As the next special dinner at The American Restaurant approaches on Oct. 21, I am recalling a dinner I had there in late August when chef Ruben Arnanz teamed with James Beard Award-winning chef Debbie Gold for a six-course masterpiece meal highlighting Arnanz’ love of local produce and Gold’s passion for international collaboration.
Gold said creating the menu with Arnanz was quite natural. “Anymore, it’s how you take the simplest of foods and elevate it to ‘Oh my God, that’s the best zucchini I’ve had.’ Also, having lived and worked in Europe, I knew that I could understand his philosophy in the kitchen,” Gold said. “For me, this is also about learning from the chef, which is something I’ve always loved to do.”
Born in Segovia, Spain, northwest of Madrid, Arnanz is one of the youngest Spanish chefs to garner a Michelin Star for his hometown eatery, Restaurante Villena. If there’s a theme to Arnanz’ cooking, it would be using the best products his region offers then elevating them to new heights. A good example is Gold’s zucchini reference, which was the dinner’s first course.
“So, how to you made a zucchini more interesting? Well, first you get the best zucchini you can, then you hollow it out and make a mousse out of it and put that mousse back in the zucchini to create something special and different,” Arnanz said. In the case of this course, Arnanz also used marinated salmon with the zucchini to create something that was simple and simply delicious.
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Gold and Arnanz said it took a full month of daily communication to put the menu together, made more challenging by the seven-hour time difference, not to mention the variance in products available to Arnanz in Segovia versus Kansas City. That’s where Gold’s knowledge of the local market bore fruit.
“We had several back and forth discussions for the dessert course. But, I told him that Kansas City was known for peaches, and I had a farmer that did beautiful peaches. That’s what we eventually landed on,” Gold recalled.
“It was first going to be rhubarb, then wild strawberries, but with Debbie’s guidance, we wound up with peaches,” Arnanz stated. “Beautiful peaches.” Vanilla-spiced peaches, to be exact, served with sheep’s milk yogurt — another stunning local creation.
All the courses for the meal, which kicked off The American’s Chefs’ Series, were paired with Spanish wine: Cava for the reception, followed by a Rueda, Albarino, Mencia, Ribera del Duero, and Moscatel Dorado.
It was a whirlwind trip to Kansas City for Arnanz, who has traveled to 34 countries and jetted to Shanghai for his next stop. Hopefully, he’ll landed in China with some fond memories of KC, including some great barbecue.
Gold said she took Arnanz to Arthur Bryant’s and Joe’s on the same day to give him a sense of the spectrum of barbecue the city offers. She said she wanted to hit LC’s too, but it was closed. Oh well, maybe next time. Who knows, with a little notice, maybe they’ll smoke a zucchini for him!
Dave Eckert is a Kansas City-based food and beverage journalist, a two time Emmy winner, and the producer and host of “Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and cable tv for 11 seasons.
Saturday, Oct. 21
The Chef’s Garden with Farmer Lee Jones and Guest Chef Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute will be Saturday, Oct. 21, at the American Restaurant.