Written by Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa

When I heard the topic of this week’s column was ‘Food as Art’ I immediately thought about the response that I give whenever someone asks me if I’m enjoying my new position here at The Essex. My first response is that, yes, I love it because I always have considered food to be art, and I think of the foodservice industry as a kind of performance art. It’s why I consider The Essex my studio– where I have all the paints, brushes, canvases and talented, creative co-workers needed to create masterpieces every day.

For example, our Executive Chef Shawn Calley and I were going over the menus we’re creating for our annual Grand Buffet Thanksgiving Feast, the new Butler’s Farm Restaurant, our Holiday Party options, and our Cook Academy classes. Not only are Chef Shawn and I thinking about all the flavors, colors, and textures of individual plates, but we’re also looking at the event styles to create menus that will best combine in a harmonic way, accentuating the look and feel we’re trying to create for our guests.

From designing a gingerbread house iron chef ‘competition’ for corporate holiday parties to creating dishes for both The Tavern and Butler’s Farm, we want to provide sustenance while also appealing to diners’ esthetic sensitivities. Food is very unique in that it is necessary for survival but can also be the beautiful cornerstone for an entertaining occasion. Our desire is to combine the event elements with the ingredients necessary to create a masterpiece. Yes, the moment lasts only as long as it takes to eat, but it should be remembered for a lifetime.

All that being said, here is a recipe that fits the bill. Not only is it pretty, but it’s fresh and delicious and warm and satisfying.

Enjoy!

Gingered Carrot Pear Soup with Candied Almond Pear Crème
2 lb. carrots, peeled and rough-cut
3 large ripe Bartlett pears peeled and cored (leave ½ pear unpeeled for garnish)
1 whole peeled ginger root cut down the middle
2 shallots
1 tbsp. butter
2 qts. chicken stock
1 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. water
¾ cup sour cream

In a pan, sauté diced shallots and butter until clear. Add carrots, pears, and ginger root and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a simmer for 1 hour until carrots and pears are fully cooked. Strain, discard the ginger, and reserve the liquid to either loosen up the carrot purée or to reduce and use later as a beautiful sauce for a duck confit pasta or a crispy pan-seared chicken breast. Chill the purée. Place the almonds on a buttered sheet pan. Melt the sugar in another saucepan with the water. When the sugar melts and begins to caramelize, pour it over the almonds and let cool. When almonds are completely cool, pulse in a CuisineArt until you get a semi-fine powder. Mix the almond praline powder into the sour cream, slice the un-peeled pears, and keep both as garnish for the soup. Take chilled puree and either add heavy cream to it until the desired consistency, and then top with the praline cream and sliced pears, or you can instead heat up the carrot purée, add some of the cooking liquid, and garnish with the almond cream and sliced pears.

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