I collect menus. Whenever I go out to eat I ask for a copy of the menu to take with me. Some restaurants give a sheet of paper, others give the menu in its full form, backing and all. While there are many different styles and presentations, all these menus become special keepsakes.
There is something really inspiring about a well written menu. It tells a story. I have written previously about the inspiration and sparks of thought I get from reading other peoples menus, and as I sit here early Christmas morning, I am reflecting on the many menus we have assembled and the many more other chefs, culinary enthusiasts and families assemble for guests on a daily basis. An important aspect about a menu is that for me it is an incredible memory of meals and everything that went into putting them together. I remember successes, failures and the variety of thoughts which originated from a certain point in time, marked by the menu.
What I am getting at is if you have the opportunity to write a menu, do it. Take the time to choose the words, organize your thoughts and let the ingredients shine. Once the menu is written, use it as a guideline for your meal and more importantly a scratchpad for the dishes you are serving. Fine tune your meal, print out a nice copy so guests can remember the good and the bad, and tuck away the working menu for a day when ideas just do not seem to flow. On such a day you will be able to open a the folder of memories. Take the time and become engrossed in the stains and smudges, notes and ideas that at the time you were to busy to execute. It is amazing what a weathered menu contains.
Here is our giant lobster menu presented in several courses.
Lobster in Four Preparations
Broiled Lobster Body
toasted sesame, soy sauce,
Sauteed Lobster Claws
harissa-anchovy oil, artichoke and clam gratin,
meyer lemon dressing
Roasted Lobster Tail
braised watercress, jalapeno slices,
toasted curry leaf vinaigrette