Friday, April 27, 2012

A Feast for the Senses: Evolve Cuisine's Cambrian Event

We first met Chef Daniel Barron at The Epilepsy Foundation's Gingerbread City 2010. We were at the at The Grand Del Mar and Chef Daniel was one of the celebrity chefs for the gala. His creation of the evening was Wild Sonora Coast Prawn "Scallop" with sweet corn espuma, white ponzu nitro, and lobster chicharrón. I vaguely recall that the prawn was somehow deconstructed and then reconstructed to resemble a scallop, covered with a frothy foam, and accompanied by a wafer that melted and smoked as soon as it hit your tongue.

We crossed paths three times the following year, at The Gourmet Experience, San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, and again at Gingerbread City 2011. Chef Daniel won the prestigious Chef of the Fest with his Crispy Laughing Bird Shrimp and Curry-Glazed Sous Vide Pork Belly, cauliflower polenta, and roasted ginger kaffir lime air. At Gingerbread City, he created a dish called Corvina-Almonds-Pumpkin, with duck fat and butter poached local corvina, pumpkin custard, smoked almond fluid gel, crispy Maitake nitro, and crystallized micro Thai basil. I'm still patiently waiting for the margarita recipe he promised from The Gourmet Experience, the most amazing Cadillac Margarita, garnished with a slice of jalapeno and float of lime foam.

My limited experience with modernist cuisine comes from these creations by Daniel Barron, although we did successfully sous vide a tri tip for our Weird Science Halloween Party, and I made a variety of powders for a Daring Cooks' challenge: Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered, a recipe found in Chef Grant Achatz' Alinea cookbook. But these are extremely mild in comparison to some of the techniques employed by Barron (OMG, please excuse the hideous food photography in these earlier posts).

We continue to see Chef Barron at various charity events, giving back to the community, but he is now sporting a black tee, silkscreened with Evolve, Cuisine Forward. Although he still wears one of his stylish hats and blue sneakers, I must admit I cringed a bit when he donned his latest kinda-creepy black gloves.

Chef Daniel describes his newest venture as "the culinary intersection of modernist cuisine and fresh, organic fare - science and nature" presented during pop-up dinners and catering events. We were thrilled to recently attend Evolve Cuisine's second pop-up dinner series, The Cambrian Event, held at Fixtures Living. It was truly an entertaining evening and a treat for the senses.

The aforementioned black gloves

Guest Chef Alex Emery (currently a chef at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront)

We started off the evening with passed hors d'oeuvres: Steamed Bao Bao with Seared Local Yellowtail Belly and Cucumber SalsaKumiai Oysters with Salted Lemon Air and Kelp Kimchee; and Laughing Bird Shrimp Ceviche, with chili thread, white soy ponzu, jalapenos, and cilantro.

Monique with Kumiai Oysters with Salted Lemon Air and Kelp Kimchee

Guest Chef Tiffany Serin (currently with Truluck's and owner of Petite Farine) plating Laughing Bird Shrimp Ceviche

Modernist Molecular Mixologist, Mike Yen, wowed us with a pre-dinner cocktail. "Modernist techniques serve as a portal to a new dimension of artistic expression. I love being able to apply whimsical twists to nostalgic ideas and redeliver them in a package that surprises the audience."

Bay Breeze Cocktail Sphere

Following hors d'oeuvres, we were whisked off on an incredible journey through eight delectable courses and a very innovative dessert. Unfortunately, I'm still too new at this cuisine to accurately describe the techniques that go into each of these dishes, and I've found myself looking up many of the ingredients to find out what they are and where they come from...maybe I can become more knowledgeable after a few more Evolve dinners, and a visit to Chef Barron's research and development kitchen! For now, you'll have to settle on photographs and your imagination (see all of our photos from the evening, here).

1st Course
Scallop, Watermelon, Pistachio
Baja Mano de Leon scallops, pistachio fluid gel, dehydrated watermelon and serrano chile crisps, pistachio toffee, Kinh Giới leaves

Spanish for Lion's Paw, the golden orange shells of Mano de Leon Scallops look like big lion's paws. Known as the superstars of the scallop world, they are carefully harvested by divers in pristine tropical lagoons off Mexico's Baja Peninsula. They have a wonderfully rich and sweet flavor, and sear beautifully. There are less than eight of these jumbo scallops in a pound.  

2nd Course
Venus Clam, Radish, Kelp
Sunomono gelee, fermented black bean sauce,
Bac-Ha, shaved radishes, Wasabi agar agar, lotus root chips

Venus Clams have multicolored shells with plump meats, a briny taste with a hint of umami, and a seaweed, metallic flavor on the finish. The meats are larger and more plump than Manila clams, yet still tender.

Chef Jeff Bonilla

3rd Course
Spot Prawn, Daikon, Mango
Pickled Daikon-wrapped San Diego Spot Prawn filled with mango nuoc mom,
shaved green papaya, sesame powder, fried shrimp shell garnish
Served with liquid carbon dioxide and purified ocean water

4th Course
Uni, Salicornia, Coffee
Truffle-uni bisque in a catheter syringe, seabean and truffle espuma,
sea beans with sweet sesame dressing, freeze dried coffee toasted sesame seeds

Truffle-uni bisque, in a syringe...a bit strange, but incredible!

5th Course Cocktail

"My craft is like gift wrapping mixology with the aesthetics of sushi. The resulting product is something that is pretty, flavorful, and alcohol-sneaky. Each gelatin shot is a definitive reflection of its cocktail counterpart in both taste and presentation. It is a Jello shot like no other..." 
- Molecular Mixologist Mike Yen

Margarita, a  Mike Yen cocktail creation

6th Course
Yellowtail, peanut butter, celery
Pan seared sous vide yellowtail, peanut butter powder, raisin coulis,
braised celery, toasted rice, ocean water, clarified peanut butter

7th Course
Abalone, Ramps, Naan
New Zealand blue abalone, robata boneless pink grouper cheek, wood grilled wild foraged ramps, cilantro naan bread, black olive oil, Greek yogurt, compressed cucumber

8th Course
Halibut Cheek, Coconut, Ginger, Rice
Halibut cheek confit in coconut oil, ginger kaffir dashi sheet, red rice,
white asparagus, coconut powder, epazote

Baja Shrimp, Buttermilk, Sponge, Thyme

The dessert course was created by Pastry Chef Jeff Bonilla of L’Auberge Del Mar’s Kitchen 1540. By his own admission, he's "just a big kid that plays with food." Using modernist cuisine techniques, he expertly transformed Baja Shrimp into a Whipped Prawn Brulee masquerading as a slice of pumpkin pie with buttermilk gelato, streusel, bourbon crème, micro thyme.

Pumpkin Pie  à la mode

Tickets to Evolve's pop-up dinner events sell out quickly.  It is advisable to follow Evolve on Facebook or Twitter, and check the web site often to keep up with Chef Barron and his creative team.

I'm sorry to miss next week's dinner, A Modern Tribute to the Classic Cuisine of America's Finest City, but I'm sure Chef Barron's twist on San Diego's famous fish tacos is going to be a doozy.

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1 comment:

Roger P said...

I'm sorry, but those black gloves are a little Dexter-esque. Looking past the gloves it was obviously of fun and educational culinary experience.