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February 26, 2006

The Oscars of food

On Saturday night, a staggeringly amazing (enter hyperbole here) amassment of the biggest culinary talent out there: Decoding Ferran Adria: The Tribute Dinner at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

Foodies who paid $600 a plate for the sold out event were convulsing with joy  at the thought of Thomas Keller (French Laundry), Jean Georges Vongerichten and Nobu Matsuhisa cooking just for them. The seven course feast also included starters by local luminaries Emeril Lagasse and Norman Van Aken.

The theme: uniquely combined flavors that Adria, Spain's master of innovation cuisine, could appreciate.

"This is heaven,'' said Frenchman Marc Ehrler, executive chef at the Loews who organized the army of servers. "A once in a lifetime event."

The first course, Organized Caesar Salad, was dictated  - that's the word, folks - by
Adria's close friend and translator for the evening, Jose Andres, a popular Spanish TV host who is known as much for his manic energy as for his novel approach to food.

"That doesn't look like Caesar salad,'' I stupidly remark about the  plate dotted with three little
tubes, one with a yolk atop, lying beside an orange dollop, later discovered to be sea urchin. "Have you ever seen Barney [the purple, kid-friendly dinosaur]?'' Andres asks, flitting between servers who are plating, assembly-line style, on city-block-long tables. "Use your imagination!''

  Oh, it was going to be that kind of night.

At this celestial level, things are not as they  appear  especially for the uninitiated (I once had tekka maki at Nobu New York and used the phone at Lespinasse in the early '90s).

I dunk the lettuce-filled cylinder into the sea urchin. For roughly six seconds, I'm rendered unable to speak. 

"Wow,'' I finally manage. But Andres is off down the server queue, cracking his knuckles and bellowing, "More parmesan! More parmesan!''