Viriginia Woolf wrote, “one cannot think, love, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” After a special dinner at Larkspur with hosts Chef Thomas Salamunovich and the creator of the Whole30 program, Melissa Hartwig, it seemed as if thinking, loving and sleeping were effortless undertakings after the incredible and truly unforgettable experience.
To begin, for those who are not familiar with the Whole30 program, it’s a 30-day dietary reset designed to help people improve their health, create new dietary habits and change their emotional relationship with food. It involves eliminating food groups that can affect your digestion and the way that you feel, even if you don’t have a major reaction (like some people do to gluten or dairy). To go Whole30, you cut out dairy, grains, legumes, added sugar and alcohol for 30 days.
It may sound like no fun at all, but one of the useful side-benefits of Whole30 is the necessity of cooking and getting creative. For Salamunovich, it was a chance for him to think outside of the box, to create dishes that honor the original, but are a new take on classics.
The resulting menu, and evening as a whole, was completely “out of the box.” More importantly, it was absolutely delicious.
The first courses were beautifully presented: braised baby artichokes and aromatics with Nicoise olive crumble and a bite of matcha griddled avocado with pico de gallo brunoise and petite cilantro. These are fancy preparations of artichokes and avocado, two pretty integral ingredients in any Whole30 pantry.
Then came a beautiful display of seafood: crab legs, lobster, oysters and a prawn. All had been gussied up with interesting sauces and, in the case of the prawn, a jelly of its own braising liquid. It was creative, interesting and again … super tasty.
But it was the next few courses that really showcased Salamunovich and what he can do. A grass-fed beef carpaccio was punctuated by celery root crisps (like wonderful little waffle fries), a white winter truffle aioli and enough shaved black summer truffles to make you feel as if you were snuffling them out from the forest yourself. An egg and cashew flan floated in a potato leek broth that was speckled with trout roe and topped with sturgeon caviar; I ate the whole thing and I don’t even like regular flan.
Then there was the duck: if you think duck three ways is fancy, Salamunovich took it up to 11. There was duck breast and duck legs confit and duck sausage and duck gizzards fried in tapioca batter and I’m not even sure what all else, but it was phenomenal.
Then dessert was served—three different options that seemed to be spun from magic and veggies, like the chocolate cake with beet and apple ice cream and the cashew cheesecake. It was overwhelmingly inventive and the perfect culinary end to the evening.
However, in addition to the gobsmackingly wonderful meal, the highlight of the dinner was the opportunity to meet Melissa, admire her radiant smile (and internet famous hair) and ask her questions or simply chat. It might be easy to follow her Instagram profile, or read articles online, and think: there’s no way that she’s real. But she is—she’s just truly, authentically herself, telling her story and helping people figure out new habits and how to have healthy relationships with food.
The evening was, in my opinion, a rousing success. I hope that this becomes an annual event as part of the GoPro Mountain Games.
Just warn the ducks ahead of time.
by Katie Coakley
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