A week and half after surgery, still living in a non-flavorful world, I went to hear Eric Ripert, chef at the 4 star restaurant, Le Bernadin and Christina Tosi, pastry chef at Momofuku Milk Bar talk about "Fabulous Flavors: Sweet, Sour, Savory" at the Alliance Francaise. The conversation moderated by Christine Muhlke, Executive Editor of Bon Appetit Magazine was advertised as a discussion on how flavors shape our memories. For someone lacking taste buds, I thought this conversation might revive my capacity to detect flavor.
The pairing of these two chefs was brilliant: cornflakes meet black truffles.
Tosi's childhood was packaged. A picky eater, her childhood diet consisted of Whatchamacallits, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Barbecued Potato Chips. "I did not taste a raw tomato until I was 18 and ordered a BLT. My early food memories are those of the American Midwest. It's low-brow, casual and has provided me with a flavor palette that inspires me as a pastry chef".
Just like a good dish, the contrast in texture made for a great conversation, which never became bitter or sour. Each chef was passionate about putting their voice into food; tapping into emotions and memories. The evening turned on one word: UMAMI.
Tosi was talking about depth of flavor. "It's something you feel in the pit of your stomach; it's umami."
Ripert brigthened at this remark. "What does umami mean to you? We've been researching it. What does it mean in Japanese?... delicious flavor. It's the WOW effect. A state of mind. A combination of ingredients...vibrant, powerful. It's pure harmony. It's earthiness."
As I left the Alliance Francaise, I felt reassured that my sense of taste would return. As Tosi said, eating creates emotions in your mind. I am waiting for those emotions to infuse my tongue. In the meantime, I am planning a trip to Milk Bar to taste a compost cookie (pretzels, potato chips, chocolate and Rice Krispies). A dinner at Le Bernadin will have to wait until a few more pesos accumulate in my bank account.
From le Bernandin dinner menu:
Lacquered Striped Bass; Chayote Squash, Sofrito Broth
Sauted Sole;"Almond-Pisctachio-Barberry" Golden Basmati, Brown-Butter Tamarind Vinaigrette
Grilled Baby Sepia; Sweet Pepper jam, Red-Wine-Squid Ink Sauce
From Milk Bar menu:
Blueberry miso soft serve