Fermentation has been around for as long as humans have been eating food and drinking beverages other than water. Many cultures have used it to create their most iconic foods. It is only recently, however, that the techniques of fermentation have gained attention in western fine dining circles outside of what is in the glass. It’s not that fermented products hadn’t been used, just that the techniques have gained specificity and focus in these kitchens. A week ago, I traveled to Princeton, New Jersey to attend a dinner featuring the work of four people who understand and utilize the products of fermentation probably as well as anyone in this country. I have featured the work of Scott Anderson and his Elements team a number of times on this website and justly so. For this dinner, Chefs Anderson and Mike Ryan invited master fermenter Kevin Farley of Berkeley, California’s The Cultured Pickle to provide product for them to cook with along with Chef Matthias Merges of Chicago’s Yusho restaurant. Accompanied by Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food, this was a very worthwhile journey.
The flavors and textures of each of the dishes were profound, varied and amazing. The presentations were superb and the energy of the restaurant was bubbling over. Rather than go over every dish blow by blow, this time I will simply let my photos tell the story of this extraordinary dinner.