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Edible evolution

I believe in evolution.No, I’m not raising the hot-button issue about the origins of the world. I’ll leave that debate to the political columnists. I mean, I believe in the evolution of the culinary world. After speaking with various top chefs, I’ve come to believe that menus are (or should be) in constant flux as well.Tastes and foods are always changing. Sometimes it’s in response to economics (like rationing in the Depression, or all-ramen diets in college). Other times, the food world changes due to health concerns. Mad cow disease and avian flu scared people away from beef and poultry; Atkins scared people away from carbs (bring back the pasta!).Science alters food also. Faster, more efficient methods of production and transportation make once-rare foods from across the globe readily available. New fruits and vegetables, such as grapples (grape-apple) and pluots (plum-apricots) arise out of various hybrids. And then there’s genetically modified food, but like I said, I’m staying away from controversial issues.So it’s only natural that the best chefs’ menus are also constantly evolving.”It is never static,” said Rick Moonen, executive chef of rm seafood at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. “There is a continuous metamorphosis of the menu here.”He said he changes his menu depending on what types of fresh fish are available and their prices. Currently, only one dish on his menu features farm-raised fish; all the rest are wild and flown in daily.”Katrina kind of closed off the Gulf Coast for a while, so we didn’t have any fish from there for a while,” Moonen said.He also changes his menu in response to seasons, fresh produce and trends and says he prides himself on being creative while remaining environmentally conscious in his cooking.Kevin Taylor, who heads five Denver restaurants, including Kevin Taylor, Palettes and Prima, also holds to the “food in flux” theory. He too says his menu is “never the same.””People come here (to Restaurant Kevin Taylor) because they know the food will be different. The veal that they enjoyed last time they dined here may not be on on the menu next time. They expect that, they like it. It keeps people out of culinary ruts,” he said.”Food is always evolving. Trends, seasonal food, natural disasters like Katrina all affect it,” Taylor said. “To be good in this industry, you have to absorb it.”Moonen echoed this sentiment.”Food is always changing. People’s tastes change. Things happen in the world. My menu evolves with it.”Evolution? Sounds like intelligent design to me.Gabrielle Devenish is the food editor at the Post Independent. Some of the food she’s eaten is more highly evolved than the some of the guys she’s dated. Contact her at (970) 945-8515, ext. 535, or gdevenish@postindependent.com.Roasted striped bass with parmesan potato gratin, chanterelles and blood orange juice4 5-ounce portions of baby striped bass2 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick on mandolin2 cups heavy cream1 cups grated Parmesan1 teaspoon fresh thyme1 tablespoon garlic, minced2 cups chanterelles, sauted in garlic oil3 blood oranges, juiced1 1/2 cups blood orange pure2 tablespoons red wine vinegar4 tablespoons unsalted butterSalt and pepper to tasteFor the gratin:In a half sheet tray, layer the potatoes with heavy cream, Parmesan, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper.Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, or until fork tender.Punch out four 3-inch-diameter circles. Keep warm.For the bass:In a large saut pan, over high heat, sear the bass fillets, skin side down. Once crispy, flip the fillets over and finish in oven.To serve:Place the potato gratin in the center of a large entre bowl. Place the sauted chanterelles over the gratin.Place the blood orange pure and juice in a small sauce pot with vinegar. Reduce until thickened and slowly whisk in the butter.Lay the bass fillets over the chanterelles and spoon the blood orange sauce around. Garnish with fresh chervil.Makes 4 servings. Chef Kevin Taylor, Restaurant Kevin Taylor, Denver


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