Huffington Post: Chicago still defies nicknaming attempts (actually that is a lie; the consensus is Chuffpo, but we are still fans of HuffPoChi, so we’re pretending jury’s out), and the site might have given the internet the worst blog post ever written, but we are still rooting for Arianna Huffington’s insane level of social connectedness to result in some seriously interesting and innovative food coverage. It’s not quite yet the fireworks show we were hoping for, but there are some cool things happening.
Today, for example, gives us an in-depth look from Flora Lazar of NoMI pastry chef Andres Lara, formerly of world’s-most-important-chef Ferran Adria’s restaurant El Bulli, on Spain’s Costa Brava. Much like the other Chicago heirs apparent to the El Bulli school of envelope-pushing, Achatz at Alinea and Cantu at Moto, Lara takes a straightforward approach to what the casual diner might consider decidedly un-straightforward cuisine:
“I don’t want anything too pastry, too square, or too rectangular,” Lara told me. As long as it’s fresh, clean, and alive, when it leaves the kitchen, every dish can look different, “like a garden of roses,” he said. He could not have summed up his desserts better.
His “lemon meringue” is accented by caraway sorbet and a green tea dacquoise, and it gets even more conceptual from there, and not always successfully:
Lara’s riff on the traditional Black Forest cake strays a bit further from the familiar, but is delicious on its own terms. Mimicking a forest scene, the dish is assembled around a central “rock” containing an exquisite chocolate praline ice cream garnished with pickled cherries. It contains no obvious trace of cake and for Black Forest die-hards, may disappoint.
But it is Lara’s almost pictorial Caramel Garden Roots that departs furthest into the realm of so-called “de-constructed” food for which places like El Bulli, the shrine of the so-called molecular gastronomy, are famous.
With rhubarb sorbet and licorice caramel sitting on a bed of coffee “soil” running the entire length of the plate, it is designed to look like roots coming from the ground. Of all the desserts, this visual fantasy succeeds the least well on the taste front, with the coffee soil overwhelming the dishes other flavors, especially the rhubarb.
Ay, there’s the rub: We’re more than happy to eat a dessert that pushes our culinary, sensory, or experiential boundaries — as long as it tastes good. The talent’s there, though, so we agree with Lazar that Andres Lara is one to watch.
[Photo: some kind of dessert (strawberry foam? white chocolate powder? no idea!) from Andres Lara’s personal site]