Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jujube: Food as Art

Last night I went out to enjoy the Tasting Menu at Jujube, in Chapel Hill, with bloggers from CookingEatingDurham, Eat at Joe's and Delicious Durham. It was a very interesting experience in that I've never had anywhere close to a twenty course meal before and never had the chefs so involved in the dining experience. Chefs Charlie Deal and Josh DeCarolis (he even showed us his tatoos!) are clearly passionate about what they do and seemed genuinely excited that we were experiencing their creations. I can certainly identify strongly with that enthusiasm from observing people's reactions to my paintings. Their unique creations, so heavily influenced by both Asian and Italian cuisine, are marvelous. I truly appreciate DurhamFood's arranging this event for us. It was fun learning more about food from the other bloggers, as well as the chefs, and all of us were taking notes as we went along.

Kelly, over at Delicious Durham, went into detail about every single course, but I will just mention a few, or perhaps just over half of them. You can see all of the photos I took on flickr and I will label them soon. I am afraid that only 19 of the 20 courses are represented there. I must have had the vapors at the idea of eating foie gras for the first time.

Calamari salad with dashi aspic, cerignola olives, and black Chinese vinegar reduction: This was a very enjoyable and beautiful course. I particularly liked the variety of textures, including the aspic.
Wagyu beef carpaccio with egg gribiche and a potato waffle chip: I liked the waffle chip. Since I don't eat beef, my beef veneer was split among three others.

Encorotza: The mini smoked buffalo mozzarella and anchovies sandwich was my absolutely favorite course. It was inspired by a monte christo, effectively a French toast grilled cheese sandwich, which just happened to be my favorite meal at the IBM (Tivoli) cafeteria, before they removed it from the weekly menu. As you can guess, this was way better. It was delicious. This was also fun, because several of us guessed what type of lubricant was used to grill the sandwiches and we were all wrong. It was peanut oil.
Porcini-stuffed rice fritters with aged shoyu: Despite my hatred for mushrooms, I thought this was good. The crispness of the fritter obscured the texture of the mushroom so I got to enjoy the flavor.

Seared foie gras with Vietnamese-style shrimp pate and mint: So, I believe this was my first exposure to high quality foie gras, but I have to say that my love for all things duck, including pâté, doesn't mean that I'm excited about eating an unadulterated-enlarged liver from a force-fed duck or goose. I thought it was good, but not nearly as good as ordinary breast meat. Perhaps my tastes are not quite so refined, but that's fine with me. The mint was a very nice touch.
"White-trasherole": This was not only cute, but excellent. I'm not even sure I've had the original green bean and cream of mushroom casserole that this course was mocking, since I don't like mushrooms, but this was very good. Charlie explained that they used pulverized shitake mushrooms in order to produce the umami flavor. Again, I think any chef that can get me to enjoy something that contains ingredients that I don't normally appreciate is impressive to me.
Quail egg filled won-ton with brown butter and truffle: I thought this was good, but I agreed with my fellow bloggers that it wasn't as exciting as some of the other courses. That said, I still really liked it, especially the brown butter. It would be nifty to have a little bacon with this, so it could be "eggs and bacon". The large truffle shaving allowed me to mentally solidify the flavor and texture of truffles in my mind, which was nice.
Seared scallop with squid ink and black truffle cream: I thought that this was the most flavorful scallop that I've ever eaten and the sauce was great. This was probably my second favorite course.
Venison truffle angolotti with robiola cream: These reminded me of adorable little meat-filled ravioli and were superb.

By the time we got to the meat, I was starting to feel quite full and was thankful that I don't eat beef anyway. Thanks very much to DurhamFood's friend, R, who happily finished off several of my meat courses!
Bacon not stirred: The dessert portion started with a bourbon-based drink, of which I took just a sip. It had a neat flavor that was certainly bacony. I didn't have to ask anyone if they were willing to finish this course for me.

Sweet potato pie with candied baby walnuts: Fortunately, I seem to have a tardis inside when it comes to solid desserts. The real star of this dish was the walnuts, which I will attempt to find in the near future. Thankfully, they were happy to let us see a jar of these nuts, sliced whole and nicely soft.
Truffled chocolate truffle: This dessert was simply perfect. This leaves you with impression that truffle shavings simply belong in chocolate and I would be more than happy to eat one of these at the conclusion of every meal.


  1. Great posting! Love the pics! It was really fun to spend time w/ you and the other bloggers. Good company is as important as good food!

  2. Great roundup. Thanks, Lenore! We've got to do that again sometime....

  3. Thanks! I really had a great time.

  4. I think a lot of us got the vapors at this dinner. :)

  5. Hey -- I enjoyed the link to your paintings. If you get a chance, I'd love to see dimensions and dates along with the art.

  6. Marsosudiro, thanks for the suggestion! I'm hoping to redo that page entirely, one of these days. To give you some idea, for now: I painted just about everything in the early to mid 90s and the botanicals on paper are all life-sized.