Ali and Dan’s planned dessert in development: Kefir Marshmallow – Apple Misozuke – Pecan Croquant
“Fermentation,” says Dr. Ali Bouzari, looking intently at a group of Google employees gathered around a test kitchen, “is the most powerful, complex source of flavor that we have available to us as cooks.”
Captured for YouTube, Ali and his Pilot R+D colleague Dan Felder hosted an hour-long lunchtime workshop for Googlers last autumn that swiftly outlined the role of microbes (or “citizen soldiers”) in fermentation, discussed the concept of terroir (it’s on your hands!), and briefly showed how to use salt and water to transform such ordinary foodstuffs as radishes and limes into spectacular culinary pleasures. “This is all about creating a perfect environment for things to happen,” Ali said. “Timing is very important in flavor development.”
Ali, a culinary scientist for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, and Dan, a research and development consultant who has worked extensively with Momofuku and Noma, join their stars with a who’s-who of fermentation masters on Saturday, Feb. 21, when we hold our first Innovations in Fermentation workshop and dinner.
We’re fairly gobsmacked at the star power preparing to gather in our kitchen. In addition to Ali and Dan, we are joined by their Pilot R+D co-founder Kyle Connaughton, former head chef for research and development at the Fat Duck. Kyle and his wife Katina are set to open their Single Thread Restaurant this year in downtown Healdsburg and Kyle’s book on donabe-style cooking is slated for release this fall.
In considering the pedigree of the Pilot R+D team, two things become swiftly apparent:
• Some of the best restaurants in the world (French Laundry, Momofuku, Noma, Fat Duck, among others) are on their résumés;
• For some of the best restaurants in the world, having a research and development professional on staff is as natural as employing a sous chef.
It’s all about understanding and manipulating the very basic blocks of culinary science. It’s all about the quest for deliciousness. And on this Saturday at SHED, it will all be about the most natural process of transformation, that of fermentation.
Joining Ali, Dan, and Kyle with us will be Bar Tartine chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns, whose newest book, Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes, focuses on preparing ingredients before even discussing folding those disparate parts into an actual dish. Their famed San Francisco restaurant is known for its innovative use of ferment, from butter to bombe.
Also on hand will be Cultured Pickle heroes Alex Hozven and Kevin Farley, who have exploded the idea of the pickle from something you probably shouldn’t do to that beautiful cucumber to something emphatically delicious in the form of a burdock root. (And sure, go ahead and do it to that gorgeous cucumber, but do it their way.)
Master brewer Brian Hunt of cult favorite Moonlight Brewing Co., known for fermenting redwood tree tips and other unusual edibles into delicious drinkables, rounds out the afternoon of seminar-style presentations.
After a short break, we reunite to begin eating and drinking the evening away, with SHED culinary director Miles Thompson adding his own take on fermentation favorites to the mix. The entire day, seminar to dinner, is just $125 per person.
The menu—due to change depending on ingredient availability and various triumphs or failures—is currently looking like this:
1st Course: Miles
House Cultured Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta, Buttermilk Pickled Oyster, Sorrel Granita, Beets
(Beverage Pair SHED Fermentation Bar)
2nd Course: Nick and Cortney
Nare Zushi trout with fermented mustard greens and chili oil
(Beverage Pair from Moonlight Brewery TBD)
3rd Course: Kyle with Kevin
Dry Aged Sonoma Duck Breast Roasted in the Tagine Donabe “Fukkura-San” with Root Vegetables, Greens from Our Garden, and Buddha’s Hand Fruit Kosho (See Cultured Pickle’s Instagram shot of the Kosho in development, below.)
(Beverage Pair TBD)
A Selection of Cultured Pickle Shop Tsukemono
Ice-Filtered Duck Broth with Kohlrabi and Miner’s Lettuce From Between the Vine Rows
Pumpkin Kasuzuke and Sesame Gohan from the Kamado-San Donabe
(Beverage Pair TBD)
Kefir Marshmallow – Apple Misozuke – Pecan Croquant
(Beverage Pair: HomeFarm Dessert Wine)