Monday, May 23, 2005

The final countdown and a day at the pub

I am entering my last week here at The Fat Duck. It weems like it was just yeaterday that I walked into that kitchen, wide eyed and full of wonder. For the first 3 days Rupert asked me, or told me more like it, that I was a quiet one. I am not all that quiet in general, but I know I didn't talk for the first week. I finally just told him that I wasn't quiet, I just didn't like him. A joke, really, because I have managed to like everyone on staff here. It's a unique collection of cooks, and all of them command respect. If I could take anything back with me it would be the staff here and the comraderie shared. It's hard to start to like people so much all the time knowing that there is a chance you will never see them again. I guess it's like summer camp.

I worked last sunday across the road in the Hinds Head Pub. It was fantastic. The food is really nice, traditional english pub food. As it was sunday there was a special sunday roast. Something as traditional as family brunch is for america. The roast was a rib roast with the bone cut out and the fat wrapped back around for cooking.

The menu contains other traditional eats. A rabbit terrine was served cold with toast and little pickled cornichons. There were 6 oysters, shucked to order, served with a shallot relish. Also was potted shrimp. This is a moussey emulsion of shrimp stock, and shrimp butter with tiny bay shrimp folded in and set in a rammekin. A thin layer of clarrified butter is set over the top.

Also was pea and ham soup that sounds simple enough. But rather than pull a portion of soup out of a big pot of soup that has been sitting around all day, this soup was made to order. A ham stock is heated and a puree pea is mixed in with a hand blender then mounted with butter. This is brought to a boil and poured into crocks that hold pieces of ham, bacon, and green peas.

Then came a dish that took me back to Lampreia. The Hinds Head calls it Soused herring. It was two halves of herring, pickled, with the shiny skin preserved and displayed. It was served with cubed beets coated in a horseradish cream and pickled onions. At Lampreia I was first introduced to this fish in a dish we did each summer. The chef called it Sardelli. The fish were cleaned and picked in a mixture of olive oil, lemon, salt, garlic, shallots, and chopped herbs. from what I understand this is a traditional italian treatment of these fishies. It was plated with that beatiful shiny side up (can you blame a girl for liking shiny things??) and garnished with a collage of orange segments, tiny preserved zuchinni, Shaved fennel pickled in saffron, oven dried tomatoes, and small salads. So not really the same at all, huh. But that little fish took me for a nostalgic swim. But becaue the menu at Lampreia evolved on a weekly basis and I saw so many amazing plates there, everything reminds me of Lampreia.

Especially the next dish, a goat cheese tart. It was a tart with black olive tapenade, onion marmelade, and roasted red peppers with goat cheese on top. At Lampreia it was a long narrow rectangle of pizza dough run through the pasta machine for a super thin crust baked with the onion marmelade and roasted peppers. The peppers were cut to the same shape as the tart. The black olive tapenade was used under the dough to secure it to the plate, and instead of goat cheese a fresh creamy robiolina was served next to it. Later it was a quenelle of the cheese and a matching quenelle of tapenade paired next to the tortino, as it was called. So this one, is very similar. I remember not truly understanding the depth of this dish untill I tasted it. The chefs wife gave me a knowing look, and said, "you dont' know untill you taste this one, do you."

The side dishes of vegetables were interesting. Pease pudding tasted like my moms split pea soup (she allways liked it really thick). With a texture similar to that of mashed potatoes, this dish is made from dried split peas and flavored with ham. Brocolli was served with a traditional accompyment, anchovies. I personally like fishy fish, so tasting them next to this green vegetable made sense to me. Then there is Champers. This is a mashed potatoe made with spring onions that have been soaked in milk. The oniony milk is used as well. Fantastic for those of us that don't pass out at the thought of an onion entering out mouths.

The two dishes I shared with Tom (from Wales but raised in Denmar) were there. The Hot Pot which I didn't accurately describe before. It is lamb, not chicken inside,with carrots, potatoes, and oysters. It is fantastic. And of course, the oxtail and Kidney pudding. Which is steamed.

I hung around the dessert station quite a bit. I tasted the amazing treacle pudding. This is made with something called golden syrup which is a very very light mollasses like sugary syrup. It is mixed with some stuff, lemon zest, and bread crumbs. The effect durring the baking proceess is the bread crubms bake at the top leaving the tart in two thin layers. One of gooey goodness, one with gooey texture. And yes, those are professional terms. It was served with an icecream I have only seen over here, milk flavored icecream. Imagine a vanilla icecream, without the vanilla. For me as a kid vanilla icecream was a non flavor for me.

Also was a quaking pudding. this is a steamed pudding flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon and served with poached rhubarb. it was hot and spicy and rich. and the rhubarb ballanced it out nicely with a bit of tart and a bit of texture. Plus I am allways a sucker for that pretty pink!!



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