Gypsy 3.0...

As luck would have it...I typed out the whole outlay of the dinner experience with pictures(ok...not the best) and a full-on vibe of the kitchen and when all was said and done, it was on our sister site...The Digital Kitchen. Click on the link to read about the Gypsy experience and see the food. Oops... My bad! This is the Clandestine Cooking from the Heart & Soul from the Rainier Club Cuisiniers!


Degustation Series 03.13.07...

As I have said many times over and again, we get inspired from our clientele at our chef's table dining experiences. There are a few guests that inspire me even more so than others, for no other reason than perhaps who they are and what they enjoy to eat, which is to say anything that we lay in front of them. They are the kind of people that you can call family, because that is how they feel when they dine in our humble abode, aka...the kitchen atelier! Here is a recent menu that we did for them this week. Sorry...no pictures. Too busy cooking. For what it is worth and what it can do for you spiritually, inspirationally and educationally~ may it only help you to contemplate new thoughts and ideas in cooking.
Rolled Lobster Omelette
Smoked Paprika, Tomato Jam, Herb Oil
Citrus "Cooked" Scallop Ceviche
American Sturgeon Caviar, Salmon Candy, Cara Cara Oranges, Spicy Macadamia Nuts
Carpaccio of Organic Beets
Beet Tartare, Tapioca, Apple Smoked Bacon and Roquefort
Wild Japanese Hamachi "Toro"
Hearts of Palm, Pear Paste, Soy-Honey-Verjus-Chili Reduction, Trout Roe
Inverted Foie Gras "PB & J"
Smoked Cashew Butter, Brioche, Saba, Macadamia Honey-EVOO Caramel
Spice Crusted Rabbit Sirloin
Whole Roasted Abalone Mushrooms, Parsnip Puree, Truffle "Salsa"
Stuffed Hawaiian Ahi Tuna
Hedgehog Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, Bottarga, Carrot-Walnut "Vinaigrette"
Fennel "Froth"
Verjus "Mojito"
Cocoa Nib Crusted American Bison
Demi Turnips, Celery Root Puree, Fregola Sarda, Truffles
Dukkah Crusted Old Chatham Camembert
Slated Charred Strawberries, Mosto Cotto, Heather Honey
Roasted Pineapple Nectar
Essence of Mango, Coconut Sorbet
Tasting of Chocolate
Praline Bite, Callebaut Ice Cream, White Chocolate-Fennel Mousse
Spiced Caramels, Tomato Meringues, Blackberry-Vodka Pates de Fruits

Slow Food...

Alright already! So it has been a while since my last post, and I know I have been lax about it...not mentioning the issues with getting into my sight of course. But oh well, carry on. The wind, rain and dreariness of a typical Seattle "still winter" day, conjures up the notion and need to fulfill a sense of warmth. An urge to create comfort and something of substance. A bounty of ingredients; simple in nature, yet through careful nurturing, time, love and passion- it is transformed into the sublime. Not fancy or sophisticated. Not trendy or en vogue- just hearty and soothing! A one-pot cookery(except for the rice in this case) made phenomenal, meant to relax and reconfirm all is not lost or hopeless. To remind us that it is times like these, that are sacred and special and to not forget to make time to cook, eat and enjoy life and good food with those you hold dear. Our world's problems and discomforts, our job's headaches and dilemmas, our personal lives' issues all seem to fade to black and become meaningless at the onset of a good, slow cooked meal. Today was no exception for me! There are many similar styles of this dish, found in many different cultures and customs...pho, lasagna, osso bucco, pot au feu, or cassoulet, sheppards pie and mom's meatloaf(actually mine made moussaka, but same theory). Any way you decide to go and no matter which path you decide to embark on-cook from your heart. Use good ingredients and make sure it tastes good! With this philosophy~you are already miles ahead of the game.

The dish...a slow cooked New Mexican Chili, or at least that is what I am calling it. Pure and simple, a warm comfort dish. Here is the recipe:

8 pods Tamarind, shelled. Place into 3/4-1 cup hot water. Bring to a simmer. Cook gently, stirring and agitating slightly to release the paste. Pour into bowl and set aside. When cool, rub pods with fingers to thoroughly remove paste. Discard seeds and pods. Reserve paste for dish.

3-4lb. Pork Shoulder, boneless, diced into 3/4 in. chunks
Marinade/Spice Rub: cayenne, chipotle, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, bay, paprika, thyme, oregano, chili oil, salt and black pepper. (Note: amounts are based upon preference)
2 cp. Yellow Onions; peeled, diced small
8 cloves garlic, trimmed of stem, crushed, minced
1 ea. Poblano Chili, seeded, chopped small
1-1 1/2 cp. Red Wine-south american blend
1-1 1/2 cp. Chicken or Veal Stock
1/4 cp. Balsamic Vinegar
3-4 Tbl. Honey
All of the Tamarind Puree from above
1 ea. Large Shallot, peeled, sliced fine
2 ea. Red Jalepenos, seeded, minced
To Taste Salt and Pepper

Method: Marinate pork in spices for preferable 4 hours or so. Heat some corn oil in large brazier. Add meat and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add onions and brown. Add garlic and allow to glaze. Add poblano chili and sweat. Add a bit more spices as in marinade to taste...again, use your judgement. Deglaze with wine and reduce by half. Add pork back into dish. Add stock, balsamic vinegar, honey and tamarind paste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and place into a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour, then reduce heat to 300 degrees for 2 hours or so, or until very tender. Sweat shallots and jalepenos in a bit of butter until caramelized and fold into chili right before serving. Check seasoning. Serve with Spanish rice or slow cooked grits, grilled tortillas and grated Oaxacan cheese. As an option for those of you accustomed to beans in your chili~ go ahead...knock yourself out!


Sponge Candy...

Others call it sea foam. Either way, it is a tasty little part of a nice assortment of Mignardises.
My son and I decided to use this experiment for a Science project of his as he needed to do something that can serve as a forum for questions, observations, theories, more observations and result driven findings. What better way to do this than with baking and pastry work I said? Is this not what we as chef's do all day long? I remembered the chemical reaction that occurs as you add the baking soda to the fast approaching caramel stage of the sugar when boiled. It was refreshing to see the results and record them meticulously as they happened, all with my 12 year old son. At first, he did not really embrace the whole concept, yet as we progressed, he became very excited and enthused with what was taking place right before his eyes. We took pictures along the way to show the stages of this little "after dessert" snack that not-so-many times we find in some of the nicer food emporiums. We used to serve this dipped in dark chocolate, which is probably the most typical for mignardises, but we have also used it crumbled up and sprinkled onto desserts, over ice creams and folded into mousses, and crusted onto foie gras, yet it has to be done ala minute as it tends to melt rather quickly when coming into contact with liquids. Fun to explore if nothing else. You can let your imagination run rampant with the possibilities.
The recipe is as follows:
1 cp. Granulated Sugar
1 cp. Light Corn Syrup
1 Tbl. Plain White Vinegar
1 Tbl. Baking Soda
A/N chocolate, or other ingredients to add to, dip in, fold into etc.
Method: Mix the sugar, corn syrup and vinegar into a clean large sauce pan, making sure that all is mixed evenly(first photo, top left). Bring to a boil. Cook gently, yet evenly without stirring. (second photo, top right is at 250 degrees-still clear and getting thicker) Cook to 300 degrees using a well calibrated candy thermometer(third photo, second below from top left) and remove from heat. Add baking soda all at once and stir quickly and thoroughly to absorb all of soda(fourth photo, second below from right). Note that it forms a thick, yellowing mass that is very creamy, to that of whipped cream. Pour immediately onto a lightly oiled pan(s) as it starts to set very rapidly(fifth photo, third below top left) and allow for expansion as the chemical reaction and gases are still being released as it is still cooking. It will continue to expand a bit, but after 5 minutes or so, it will receded about 10%. After 10 minutes, it will be cool enough to handle and break into pieces(last photo) and is able to be used as desired. Note the very airy inner texture; hence sponge candy. You can obtain a finer "mesh" by mixing the whole mass more so before pouring into pans, thus breaking down the structure a bit more.


Southern Comfort...

We had a great lunch at a small, Mexican place called La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard. Very awesome. It is located in the midst of small art galleries, antique shops, bars and eateries and somewhat hard to find with no signage to speak of and kind of hidden. The front of the house is ran by a handful of amigos sporting tats to the likes of San Quentin who are very fast, hospitable and courteous. The cooks are a bunch of amigas who have obviously seen a lot of hard work in their day, most likely in similar busy houses as well their own homes cooking, cleaning and the like for their families. Work is just something they do, and do well. They are accustomed to it and take it on like nobody's business. If only we(gringos) could work half as good and as hard. We sat at the counter overlooking the grill where one of the females(they are all women with exception of one lone outlaw doing dishes) was pressing fresh corn tortillas and grilling them to order. We started with fresh Guacamole with chunks of avocado and spice and some very freshly cooked(to order) corn tortillas. This was all adorned with a variety of freshly concocted salsas that hover above the grill at the "Pass"- Fresca, Tomatillo, Mild Chili, Ancho and Poblano and Roasted Chipotle. Awesome. Next, we were served a small Tostada of Shrimp and Lime, with Cilantro, Red Onions, Jalapenos, shredded crisp Cabbage and Tomatoes. I graciously poured some of the Chili Salsa over top. Good call! To follow, we had a specialty of Slow Cooked Pork Tacos, wrapped in fresh Masa with Onions, Garlic, Cilantro and an "Adobo" type essence. Again, some Tomatillo Salsa was simply meant to be added to it. I ordered some Molotes, one of my favorites(after sampling some of the best at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill in Chicago) plump full with Potato Puree, Chili Paste, Ground Beef and all wrapped up "torpedo" fashion with a Potato-Masa Dough and fried. It was served with a drizzle of Avocado, Chili and Sour Cream. I asked for the spiciest they could muster. Next, we had some Braised Chicken Empanadas, or one large one actually, filled with a yellow curry-chili essence, caramelized onions, garlic and folded into a corn dough wrapper. It was accompanied by a small ramekin of very tasty Black Beans. We were there by noon and by half past, the place was packed! The locals definitely know a good thing when they find it and they must have told all their compadres. Within no-time, it was standing room only unless of course you are connected with the cartels. For dinner, I have witnessed 45-60 minute wait times on any given Sunday, and so long as you don't mind waiting until your kids go to college to eat(unless of course your last name is Escobar), I suggest you make the trek to come taste some of the best Mexican and South American influences short of Jalisco or Guadalajara, at least here in Seattle. Viva la Mexico!


L.A., the end of road...

Mexican Food! Finally, and not a moment too soon. After serious "jonesing" for a fix of bold flavors and a lethal dose of capsicum, we found ourselves a few clicks from LAX, where we were held captive for a night of layover on the strip of hookers and muggers(slumming it at the Westin) which I thought for sure we would encounter when waiting for our "trolley" to get us to the restaurant. By SO.CAL standards, a bit cold; 60 and windy, we headed for the beach- Manhattan Beach, with it's quaint little shops, restaurants, designer boutiques and yuppie's whirring by in their carrera's, X5's, benzo's and rover's. Still, and thanks to a local compadre, we found sanctuary. Not a completely authentic taqueria as we might experience in perhaps the Mission, but warm welcomed and thoroughly acceptable. Pancho's; a not so small, seemingly family run(aren't they all connected somehow anyway?) operation on the corner of Rosencranz and the highway that runs adjacent to the ocean. I was going through withdrawals for pork, in all of it's glory. Quesadilla Carnitas, with onions, cotija, jack, chilis and garlic, which we gladly dressed with our freshly blended salsa. A hearty, flavorful black bean soup followed with sour cream, charred chilis and lime. Next was a "build-your-own" platter of slow cooked pork, full of toasted chilis, tomatoes, onions, garlic and enriched with it's cooking juices. This was flanked by little ramekins of ingredients- snipped cilantro leaves, limes and red onions; Spanish rice; fresh cooked pinto beans with cotija, stock, chili paste and garlic; and a rich sauce made up of roasted poblano chilis, dried ancho chilies, annatto, pork jus, tomatoes, onions, cumin and coriander. Fresh, hot corn tortillas were served "side saddle" and did not go to waste. It was good! As we pen our last memoirs of the trip on the smooth flight back to the sunny coldness of Seattle(home), there is an evident feeling of despair and sorrow, as well as anxiety for all. It was a great trip. It was great weather. It was great to be together. And although it was cut a bit short due to the downfalls of flying standby(employee benefit. virtually free. crying for sympathy.did someone say; go screw yourself?), it has reminded me of a simple prayer~ God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
God Bless!

Surfer's Paradise, day 9...

Somehow, writing Surfer's Paradise just doesn't seem to mesh well with haute cuisine. When you walk around town and really look at the people-it is what it is...a community mainly of those who perhaps sleep in their car, party and catch waves all day. A community with strong tourist activity in which it seems to rely on, yet a fair amount of apparent wealth that most certainly supports the stylish outlying areas. One of them, we stumbled upon, similar to that of Madison Park in Seattle, found us tasting bites of modern Aussie cuisine at a small, understated place called restaurant b. Clearly a strong supporter of local ingredients, producers and artisans, the menu, surprisingly, did not read much differently than those of Aqua, Gotham, Cyrus or a bounty of other fine establishments across the US and beyond, including "the club". As I continue to explore, research and taste my way into different locales, when partaking in menus of "modern this or that", we all tend to resemble an identifiable persona, and yet what is recognizably altered is the vision of the chef. Isn't life wonderful!?! We were welcomed with a seared Queensland Scallop(a little smaller than our East Coast harvest) which rested on a truffled celery root puree, chervil, micro black radish and a silky beurre blanc. Next came an elongated presentation of slow braised snails- a touch sharp with the aftertaste of uncooked liquor; in this case-brandy, but nice and rich anyway. It was served with sauteed spinach, tomato concassee, and a silky carrot emulsion and accompanied by a Port Wine Veal reduction. Tasty. Probably one of the most stunning and interesting thus far. What followed was a sleek and refined plate of seared Tasmanian Ocean Trout(think taz salmon) with a nice, crisp skin and sitting atop a warm pile of roasted mushrooms. This was paired with a clean salad of pink grapefruit, snow peas, ginger, daikon and micro lettuces and separated down the middle with a thin line of trout roe and roasted hazelnuts. A drizzle of evoo completed the composure. As a tasting menu was not available, we opted to move into the sweeter side of the menu, as we were getting quite full. The chocolate tasting was in our crosshairs. A dense, dark chocolate ganache-type filling inside a chocolate shell, tasting of quality "manjari-esque" label. A raspberry-white chocolate mousse was unfortunately too reminiscent of a horrid "factory produced filling". Along side of that, there was a subtle, yet welcomed white chocolate ice cream- smooth, delicate and enjoyable. The final component; an orange-milk chocolate frozen souffle, reminded me of a childhood treat...the creamsickle. It was a soothing finish to a nice experience one would not expect to come across in a "hey dude...let's catch a wave" sort of town. The service was relaxed(maybe a bit too much), polite and somewhat jovial. We were made to feel quite at home.

Surfer's Paradise, day 7 & 8...

As I grabbed our last cappuccinos and logged my last blog, I felt a sad sense of departure on the way to the airport. It was if I was leaving some unfinished business, or in this case, some new joint, a new ingredient or idea yet to be discovered. As we hobbled down the runway alongside Air Force Two (VP Cheney's humble mode of transpo), the mere fact that our family was together, was enough to deter my thoughts. That being said, an awesome fig-raisin and oat "cookie" was served on the plane as a snack. More like a compressed, moist granola-meets-mueslix bar. We landed in Brisbane on the Gold Coast and then moved onto Surfer's Paradise...an oceanfront resort town in Queensland. A Miami or South Beach sort of feel, it was a welcomed sight for sore eyes of the city. An early bite of a BBQ'd Chicken Pizza with caramelized Onions, Tomatoes, Bacon and Pineapple on a nice thin crust was simply great. This was actually an early prelude to a Teppanyaki "show"that we decided to expose our kids to. Think Corporate America Style. A bit corporate yes, but watching the tableside chef flip fried egg as he was cutting two-handed with his spatulas as fast as the foie gras disappears at a gathering of chefs, was well worth the "sell out". The beautiful, jumbo King Prawns, cooked to a sweet, succulent precise doneness contributed a little. Remember, it can't always be my way mind you. I have to hand it to this hotel(Marriott's Surfers Paradise Resort and Spa), they do a great job! It is at least $180 cheaper a night than it's Sydney contemporary and with far many more amenities. For breakfast, they nailed it! Here's a visual...warm banana-nut, chocolate and spice muffins along with coffee cake and danish, right out of the wood fired oven. Mueslix shooters; a cool build-your-own granola bar~ mine was concocted of toasted almonds, pistachios, walnuts, coconut, oats, dried apricots and oven roasted pineapple grown locally. Add a teaspoon of local honey and milk...simply divine. Next I treated myself to one of three different smoothies; mango-coconut and vanilla blended with yogurt, honey and macadamia ice cream. They had everything from omelets "made-to-order" to a Japanese dried shrimp and accoutrement smorgasbord to a spa style fruit palette of global proportion. Hot offerings consisted of your typical fare yet done tastefully and left no detail in absence. One thing I have encountered since my arrival over a week ago, is that there are so many friendly people! Everywhere we go, no matter in what economic shape or type of establishment- we are greeted and treated with the utmost respect and kindness. Politeness and courteousness go a long way. If the rest of the world could even be half as nice, we'd all be so fortunate.