I’ve eaten at chef’s tables before, dining on elaborate meals served at beautifully appointed tables, sometimes in a viewing area in the kitchen of said restaurant and other times in a secluded corner.
But it was not until I dined at the chef’s table at Terra at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado that I sat smack dab in the middle of a bustling kitchen and did almost as much working as I did eating and had one of the most fulfilling, exciting, and delicious dining experiences of my life.
The table was set with a gorgeous array of produce fresh from the farmers' market trailing down the center of the long table. At the end stood chef Andrew Cooper, who had crafted the display himself, alongside the tiny little printer that poured out the restaurant orders on bits of paper as they rolled in.
Things started off with a bang as chef asked me first to call out an incoming order. "Louder!" he chided, despite the fact that I was using what I would have considered far too loud a voice for polite company even in a busy kitchen. I laughed and filled my diaphragm with air before yelling, "Order in!" and detailing the dish to be prepared.
“OK. Let’s go," chef then said to me, pointing to the stove and holding out an apron to me. I saw no options other than to tie on that apron and follow him to the awaiting burners. There I plated our first course, parsnip and apple soup with homemade apple butter. Under his tutelage, I was able to make it look table-worthy and it tasted even better than it looked — warm and rich and delicately balanced.
And so went the evening, with each of us being called on deck to prepare a course and then sitting back down to enjoy the fruits of our labor with our group. Wines were paired as well and my taste buds were exclaiming and celebrating all evening.
Course two was a Santa Fe Farmers' Market salad with fried Old Windmill Dairy goat cheese croutons and pepitas served with a warm citrus vinaigrette. It was a bright, tasty mix of flavors and textures.
Next up was the Kyzer Farm pork belly with parsnip purée, apple butter, and wilted Khalsa green house chard. I love pork belly and I really loved this pork belly. Pan-seared scallops with Romero's celery root purée, poached pear, and salsa verde was the next dish to grace our table. And even though scallops are not generally my cup of tea, I could not stop nibbling the gracefully cooked sea fare.