Spectacle is the name of the game when it comes to the food at the Miami restaurants of Barton G. Weiss. In a 2013 interview with Eater, he described the concept of Barton G. The Restaurant as "culinary theater," and the Miami New Times recently wrote that "What Bob Mackie did for Cher, Barton G. Weiss did for South Beach cuisine."
Visitors to Weiss's three Miami restaurants have come to expect jaw-dropping presentations, and with the release of his first cookbook, The Big Dish: Recipes to Dazzle and Amaze from America's Most Spectacular Restaurant (Rizzoli, May), Weiss is giving readers a chance to try out some of the best-known and beloved offerings from his culinary empire. (That empire is set to expand with a Los Angeles outpost of Barton G., scheduled to open this summer.) But as Weiss writes in his introduction to The Big Dish, "The trick is not to do something outrageous for the sake of it, but truly to care about the detail and quality of the final presentation."
In The Big Dish, Weiss includes recipes for the decadent Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese (served in the empty lobster shell); Savory Garden Pots that feature baby vegetables "planted" in terracotta pots with soil made from olives, mushrooms, and pumpernickel bread; and thyme-flavored scones piped in the shape of baby chicks, among many unexpected and visually delightful ideas. Here we highlight photos of four of the more surprising and inventive offerings in the book. All photos: © The Big Dish by Barton G. Weiss, Rizzoli New York, 2014.
Shepherd's Pie Parfaits
"Serving savory food in clear dessert bowls or cocktail glasses is a gorgeous way to highlight the layers of flavor within," writes Weiss of this whimsical take on a dish more frequently seen in shades of brown next to a pint of Guinness. Purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, and baked spinach brighten his take on this classic entrée, which also calls for three kinds of meat.
Sponges and Scrubbies
Trompe l'oeil presentations are featured throughout the book, and perhaps the most effective is one that turns what looks like after-dinner chores into the next course. Those sponges are actually sponge cake, and the steel wool–like scrubbies are made from shredded phyllo dough. The plates "dirtied" with strawberry sauce can then be cleaned (or at least complemented) with "detergent" made from blue curaçao liqueur, and the soap suds are whipped cream.
Cheesecake Board with Biscotti
Also in the seeing-is-believing category is this cheese board—it's actually a selection of varied cheesecakes that do a remarkable job of approximating brie, cheddar, and blue cheese (food coloring and blueberry jam are used in the latter two). Weiss augments the cream cheese in the base recipe with feta in keeping with the visual game he's playing with this dessert spread.
The mind boggles. Using an angel food cake pan, a crème brulée torch, and an assortment of (normal sized) chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows as garnish, Weiss coaches readers through how to make a marshmallow that would call for a fence post, not a skewer, were it to be toasted under typical campfire conditions.
The Big Dish: Recipes to Dazzle and Amaze from America's Most Spectacular Restaurant by Barton G. Weiss with Angie Mosier, photos by Ed Anderson. Rizzoli, May. ISBN 9780-7893-2720-8