MACRO FINE DINING
A Whole New Level.
Braving a windy November evening, sixteen would be diners, myself among them, made our way to the café at Macrobiotic Shop, Forest Row for an evening of “macrobiotic fine dining.” Just what that might entail would soon be revealed by our hosts for the evening: food scientist and Macrobiotic Shop co-founder, David McCarthy and his wife Nicola, increasingly described as “Britain’s most dynamic macrobiotic chef”. The theme was “Autumn”, a period of transition in the macrobiotic calendar, with its gradual change in season from light, active summer towards slower-paced winter. The menu was carefully selected to reflect this change in season and the focus was on providing energising, strengthening food at a time when the body is challenged externally by the climate and internally, by the whole gamut of autumn/winter cold and flu bugs.
The starter, an Azuki Miso Soup with Bifun (rice vermicelli), really set the tone for some hearty autumn eating. The soup looked superbly inviting in the dish, beautifully garnished, the strong miso flavours skilfully balanced by the earthy, nutty texture of the azuki beans. The bifun gave the soup an extra, satisfying dimension, just lightly added and leaving us plenty of expectant tummy space for the main event.
And it was an event. If you think macrobiotics is boring and brown rice, think again. Nicola presented us with a selection of mains that were as delicious as they were varied. Savoury Tempeh in Sweet Sauce formed the central axis of the meal: tempeh soaked in shoyu to give it a rich, smokiness then pan-fried and smothered in a sauce with a delightfully tangy sweetness, a million miles from the gloopy, monosodium glutamate infused ‘sweet and sour’ sauces so beloved of the average Chinese restaurant. Accompanying the tempeh, Brown Calasparra Rice with Pickled Shiso (beefsteak plant leaves). Brown rice, yes but not as we know it. Calasparra has a nutty flavour and texture that gives brown rice a whole new lexicon especially when eaten with such an exotic array of side dishes:
Gingered Green Beans with Hiziki
Kinpira Carrot and Burdock
Blanched Broccoli with Tahini Sauce
Each vegetable dish contained myriad flavours and exemplified the depth and diversity of vegetables when they are in the right hands. Finally, to balance the richness of the meal, Daikon with Ume Su and Black Sesame Seeds.
You could be forgiven for imagining that dessert, in a food landscape devoid of sugar and dairy, could prove to be something of an anti-climax. In my experience, the kindest way to describe most desserts served up in vegetarian and vegan restaurants is bland. Other, less kind words also spring to mind: colourless, unappetising, weird- tasting, yucky, best avoided… So I have to confess, I did brace myself for any or all of the above only to be very pleasantly surprised, certainly from a visual point of view, when my Temptation Trio arrived on the table. This was dessert presentation I’ve rarely seen outside France, where they take puddings with a seriousness normally reserved for landing a Jumbo Jet. The Chocolate Torte looked like, well, chocolate torte but tasting cleaner and fresher without sacrificing any of its character. The Maple & Vanilla Delight provided the perfect counterpoint to the torte: light, sweet and hitting all the high notes while the clear, aspic perfection of the Kanten gave a marvellously palate-cleansing round off to the meal.
There are few meals that stay in the memory but the ones that do never fade. This was just such a one. Such cooking is like an Indian Summer: unexpected and therefore all the more valuable.
· If you would like to book places for the next Macro Fine Dining Evening click here to contact us.
See our Autumn 2011 Menu below.