Dining: Feeding the Craze
Low-Carb Diets Are Changing How Restaurants Cook
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Photo Courtesy Sheraton
Very few restaurants, however, are going to come up with anything as comprehensive as Sheraton has managed. The program Delbrel worked on has everything from low-carb cocktails (for instance, the “No-Carb Scotch and Soda”) to a low-carb chocolate mint that the hotel is using for turndown service, and also to promote the program among guests.
However, the heart of the program lies in the half dozen or so entrees. “I think we did a very good job with these,” says Delbrel. “It wasn’t easy.” The hardest part was the precision. “I put a few more asparagus on a plate because I thought it looked better that way. I got a note, don’t do that, it throws off the carb count.”
So important was the accuracy that Delbrel bought four precision scales (at $350 each) for his kitchen.
We’re joined by Richard Lancaster, who is executive sous chef of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider. He’s tall and British, Delbrel is slight and French. They make an interesting team. “I bought three scales,” Lancaster says, “because the recipes call for things like .75 ounce of berries, and our pantry people said, What’s that?’”
The two chefs talk about all the staff training the program required. Each would send someone to order a meal for him, and then check to make sure the kitchen was producing it as directed. “We had to get it right,” says Delbrel. “We thought someone will come, order one of the dishes and send it to a lab. It better have as few carbs as we said it did.”
Well, carb counts in a lab are one thing. Ultimately what matters is what the stuff tastes like.
“Let’s go find out,” says Lancaster. We go into a back kitchen, and the next thing I know Delbrel is slipping asparagus into one saute pan, warming lentil chili in another. Soon he has four or five pans going.
Photo Courtesy Sheraton
At the other end of the line, standing over the grill, Lancaster fires both a 12-ounce sirloin steak and a chicken breast. Once he gets them going, he looks for a premade portobello mushroom-chicken burger, grills it a little, then passes it off to Delbrel. “It’s crucial we sear it first,” he says, slicing up a mushroom and putting it on the grill.
The sliced portobello mushroom functions much like a bun for the processed burger, which isn’t bad. It’s not great, either. “I’m not much of a burger person,” says Delbrel. “Still, it has flavor.” Really, though, what makes the plate come alive is the chunky avocado, tomato, red onion salsa.
Out comes a fillet of lightly smoked Norwegian salmon. It sits in a bowl, surrounded by the lentil chili on one side, by ratatouille on the other. The lentil chili is perfectly spiced, hot enough to get your attention, not so hot it overwhelms the taste buds. The ratatouille is out of the ordinary. Instead of being made as a stew, with tomato sauce, the squashes, eggplants and peppers are first oven roasted, then heated in olive oil. “Good, isn’t it?” says Delbrel. “I really like that lentil chili.”
It keeps getting better. A grilled chicken breast, first marinated in olive oil, basil and garlic, sits sliced atop a vegetable mix of artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and tomatoes. The artichoke hearts are first braised in the classic French barigoule style, so that they come to the mix already full of flavor. The flavors just pop out of this dish. You’d eat it even if you didn’t think it was good for you, which it probably is. As low-carb meals go, this one is thoughtful about fat content as well.