Monday, 4 March 2013

For F. Scott Fitzgerald (degustation mega-post!),

So last night, this happened:

But perhaps I should back up a bit.

It's the beginning of March. The academic year is gearing up. For me, this is the 3rd year of my PhD, and my nose is going to have to be pressed firmly to the grind. Plus, there's my teaching load, and a year-long academic careers module, and my role with the students' association. I'm not sure how I'm going to have a life this year. As the weight of all this impending frenzy bears down, I've been craving some kind of blowout; a last hurrah before I lock myself in my office and prepare to live off stale coffee and crackers.

Maybe this is the feeling that stockbrokers had in the 80s, when everything was happening, and they were on a rush of excitement and possibility and insane working hours, and they'd wake up with (I hear) bizarre cocaine hangovers.

Only difference is, my hangovers are dinner party-related. I woke up this morning with a bit of a headache, wandered out to the kitchen to get some water, and stumbled across a cold saucepan full of orange-scented quinoa. And a half-empty container of congealing parsnip puree. And a LOT of dishes. And then the memory struck me: I went on a bender last night. A 9-course, 34-component, wine-matched, degustation bender.

My camera's SD card confirmed it. Frame after frame of damning evidence.

First there was the amuse bouche - earthy porcini & chilli mini-macarons, filled with a mascarpone cream.

Then the starter - small spoonfuls of lemony scallops in a basil & cucumber sauce.

Next came the appetizer - a small, creamy shot of zucchini soup with mascarpone foam, thyme, and olive drizzle.

Which was followed by a cleanser of poached pear, saffron & honeycomb sorbet.

Next there was bruschetta, ripped apart and turned into a carefully arranged salad, with a scoop of savoury basil ice cream perched in a pool of parsley oil at its centre.

That was followed by a flaky piece of tea-baked salmon, resting on orange-scented quinoa and edamame puree.

After that came a medallion of New Zealand lamb on parsnip puree, with dukkah and green pea leather.

Then palates were cleansed again with lemon-mint sorbet.

Finally, there was a plate of chocolate berry tastes and textures - chocolate cups, raspberry jelly, white chocolate cream, chocolate soil, blackberry brownies, and fresh berries galore.

Oh, the shame.

I am left now with the morning-after mix of self-inflicted poverty, messiness, guilty regret, leftoveritis, and glorious, glorious satiety.

And weirdly, I am left with paperwork. In the course of planning my debauchery, I wrote a manual describing the menu, breaking it down into its components, listing all recipes, giving a preparation schedule, and documenting various other necessary notes.

In other words, I wrote a degustation how-to. And now, interweb, it is yours to use. If anyone out there is thinking of running a degustation, but wants someone else to do all the planning, it's done. Download this manual, and just follow the instructions. Or flick through below.

So what place does this post have in a literary food blog? And how does it relate to F. Scott Fitzgerald? Um, there was lavish food in The Great Gatsby. So there. Yes, this is a lazy tie-in. Blame my hangover. 


  1. Gotta say Anaise, this looks incredible! Not sure how you'd have ANY leftoveritis with this. Hope your sanity is still intact, post-manual compiling.

    1. Thanks Bobby! Oddly enough, the manual compilation got me in the zone for some thesis-writing. I love it when procrastination turns out to be productive.

  2. Hey,
    Love the ambition. Keep up the good work. I know how difficult it is to do this stuff and study!

    1. Thanks :) To be honest, I'm not sure how much studying I did during the week I was planning this...

    2. It is nice to see the planning preparations too, I think that is what a lot of people might not be aware of. I found the first few ones I did, it was super crucial to plan everything, once you get a few more, I think you get a little wiggle room and more of an intuitive sense about how much you can actually get done in a day etc... Although costings for me are still pretty crucial, as are lists of things to get done, but the efficiency rapidly increases with experience, technique and appropriate equipment (sous vide for example is a massive labour saver). Anyway, well done again, beautiful presentations, let me know you ever feel like teaming up, when your study (and mine) is not in the way.