Monday, February 19, 2007

What would you like to taste?

Perhaps I need to set up a wiki. I'd like to turn a few standards on their heads and let the audience create what it would like to taste. Since this is a food group, you might be interested if I describe my job a little bit; in itself, my job is food related.

I'm a tasting host at Zingerman's Deli. My normal role is to pick some subject, say chili peppers, put together a broad spectrum of products to taste, do a scouring of knowledge pulling together all the food resources I can muster (and I've got access to a lot, some of them being producers and growers and artisans), and then create a tasting around those products in which I talk for 90-120 minutes about that subject. I have to guess what a foodie audience would want to taste and then try to communicate the existence of the tasting to those who would be interested. Each of the tasting hosts here has his or her own style, but I can describe mine pretty succinctly: I focus on culinary knowledge about a specific ingredient, I relate that ingredient to its geographic culinary surroundings, pulling in information about the biological, mycological, culinary, chemical, and cultural elements of the ingredient, and I try to build the tasting through a series of steps that will maximize the tasting experience of the audience. I run a very active tasting, asking for opinions and ideas, I want you to create the experience as much as possible.

What I want to turn on its head is the decision making portion of coming up with the idea for a tasting. Why should I be making the decision about what you want to taste? I would enjoy poring my research into any area about food, so why not try to get the audience to voice itself.

I have access to probably the best foods that the world has to offer when it comes to cheese, olive oil, vinegar, tuna, anchovies, olives, smoked fish, salamis, salts, honeys, jams, pastries, bread, chocolate, coffee, spices, pastas, teas, cakes, pies, and sweet cookies. It's a unique access that makes the tasting experience more exciting than one might think.

So I'm asking you, and perhaps I should make this into a wiki format. I'm wondering what you would pay for. You set the price, knowing that I intend to make a profit as a business, but I'm also appreciative of your patronage so I'm certainly not going to cheat you out of what you're due. So what would you pay $20 to come taste? $10? $39

Here's a list of tastings that I'm thinking about doing, perhaps you could tell me what would interest you and how much you think it would be worth.

Would you come for a bagel and cream cheese with various jams tasting? How much would you pay for that? $5? $10? Knowing that a $10 bagel and shmear tasting is going to provide more food or more variety than a $5 bagel and schmear tasting. But for $10, I could see getting at least 2 bagels, cream cheese, butters, and 30 jams. Is it worth it?

How about a bread, butter, and honey tasting? Maybe only an hour long, but including two dozen different honeys and 12 different breads. If 30 people came to that for $20 each, I could provide quite a spread.

I could have cheese tray tasting that you vote on. You create what's on the cheese tray, based on what you would want to eat on your dream cheese tray of the world's greatest cheeses and salamis. Wouldn't it be great to go to a wedding and see that the cheese tray had everything you liked the best? I can make that happen. But what would someone pay for that? The more you were willing to pay, the more amazing I can make it, including gourmet tunas, smoked salmon, pates, etc.

How much would people pay for a foie gras tasting? How many times does one get a chance to eat foie gras? Especially while it's still legal to eat foie gras. "Poach the foie gras according to the recipe given above in Basic Information. Cool it immediately by shocking in ice water, pat dry, and marinate the liver in good Sauternes wine with a tablespoon of Cognac or brandy at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Cut the foie gras into thick rounds, and place between sheets of freshly baked puff pastry with generous slices of brandy-sprinkled Comice or D'Anjou pears, cracked black pepper and crumbled Roquefort cheese."

Scones and jam?

Cookies, grilled brownies, and gelato?

Pies & cheese? (Tastes good together, I'll tell you that)

Coffee and chocolate?

Macaroni and cheeses, in which 20 grated cheeses are available to put on small cups of orecchiete pasta and sauce? Oooooh, or even more exciting have 8 small cups of different pastas with 20 different grated cheeses and 8 different sauces.

Let me know. s o l o m o n j @ g m a i l . c o m