[Rum & Haute Cuisine #3] Casa Eminente, a symbiosis of rum and cuban cuisine with a resolutely “resolver spirit”

Rum is not condemned to be consumed only as an aperitif or digestif. It can also be an excellent accompaniment to a meal. Benjamin Rousseaux proves this with every issue, but he is no longer alone in his art of pairing food and rum. Numerous restaurateurs have taken the plunge, and the discipline is even making its way into the kitchens of luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Over the last few months, Rumporter (which already benefits from the splendid recipes of Benjamin Rousseaux, chef of the Artist restaurant in Castres, and a pioneer in the field) has had the chance to try out several of these rum-based menus, concocted by renowned and/or Michelin-starred chefs. Tested and approved!

Casa Eminente
Three chefs and six barmen worked at Casa Eminente for six months. A chance to explore the many facets of pairing food and (Cuban) rum. Here’s the story.

Casa Eminente closed its doors at the end of July. This Parisian villa, tucked away in a cul-de-sac between Bastille and Place des Vosges, had been transformed into a real Cuban house in the style of the paladares, the guest houses owned by the same family,
emblematic of the Isla del Cocodrilo.

Three chefs and six barmen worked there for nearly six months to reenchant local gastronomy and its great classic cocktails. The second shift, spearheaded by chef Céline Pham* and bartender Lucas Maraton, could not be more in tune with the “resol- ver” spirit – giving a second life to what already exists – favoured by Eminente, which is very committed to the principle of recycling and zero waste. Starting with Lucas Maraton. “Reusing scraps from the chef’s menu for my creations was child’s play”, he admits, already pushing the concept very far in his Bordeaux bar-restaurant called Symbiose, which he runs with three other thieves.

Their concept? To create menus where the dishes and cocktails are one and the same. Using ingredients from the kitchen to create original cocktails, but also using spirits on the plates. As for Céline Pham, it’s “totally in line with my vision of cooking”, says the Franco-Vietnamese chef, who is behind a collective called “Restaurer”, which distributes meals cooked from inventions and restaurant donations.

Casa Eminente

For example, Céline Pham’s aubergine brûlée en escabèche (burnt aubergine in escabeche) has been included in ‘Período especial’, an iodised, smoky and oily recipe based on Claro Eminente Ámbar, cynar and pistachio cream and a smoked seaweed and squid ink broth with, as a garnish, dried kombu accompanied by the marinating oil from the chef’s escabeche.

As for the red bean cooking water used for the chef’s version of Ropa Vieja – Cuba’s national dish, a sort of stew made with shredded beef, tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices – she reinvents it taco-style, accompanied by a red bean hummus and miso, fresh herb salad and shallot pickles, Lucas used it for ‘Delicia del campesino’, a pastry recipe made with Eminente Reserva rum, plantain syrup, dulce de leche (a milk jam very popular in Cuba) flambéed with aguardiente, topped with a cream of white cinchona and tamarind, and decorated with a golden spiral of dehydrated plantain.

These Cuban ingredients are in total symbiosis with Céline’s baba, with Eminente rum and patchouli syrup, bananas flambéed in rum, lime zest cream and milk jam. “This complementarity between the bar and the restaurant allows us to highlight the qualities of the product in its entirety. Reappropriating the offcuts from my menu for Lucas’s creations is in line with the eco-responsible culture that is omnipresent in Cuba and resolutely in tune with the times”, she says. Symbiosis, did you say symbiosis?

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