Very Verrine: Dinner in a Glass
My salad-in-a-glass was expedient, but these days – and for the past few years – chefs in Paris have thought long, hard and super-creatively about presenting their precious products in glasses and the results have been stunning.
Today, you can go to a restaurant and get a little amuse bouche in a slender vodka glass or an elaborate dessert in a slimmed-down lowball and in between be served an app in a glass, vegetables in a glass and maybe even a glass-enclosed pot-au-feu. It’s a certified trend. (See the recent article in the LA Times; recipes included.)
The first meal-in-a-glass that I can remember (aside from my mom’s chocolate Slim-Fasts or my own sundaes, which weren’t meant to be meals but could have been) was some time in the late-90s at Petrossian in Paris when Phillippe Conticini was the chef. My friend Nick Malgieri and I had a multi-course meal there in which every dish was served in a glass with custom-designed flatware – all of it long-handled – and the whole event finished with each of us being served a tray of desserts. I don’t have the best memory, but I think we both had five glasses and each glass had eight elements (or maybe we had eight glasses, each with five different layers). It was a wow meal and it wore out our brains – so much to taste; so, so, so much to think about.
Nowadays, these kinds of dishes, called verrines, after the glasses they’re served in, are everywhere in Paris, especially in pastry shops. At Pierre Herme’s they’re an art form – no surprise, I know.
I’m not thinking art this weekend, but I do have glasses galore…
Jellied gazpacho? Crab-avocado salad? Seared scallops, mango salsa and a scallop ceviche to finish it? Hmm – could be beautiful in the martini glass. Layered beef tartar? That might be great in the snifter. Actually, just a few tablespoons of chopped beef, a teaspoon or so each of chopped onions and salty capers and an adorable quail egg as the topper, would be a perfect hors d’oeuvre in that shapely glass that I’ve never used for anything but short flowers. I could get into this.