The rise of vegetables

love-opera-victoria-bakerIn the 1800’s the French epicurean master Brillat-Savarin propagated the notion that “You are what you eat.”

Today we are experiencing a healthy eating era like never before. We count calories and we decrease our fatty intake. Now I’m all about staying healthy, but I don’t advocate minimizing pleasure at the table, especially when I’m eating out. After all, eating is one of the great pleasures in life, we do it three times a day we may as well enjoy it!

We usually associate healthy dining-out options with snack joints like organic juice bars, salad bars and whole wheat wrap sandwich places. But what about fine dining? For a long while I thought, along with a couple of foodie friends, that dinner at a fine restaurant meant putting that diet on hold and splurging on delicious but artery clogging foods.

That was before I heard of Alain Ducasse.

I’ve dined at both his Adour Restaurants in New York City (which is now closed) and Washington D.C., both located inside the sumptuous St. Regis hotels. In fact, for Restaurant Week last weekend I took the train and back to D.C. for the day just to have lunch there…it was that good. I started with a beet salad, so light, so airy; it was like taking a walk through the garden.

I followed with the crustacean fregola sarda, a cuttlefish, scallop, lobster and Sea Urchin emulsion. Unbelievably flavorful, light and exquisitely balanced. If I had eaten nothing else, this dish would have made the meal entirely worthwhile. But it was onwards and upwards at Adour when I tried the winter vegetable cookpot.

Chef Ducasse’s new signature dish is the “cookpot”, a revolutionary cooking utensil designed to blend a variety of ingredients, namely vegetables, creating a refined dish befitting the term “Haute Cuisine”. Very health conscious without compromising flavor, it’s a modern adaptation of the traditional pot used in rural France.

Ducasse is one of those pioneering Chefs putting vegetables at the forefront of his culinary agenda with vegetarian tasting menus in all his restaurants from New York to Tokyo. He wants to dispel the notion that vegetables are only for vegetarians. His philosophy is that vegetables are more challenging to cook than fish or meat.

Allowing each one of their delicate flavors a chance to express themselves is no easy task. Eating vegetables brings us closer to the earth. Each season brings new delights, a different crop of fruits, an excellent harvest of vegetables…a week of excellent strawberries followed by a perfect crop of apples, our dinners dancing to the rhythm of Mother Nature…instead of to the drum of supermarket commerce. Sometimes the simplest ingredients yield the most elegant dishes: that’s what separates the extraordinary chefs from the ordinary ones.

 

Victoria Baker, of Greenwich, is an opera singer. Winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists all over the world (notably at Lincoln Center). Should you have any questions that deserve answers and may be in print please call 203-531-7499 or e-mail [email protected]

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