On March 22nd, we presented our second pop up dinner. This one was called, Unhinged, and the theme of the dinner was, believe it or not, mental illness. It was a tough topic to work with, particularly because we wanted to be certain that we were sensitive to the subject matter, and that no part of the dinner would insult or offend anyone. We created a multiple course meal where each course related to a different mental disorder in some way. Some courses were a play on the name of the disorder itself (i.e. with Seasonal Affective Disorder we played with the seasonings in the dish,) while others were plays on the symptoms, or effects of, the disorders (i.e. for Schizophrenia, we presented a dish that appeared to be one thing, but was actually another, as delusion and hallucinations are often associated with schizophrenia.) And still other courses related to the actual definition of the disorder (i.e. for Oedipus Complex, we served a beef and veal tartare.) We had a tremendous amount of fun researching and creating this meal, and were pretty excited about the way it turned out.
A paper straitjacket, with the Unhinged menu tucked inside, was placed at each guests seat.
The disorder we chose for the amuse was Narcissism. We turned home-cured gravlax into bite-sized narcissus flowers, filling each with avocado, preserved lemon, shiso and tobiko caviar, with julienned carrots poking out of the top for the stamen. The flowers sat on yellow, star-shaped toast points and were garnished with chive stems. The piece de resistance, was that the flowers were served to the guests on an individual hand mirrors.
The next course was a three-parter: On the left of the plate was Oedipus Complex- a beef and veal tartare with pickled pears, capers and a poached quail egg. In the center was Seasonal Affective Disorder- blanched asparagus with aioli and three seasonings (black garlic salt, three pepper blend and smoked paprika.) On the right, was Separation Anxiety- a taramasalata deviled egg in which the white and yolk were served separately.
The next course was OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and for this, we did a hamachi and ahi tuna grid and garnished the plate very sparingly and neatly with evenly placed cucumber, pickled daikon and ikura stacks and dots of soy-yuzu-nori emulsion and wasabi creme fraiche.
The soup course was our play on Acrophobia (fear of heights) and vertigo, a symptom often associated with acrophobia. For this course, Adam cut and cured mahogany pieces and inserted a long wire into each one vertically, so that the soup garnish could suspended from the wire. We garnished clear glass bowls with a spiral of black garlic puree and set those onto the boards. The boards with just the bowl and a garlic crouton garnish dangling high above it were brought out to the guests. Following that, a luscious green garlic-almond soup was brought out in small pitchers, and the guests were instructed to pour the soup into the bowl, and then slide the crouton from the wire above, onto the soup for garnish.
The theme for the entree was Multiple Personality Disorder, and for this, we served pork with multiple personalities (prepared in three different ways.) The first way was a pork tenderloin wrapped with a boudin noir mousse and cabbage, served on top of creamed cabbage and apples. The second was slow roasted pork belly with a radish-apple relish and the third, was a potato-wild boar (hunted by Adam!) ravioli with an apple demi-glace.
The first dessert course was the most labor intensive, and the best received, of the entire meal. The theme for this was Panic Disorder and Pica, a disorder in which people consume things which are not normally eaten. The base of the dish was where the panic disorder came in- it was a buttermilk panna cotta (‘panic’ cotta, get it?) with an orange gelee. For the Pica part of the course, we wanted to transform typically inedible objects into edible ones and everything that you see in the photo, other than the bowl itself, was edible. The dirt was made from crumbled chocolate cookie crumbs, the glass shard was made from flavored and colored hardened sugar, the rocks were coconut-white chocolate candies, the string was a stringy pistachio halvah, the screw was dark chocolate that we molded ourselves and coated with edible silver food coloring spray and the newspaper was printed with food coloring onto edible paper. The grass was wheatgrass and the flowers were fresh rosemary blossoms. Guests didn’t know what had hit them when this came to the table.
The theme for the second dessert course was Schizophrenia. For this, we presented a dish that appeared to be one thing, but was actually another. This bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is in fact, a bowl of olive oil-rosemary ice cream ‘noodles’ with chocolate cake meatballs, strawberry-tomato-balsamic sauce and shaved white chocolate ‘cheese’.
The final course, the mignardises, were a play on some of the slang words that are often used to refer to people with mental disorders. On the left (in the top photo) is “twisted”- a piece of homemade star anise black licorice, in the center is “bananas and nuts”- a banana-pecan macaroon and on the right is “fruitcake”- a chocolate pastille with candied fruit and fruitcake spices.
To say that people were blown away by this meal would be an understatement and fortunately, our hard work paid off. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves (although were universally overstuffed and mentally exhausted by the time they left,) and Adam and I, also exhausted, were very pleased that we managed to pull off a meal that we had put so much thought and preparation into.