Unfortunately, I was served an inadequate portion. When I climbed atop the table to help myself to more, the basket was rudely pulled away from me and returned to the kitchen. (Note: the three essential elements to a good meal are: food, ambiance, and company. I am beginning to understand why so many gastronomes take their fine dining alone. Imagine… casting out the bread, when by all rights it should have been the Brie!)
The salad course I did not touch, as the chef committed the grave error of adding egg yolk to the mix. The fouled legumes were followed up by a plate of oak-smoked Norwegian salmon rosettes with caviar and traditional garnitures. The crackers were edible, but the rest was a colossal failure, completely unpalatable.
By now, I was sensing a lack of motivation on the part of the kitchen. My younger brother, who is sensitive to such things, had begun to toss various items to the floor — silverware, napkins, small plastic toys. Presently, he began to shriek. It seemed to me an overly dramatic response to the disastrous third course, but justified, so I joined in. I was promptly served a Lunchable — peanut butter and jelly — which I graciously accepted. I took special pleasure in smearing the excess jelly along the underskirt of the tablecloth.
The main course was a pear, Brie and walnut stuffed pork loin in a Bartlett and Poire William sauce. The sauce was tart, dark, sweet, and suitable for dipping caviar crackers into, but the meat was clearly an absolute tragedy, and did not require tasting.
The dessert, a crème brûlée, had all the proper elements, and bordered on perfection. Café Margaux falls into that particular category of restaurant that can botch the entrée, soup, and main dish, but somehow manage to elevate itself to two-star Michelin status when it comes time for dessert.
The newest fashion in certain foodie circles is the “art vegetable” plate. Here, raw carrots are peeled into strips, fanned across the plate, and sprinkled with raisins and honey. Broccoli is spread in a paste atop crostinis, served end to end with ranch dressing. Black beans are sculpted into the form of dogs, horses, flowers, etc. It seems to me the art vegetable movement is yet another attempt to revive an outmoded, failed idea with inventive presentation.
Last night I informed the chef that while the undiscriminating palate might be fooled by such base gimmicks, they were blatantly transparent and vulgar to me. I left the table without further word.
The next morning, the kitchen had the gall to bring out the same dish as the night before and serve it to me for breakfast, to catastrophic effect.
It seems the art vegetable movement has taken hold. Luckily, I have procured from a certain cabinet a bag of cheddar cheese Goldfish, which I relocated to a shoebox under my bed. I am inclined to suffer this current phase — which aims to threaten the very fabric of haute cuisine — in a protest of silence.