IN THE THREE years since Perfecte and Alia Rocher opened their iconoclastic restaurant, Tarsan i Jane, it’s become a singular dining experience that defies definition. As newcomers to the Pacific Northwest, they are especially fascinated by what they’ve discovered here — local shellfish and foraged edibles; Neah Bay halibut caught by the Makah tribe; big-leaf maple syrup made in Acme, Washington, by a farmer who also raises rabbits and bison. Of the restaurant’s dozens of fermentation experiments, almost half use indigenous ingredients like wild ginger, spruce tips and grains.
True to his name, the Spanish-born Perfecte is a tireless tweaker, constantly fine-tuning recipes, fussy about flavor. He doesn’t believe food has rules, and can’t leave anything alone. (Although his paella, available only at Sunday lunch, closely aligns with Valencian tradition.) A single dish might go through many permutations. He’s rejiggered pastenaga (aka “carrot in textures”), on the menu since the beginning, eight times. For this latest version, he tucks carrots made three ways — kimchi, guacamole and confit — into a tiny kale-chip canoe and serves them with a small glass of carrot broth infused with cardamom and lemon verbena.
Pastenaga appears about midway through the 15-course parade of modernist plates, ahead of several seafood compositions and well after the wagyu zabuton steak that arrives on the heels of an opening array of snacks. The Rochers call this progression from heavier dishes to lighter ones a “reverse menu.” Their logic: Why serve an amazing piece of meat at the end, when people are full? Plus, in their view, it’s a healthier way of eating.
About 90% of Tarsan i Jane’s menu is now gluten-free, but that’s not for health reasons. It allows them to more nimbly accommodate special dietary requests. Their restaurant seats only 14 people, but their food is labor-intensive to produce, and fewer exceptions to the set menu are less disruptive to the kitchen. Thus, Spanish sobrassada stuffs a bun made with chickpea flour, and Ethiopian injera made with teff accompanies tripe stew.
Among the desserts is a thin, elegant ice cream sandwich constructed with gluten-free krumkaker, toasted hazelnut vegan ice cream and maple syrup gel. They call it gofres, the Spanish word for waffles. Home cooks can achieve something similar, provided they have a krumkake iron and some patience.
As with much of the food at Tarsan i Jane, you pick up this frozen confection and eat it with your hands. “We don’t want to be stuffy,” say the Rochers. “There are all these rules in fine dining. It needs to be professional, approachable, with super-attentive service and no detail missed, but the challenge is not to make people uncomfortable.”
Gofres (Krumkaker), adapted from Tarsan i Jane
Use these gluten-free cookies with your favorite krumkake filling, or cut them into precise circles, as they do at the restaurant, to make dainty ice cream sandwiches. Each gets a dusting of powdered sugar and powdered plum just before serving. At home, a pinch of citric acid added to the powdered sugar will create a similar tang, though not the dramatic color-block effect.
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies, for 18 ice cream sandwiches
1¾ cups arrowroot flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
¼ cup water or almond milk
2 tablespoons apple cider, sherry or red wine vinegar
1/8 cup of maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup olive oil
To make the krumkaker:
1. Sift together arrowroot flour, tapioca starch and baking powder.
2. To the dry ingredients, add the eggs, water (or almond milk), vinegar, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix well.
3. Add the olive oil in batches. You might not need it all. Mix until the batter is thick but still runny, like crème anglaise. (Pro tip: Make the batter a day or two before and store refrigerated to allow more flavor to develop.)
4. Set the iron on high. Use about 1 tablespoon of batter for each cookie. Press and cook 30 seconds, then remove cookie, cut a circle out of the center with a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, and return the circle to the press. (Discard trimmings.) Cook for 30-40 seconds more, until the cookie is crisp and begins to take on a golden color. Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.
Maple Gel (optional):
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (200 grams)* maple syrup
¾ cup plus 1½ tablespoons (200 grams)* water
2 teaspoons (4 grams)* agar agar
*Weighing the ingredients for this recipe is the best way to achieve the proper texture.
1. In a small pot, bring the maple syrup and water to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and, using an immersion blender, slowly add the agar agar, making sure all is incorporated. Avoid clumping. (If clumping occurs, you will have to start over.)
2. Chill the mixture until firm. With an immersion blender, mix it into a smooth gel (similar in texture to hair gel), and pass it through a fine mesh strainer. It will keep for a day or two in this state, chilled.
To assemble the ice cream sandwiches:
1 pint ice cream (any flavor, homemade or store-bought)
Maple gel (optional)
½ cup powdered sugar
Pinch citric acid powder (optional)
1. Chill a couple of small metal sheet pans. Allow the ice cream to soften slightly. Working quickly and in batches, thinly spread about 1 tablespoon of ice cream over one cookie all the way to the edges. Spread a thin film of maple gel, if using, over the ice cream. Top with a second cookie. Use an offset spatula to smooth any excess oozing from the side. Place on a tray, and put in the freezer to set.
2. To serve: Sift powdered sugar over the top of each sandwich. (If desired, add a pinch of citric acid powder to the sugar to give it a little tartness.) Serve immediately.