Saturday, July 21, 2007

a birthday degustation: mignardises

The coverage of our chef's degustation menu and wine tasting menu draws to a close with our final offering created for our happy and satisfied guests-- mignardises.

Mignardises are small, sweet bites served at the conclusion of a meal, following dessert. These provide smooth tastes with which to comfort the palate. Oftentimes, mignardises mix sweet and savory flavors, acid or tart flavors, or even unexpected spices or herbs. The mignardises prepared by our chef were no exception. We paired our "final bites" with a natural chocolate infused Port wine (Deco, Sonoma Valley Port Works) as well as our favorite blend of coffee--dark roast French Press "Over the Rhine" blend coffee (see Over the Rhine link at the left for ordering information). Both the sweetness of the Port, and the smooth, deep (yet mellow) flavors of the organic (free trade) dark roast coffee were perfect endings to a wonderful evening.

The first of our mignardises was inspired by our recent culinary adventures in Peru. As you may recall from previous blogs, we posted about our incredible meal at Astrid y Gaston-- Lima's premiere culinary destination. There, we experienced caramelized cape gooseberries (known as maracuya)-- an Amazon basin berry with a sour and tart green flesh. As cape gooseberries are not available in US markets, we opted for the smaller (and slightly sweeter) domestic gooseberry... which we bathed in several coatings of hand caramelized sugar until the fruit glowed amber in the light of the candles. The sweet of the sugar and the sour of the fruit worked hand in hand to create a complimentary-- yet oppositional-- blend of flavors.

The second (of four) mignardises we served began with fennel root, which we slow braised and subsequently candied into a smooth, sweet fennel paste. After shaping the paste, we enrobed it in deep, rich Belgian bittersweet chocolate, and topped it with a toasted fennel seed. The sharpness of the fennel, and the bitterness of the chocolate worked together to balance the sweetness of the candying syrup and the toasted crunch of the fennel seed.

Our third offering was a classic truffle with an orenji twist. We began with a milk chocolate truffle base, which we infused with garam masala-- a sweet-spicy blend of Indian spices. The sweetness of the milk chocolate, coupled with the spicy and deep undertones of cinnamon and cardamom make this one of our favorite flavor combinations. The truffles melted in the mouth, leaving a slight heat from the spice on the tongue.

Our last taste offering were hand cut "jellies" made from the juice of the yuzu. Yuzu is a small Japanese citrus fruit, similar in color to the lemon, but with a more sour juice. The yuzu juice was cooked down with pectin until it thickened, chilled, cut into squares, and rolled in vanilla-scented granulated sugar. The overall result was surprising and different from the remainder of the mignardises-- in both flavor and texture. We would eat these as a healthy natural snack any day of the week!

The four mignardises brought our chef's degustation and wine taste to a close. We feel like it was the perfect birthday event for our friend and client-- an opportunity to experience may different types of food, expanding the palate in the process. We look forward to being called upon in the future to create another such event, as the culinary possibilities are endless!

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