Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cooking the Tree of Life

Long time no see! Miss me? Sorry for the extended absence, December was a rough month Chez Yarnlibrarian and I'm just getting back into the swing of things. So I've got a lot of upcoming posts. First, an amazing program at the New York State Museum for Darwin's 200th birthday.

They call it Cooking the Tree of Life - four cooking demonstrations that highlight the evolutionary history of the meals' main ingredients, teaming up a local chef with a biologist. Each week covers a different branch of the Tree of Life: vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and fungi.

Last week was vertebrates. Chef Tony Destratis of the Lake George Club cooked while Dr. Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the museum, handled the science end of things.

I forgot my camera, so I just have one from my phone

It's a birthday cake for Darwin with an illustration from his notebook in his hand with a sketch of the Tree of Life. And it was yummy as well.

The vertebrate menu included: Braised Oxtail; Swamp Gumbo (alligator and frogs legs); Atlantic Salmon as gravlox, poached with white wine and leeks, and as fried nuggets; and a special request from the biologist - an "Evolution Omelet" combining the three "major advances in vertebrate reproductive adaptations". Um, yeah. I'm not a science person but those are apparantly: amniotic eggs (caviar); cleidoic eggs (chicken eggs); and lactation (milk). That's an omelet, alright. So no sampling for me last week.

Tonight was Plants! I had high hopes of being able to try all the samples but these chefs do like to throw meat stock into otherwise vegetarian things. sigh. Tonight's chef was Timothy Warnock, corporate chef for U.S. Foodservice, and the biologist was Dr. George Robinson, a professor at UAlbany. George also entertained us with his guitar. :-)

Chef Tim made a lot of amazing things tonight. First, we had a smoothie - Jungle Juice

Looks gross, but it was tasty! It smelled like kiwi to me, but it didn't have any in it. It was pear, mango, grapefruit juice, and spinach. While it was passed around George serenaded us with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." ;-) (I don't care what they say about scientists, both biologists have been funny! After singing George said "I'm a botanist actually, which is a good thing for the music world."

Next they made a Hunter-Gatherer Salad. This was wonderful, both delicious and gorgeous with all kinds of pretty things in it.

You are looking at:
chopped smoked almonds
spring mix
orchids, pansies, amaranth, baby sunflowers, marigolds, and other flowers
basil flowers
microgreens (baby swiss chard and lavender buds)
chili peppers
organic blueberries, golden raspberries, red raspberries, black raspberries
crumbled goat cheese
and an Herb Balsamic Dressing
I already said amazing too many times, but, it was amazing!

Next was a chili of garlic, chili peppers, kidney beans, tomato, lavender buds, basil flowers, and pork stock.

George said "Darwin was an outlaw" and sang a birthday song to him including lyrics on the big screen with a bouncing Darwin head!

Next on the menu was a polenta with jalapenos and Speck ham (smoked, similar to prosciutto it seems). There was a multibean salad with kidney beans, white kidney beans, three kinds of lentils, onion, and chilis. This was served with grilled elk so I just tried a few uncontaminated beans. It was spicy!

There was a Quinoa Salad with quinoa, bulghur wheat, lemon & orange, and pork stock (grr!). And red couscous with blood orange zest and juice, onion, garlic, white wine, pomegranate... something (it was oil or essence or something like that in a small bottle), and the couscous - a frozen flash cooked kind with peas and red peppers already in it. This was very good! Sometimes I don't even like couscous, but this was good. I would totally buy the flash cooked/frozen couscous but unfortunately it is a restaurant only product.

Then it was on to dessert! Thank goodness chocolate comes from a plant. There were chocolate drizzled strawberries (a really good strawberry even this time of year!),

this looked like some sort of brownie cookie, maybe. Then I bit into it and discovered...
a macaroon inside! It was great.

There was Mayan hot chocolate, but it was waaaay too spicey for me. I took one sip and had to move on to the birthday cake to fix my poor mouth. I don't do smoked chipotle, apparently.

This was this week's birthday cake: You've got to love Darwin in a birthday hat!
I'm so glad I found these great (and free!) programs.


DJ said...


JMJ said...

I agree about macaroons! I love those things. But darn those chefs... think about us vegetarians!


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