Alice Waters revolutionized the way we dine. After Chez Panisse broke out other restaurants began growing their on produce or sourcing from local producers. Food became cleaner. Healthier and more organic started to become the norm. But when did we start rolling our eyes at the thought of farm-to-table cuisine?
We started getting exasperated when chef’s stopped cooking. Simply putting fresh fruits and vegetables on plates and “letting the produce shine”. When people go out they expect food to be at least somewhat complex. They want something they couldn’t make at home. A raw vegetable, no matter how fresh, isn’t going to cut it. We have Whole Foods and cutting boards at home for that.
Thankfully this is beginning to change. Chef’s who champion local produce are cooking in ways like never before. At Le Comptoir in Los Angeles, a plump Muki Hotate scallop is accompanied by sweet summer corn, meyer lemon, and pickled grapes with fennel. All the fruits and vegetables picked from a farm earlier in the day.
In fact at Le Comptoir the menu changes daily to represent the produce picked by the chef. The tasting menu, though primarily vegetarian, offers supplements of organic and sustainable meat and seafood. At the beginning of the meal Chef Menes explains the philosophy behind his cooking. Earnestly describing the importance of fresh ingredients and organically grown produce. While also highlighting the importance of creating bright combinations that reflect different flavors and textures.
At Le Comptoir each of the eight courses let the vegetables shine. However, the food is by no means simple. Figs on a plate it ain’t. The “oeuf poché” was a 63 degree egg cooked in an immersion circulator. It was served with crisp lettuce from garden, lemon vinaigrette, and a chive infused brown butter. To soak up the yolk, dinners were gifted with fresh sourdough made from the chef’s 20 year old starter.
Everything about this dish screamed fresh. The yolk was a bright yellow, devoid avoid that waxy texture “organic eggs” at the supermarkets have. Tart meyer lemon cut the richness of the egg and crisp lettuce added a much needed crunch to the dish. As the next course was being plated, I unashamedly mopped up the reaming yolk with the wonderful crusty bread .
If this is the new farm-to-table cuisine I’m all for it. I had some of the best dishes of my life at Le Comptoir and I plan on returning soon. Thanks Chef Menes for the amazing food and restoring my faith in farm-to-table cooking.