Recap– "Guilty Pleasures" at iNG

August 01 2012 - 1:15 PM

The Unique Dinner Series is a great chance for Chefs to experiment with dishes that push boundaries and techniques and thoughts that might not fly for everyday service. From a penchant for late night fish tacos to a sugarless chocolate coffee crème and donut, we came away with a bit of an edible autobiography from Chef Nate Park.

Miraculin is the active ingredient in M-Berry or miracle fruit. At iNG they serve it in a powdered form and it’s accompanied by wedges of lemon. It masks your tongues sour receptors and converts them to sweet. You can tell that it’s working when the lemon tastes like candy.

Working with Green and Yellow Chartreuse, Edinburgh Gin, Ilegal Mezcal and Sheep Dip Whiskey, all provided by Frederick Wildman Spirits, GM and mixologist Trevor Rose-Hamblin did flips, from a literal Ilegal Mezcal Flip to “the pond” served to a group complete with a water lily. “Pool… pond, whatever, it’s good.”

And it was what we were greeted by– “the pond”, a bowl-served, greenish liquid with sweet, sour, and rich aromatics blended together. Pickle juice was a primary part of the drink and while that sour usually indicates a Miracle Berry might be a part of the concept, in this case it wasn’t. Here, Chartreuse and Edinburgh Gin combined for a berry/herbal bouquet and a shot glass of lager re-paved the slightly and pleasantly oily mouth feel.

Chef Park explained a bit about the late night dining needs of a chef and how his default choice after service is fish tacos. Complete with a condiment station, we were given lightly battered and fried cod with corn tortilla and encouraged to combine jalapeños, pickled radish, lime and more into a quick bite.

Trevor, after tasting the Ilegal Mezcal Joven, decided to not mess with it too much and incorporated it into a Mezcal flip, egg white easing the alcohol bite and creating a platform for the rich roasted agave flavors and a hint of lime.

Like many chefs, Nate also admitted to another vice with his “Smokes” course. A cheddar ash and a potato ‘grit (not that kind of grit) set up a playful take on a Cantu standard.

As we learn about glycemic indexes it turns even our familial comfort foods into guilty pleasures. The “Carbs” course set up a ravioli with truffles and eggplant. And if there were any doubts about what goes with carbs, next came “Meat”. Beef, pork and duck were all combined in sausage, crisped and hunk form.

“Coffee” was served with donuts (or is it donuts that are the vehicle for the real guilt ?) and without the flavor trip, would not have been appealing. Chef provided ample warning and another dose of miraculin as well. Yet the sugarless cake and coffee crème were delicious. A distinct salt component brought out sweetness from the sour. I came to an interesting understanding on how the zones of my tongue were reacting to this flavor-trip-blindfolding.

Even beyond guilt, what can be more sinful than “Butter”? It’s more of a guilty pleasure to me than bacon! Especially when you’re eating a whole stick of butter. What drink would balance that? I’ve enjoyed force carbonating grapes until they’re fizzy but never thought to do orange wedges. Man, what was I thinking. It’s delicious. The fizzy orange was served with a French toast and the stick of butter which was a frosting of sorts and could be eaten on its own. The image of eating a stick of butter was hard to get over yet it was a distinctly different ingredient. Served in a butter boat, it was a great example of the power of suggestion.

The cocktail, Orange Soda, paired here was a riff off of an iNG standard using Sheep Dip whiskey. The toffee notes on the whiskey and the peppery elements were a complete pairing with the buttered French toast.

It was a great second installment in our Unique Dinner Series. We learned quite a bit about Chef Nate Park, from late night habits and comfort food preferences to his coffee addiction. It was great to see him create dishes with absolutely no sugar at all. He has a decent amount to feel guilty about. But don’t we all?

— Josh Brusin