Degustation Series- 11.27.06...

Tonight's tasting was for two long time customers who thoroughly enjoy our cooking in epic proportion! They are always full of gratitude and accolades when it comes to describing our craft and talents in our cuisine. As customary, it becomes one of deep respect and admiration that we have an opportunity to cook for such folks, and thus, the inspiration follows. The menu du soire unfolded as this...

Warm Maine Lobster "Ragout"
Strugeon Caviar, Beet "Caviar", Potatoes, Lobster Essence
and a Shot of "Borscht Vodka"
Crispy Rabbit Confit & Truffle Composure
Pears, Endive, Celery Root Cake and Rose Hip Swipe
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna "Pave", Cranberry Puree, 50 year-old Balsamic Condiment
Pumpkin Seed Brittle anda Foie Gras "Nage"
Pan Roasted Sea Scallop
Pumpkin Risotto, Pancetta, Oyster Mushrooms, Crispy Salsify
Micro Celery and Moroccan Streusel
Orange-Ginger Gelee, Grapefruit Confit and Mojito Ice
Green Olive & Onion Crusted Loin of Oregon Beef
Celeriac Puree, Crab Apples, Quinoa-Corn "Dauphine"
Valrhona Manjari "Silk"
Pear-Crepe Terrine, Pumpkin Brulee, Citrus Poundcake
Peanut Butter-Milk Chocolate "Bite"
Olive Oil Gelato
Salted Caramels, Concord Grape Pate de Fruits, Spiced Truffles
the evening finished in the grand fashion, albeit a bit short, as they ate quickly.
not tonight.
maybe a Black Berry-Lemon Verbena Eau de Vie next time...
bon soire for now!


A Dinner of Thankful Moments...

What is Thanksgiving? For some, it is a time of remembrance, a moment of gratefulness, a place of trust and honesty put into motion from the generations before us. A time-honored celebration of feast and family, brought together with joy and visions of "little johnny" stuffing his face with mashers and pumpkin pie! Whatever the case, it is a holiday none-the-less. One that warrants the respect of the past, the good (or not) fortune of the present and the hope of prosperity of what lies ahead. For me, it has always been about the feast. The memories of my grandmother cooking turkey, with me by her side rolling cookie dough, covered in flour and sugar and totally submersed in the moment. My divorced mom and dad arguing over child support, or some damn thing, doused in their favorite libation. The aromas of stuffing being baked as well as the pumpkin pie wafting around the kitchen of our small, humble abode on Puget Sound. Throughout my childhood, it was always fun, that is until the arguing started in. Good times. As I became older, I indulged and became engulfed in the production. It became exciting as well as spiritual. Now, as I have grown older and full-on in my career of this craziness, it still brings a sparkle of warmth. A time to share, with those whom I hold dear...my family. The schedule is hectic and the time to cook the feast has usually been evaporated by this time, as I am usually cooking for the masses at the club, yet, I still find that fire to create tasty food at home for my boys, who will hopefully someday remember these times as ones they care to share with their families, long after I am gone. As I mentioned, it is all about the feast! Each year, the nuances and inner-most cravings of rich, warm dishes cooked up with heart-felt passions and seasonal ingredients become the norm. They take over like clockwork. It is quite extraordinary how one moment, you can be cooking heirloom tomatoes and summer fruits, and the next, you are right in the middle of savory squash spoonbread and roasted parsnip bisque! Where does that come from? It is the time spent developing and honing one's craft in the locale in which you reside. For me, it is the NW. Fall and autumn are plentiful with ingredients like that of the native Americans ancestry living off the land. Our local farms bring us many good things. It is this space that brings me to a place which promotes and fosters these instincts of thankful moments. Wholesome. Enriching. Completeness. Warmth. Security. Memorable. Just a few thoughts that come to mind when I cook. Considering a homeless alternative...it's a no-brainer! Thankful, you better believe it! Below are excerpts from the dinner...
Roasted Parsnip-Apple Bisque
with Gingerbread Croutons and Nutmeg Creme Fraiche
Curried Chickpea Salad
crispy Pork Belly, Cauliflower and Caramelized Pears
Beet and Apple Salad
with Roquefort, Endive and Walnuts
Cranberry-Pistachio Chutney
Mapled Yams with Brown sugar Streusel
Holiday "Mac & Cheese"
with Pumpkin and Mascarpone
Cider Glazed Free Range Turkey
Savory Stuffing with Figs and Sage
Chipotle & Citrus laced Prawns
Wild Turkey-Pecan Gravy
and of course...
Sugar Pie Pumpkin Pie
with Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Caramelized Apple Pie
with Currants, Orange Notes and Cocoa-Hazelnut Crust
Peanut Butter-Milk Chocolate Bites
Richly Flavored Cookies and Bars
Maple-Pecan Ice Cream
Until xmas...enjoy the moment!


Lost Aztec Warrior...

Once gone, but not forgotten...

So tasty, it warranted it's own post. Details for this Food of the Gods indulgence...see last post about a taste of argentina. Enjoy!


Left on a Spicy Note...

This post is about a dinner we just did reflecting the nuances, re-interpreted ideas and thoughts of Argentina, complete with wines and flavors of the Southern region of the Americas. It was melding of local ingredients, modern culinary juxtaposition and interplay of textures and flavors and a pouring of some great Malbecs. These flavors and food styles represent the bold structure that has become commonplace to South America, and one that allures the "tourist" and gourmand alike to the locales. It is one that I myself find intriguing and compelling. The warmth factor alone with spice brings notions of comfort, security, certainty and home. I am always excited to cook foods that allow us to bring out a nature in ourselves that are perhaps not always normal, or at the least, customary, yet perhaps innate. We make a culinary opening statement of an amuse; complete with a washed rind cheese, ok...so it's from Italy, a ripened cow's milk called Stationata. Very buttery and smooth, with a hint of Muenster. It was paired with a smooth silky Rose Hip puree, a bit tart and floral. We nestled a quenelle of Roasted Onion-Fig Jam, a poached baby crabapple, and spiced streusel along it's side. Fun. This is followed by a warm, simple taste of grilled, marinated Chukar Partridge breast, laced with savory and juniper, sliced and tossed in a wisp of Argan oil and placed atop a harmony of tastes and textures...a Pine Nut-Quince Pancake and "Malbec Melted" Cipolline Onions. A fragrant Rosemary essence encircled the galette wafting up aromas of the terroir. A few pluches of Micro Burgundy Amaranth and Fleur de Sel complete the works. Sorry...no picture as yet. Had to tend to the next dish! So, at this time, the "gaucho's" could be heard spreading their cheer and appreciation of the boldness previously aforementioned. It was a true party! We had planned to serve them up in a recognizable fashion...a very hearty, masculine slab of the beast, transported as an offering to the gods...a coffee and chili spiced Tri-Tip of Beef, seared a'la plancha to a charred desire of Aztec proportion and then finished in the oven. Sliced thin and beautifully cooked to a rare completion, it was brought to it's celebratory pedestal by means of a Celery Leaf Chimmichurri, a walnut laced Sunchoke Puree, Crosnes, Oca, and a smooth Chanterelle Flan. All the ingredients were honored by a rich, sensuous pool of sauce, made up of our own Blackberry-Cabernet Vinegar (with nuances of Lemon Verbena), Honey, Ancho Chilies and Thyme. That left you with visions of being somewhere around "del fuego" while watching the fire master slice off rations of the beast being cooked over the blaze. As they indulge in the wonderful Malbec that is poured, we bring out what is probably the most intoxicating and fulfilling of the soiree...the Food of Gods! A tantalizing and captivating piece of art, both for the eye and for the palate. It is a Toasted Brazil Nut rich, dark Chocolate Silk Mousse, with a spicy roasted chili ganache glaze. We have brought this to fruition with a roasted Liberty Apple Jam, Caramel Anglaise, with a thread of Orange, Confit of Grapes, with embedded flavors of Vanilla, Bay and Black Pepper, a Red Wine Syrup and lastly, a Dulce de Leche Ice Cream. Sheer goodness! So, in looking back, the flavors brought together and presented in a perhaps what some would call unorthodox for authenticity, was a success. We endured. We enjoyed. We learned. We conquered. We left them on a spicy note....

and until I can get the photo uploaded...you will have to only imagine the dish.


A Devine Curry...

This post is one that is just about an experience, a dining one. It is one that will hopefully spread the word about one of our favorite places to eat, and even more so, spend time at with friends and family, as it is truly wonderful. The place is a cozy, little Thai restaurant in West Seattle, right off the beginning (or end) of the freeway that connects this "island" to the rest of civilization. It is called Buddha Ruksa. The address is 3520 SW Genesee. Here is how the evening transpired...

we entered to find the familiar smiling faces
of those that are truly proud of what they do.
The entry area is a bit cold, but only because there are
so many people coming and going as they are busy. We are seated
in their warm wooded walled dining room below the main entrance
separated by only a few steps.
They also have another dining room adjacent to the entry
which is cozy as well. I really enjoy this dining room, as it reminds me of perhaps something in
New York or maybe Paris. As their own web site entails...
it is a Zenlike atmosphere of simplicity and warmth.
The entire staff at Buddha Ruksa are great!
They attend to our every need. They are warm, friendly, observant and subservient.
They are one of the two main reasons we continue to come back! The other, the obvious.
I started with Jasmine tea, and my wife had
a nice bolo of a wonderfully crafted merlot-cab blend from Saviah cellars called Jack Lot 25.
It is derived from a cache of vineyards from Columbia Valley, with notes of black cherry, raspberry, plum, and spice, with smooth tannins. A perfect pairing for
the juxtaposition of Thai cookery.
She loved it!
We shared an order for their house Thai spring roll, complete with
a sweet dipping sauce laced with chilies and spice. A simple, yet fun item to nibble.
Next was the marinated chicken satay, with lemongrass. They are always good.
Very straight forward with nuances of cilantro, kaffir and curry.
My kids love them.
A place where grown-ups can dine and the kids can enjoy as well?
That works!
I ordered one of their the specials~ The Pork Spare Rib Curry Panang!
It was awesome. The flavors were enthralling! I could not stop eating.
I'll chat later.
It consisted of gentle braised pork spare ribs, served on the bone
with julienned red bell peppers, cilantro, lemongrass,, kaffir lime,
green and red curry and basil-lot's of it!
The sauce was made up of the natural cooking liquid; aka- braisage
which was embellished with coconut milk, chili oil, and the paste made available by the spices.
I ordered some gentle steamed brown rice to add to my gustatory experience
which later ended up to be a "risotto-like" composure that I put away like
it was my last meal, long after the ribs had disappeared.
No matter what what religion you subscribe to, this was a godlilike revelation!
My wife enjoyed a perfectly cooked flank steak dish that was spice rubbed, then grilled.
It was flanked, no pun intended, by a flavorful and pungent dipping sauce
which although intricate and sophisticated, seemingly involved nuoc-mam, chili paste,
soy, sesame oil, ginger and a secret ingredient that only the dishwasher knows...
and he ain't tellin!
She also ordered a side of simple steamed vegetables.
Now I usually cast aside the "steamed vegetable" plate, but although this was in
the same genre, it was fresh, hot and seasoned. Not too shabby.
It was actually a great foil to the rich, meaty and intoxicating flavors of the beef.
The meal, which is normally spent with several more dishes and tastes,
was brought to an end with a pairing of ginger ice cream and mango ice cream...
for both my sons, respectively. They loved it!
As mentioned, we normally partake in many more dishes, but this time,
we ordered more of an entree, which was a generous helping, and one that warranted
it's own devine attention.
So, a curry...
Can it be devine? Let me tell you~ it was all that and more!
I can only sadly say, that there was none left to bring home to have for a late night snack.
But alas, there is always the flank!
in good food and cooking...


Insanity or Passion?...

What is this biz? Is it insanity gone mad or controlled organization and passion run amok? What is it that keeps us moving at full throttle at 40k feet, knowing that at any moment we could lose it? Is it the passion to create and cook the best we can for those discerning palates who along with the media can instantly turn your hard work and livelihood into a deathly downward spiral? Is it the self-fulfillment and quest for adrenaline, anxiety and testosterone overload? Who knows...
For some, it is the strong, ever-lasting need to teach, nurture and mentor those under and around you~ to one day take on kitchens of their own.

Being able to watch the growth and talent emerge as it happens. Watching the excitement contagiously spread through the kitchen brigade like wild fires fueled by the Santa Ana winds.

It can certainly be said that the camaraderie, respect and knowledge shared by colleagues is a factor that compels us...brought together by a common understanding and desire, as well as our passions, to connect and learn from those we hold high in regard. It can be truly rewarding and gratifying to log time with the true craftsman and women in this biz, watching, sharing, conversing, exchanging and collaborating of thoughts. Seeing the evolvement of food become more that you had imagined.

One discipline suggests that it is a form of expression... so personal... so distinct... so exhausting... that at times you have to ask yourself; why do you do this?...but at the end of the day, after long hard hours of blood, sweat, and tears...you know why~ because there is simply nothing else that drives you the way this does, and therefore, what else could there be to do?

Then of course, there is the final product. An end product that has transpired into an extension of your expressions. A culmination of thoughts, ideas and techniques, provoked by the absurd, the gifts of the earth, the weather, the stress, the utter rebelliousness to push the limits beyond what can be done and to a level that is perhaps unachievable-all fostering the notion that it is all about one thing...the ingredients!

It can be driven by a severe forward movement that has become unstoppable! A force so strong and full of pressure, that at times seems bigger than you are, larger than life- monstrous, like a sunami of cooks and food that has been in incubation during the long road to where you are today, then like in tidal motions, just unleashes itself into this movement. So, you kick your own ass and everyone's around, step it up, get focused and take control or die. It is that simple. You can not let the ship go down!

As we dig deep in our hearts and souls, we search for the real reason we continue on this destructive path to insanity. We love it. We are drawn to it-emotionally, physically, mentally and perhaps spiritually. It can be a spark early on in our career- ignited by a thought, a book, a compliment or advice and influence of a great master, who for the rest of our numbered days, we will for ever strive to be.


A Degustation of Autumn...

The start of the "munchies"...

What a great way to start out the early afternoon, when you have just been to the farmers market; brisk and clear, searching for that special something to labor over in your kitchen, to become one with at your battery of kitchen appliances, to warm your soul and quench that culinary thirst...you get it in sight, it's the first of the season, it is the bringer of many things good...Pumpkins! As you contemplate how many ways to indulge in it's utter goodness, you know that you must start by toasting the seeds. Melted sweet butter, enlivened with Tahitian vanilla, smoked maple syrup, done out back on the bbq while you are scooping out the mess, turbinado sugar and fresh bay. Cooked together to form a luscious caramel, then smothered over the seeds to bathe in a sexy glaze. Toss in some rich, warm spices like smoked sweet paprika, ginger, fleur de sel de Guerrande and even some of Tom's "Cowboy Steak" Rubs with Love! In about 15 minutes of hibernating in the kilns of your kitchen, you have something that is a simply something you can not stop nibbling on. But wait...there's more!

A Seared Foie Gras Cobbler...

one could almost call this a grown-up child's "pot pie", oh what the hell, go ahead! Stake your claim to some of the best, little, freshly foraged wild chanterelles you can muster, clean them well and saute them in noisette butter with shallots and thyme. Add in some slivered, roasted cipolline onions, caramelized garlic cloves (whole cloves, placed into a stainless steel pan with butter, stock of choice, sugar and let cook, while liquid is reducing and starting to caramelize. When reduces and starts to get brown and thick, but not burned, deglaze with more stock, and continue to cook and reduce again. Follow this madness again and again until the garlic becomes tender and cooked, yet still holding it's own, and on that last time of deglazing, let it come down until a golden caramel is formed.) Add a touch of roasted poultry jus, or veal stock, creme fraiche and seasonings. Place into a small porcelain cup and top with a "streusel" of crispy, seasoned, chopped shallots, walnuts and brioche crumbs. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, set that saute pan on the fire and let er' rip! Get nice and hot until trails of smoke rise from the pan. Season the foie gras pieces with salt and white pepper and place in pan. Let cook for approx. 20-30 seconds, turn over and cook another 15 or seconds. If needed, place into oven and cook a bit longer, but no more than a minute. Baste with it's own juices and fat! MMMMMMM! Place on top with an adornment of micro burgundy amaranth, from the chef's garden no doubt!

Poissonier! Poissonier!....you're up!

it's time to cook the fish, and don't you dare let it overcook. You'll be f'd up if you do. What a mess when that happens. You might as well just stop and order out. But, we are not letting that happen are we?!? I love the wild striped bass, it is a very meaty fish and one that holds it's own quite well. Especially in roasting and even braising applications. For this dish, I roasted it, in a bit of Moroccan olive oil and French butter. Salt and white pepper, and a little herbs. Pan roast in hot oven for just about 3-4 minutes at this size. It will get away from you fast so don't go answer the damn phone, the doorbell, change the kids diaper or anything. Seek out some of the nicest and pristine fingerling potatoes you can, look for the guy who has the dirtiest fingers...you know he was digging deep with his passion to find his tubers. After the obvious cleaning, slice about 1/4" thick, toss in evoo, s/p and roast until tender, but not mush-(remember the fish). Place down in center of bowl and place fish on top. Shave truffles over top of fish. Best to get black winter or italian summer/winter truffles if you ask me. Of course, the white Alba are an absolute orgasm, but those are not around just yet. Make the sauce by taking some roasted beets, that have been diced small, shallots, herbs, chestnut honey, Trockenbeerenauslese vinegar, veal jus, chopped cocoa nibs and butter. Heat and whisk to emulsify. Season and drizzle around fish. What a devine rush!

Another fish...well, why not. Meat, not yet. Maybe next time. Take a side of fresh troll caught king salmon, filet out like a butterfly cut, and season the whole thing with tarragon, thyme, pepper, salt, chervil and basil. Roll back up, and tie with string. Cut medallions or "tournedos". Pan sear and finish in oven. That's right, don't even think of walking away. Pair this beauty with duck fat roasted baby french la ratte potatoes, "last-of-season" heirloom tomato jam, cooked slowly and seductively until it comes to fruition by nature of a shiny sheen. Leeks and fennel, sweated gently as if they were fragile to the touch. All this comes together by means of a silky vinaigrette of aged sherry-citrus reduction and walnut oil. A sexy little onion sablee secures it's existence.

Caramel Apple Tart...

although this looks quite unlike my style and nature of pastry preparation, and while homey and rustic, the flavor is incredible. I was actually uncertain about it in the beginning, not because it was rustic and homey, but due to it's lack of depth and added custard, I felt that perhaps the flavor could become muddled like that of a bad mojito. But alas, after the building of flavor, the nurturing of ingredients, the painstaking trying of my patience while it coagulated away, I was convinced...it rocked! The slow caramelization of Gravenstein and Liberty apples from Dog Mountain Farm in Carnation, now probably under a couple feet of raging water right now, placed ever-so-neatly onto a cinnamon short dough, and enrobed in a custard of Calvados, eggs, sugar, honey and cream. Of course, there is vanilla, and citrus zest and even a trace of cracked black pepper! Baked in the oven for over an hour, and then only to come out and re-glazed again with a custard. Bake again, and then, as if emerging from the heavens, a genuinely simple piece of nirvana! Dust that all the way to the table with powdered sugar!

So, there you have it, an autumn taste. A savoring of ingredients. A nuance of something heady and rich. No meat. Who needs it. Well, I am always a sucker for it, but that will come next, in the following encore of a degustation of Fall 2.0. Enjoy...cuisinier.