Posted by Nils Noren
In late 2007, I participated in a panel discussion at the Philoctetes Center about the five senses. Each of the panelists represented one of the senses; obviously, I was there to talk about taste. The other participants were Greg Calbi, master sound engineer, worked with such artists as John Lennon and U2; Sophia Grojsman, perfumist, created Calvin Kleinâ€™s Eternity; Philip Pearlstein, painter and good friend of Andy Warhol; and Frank Wilson, neurologist and author of the book The Hand.
If you have nothing better to do (though I am sure you do) you can watch the panel discussion by clicking here.
After the panel, I was approached by Dorothy Dunn, Director of Visitor Experience at Philip Johnsonâ€™s Glass House in New Canaan, CT. She asked if Iâ€™d be interested in cooking for a discussion series that she was putting together, a sort of revival of the gatherings that Philip Johnson and his partner David Whitney threw back in the day. Described as the â€œlongest running salon in America,â€ those dialogues brought together people from the art world, architects, designers and other interesting/random people to discuss a variety of different topics while drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes. (Who knows what else they were doing.)
Dorothy and the National Trust Fund, which now runs the Glass House as a museum, hoped to keep the concept going. The Glass House Conversations would continue Johnsonâ€™s legacy, with martinis, but in a slightly more formal way. They organized a series of 12 lunches, each with a different theme, such as â€œTransparency,â€ â€œBreaking the Rules,â€ and â€œAttention, Attention Span.â€ My job was to develop menus that reflected the topic of conversation.
It is always interesting to create conceptual dishes and menus. Most of what I created for Glass House couldnâ€™t be served in a restaurant; perhaps certain dishes, but not the menus as a whole. The same holds true for the cocktail that finished off the lunch. In your average restaurant, people donâ€™t want food to be too intellectual. At the Glass House, I had a captive audience. The guests had no choice in what they were eating, nor could they pick up and go somewhere else.
To speak to the theme, I had to set certain parameters for each menu, and that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Say I decided all the elements of a dish had to be the same color. Designing a menu around a limitation like that forces you think about things differently and can lead to new ideas and techniques.
There was one other complication you should know about. Since the Glass House is a museum, the kitchen was off limits. Weâ€™d have access to an electrical outlet and could set up a circulator, but that was it. What can you do? Complain? No, you just make it work.
So here is the first post in this series on the theme â€œBreaking the Rulesâ€ (got to love it).
If you havenâ€™t guessed by now, all dishes that were supposed to be warm were served cold. And vice versa. Thatâ€™s breaking the rules.
8 thoughts on “Glass House Project: Breaking the Rules”
of course you have the wasas, hahaha nice.
I need to try the hot dog with shrimp salad and a side of your vinegar fries. Don’t you have a demo coming up? =)
what psi do you pressure cook mustard seeds at? in water? how long? can you can them afterwords for homemade mustard?
Eventually, the mustard seeds will be in the pressure cooking primer but here is how it is done: Blanch mustard seeds twice for a minute or so in boiling water, drain. Put mustard seeds in pressure cooker with vinegar (make sure you use enough, the seeds absorb a lot). Pressure cook for 30 min at 15 psi. Drain and stir in sugar to taste. We fold them into potatoes, into sausages, and use them as a garnish in their own right.
Thx Dave, ordering my 4 qt pressure cooker now…my hankering for beer brats is at a fever pitch(i’m from mn…)…they must last for awhile in fridge I assume if they are cooked in vinegar? 5% white vinegar or cider? working on getting my 50cc home syringe…. Rhubarb Cocktails!!
Everything just looks amazing! How did you manage with just one electrical outlet? hehe…
this looks awesome. i really wish i could go to one of these…
was there a special technique used to wrap the lobster in brioche?
Nils is in Sweden right now and I’m not sure if he used any special trick with the brioche. I can see from the picture that the lobster was meat-glued and rolled into a tube prior to cooking/slicing (classic Nils).
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