|A divine soup, such as this Sopa de Tomatillo from German
Village’s Barcelona Restaurant, is a tasting menu staple
One thing pandemic more or less eliminated was the primo tasting menu experience. We personally don’t indulge much in the extravagant side of the dining ledger, but we must say that one of our most memorable meals was the tasting menu of Veritas Restaurant, which was then in Delaware, Ohio.
Slowly but surely, however, this ultimate method of activating the taste buds is returning as an option for diners. The very same restaurant we mentioned prior, Veritas (now in Downtown Columbus), has been offering themed dinners for diners, moving from French and Vegan, with Nordic on deck. Chapman’s Eat Market has also dipped its toes in the water with some specialty Vietnamese-themed multi-dish offerings for the adventurous diner. The Refectory, a Columbus fine dining institution, has also opened up for the dine-in experience and has traditionally had a Chef’s five-course tasting menu.
Of course, we here at this blog aren’t limited by dining restrictions, restricted budgets, or number of courses. With that in mind, as a nod to the return of this culinary tradition, we present our own 14-course/song tasting menu, where we combine the most divine of tastes with the most rocking rhythms (playlist embedded at the end of the post.)
1) Cocktails – The previously mentioned Veritas may have been our first deep dive into fancy cocktails, and that interest has only increased since. Yes, a fine wine would be a perfectly appropriate choice as well, but for us, an Aviation and an Old Fashioned and we can go from there. Tenor saxophone giant Coleman Hawkins starts off the festivities here with “Cocktails For Two”, his 1957 number performed with pianist Oscar Peterson and fellow tenor saxman Ben Webster.
2) Terrine – Often confused with a pâté, a terrine is a layered loaf of various meats, vegetables and fruits; one of the layers can actually be a pâté. For our layered musical selection, we chose “Ballads of the Terrine” which matches up Japanese jazz pianist Saki Ozawa with Dream House, a unique entity which has produced its share of introductory piano jazz covers of popular songs over the past few years.
3) Salad – On the tasting menu, salads can range the gamut, from Columbus’s The Refectory (Cauliflower Salad with goat cheese pepite, black olives, red onion vinaigrette) to a place like Buddakan in NYC (Peking Duck Salad w/poached egg and sherry vinaigrette.) Representing this course is none other than noted guitarist/producer Adrian Belew, whose “Men In Helicopters” is a selection from his 12th solo album “Salad Days.”
4) Soup – Speaking of Cauliflower, I didn’t personally think much of the vegetable until I had the Cauliflower Soup from Barndiva in Healdsburg, CA. In many ways, an outstanding bowl of soup is heaven in own right – in fact, call it a “Pleasure”, as in this danceable song from Bellshill, Scotland’s The Soup Dragons, from their 1992 album “Hotwired.”
5) Bread – A basket of artisan bread and some fancy butter seems to be a staple at many tasting menus, and maybe it’s my Bay Area roots which makes me lean toward a 2020 pandemic favorite in Sourdough. Perhaps it’s only appropriate that we have a Bay Area band (Antioch, California’s Overwhelming Colorfast) to provide the underlying platter with “Sway”, from their 1994 EP “Sourdough.”
6) Cheese – Cheese. That’s all you need to know. Cheese! The more esoteric and flavorful, the better, and if it were up to my spouse, they could be all blue cheeses and she’d be happy. And it doesn’t even have to be on a Monday either, though if it up to Manchester, England’s New Order, every day would be a “Blue Monday” (and we’d be dancing our asses off to this groundbreaking dance floor smash.)
7) Souffle – Created from a base of egg whites, the venerable souffle is a vehicle from fruit to chocolate to polenta and much much more. If you happen to be in Haiti, you might also encounter Le Souffle Divin, one of the most prominent religious-music-oriented groups in that country, and our selection “Gras La Ap Desann.”
8) Medallion of _____ – I leave the blank here because medallions seem to be the ideal size for a tasting menu, whether this circular disc is made of salmon or steak or monkfish. For our musical selection, we break out “The Medallion” from Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark, as performed John Williams & The London Symphony Orchestra.
9) Crudo – Speaking of seafood, a crudo (essentially, raw fish with a blend of oil, seasoning and/or citrus juice) is a popular tasting menu item. For our music, there’s nothing raw about “El Crudo” from Los Originales De San Juan, the Southern California-based Norteño quartet which has been recording music from the early 1990s.
10) Pork and Beans – One of the more unique tasting menu items I found came from the world-famous French Laundry in California, owned by famed chef Thomas Keller. Labeled as “Pork and Beans”, this tasting menu dish involved a savory blending of Pole Beans & Pork Belly. While our music here may share the same title, it’s almost certain that the “Pork and Beans” from another California institution, Los Angeles’s Weezer, isn’t quite as refined an affair (especially if I need some Rogaine to put in my hair.)
11) Sous Vide – Interestingly, this now gauche method of cooking protein (the protein is vacuum packed and immersed in a temperature-controlled water bath until its interior reaches the desired temperature) was initially used a safety measure for industrially-produced foods starting in the late 1960s. It really wasn’t until the early 2000s when chefs like the previously mentioned Keller and other high-end kitchens brought sous vide circulators for their kitchens to cook up some divine fare. Similarly divine fare resides with “Chanteur Sous Vide”, performed by the France by way of Senegal singer Tété, who has been called French version of Jeff Buckley.
12) Mussels – Following a similar storyline to lobster, Mussels became associated with poverty during the Depression, lowering this seafood in the dining public’s eye in terms of being elegant eats. However, refined aquaculture methods imported in from Europe eventually resurrected this bivalve’s popularity with restaurants in general, including appearances on tasting menus. Perfectly paired with this course is London’s Squeeze, whose “Pulling Mussels From A Shell” is but one of a plethora of great tracks off their third album, the 1980 “Argybargy.”
13) Puree – More of component to many tasting menu items than a tasting item menu itself, a well-prepared puree can provide the proper taste and textural balance and be righteous tasting in its own right. Hailing from Bellingham, Washington, Grant Eadie aka Manatee Commune has combined classical training, natural sounds, and danceable beats into a respectable measure of success (as in our selection here, “Raspberry Puree”), with appearances at SXSW and Bonnaroo, and a “Best Electronic Artist” award by Seattle Weekly.
14) Sorbet – We can’t not end a tasting menu without something a little sweet, and it\’s hard to go wrong with a perfectly churned, tart sorbet, which can help clear the palate without adding too much more stretch to an already full stomach. Finishing our tasting menu music wise is “Sorbetes” from Bing Austria and The Flippin’ Soul Stompers, the Manila, Philippines based band that pumps out a uniquely funky and jazzy groove.