Fruit and Vegetable Leathers Transform Into Fine Dining Treat
"I've made a lot of school lunches lately," Coi chef Daniel Patterson smiled sweetly as he dropped a plate on our table the other night. On it were squares of Tomme Dolce cheese from Petaluma's Andante Dairy covered by slices of apple and sheets of assorted fruit and vegetable leathers, a fine dining take on a children's snack that he's been crafting for a few years that appears on the restaurant's current tasting menu. The leather combinations, however, are decidedly adult: Fig and burnt onion, beet and grape, pear and fennel.
Tamara Palmer Assorted fruit and vegetable leathers with Andante Dairy cheese at Coi.
Sure, everyone preserves and pickles these days, but high-end chefs are leathering, too.
At Fifth Floor, fruit and vegetable leathers feature on both the dinner and dessert menu. Chef David Bazirgan creates a tomato leather in a salad that showcases Dirty Girl tomatoes prepared five different ways. His pastry chef, Francis Ang, revisits the leather idea for the end of the meal with a carrot cake that's served with a concord grape leather (described as "chutney" on the menu), white chocolate frozen yogurt, and almonds.
Fifth Floor Tomato leather appears in Fifth Floor's tomato salad.
The appeal to this technique is two-fold. It evokes childhood happiness and comforting nostalgia, taking some of the stiffness out of a fine dining setting in a playful way. It also concentrates the flavors of the ingredients in a really pure way. The latter is a hallmark of what makes Patterson, Bazirgan, and Ang such compelling wizards in the kitchen: Recognizing and celebrating the quality of produce available here in the Bay Area.