I had Gourmet Food at In Den Gapenden Eter in The Netherlands. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Gourmet food? When I asked several people this question at a gathering, I got varied responses. Some said expensive, some said elaborate, some said pretentious. Then one of them asked me what I thought about it and I came up with the following definition that is pretty accurate by my limited experience with Gourmet food.
Do you agree with me? Well, most people did agree with me but the group had a guy whose younger brother was a chef in training. He said that both of them being foodies, have explored several places that serve gourmet food. He added another element to the discussion, saying,
“Gourmet food also does not follow the same set of rules every time. Look what happened in the movie Chef. A good gourmet restaurant would never let that happen. And I am not talking about the twitter spat with the food critic. I am talking about the menu becoming so repetitive that it begins to resemble a commonplace eatery. Gourmet food is experimental, it is experiential and uncommon.”
Even though I call myself a foodie, my experience with Gourmet has been remarkably little. I think this is because I am a hearty eater. I always thought that Gourmet Food is little portions that do not fill you up. However, this belief was broken last year when I ate Gourmet Food at In Den Gapenden Eter in The Netherlands. I was attending a conference in Leiden and was taken to a fine dining restaurant to experience European Gourmet food.
In the small town of Leiden, right beside the university lies In Den Gapenden Eter which literally translates to ‘In the yawning Eater’. I know because it says so on the restaurant’s own webpage. Did you just googled it? On the outside, it looks like any other last century Dutch building that are plentiful in the area. In fact, it is a drugstore of yesteryears converted to a restaurant. On the inside, it looks like a fine dining restaurant. If I were there in personal capacity, I would have chatted up with the staff and the head chef about each and every component of all the dishes they served us. But I had to maintain professional decorum and not act as if I was a little schoolgirl lost in a candy shop. I did ask the names of dishes served to us in each course though and each was a mouthful..! Before you ask, no I can not remember them and can not tell you what they were!
Entrée at In Den Gapenden Eter
The Entrée was a boat shaped plate with three distinct assemblies.
The first was sea bass and shrimp with a creamy cheesy sauce on the side and a dollop of that green gel on the top. I tried loads but could not figure out the taste of the ingredients. As months have passed by, I do not recollect the taste but distinctly remember the texture. It was cool and smooth – just like a gel.
The second assembly was a piece of savoury waffle, some more shrimps and a puree of purple carrots. This is what we were able to figure out from the staff that served us 🙂
The last was a long thin cut of beef.
Mains at In Den Gapenden Eter
We were served two dishes for the main course.
The first consisted of pan cooked sea bass on a bed of sautéed greens, a mushroom puree, potato with herbs and dried mushroom and a foam that disappeared as soon as it made contact with the tongue, leaving no time for the taste buds to decipher the complex taste.
The second was beef topped with a vegetable stuffed gnocchi, with a side of mini onions and mushrooms and beet root rings. Other than the interesting Gnocchi hat, there was nothing I particularly remember about this dish.
Dessert at In Den Gapenden Eter
The dessert was truly the most remarkable I have ever had. It was a fruity and chocolaty paradise consisting of passion fruit, a blob of white chocolate coating a coconut jelly, a mango jam, a dark chocolate cup filled with passionfruit jelly and finally a white chocolate cup filled with coconut custard.
As I recounted this experience to my friends and showed them the pictures on my phone, they were quite intrigued by the place. We then looked up reviews of this place on the internet and realised that no review, no picture ever had the same dish. The components were there for sure but every post that we found had something different about it. Even if it was as subtle as changing up the mushroom puree for a carrot one with the sea bass main course. The gnocchi had made several appearances, adorning different compositions. The dessert too had different fruits at different times!
The chef’s brother spoke up then. “Isn’t this living proof of what I told you about Gourmet food? Working with different ingredients, mixing and matching elements of a dish and constantly changing the experience makes every gourmet experience unique.” I would have to agree with him.
Like I said, my earlier belief of going hungry after a Gourmet meal was shattered at In Den Gapenden Eter. After the meal, I did not feel stuffed but I was not hungry as well. There was a long waiting period between the courses that led to the consumption of a lot of wine and free flowing conversation which can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending of which way you look 🙂