Confusing The Palate

I'm a big fan of shaking things up in the kitchen and especially like the whimsy that comes with making traditionally savory dishes sweet and traditionally sweet dishes savory. One of my first experiences with mixing the two up came one summer when I was traveling through Europe. I recall stopping into an olive oil shop in Lyon, France and being pleasantly surprised when given a sample of a shortbread cookie studded with olives. I've always loved the juxtaposition of sweet and salty together and the two played off of each other beautifully here.

Later on in the trip, I was in Spain, and fortunate enough to be dining at the restaurant El Bulli (this was years before the hype set in and getting a reservation became akin to winning the lottery.) I still recall that meal vividly, and one of my favorite dishes, which was served during the parade of desserts, was a paper thin sheet of white chocolate dotted with small black specks. I bit into it assuming the specks were dark chocolate, but my taste buds were totally shocked when I learned that what I was really eating was white chocolate with oil cured olives. Odd as it sounds, the combination was fantastic.

Chefs today are pretty bold and creative when it comes to combining, or swapping, salty and sweet ingredients and it’s not unusual to see menus featuring savory ice creams, such as tomato or parmesan, savory sorbets like basil or green pea and even savory cupcakes like scallion with smoked salmon and chive-cream cheese frosting or, believe it or not, pickle cupcakes!

While the pickle cupcakes might be pushing it a bit, overall, I love to see chefs expressing themselves so playfully and I plan to incorporate some of that playfulness into my repertoire as well.

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