In late October I had the pleasure of cooking a five course meal for The Garden of Alchemy, created by The Muses, a collective of women who curate stunning and inspiring gatherings and excursions. I was asked to create a menu in which each course was inspired by the alchemical qualities of one of the four elements. The final course was a dessert. I set about imagining and testing dishes that evoked Water, Air, Fire and Earth and used the alchemical properties of that element in their preparation.
I also wanted the diners to participate in and contemplate the alchemy inherent in food preparation and consumption, so I offered to write a magic spell to accompany each course. The spells served the double purpose of letting the diners know what was in each dish, and guiding them to use the ritual of eating to set specific intentions. I was so excited by this idea, but I was also aware that it would be a bit of extra work to pull off, so I was prepared to let it go since the dinner was just the first of many ambitious offerings that were being coordinated in the evening. But, oh no, these are not women who shy away from making things happen. One of the muses is a classics professor and she edited and finessed the wording of the spells. Another of the muses made each spell into a beautifully designed card for the guests to use during the meal and keep afterward. It is is such a pleasure to work with a collective of women who possess considerable and diverse talents and skills, and who work together to create something inspiring for other women.
On the theme of amazing women who make things happen I also want to introduce you to Jasmine, who assisted me in the kitchen. Behind every fancy dinner there is someone making sure that the next three steps are being thought of in time for it to not all come crashing to a halt.
There were very strict vaccination and covid testing protocols in place for this event and it happened before the new variant had appeared. It is hard to believe that this is what life was looking like again for a brief moment only two months ago. I remain hopeful that we will be able to create more events in the future. In the meanwhile, here are the spell cards and menu for the Garden Of Alchemy Dinner. You can follow the links to recipes (which I will be filling in gradually).
The Water Course
Hot seafood broth with butterfly pea blossoms, lime juice and A Fish Fashioned From Green chili pepper and lime leaf
Thai Sticky rice ball with furikaki and fried Seaweed
Butterfly Pea Blossoms will turn plain water blue and then fuchsia with the addition of acid. This is an entirely natural alchemical effect but it is finicky. Finding a way to make a seafood broth that was both very flavorful AND that had the correct PH and clarity to turn a beautiful color took many, many murky and unattractive experiments! In the end I came up with the broth featured in the video above that turned a lovely teal and the mauve. The recipe for color changing and flavorful seafood broth is in this post.
The Air Course
An Edible nest of cellophane noodles, crispy shallots and pea shoots, filled with goat cheese mousse & golden berries
quail eggs to peel and eat on the side
I was very proud of the plating of the bird’s nest salad The combination of flavors was excellent as well. If you were not trying to make a literal nest you might opt to have more peashoots and less cellophane noodles. For the recipe, visit this post!
The Fire Course
A roasted pumpkin cauldron of Spicy Romesco Served on Charred Broccolini & CAULIFLOWER
ReD Pepper & Radicchio flames
You can see this recipes and read more about how it developed in this post. The plating was involved but the components of this dish are simple to prepare and extremely satisfying!
The Earth Course
Horseradish Beet GeoDes Buried in Porcini Kasha rocks & CONFIT CARROT Tree Stumps WIth Tarragon SHoots
Parsley Oil Moss, Spiced Ground nuts soil & Pickled Mushrooms
I borrowed some recipes that I created for my Estonian Werewolf dinner for this course. Apparently, creating food that evokes a forest floor is a thing that I do! Follow these links…
- Confit Carrots
- Kasha with Porcini and Horseradish Beets
- Pickled Mushrooms with Parsley Moss and Edible Soil
The Dessert Course
Membrillo & Cashew Cream Parfait with Caramelized Rosemary Almonds
I made the membrillo for this from Quinces that my godson and his mother picked upstate! Turning hard, sour green quinces into this flavorful brilliant pink membrillo uses the alchemy of slow cooking. You can find the recipe in this post.
Once the dinner was finished, we were able to join the festivities. Guests were able to mix their own potions, with assistance from Yana of Bennet Bitters. These bitters are so excellent. Please treat yourself to some. I am particularly fond of the exorcism bitters which are made from herbs that were used in Medieval times to expel evil spirits. Of course those same herbs are also good for your immune system say…during a pandemic…making them useful for both cocktails and as a tonic.
I also had my fortune read and took in a shadow play, a musical performance and a fire performance. All of that on top of the regalia and beauty of the guests in attendance which were captured in stunning photography by Celina Odeh.