What is a Gastronomique, how to have one and how to dine like they did in the golden eras…
Meal times are an ancient thing. We have been cooking as hominids for about 2 million years and it’s emergence is credited with our larger brains, and general evolution, as cooking allowed us to get more energy and nutrients from our food; which at that time was often meat. Fast forward to today and it is only logical that we have taken this primitive burning of meat over a fire, or hunting and gathering, to a more advanced form.
Paradoxically, today, we have taken some steps back, with food being often about filling a hole or sustaining, while we get on with our busy lives. There used to be (and sometimes still is) a bigger emphasis on the art of the meal. On a holistic and crafted dining experience that worked to do more than just feed. I could just serve bangers and mash and be done with it; maybe adding a chocolate bar for dessert. But we can do more than that.
You remember when you are in a restaurant and you want to order all the stuff on the menu but you can’t. Well, what if I could serve you all those different things, all those diffeent flavours and you would feel perfectly full at the end (and not overfull or hungry)? What if each course, worked off the previous one and led to the next? What if I thought about the different types of people in the group, and the particulars of taste and digestion, and I crafted a meal to fit that?
That’s what true fine dining does. That’s what a gastronomique is, and a tasting menu: a way to try lots of amazing things and for it to work. Not just work, but leave you giddy with satisfaction.
Starting a meal with a particular kind of alcoholic drink, an aperitif, to get the appeitite going, is one example of this; so that all in the group would be ready to eat. So is providing some light snacks for the ravenous at the same time, to keep the h-anger at bay; for those who are already hungry. This allows us conversation, while we allow for guests to arrive and is the true definition of the ice breaker.
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Following this up with some actual food, small bites of immense flavour, delicate, but more than just nuts, in a sort of light build up to the end result; a hunger destroying, taste bud exploding, wonderful meal. That is the next step. To start to open up the stomach but not to sate the appetite. Small steps of divine mouth watering flavour. Still not a starter, only the warm up. Served with white wine, which is light, just like this stage.
Then comes the soup, to juice the stomach and the intestines, and further open it all up. Also again, allowing for lots of flavour, deliciousness and joy; more than just ‘starter, main and dessert.’ Now, we may have taken hunger away. So we wait a little and then serve a sorbet, to clear the pallet and open the appetite again. It works.
Then we can serve the main event, the real meal, the climax of the tickling thus far. But it shouldn’t be too big, you must save some room for the next bits. Serve with red wine now, as this is more filling, just like the course we are now serving.
We may still be hungry, if we have done it right; many of the party will be. Not ravenous, just could have a little bit more, a little bit more flavour, a chance to give extra! So we serve dessert wine and cheeses. Not the dessert. Still savoury, to really finish those savoury pangs. The dessert wine will also open us up a tiny bit more, to fit the real dessert in.
So we serve dessert, extremely rich, sweet and flavourful to finally kill that appetite. Then we serve coffee, it is bitter and balances out that rich sweetness of the dessert and it aids in digestion, an antidote in case we got too full. Then, finally, the real antidote (served in the olden times to kill any bacteria we may have consumed) the digestive. A thick, strong spirit to tell your stomach it’s over now, to lay it to rest after its orgasm. Optionally, the very final step would be the time to smoke; post-coitally, but, well, that’s up to you.
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Here is a sample menu I performed for a private party of ten people. It’s a days work, but it is worth it to see your guests so happy. Enjoy!
Champagne or Martinis
Quails Eggs on French Toast Topped with Caviar
Lightly Toasted French Bread with Fried foie gras
Speck with a Lemon and Shallot Sauce
French Onion Soup with French Toast and Parmesan
Tomato and Mint Champagne Sorbet
Slow Cooked Pork Chop topped with Apple and Ginger Sauce
Buttered French Beans
Sweet Potatoe Gratin
Desert Wine and Cheese
Chocolate Fudge Cake and Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream
Port or Armagnac