Bear with me.
A few years ago, my friend (and former blogger-in-crime) Eva and I decided to save our money* to go to per se, largely considered the best, and factually the most expensive, restaurant in New York.
We did so after having read a memoir by Phoebe Damrosch, who had been one of the original servers at per se when it first opened.
In an early chapter she describes trying to recreate Thomas Keller’s (chef behind per se) Salmon Cornets from his French Laundry cookbook. FL is Keller’s restaurant in Napa Valley, largely considered the best restaurant in the country. All guests in the restaurant are presented with one of these Salmon Cornets as a first bite – a petite ice-cream cone looking thing, where a mound of salmon tartare takes the place of the ice cream, presented in a plastic ice-cream cone holder.
Damrosch describes her haphazard attempt at creating these in her tiny apartment kitchen with a motley assortment of scrapped-together tools to try to shape the cones, most of which broke in the process. As a server at per se, she later describes getting to present these cones to guests, many of whom recognize them for what they are – an edible prank. Who expects to go to a four-star restaurant and be initially handed something that looks like it could have come from Baskin Robbins? Some, not really getting the joke, actually attempt to consume the 2-bite cone with a fork and knife.
About a month ago, someone from the class across the hall brought us a tray of tiny ice cream cones. I knew immediately what they were and who they were attributable to.
So, as we were coming upon the Thomas Keller lesson in this week’s curriculum, I had the following conversation with the notorious Brian Duncan, table-partner extraordinaire, who would be the team leader for that lesson and therefore make recipe assignments:
PV: “So, I’d really like to do the salmon cornets tomorrow. No pressure. But I really, really want to. But no pressure. But, you know, pick me.”
BD: “I hate salmon.”
So Friday morning I had 3 hours to finely mince about 6 ounces of salmon, a couple of teaspoons each of shallots, red onions, and chives, and make the little ice cream cones.
The little cones are a bitch.
PV: (midway through cone output) “Remember when I said I really, really wanted to do this yesterday? Yeah.”
But anyway. 3 hours later I had exactly 15 cooperative 2″ cones, just enough to fill the little ice cream tray for presentation. And they were deemed by the chef to be picture perfect.