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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Four Star Tour" Dinner, Course 5:   Orange Lavender Cappuccino

This is the eighth in a series of posts directed to a holiday dinner party that I recently held at my home, for which I put together a six-course menu comprised of dishes inspired by the Bay Area's four-star chefs.   For more on the dinner, please see these posts:   Intro | Menu Planning, Pt. 1 | Menu Planning, Pt. 2 | Course 1 | Course 2 | Course 3 | Course 4 | Course 5 | Course 6 | Closing

I have commented here many times about how the Bay Area's restaurant scene never sits still, with owners, restaurants, and chefs forever locked in a constant state of flux.   Well, before I could even finish posting about my dinner party "tribute" to the region's seven four-star chefs, one of them announced that he's leaving California altogether.   Daniel Humm - the youngest of the top-tier chefs and one of the brightest talents to hit the Bay Area in a long time - will spend his last evening at Campton Place on December 31.   He is then off to New York, where he will join famed restaurateur Danny Meyer's company and take over the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park.   This is obviously a major loss for San Francisco.

One of the things I admire most about Humm is his obvious penchant for innovation.   A meal at Campton Place under Humm was never ordinary, nor were his dishes ever likely to be confused for those served at any of the other four star restaurants.   No, Humm truly blazed his own path, regularly serving selections with unusual flavor pairings, unique preparations, interesting presentations, or all of the foregoing.   The Jasmine Orange Cappuccino I had on a visit to Campton Place back in October was one such offering.   An ice-cold slushy liquid - bursting with the bright flavor of citrus and the distinctive flavor of jasmine - was placed in a demitasse before being topped off with a frothy foam, mocking a conventional cappuccino.   The result was spectacular.   Indeed, there are only a small number of instances in my dining experience when the first taste of something really left an indelible impression on me;   this was one of them.

The variant that I chose for my menu, Orange Lavender Cappuccino, presented me with a few challenges.   The first, as mentioned in an earlier post, was what to use for my orange-flavored base.   After searching several grocery stores without any luck, I came across a promising solution - a Blood Orange Sparkling Grape Juice made by Gavioli.   One problem with this product, however, is that it is sparkling;   I didn't want my finished cappuccino to have any carbonation, nor was I sure what would happen if I placed a carbonated liquid into the high-pressure canister of a whipper.   It was at this point that my years of physics and chemistry classes paid off, as I realized that I could remove the carbonation by simply boiling the juice.   And because I had to boil the juice to infuse it with lavender anyway, I could achieve two goals at once.   The final challenge came when, having boiled out the carbonation and infused in the lavender, I discovered that the orange flavor was in danger of being washed out.   Luckily, I had a bit of orange extract on hand, which enabled me to bring the flavors into just the right balance.
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There's more...

Recipe, Tweaks, Tips and Techniques

The recipe that follows is simple and requires little explanation.   You will note that I used two full bottles of the sparkling juice;   in actuality, you'll probably need only one and a half.   But fear not, the extra lavender-infused juice can be consumed as is or turned into a tasty sorbet.   If you have trouble finding an orange-flavored grape juice, I would suggest using a standard uncarbonated white grape juice, and then adding the orange flavor at the end through the use of orange extract and orange zest.

The recipe set forth below is the one that I used the night of my dinner party.   The "specialized" equipment referenced in the following recipe are an electric ice cream machine, an iSi Gourmet Whip, and demitasse cups:

Orange Lavender Cappuccino
Inspired by Daniel Humm, Campton Place

  • 2 bottles (750 ml each) sparkling orange flavored grape juice
  • ¼ c dried lavender
  • ¼ c sugar, more to taste
  • orange extract

1.   Pour sparkling juice into a large pot.   Bring to a boil, and continue to boil gently for 10 minutes.   Add sugar and lavender, and stir well.   Boil gently for 5 more minutes.   Remove pot from heat and cover.   Allow lavender to steep for at least 20 minutes.

2.   Pass mixture through fine-mesh strainer and discard solids.   Taste lavender-infused juice and add orange extract and/or sugar as needed or desired.   Place juice in airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready for use.    (Note:   These steps can be complete up to 1-2 days ahead of service.   In tasting the sugar level, keep in mind that the mixture will taste slightly less sweet when it is partially frozen.)

3.   Place approximately 300 ml of lavender-infused juice in iSi Gourmet Whip, and charge the canister according to the manufacturer's instructions.   Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

4.   Place 600 ml of lavender-infused juice into ice cream machine, and turn on according to manufacturer's instructions.   Place the remaining 600 ml of juice back in the refrigerator.   After 10 minutes, start checking the juice in the ice cream machine periodically, watching for when it reaches a "slushy" - but not completely solid - state.   When it does, turn off the machine.

5.   Divide semi-frozen juice from ice cream machine among 12 demitasse cups.   If necessary, use some of the unfrozen 600 ml of juice from refrigerator to fill each cup to a level just below the rim.   Top each cup with a cap of foam using the iSi Gourmet Whip.   Serve immediately.

Yields 12 servings.


Blogger Sam said...

I managed to squeeze in a meal at campton place last week, and the waiter told us that the sweet dishes were not in fact the creation of Humm, but of the unamed pastry chef.

We had a great complimentary hibiscus soda drink which the juice for which the pastry chef apparently makes his or herself from the hibiscus plant.

December 26, 2005 9:57 PM  
Blogger NS said...

Sam: Thanks for the information. I had a suspicion that this might be the case, although I presumed that Humm - as executive chef - would have some say as to whether or not a particular creation by the pastry chef is congruous with the rest of the menu. If this is true, then I would still give Humm some credit for this dish, just as I credit David Kinch for having the good judgment for borrowing The Egg from L'Arpege.

But to be completely accurate, I suppose I'll just have to redo this dinner with a new contribution from Humm! Then again, given that he has all but left the restaurant...

December 27, 2005 7:12 AM  

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