I love the way that Miles Davis never played "My Funny Valentine" the same way twice. It was always changing and evolving. He would emphasize a different tempo, or a different instrument, or put a mute on his horn, or, audaciously enough, turn the whole thing electric à la Jimi Hendrix, all the while still playing (more or less) the same composition. That, to me, is creativity, or invention, at its finest.
In a similar fashion, we have discovered at Charlie Trotter's that creativity can be most provocative when it happens in an evolutionary manner.
For example, take a particular recipe, then monitor it over the course of a season. You would observe many small, subtle differences.
Let’s say a dish featured rabbit loin, morel mushrooms, fava beans, artichokes and tarragon this week. Next week, we might substitute tiny chanterelles for the morels because the former may be just coming into season and be more spectacular than the latter. Then the following week the fava beans might have become starchy, so we add a sweet-and-sour essence and puree them. The week after that we want to push the combination more firmly into “red wine territory,” and therefore cook the artichokes using the method of sous-vide (cooking in vacuum-sealed plastic bags) with reduced red wine and bacon fat. The following week we might replace the rabbit loin with rabbit rillette ravioli. And it goes on and on.
This has been, and to this day still is, our approach to evolving a culinary idea. Nothing is fixed. Nothing is set in stone. And anything can be adapted to suit almost any wine.
We are working on a new book at the restaurant. Its release is meant to coincide with our 20th anniversary next summer. We plan to revisit every single dish that appeared in our first book, Charlie Trotter's, and show how it might appear today. We will use the exact same ingredients for the new preparation that we featured in the original. The drama will come into play when the two dishes are observed side by side. Like Miles Davis playing “My Funny Valentine,” the notes will be the same, but the sound will be radically different.
Robert Fukushima — California — November 2, 2006 12:42pm ET
Steven D. Brown C.s.w. — November 10, 2006 9:54am ET
Peter Cargasacchi — Sta. Rita Hills — November 12, 2006 6:53pm ET
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