A Gathering of Chefs...
Sunday, October 15th, 2006...a typical fall day. Rain at a sporadic drizzle, the sky as gray as the cellar slab floor, leaves starting to drop as quickly as the guests did their cash to dine, and the excitement of what lay ahead, in an incubation state like the wine that rest below us. Enter DeLille Winery. The "atelier" of 5 chefs; Tamara Murphy (brasa), Aaron Wright (canlis), Eric Lenard (consulting), Gabriel Claycamp (culinary communion) and yours truly. The canvas for what will soon be painted. The "vineyard" of what will be dubbed as the "Fall Harvest"...A gathering of friends in search of greatness, simplicity, extravagance, indulgence, flavor, taste and texture...a provocation of thought, all blended together into 20 courses of interpretation and personality.
A gathering of chefs who share a mutual desire to cook from the heart, with the fruits of their represented farmers labor, to pair the creations of the moment with the wines of some of the best that Woodinville has to offer...DeLille, Chateau Ste. Michele, Columbia, and Buty wineries were the "fluid" componentry to the very moving experience. The day started out with Gabriel and his crew getting organized and set up for the soiree(as the mastermind and driving force behind "Gypsy", from which this dinner was conceptualized) and Eric prepping like mad in the homestyle "studio" like a chef without his own,(actually, he doesn't). Tamara, Aaron and I show up later in the early evening, with ample time to unload, set up and concoct our strategic entry into the night. Fast forward to the reception. 24 guests standing around the "le grande tableau", mingling by the crackling fire and tasting the "amuse" which is now being passed by these culinary rockstars! Gabriel starts the evening by introductions and wine intros. Tamara has laid out a row of Asian pear & ginger martinis, lined up like soldiers at attention, harvested from her own orchard.
Aaron is peddling his version of "oysters and caviar", topped with apple and resting in a "chemise" of delicate lettuce. Eric has started the night with a light mousse of smoked herring, with crimson endive and tobiko.
I came to play. With two of my culinary partners in crime, John Roberts and Rudy Guerrero, I started the party with my "spoons"...a sleek display of our "high heeled fashion" sporting a quenelle of the "Last of the Season" Heirloom Tomato Jam, spiced with goodness and baby fennel, crispy ginger, Hawaiian black sea salt, micro anise hyssop and a crisp tomato film. The chefs and guests soon returned to their posts at the communal table to dine and to the kitchen to cook, or in Aaron and I's case, at a linen draped table in the heart of the dining room! We had set a course to cook, plate and serve our dishes in front of the guests very eyes, just like the chef's table at the Rainier Club~ a walk in the park! Aaron proceeded to plate his Garden Beet Tartare, with fennel puree, raw quail egg yolk and fennel seed crackers.
Tamara was up next serving a delicate Corn & Pork Agnolotti, with a silky jus to keep it moist. Nice, simple and tasty! My next dish was a "rip-off" of the French classic, but very personal and in my own interpretation, Scrambled Duck Egg with Black Truffles and a warm composure of celery root, salsify, poultry jus and all tucked back into the shell itself. We added a crisp salsify chip and micro celery to complete the culinary juxtaposition. Eric served up a very fresh Day Boat Scallop "Carpaccio" with a refreshing nuance of Kaffir Lime and Galangal. Next was a warm and nicely packaged Pheasant Confit
wrapped up in braised chard with a dried cranberry emulsion drizzled around and finished with a wilted Autumn salad. Things were starting get warm! Tamara's succession comprised of a Duck Liver Mousse, executed with humbleness and wielding a presidential flavor profile with chocolate brioche, wild huckleberry jelly and fleur de sel.
Eric stepped up with Steamed Penn Cove Mussels, steamed to order in front of the guests with Golden Apples, Smoked Bacon and a cider reduction. From there, I progressed into my next "bouche"...a warm cobbler of Sauteed Pumpkin Gnocchi, Chanterelles, Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, all bound with duck jus and herbs and topped with a sprinkling of crispy Gingersnap streusel, micro Burgundy amaranth and Murray River Sea Salt. Sheer richness in such a small package. Total signature of my cooking!
Now into our third tier of gastronomy, Eric is searing his Wild Long-Line Salmon, with grilled Marinated Summer Squash, and Herb Chimmi Churri Sauce. Tamara follows suit with her crispy Grilled "Double Chop" of Suckling Pig from Whistling Train Farms with clams, some of Gabriel's house cured chorizo, chorizo oil and rich nectar of the collaboration of flavors. Next up to bat was my "Victoria Secret" version of my pan roasted Squab breast, sexy and seductive atop a sweet corn & wild rice pancake, silky parsnip puree, parsnip jam, demi carrots; ever-so-gently braised in Argan Oil by John and the gang while Rudy tended the "pigeon".
A smokey, intoxicating Valrhona Manjari Chocolate essence and provocative blackberry gastric concludes this lingerie of ecstasy. Aaron is now plating his Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Winter Squash, Chanterelles, and a quite tasty Mustard Cream. As we near an hour before the close of night, Tamara and I plate and serve our desserts in tandem. Hers...a wonderful play on a Greek classic of Baklava, studded with Bacon and served with a crispy Bacon brittle. Very rich. Very awesome. Very cool. Mine...a pairing of tastes was geared towards fall; a crisp, golden Charlotte, warmed by the fire and layered with Rose Finn Fingerling Potatoes and caramelized Liberty Apples with a hint of Almonds. This was "dressed" with a ethereal garlic caramel, salted hazelnut "crumble" and a heady Black Truffle Ice Cream. Some of our team thought we should have just called it a night, took the ice cream home and sat in front of the tube watching some old flick while eating the whole lot! No doubt! Aaron and Eric succeeded us with a marriage of Pluots, Honey and Phyllo, crisp and golden with creme fraiche, and a Frozen Honey "Bombe", smooth and rich with gently poached French Butter Pears-respectively. 5 hours and 20 courses later after the first amuse, the eyes definitely glazed, the moods relaxed and the inebriation set in. The overindulgence had taken place. They were done. More food anyone???...not even a thought! So what do us cooks at the Rainier Club do...Enter Mignardise! A nibble, a bite, a taste to savor. A morsel to take home or the makings of a food fight! Concord Grape Pates de Fruits, or "jellies" to most. Smooth and luscious. Cocoa Nib Macaroon Sandwiches filled with Ras el Hanout (Moroccan 27 spice mix, meaning "top drawer") laced Chocolate of Gothic and decadent proportions.
As we said our "good-byes" to the guests and watched them depart, we all could tell by the look on their grinning, rosy faces, including our own, that a stellar time was had by all. Now the hour rounding into the next day, still drizzling a soft gentle rain and the air brisk and clear. What a blast! To work with such great people who share a common passion and desire for our craft. A night that will not be soon forgotten, especially by me! I can only be so fortunate!