We love stories of how chefs find obscure new things to work with, and Time Out’s Julia Kramer has a good one involving Next’s Kyoto menu. The dish called for Japanese maple leaves. Which only came with a few hitches:
Maple leaves are virtually impossible to get from Japan: They’re difficult to preserve, and there are many barriers against bringing in plant material.
But chef Dave Beran knew who to call for something basically unavailable: Rodrick Markus. If you’re an observant reader of menus, you’ve probably seen the name of Markus’ company, Rare Tea Cellar, next to the tea menu at places like Blackbird. (Clue that it’s from him: there’s usually one sky-high-priced one, there just to kind of make the point that tea can justify the same heights of connoisseur demand as fine wine.) Markus deals not only in tea but in many kinds of expertly-chosen artisanal products (we love a soy sauce made in Kentucky, believe it or not, that he handles), and in the sort of coincidence that Hollywood would find too convenient to believe, he also happens to have a brother, Brent, who’s… a leading expert on the Japanese maple.
Then, Next being Next, it was just a matter of tasting a zillion different Japanese maples till you find the perfect one…. Anyway, read the whole thing. [TOC]