Food Think Tank is a group of specialists which collaborates on interdisciplinary projects with with culinary arts at the centre. Every few months they organize a special dinner dedicated to different aspects of nature (Earth and Water, Orchard and Fire, Between Meadow and Forest, Four Elements), which is the crowning of their intense work on the subject. The last one was Forest Installation.
Food Think Tank Foundation, created by Tomasz Hartman, the head chef of the Wrocław restaurant Szajnochy 11, is dedicated to education, initiating changes in thinking about taste and spreading knowledge about food. In FFT gifted chefs and pastry chefs from all of Poland work together with scientists, filmmakers, performers, bartenders, farmers, copywriters, computer scientists. Even though they achieved much in their respective fields, they decided on making changes and fighting stereotypes.
A forest which inspires and feeds
Forest Installation was the crowning event of year-long project of researching the forest. Forests cover 30% of the area of Poland and are – according to the creators – a space almost untouched by man and full of material which could help rebuild the human identity. The questions of acquiring and respecting produce were also asked.
FFT prepared a multisensory dinner for 32 people, which included a degustation of 7 dishes as well as natural wines and spirits. There were no plates (with one exception), nor cutlery. Guests received white gloves. There were also no tables or chairs – they were substituted by structures made out of branches, reminiscent of a camp fire and tree trunks. The post-industrial space was filled with forest sounds and the aroma of the forest floor. On the floor, a forest was made out of wooden elements, designed and created by artists and craftsmen engaged in the project. The food, made out of produce found in the woods, was put into this wooden construction and had to be ‘foraged’ by the diners themselves.
Seven dishes – seven forest floors
The head chef of the restaurants Monopol and Acquario in Wrocław, Justyna Słupska-Kartaczowska, prepared eggs of wild birds in a crispy beech shell and a flatbread in the shape of a leaf with pine and spruce seeds, as well as spiced pickles.
On the metaphorical undergrowth of the floor, a sponge was served in the shape of a mushroom, with mushroom flour and crème caramel, prepared by Luiza Trisno (Ramen Girl of Yellow Dog, Kraków).
Michał Czekajło (Browar Stu Mostów, Wrocław) collected rain drops in the forest through a special structure. It was later used (after being specially prepared) to make a stock out of wild boar and rowan fruit.
Adrian Klonowski (Metamorfoza, Gdańsk) prepared a deer tongue with wild herbs and leaves glazed with resin. Dinner guests had first to lick salt as animals do in the woods, and only after could taste the dish.
Some probably had a moment of hesitation when tasting resin cotton candy, which hid a marinated beetle larva (Michał Werda, Karol Karpiak). The experiment was understandable in this space though – a forest consists not only of animals and plants, but also of insects.
Tomasz Trąbski, known from the Concordia Taste restaurant in Poznań, now working in Vino et Cultura in Gorlitz (Germany) prepared a deboned grouse with acorns and licorice – the only dish that could be put on a plate.
The dessert consisted of crispy crepes with a hazel marmelade and cloudberries (Krzysztof Klimaszewski).
Forest dishes were served with liquers by Aleksandra Pawlik and natural wines, selected by the Wrocław-based Hirotake Ikeda from Japan.
When asked about typical Polish flavours, we would probably point to game and mushrooms. But could we recognize and name at least some of the bushes and plants growing in the woods? Knowledge of the forest and nature in Poland has become a niche.
Author: Magdalena Kasprzyk-Chevriaux, translated by: N. Mętrak-Ruda, November 2015.