Is it time to stop sprinkling edible flowers on our food just for decoration?
A friend of mine went to a restaurant she really liked, but when I asked her what she thought, I was surprised by her answer — something along the lines of “I felt like I was wading through a ton of flowers.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard complaints about flowers appearing on restaurant menus. Fashion seems to have crept onto the scene in recent years, and I can’t help but think that a lot of that is due to the simple fact that flowers look pretty – in fact, it’s a flower’s job to look pretty. I assume one chef sees a nice-looking dish on Instagram and copies it, other chefs see it, and so on.
But there has to be a good reason for anything that happens on a plate. The flower theme seems a bit superficial to me: it makes me worry that it won’t be long before we’re back to carving lemons into swans to “garnish” the dish. I remember working at a restaurant in the 90s – just for two days – where they did that. Sending out terrible food with all these annoying trappings was like messing around with Nero while Rome burned.
I must say we use flowers in the bar. But we always have a reason to use a particular flower in a particular dish. In many cases the flowers can contain the essence of the plant’s flavor. For example, chives have a strong flavour, but not overly ‘flowery’, so when chives bloom in our garden during May, we use them.
However, I must admit that when I look at the dishes returning to the kitchen, I always find a few of these flowers left on the side. This happens much less often than it used to, but I think some diners still expect all flowers to taste like the compound geraniol, which can have an unpleasant musky aftertaste.
I’ve been thinking about using flowers for a while and came up with what I think is an interesting idea. Many of the seeds are used in cooking, for making curries and other complex flavours. Think fennel, coriander, onions and more. The flowers of these plants contain the same flavors as the seeds, but only fresh – what if you were to make a ‘summer curry’ from these flavours?
Of course, I came up with this idea in the dead of winter, so I had to wait patiently for the flowers to arrive in the spring and summer. This week I collected all the flowers I thought would work: coriander, chives, mustard, fennel pollen, etc. – and placed them on a lamb chop. It turns out the flesh is too strong for the delicate floral flavors, so it’s back to the drawing board for me.
In this week’s recipe I use flowers in a more traditional way. The rose petal flavor is not loved by everyone, as some find it has that slightly musky quality to it – but I think the answer is balance. Don’t allow the flavor of the flower to take over; Use just enough so that it hovers in the background and anchors the sweetness of the ice cream.
Like walking through a garden full of flowers in summer, the bait should be in the air but with restraint. It certainly shouldn’t be like wading through too many flowers.
(Tags for translation) Lifestyle