For a foodie, you might be surprised to learn that, for the longest time, I HATED foie gras. I’d had a few examples of it and thought it bore a striking resemblance in look and flavour to expensive dog food. It wasn’t until my first visit to the fabulous La Banane restaurant in Toronto that foie gras realized its full potential and went from zero to hero in my books.
If you haven’t had the pleasure, La Banane is part of the larger renaissance of fine French dining that we’ve witnessed across major metropolitan centres for the last year and a half. Maybe you’ve noticed the sudden ubiquity of seafood towers? Yeah, that’s a product of this trend.
Personally, I love the concept of white tablecloth dining and relish in any opportunity to actually DRESS for dinner. Aside from celebrating dinner as an occasion, regardless of whether it’s an anniversary or just your average Wednesday, the French are the masters of culinary technique – that’s why almost every origin story on Chef’s Table starts with, “I trained under a classic French master of cuisine…”.
The foie gras I fell in love with at La Banane was served alongside a toasted homemade bread with black plums and fennel. I’d never dreamt of combining these ingredients before, but it was pure ambrosia.
The tart, semi-sweet plums are the perfect counterpoint to the bracing bitterness of fennel – with its black liquorice flavour. Not to mention the brilliant textural composition of the semi-firm plums with the melt-in-your-mouth foie, the crunchy bread and crisp fennel.
Outside of the phenomenal, and seasonal foie, La Banane is definitely worth the visit. My experience there was flawless from start to finish. They showcased the most competent example of team service that I’ve ever witnessed, the professionalism was remarkable and each dish was a marvel of plating and flavour.
While I anxiously await my next trip to Toronto and La Banane, I can recreate that magical combination of plum and fennel in my own kitchen, or in this case, bar.
In this spin on the classic gin gimlet, I’ve replaced standard-issue simple syrup with a fennel syrup. You could use fresh fennel in this syrup but then you’d have to come up with creative purpose for the better part of the remaining bulb. Instead, I opted for fennel seed. Proceed as if you were making a normal simple syrup and just add two tablespoons of fennel seed, let the flavour intensify by letting it rest for half an hour after dissolving the sugar.
To get the flavour of fresh black plums, I peeled and puréed the plums. Shaking all the cocktails ingredients vigorously will help to thin out the consistency of the drink and keep you from having to slurp up the finished product. Be sure to strain thoroughly as well when you’re ready to serve.
Garnish with a pretty slice of plum and drink up!
Plum and Fennel Gin Gimlet
- 2 oz gin
- 1 ½ oz black plum purée, from two plums
- 1 oz fennel syrup
- ½ oz lime juice
- 1 slice plum, for garnish
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbsp fennel seed
Peel and pit two plums. Slice plums into wedges. Place sliced plums into small bowl of food processor or blender and blend until puréed. This will yield enough purée for 3-4 cocktails.
In an ice-filled shaker, combine all ingredients and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into rocks glass over ice.
Combine sugar, water and fennel in small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and let stand for 30 minutes to allow fennel flavour to develop. Strain out fennel seed. Syrup will keep in airtight container in your fridge for up to two weeks.
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