Wednesday, July 18, 2007

a birthday degustation: course ten

The second of our plated cheese courses prepared recently at our chef's degustation and wine tasting menu (in honor of our friend and client's birthday), was much deeper in flavor and denser in texture than the previous. Coupled with a ripe, fruity Bordeaux (Chateau Ballan-Larquette, Bordeaux, France, 2005), the flavors of this course needed to stand up to the bold wine it was served with. Again, our choice of plateware reflected the French techniques of the origins and ingredients used in the preparation of this dish.

Our chdese course was inspired by another great American chef-- Charlie Trotter. When we dined at Chef Trotter's flagship restaurant in Chicago some years back, we were served a creation reminiscent of this cheese course. We have been looking for a reason ever since to re-create this delicacy, with our own orenji twist!

The base of this cheese course is Explorateur cheese-- a soft and creamy mold-ripened triple-cream French cheese. The amount of cream and fat in the cheese results in a smooth and creamy texture, despite the aging process. For our course, we wrapped the cold cheese in some hand made porcini mushroom crepes, and heated them gently until the cheese melted. Served with the crepes was a thick, warm, coulis of port-wine stewed Medjool dates. The dates were slow cooked with natural sweeteners and spices, breaking down their tough texture, and infusing them with the concentrated sweetness of the port wine.

The dish was finished with a fresh black trumpet chantarelle mushroom, caramelized with Chinese five-spice powder. Together, the smooth (yet acidic and somewhat "barnyardy") cheese, with the deep umami flavor of the mushrooms, and the sweet fruity dates came together to create a seamless blend of complementary flavors. We would make this cheese course again and again... and we probably will!

This nearly brings us to the end of our degustation menu trip down memory lane. Up next, the final course: dessert. Be sure to check back and see what our chef whipped up in the pastry kitchen!

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