Chefs hate Valentine’s Day. There are many reasons for this. Valentine’s Day diners are different than those on any other night of the year. They expect different things. They show up in twos rather than fours. They are focused on romance rather than food, flowers instead of cuisine, something special in place of a special meal.
So why do so many chefs “celebrate” Valentines Day with special menus? It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. With all those extra diners looking for a place to celebrate there is a major bump in demand chasing the same amount of supply. That translates as this: “money.”
But why did Chad White – with his reputation for being unwilling to stand still, either in a kitchen or amongst them — pick Valentine’s Day to do the fourth in his adventurous Plancha Baja Med pop up series (one that recently featured challenging ingredients such as lamb’s tongues and goat belly)? How would those play out on a Valentine’s Day menu?
Chef White’s answer was there before us on the very first plate: Fried Brussels Sprouts with Radish, Apple, Lime and a Salsa Habanero. In lieu of corny special menus “ themed” around Valentines Day or a parade of luxury ingredients and a price tag to match, his approach was simple: solid technique, interesting ingredient combinations and balanced flavors and textures. The brussels sprouts – hardly a luxury ingredient – were fried to the point of perfect caramelization, providing depth of flavor, a sweetness that was echoed in the apple and cut through by the lime…all of which played nicely in the sandbox with a Salsa Habanero focused on the fruitiness of the chile instead of its heat.
Another highlight of the meal was the Celery-Clove Crusted Ribs, Fennel Pico, Ancho-Plum Mostarda and Masa Spaetzle. This Baja Med take on a classic German pairing presented perfectly prepared ribs with sweet spices that nicely played off the mostarda. But the highlight was Chef White’s innovative masa spaetzle in which he used the familiar Mexican corn meal (think corn tortillas or tamales) to make German spaetzle.
Not all of the dishes were hits. The Guava Respado had too much ice and too little guava. And while the flavor profile of the Albacore ceviche was on point – and the carrot pickle just perfection – the albacore chunks were a bit outsized. But the essential core of what Chef White is doing was clear: innovative fusings of the flavors of Baja Med Cuisine with strong technique producing clean flavor profiles that work any day of the year.
All of which begs – and just maybe answers — the question: why did Chad White pick Valentine’s Day to do Plancha Baja Med 4? Foodies, it seems, are romantics too. And nothing says romance to a foodie quite like the perfectly fried Brussels Sprout.