Welcome to our new Est Est Alea blog
Intro to our blog
“With this 1st edition was wondering if anyone thought about how we come up with menus?”
Previously menus were based on – Colours of the spectrum; Modern food trends; Sustainability; Incorporation of a basic scent per dish (leather, tonka bean etc. – see menu’s below).
But this time I went back to one of my menus from 2016 – A trip around the world – and thought of elaborating on this. Why – I think tasting menus are becoming a bit pedestrian, but I still prefer to do them – tasting menus. But they create diminished returns – even if they change every 6-8 weeks. Let’s face it – you don’t want to come back and eat the same stuff, or even the same format.
So it got me thinking – I’ve travelled to, lived in and eaten in over 50 countries around the world (and still counting). I love travelling and seeing new destinations (as well as revisiting old ones). So why not do a worldwide menu based on flying & travelling?
And so the idea of in-flight dining was born.
Based on the 2016 menu & a combination of Ethnic dishes & in-flight dinner trays – our “In-flight Dinner Tasting Menu” has arrived.
It’s condensed. It deals with timing issues, and it allows you variables in your tasting menu experience.
I imagine some sceptics are saying we are trying to be everything to everybody, and yes, why not??
The kitchen is both talented and experienced enough to achieve this. So why not??
It’s also going to be fun for us!!
Okay so now we have the idea what does implementation involve?
- Where do we want to go?
No, no disrespect to any area we have left out, but authenticity has to be key – and that involves ingredients, sustainably sourced and readily available. So Scandinavia – we can’t get Moose lips or surströmming (Lutefisk). So until we can, we won’t be looking at flying to the Northern Lights.
We do however have a great selection of sustainably grown and sourced ingredients that will take us to other popular destinations.
So we started with:
A. Either side of the Atlantic – the kind of boring stuff they probably served on the Titanic.
– Roast Duck, Liver Pate, Beef Wellington… blah blah blah. But well made… it still has its place.
B. The trend of Asian food incorporating a large Japanese influence, China & particularly Hong Kong. Real umami stuff.
C. The Mediterranean and Adriatic – cuisine that people have loved for years and so broad. There’s Spain, Italy and France, but Morocco, Egypt and Israel are also there. Lest we forget Croatia, Turkey and Cyprus. Again so much to choose from.
D. Our spice route had to incorporate India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and with such a wealth of vegetarian dishes, why not typecast them as the mecca of vegetarian dishes. This however doesn’t mean that we can’t change our spice route to the Caribbean? And it doesn’t have to be exclusively veg?
E. Central and South America – my favourite by far! Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Brazil – nom nom nom.
F. Sub Sahara Africa – we can’t leave out our beloved peri peri prawn, prego and pap & wors!
We looked further into this and how we can capture through these the 5 taste sensations -umami – Asia, sour – Central and South America, sweet – Sub Sahara Africa, bitter – The Spice Route and salty – the Mediterranean and Adriatic.
Broad – YES, but still distinctive.
Then there was the question of the interpretation – so often we have been known for deconstructing and making dishes that “imply” these originals through texture or taste. So – expect a bit of both!
Now I want to further enhance the story of the trays by giving them a real feel of plate style, colour and look. So it’s plate shopping, tray samples, colour matching.
This took two weeks. You’re probably thinking – who cares, and I doubt most will notice, but I care.
The South America’s must have colour (blue particularly) the board must be certain wood and incorporate twine or rope of plant fibre. It has to be an artisanal and crafted plate.
The Atlantic has duck egg, gold leaf, white porcelain, silver… you get the picture.
Now we have all of this it’s mock up time for the plating.
Great … do the plates work? Only way to find out, let’s start cooking and plating.
So, Mitchel and I start the labourious task of making all the ingredients for all the dishes so we have a palate to work from.
This is what the initial dishes and format of the menu will look like, but we have all this stuff to work with.
We will add to, take away from and adapt each first draft to further enhance the authenticity of these – In flight trays and their dishes.
Now we plate everything and Lara takes photos to update the website and social media.
Okay so menu construct, wireframe, dishes and plating are tied down… next ready to roll? Not quite!
There’s this little issue of taking our staff through the training process of replicating all these dishes. So, first it’s recipe time – the thing I hate most – typing out all the recipes, methods and ingredients.
They get their recipe packs and then we start making, plating and cooking each dish with them so the replication is exact each time. So, the hands on training starts.
But we can’t just go live without a bit of practice – so we arrange nights where we are closed with randomly selected guests (20 at a time), friends and family to come to 3 simulated nights, where we go through every permutation of the ordering system, the waiters training. Everything to allow smooth implementation.
We set up the restaurant with different table configurations to be sure there’s enough space on the tables for the trays. That we can serve and clear efficiently. That the space in between the tables allows for free movement.
All good, surely now we are ready to roll? Ummmm …. NO!!!
We should do the wine and drinks pairings –
I will let Lara explain this bit as there is as much work and detail in this.
“In simple terms the process is as follows. Firstly there’s the tasting of all the dishes to understand the components of each. Remembering these tastes it’s then looking into varietals that will work with each of these. Then it’s the case of finding these wines, tasting them to make sure that the nose and flavour components compliment each of the dishes. Added to this is working out the cost of each of wines, storage required, and whether or not these will be available throughout the duration of the menu. But this is just the start of it, this process normally takes about 2 weeks, and I will go into this in more detail with our next blog”
Over thinking? Too much detail?
I mean, it’s just food.
And here we sit, 6 weeks down the line, 1,000’s of man hours, the expense of all the food testing, the training, the deliberation, the new crockery and cutlery and then we have the nerve to charge R665.00 per person (R105 less than we were charging in 2016).