I think I'm pretty good at tasting a dish and parsing the individual ingredients therein.
I'll get fooled sometimes. Or I'll taste something I've never had before, so there's no way I can guess what that ingredient was. Sometimes it takes me a while; "It's like... it's like... oh, come ON, I know what this is..."
This modest talent is what makes me want to re-create dishes I've had in restaurants.
Only it turns out you have to have a good memory of what was on your plate.
Last November, Cranky and I joined Sam and her mum for a meal at Ubuntu in Napa. The four of us had a grand time exploring our vegetarian dishes. Some were good, some were better. I adored the cauliflower in an iron pot, and Sam wondered whether I would try to cobble together a version at home. (I might; but I haven't yet. Still shopping for the adorable iron pots.)
Easier for me was to take a stab at a lovely salad of fingerling potatoes with greens and a thrilling mustardy dressing.
See, now that's all I remembered about the dish. Oh, I remembered that the potatoes come from Little Organic Farm. And I remembered the gorgeous layout on the plate.
So I put together a mock-up at home, using genuine Little potatoes, and ancho cress as my greens. Yummy!
Then I took a look at Ubuntu's web site, and discovered that the menu lists fennel as a green ingredient with the potatoes. Wow, that sounds nice; a little sweet, a little mysterious. I would like that. And reading Sam's post about the salad, I realize it also included torpedo onions. I would like that, too. Oh! And looking at Sam's mum's post, it looks like there might have been minced chives. I would like that, too.
Wait. I did like that. I just forgot.
Oh well. Simplicity in cooking is a nice excuse for a bad memory.