Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sons & Daughters

I've finally found a science I like: molecular gastronomySons & Daughters in San Francisco features molecular gastronomy techniques at their best, with a menu bubbling over with creativity that still somehow maintains respect for the natural ingredient.

If I wasn't already in love with the place for its insane use of foam, house-made butter with Ocean Beach salt, and moody chandelier-clad interior, after reading this interview with Chefs Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty, I have no doubts.  Head over heels.  I mean, they have a garden at Matt's mom's house in Los Gatos where they grow their herbs and carrots???  And people say there are no good men in San Francisco.  (Also, is a Yelp debate on this topic really neccessary?  Come on people.)

But my love for this place goes beyond just the culinary crushes I have on its head chefs.  It extends from the mysteriously-accented server who recited the entire menu to us when I asked which dish was his favorite, to the foamy cauliflower concoction topped with caviar brought as an amuse bouche, on to each bite of the four-course menu, and all the way to the last crumb of mini almond-lemon macaroon that arrived with our bill.

I don't think my description will do this experience justice, but words are all I got.  So.  I went here for dinner on a chilly Friday night with my friend Caroline.  After I inarticulately asked what the heck was going on with the menu (I'm lost in a world without headings and subtitles), our waiter explained that the plates are all pretty small portions because the menu is set up to be served as a four-course thing.  I instantly loved this for two reasons.  One, because a dinner of small bites of lots of different flavors is, for me, the most enjoyable kind of meal (I like to call my affliction Flavor ADD).  And two, because it shows that there is a philosophy behind the menu.  The fact that the chefs saw beyond just designing each dish to designing the whole experience of the meal really impresses me.  It's thoughtful.  Entrees are great, but meals are better, no?  But I digress.  The food.  I won't drag you through all four courses because I don't want you to resort to licking your screen, so here are my highlights.

(1) The beets.  After I scarfed down my warm house-made brioche bun and foamy-salty-savory spoonful of cauliflower and caviar, the beets arrived.  But they weren't just beets.  There were beets in their usual solid form, beets in pickled form, beets in foam form (yes yes it's possible!), with thyme and creme fraiche and walnut paper.  OMG the walnut paper.  It's like the MacBook Air of food.  They somehow squish all the flavor of a fistful of walnuts into this weightless, shiny, perfectly crisp sheet.  A thing of wonder.  And beet foam!  It just makes you smile doesn't it?  After Caroline befriended our waiter by discussing the technical names for the various categories of reislings (I love my friends), she asked him what kind of machine they used to work their beet magic.  [Insert awkward hand gesture here.]  Turns out, no machinery involved.  Just the beauty of chemical processes at work.  I still don't get it, so I think I'll stick to being the guinea pig, but I like the idea of beet magic.  The whole thing was crunchy-airy-earthy-spicy-sweet-smooth.  And it look exquisite on the plate, but in an effortless, un-snobby way.  I could eat this every day.

(2) The dessert.  How do you finish off a meal that is so mind-blowing and taste-bud-tinglingly good that you can't wipe the dumb kid-smile off your face?  With a grand finale of peanut butter cake and banana ice cream.  Oh yeah, don't forget the ricola gelatin, yellow curry sauce, dots of coconut cream, and siriracha paper.  Yeah.  It's everything you think it is and more.  Get on that.

My take: The very best part of this meal was that every bite was completely different than the last and the next.  As a praticed bite-artist, I appreciate the variety.  So thanks, Matt and Teague and mysteriously-accented waiter, for an exciting foray into the gastronomical sciences.  Let's be friends.

Oh, and did I mention the chandeliers?  I dream of these.


P.S. If you are as intrigued by these new-fangled food techniques as I am, then check out the father of molecular gastronomy, Ferran Adria, and his restaurant in Barcelona, El Bulli.


Leslie said...

Ahhhh, you guys went?!!? AWESOME!

Ashley said...

yes yes! it was awesome and you must go soon - you would love it!