Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Champagne Emulsion blog.

I checked the menu of the Michigan Avenue restaurant Nomi today -- I have it in front of me as I write, and its seems that the establishment styles its name “NoMI.” That’s on the cover of the menu in raised white letters. In fact, that’s all that’s on the cover of the menu, which is itself completely white. You might say it’s the White Album of menus.

The selection is simple. Four appetizers, three entrees, and four desserts. A prix fixe of any combination of appetizer, entrée and dessert is $39. My appetizer was the Country Style Duck Terrine, which came with vanilla pepper fig jam and “home-made” pickle relish. I put that second one in quotes, reflecting my quixotic idea that home made should mean made in the home, period. I doubt that Chef Sandro Gamba whipped this up at home and brought it in, but then again I don’t really know the professional habits of name chefs. In any case, it was a tasty dressing for the duck. Even better was the fig jam.

Both the jam and relish were served in globs the size of very small half-footballs, and the duck came in a round glass cup. Tom, my lunch companion, had also ordered this, and at first we weren’t sure how to eat it. Our effervescent and ever-helpful waitress, wholly American in outlook and without a soupcon of stereotypical French-restaurant rudeness, suggested that it could go on the fork with the duck, or on the bread with or without the duck. I tried it all those ways. Delightful all.

My main course was bass. I asked Kristy -- the waitress, we were on swell terms with her by this time, and she didn’t have too many other occupied tables -- where it was from, and she reported back the name of a town on the coast of Virginia. Not merely bass, of course, but Wild Striped Bass: Nage (I can’t find this term) of Pumpkin, Watercress, Semolina Pasta and Gingered Champagne Emulsion. That last phrase is something. Not in his wildest dreams of decadent Epicureanism would even Nero himself conjure up Gingered Champagne Emulsion. It’s a thing of wonder for simple souls such as myself. (I know the Romans didn't have champagne at all, but I've got blogger's license here.)

When I got it, the fish was lurking on top of an off-white, bubbly liquid. Bubby, after all, since this was a champagne emulsion. But it looked all the world like soapy water. It tasted nothing like that. The fish was tender and good, but the sauce was stellar. I extracted every bit of pasta and watercress with careful pleasure, and enjoyed each bite.

“What would you gentlemen like for dessert?” asked Kristy, when, as all good things must, the bass had run its course. We didn’t have the fashionable option of abstaining from dessert, since it was part of the show. I had the Duo of Jivara and Fatima’s Milk Ice Cream: Hickory Nut Nougatine and Iced Coffee Crystals. The crystals were pressed flat, into a square, which rested on top of a sphere of ice cream, artfully plopped in the middle of a large plate. Extraordinary ice cream, I might add, though not quite on par with Tom’s Litchi Sorbet, which I got to sample. But I’ve no complaints. How could I?


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