A Contradiction of Java...

As we settled in on our next road trip...a destination to unwind, unload and unwrap our minds and senses, we fixed our sights on a southbound journey, albeit not that long, to Cannon Beach, Oregon. The trip, in and of itself is another story, and frankly, one not worth writing about in this juncture, in that it was just fun, relaxation and hanging out with the family. Some food, some culinary shops, some pastries, bistros and breakfast nooks, but nothing out of the norm. Good times. The reasoning for this post to share a little piece of coolness with those that care to listen, or read as it were. The last time we made the trek to Cannon Beach, we stumbled upon two cool finds..., one, was a little cooking school-artisan food shop-bakery-catering hang out called EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School, ran by a chef acquaintance I knew from Seattle back in the late 80's or so. Great little bundles of kitchen tools, cheeses, condiments and a cool formatted cooking school counter in which the owner; Robert Neroni and his partner cook demos and classes for the local guests as well as use it as a hub for their catering "op" that feeds the small, sometimes sleepy town. The next discovery was also sleepy. Enter Sleepy Monk! A contradiction in terms for a coffee for sure. This journey was one that I made sure to rekindle both of those relationships. The Sleepy Monk Coffee Company is a very small, unique and extremely fitting post for the locale, ran by Victor and Jane Harding. Very nice folks. It is located in a small shack-like house that is right off the main drag through town, right off the beach. It's like Cannon Beach's version of Cafe Vita, but smaller. A place where you know the folks personally. A place where locals and travelers alike swagger in to get their fix and daily dose of that wonderful thing that fuels our fire. The coffee they roast and grind are personal, characteristic of themselves and quite tasty as well, and all of them being certified organic. Being from Seattle, it is a hard stretch to say it is my favorite, but definitely high up there. I do not think it is wrong to say that one might have several favorites as the qualities and personalities of each coffee might be better suited for a particular situation, time of day or mood. So be it. You decide. The variety I picked up this time was Fiddlers Fusion~ a nutty, smokey and slightly robust blend with chocolaty notes on the nose. The roast on this one is a bit more-so than my usual choice, but I was in the mood for something new. Great choice. The flavor is smooth and rich without being bitter like that behemoth monster that we all know. This coffee is one that can be very fitting all year round. A wonderful morning cup as well as a great night-life remedy with dessert or late hang out with friends. Mid day...sure. The company offers a couple good handfuls of different blends, roasts and types of beans. Sumatra...Ethiopia...Guatemala...take your pick. Dark, medium or light roasts abound. Sleepy Monk fits that town very well. I highly encourage the visit if you find yourself heading past Cannon Beach or through Northern Oregon. Grab a cup of Joe and sit outside taking in the surf's smell, the sound of the waves and with any luck...some sun. If not, you can always surf from home.


Copper River Salmon...

OK…I know it is special and seasonal and in its own right, tasty, flavorful and rich with good fats (the omega 3’s), as well as many other vitamins and minerals. Guests stalk it like those on a vigilant witch hunt. The media promotes it like Paris Hilton. Some chef’s cringe at the thought of it, and yet others embrace it like one of their own. We can all see the many reasons why, and, why not for that matter. The flavor is quite nice and I can honestly say that I enjoy having it on hand. There are those that boast that they feel the Copper River salmon is mediocre and swear by the Yukon or Taku river species or even the white kings. Whatever the case, one can not deny that fresh line, or in this case, usually net caught fish are truly wonderful and remarkable. To each their own. I too enjoy the Yukon or Taku River species and have come to my own conclusion that I do not necessarily think one is better than the other, but merely different. Each fish caught is seemingly different in size, texture, fat content and marbling if you will. How it is handled is paramount and thus affects the fish’s quality as well. How long it is stored and methods used at sea, as well as on land are also huge factors to consider. All of these things make a big difference in the final product that we as chefs or the public alike experience and needless to say, base our opinions and perspectives upon. Traditionally, the Yukon River Kings are marketed as holding a 15% higher fat content as they will travel a much longer and greater distance up river to spawn, thus having the need to hold more nutrients and energy to make the long haul. They are magnificent fish in their own right! The whole point of this proclamation is that the big issue I have (and share with many) is the damn price! What the hell constitutes so much? Sure, we can say it is fuel, labor, or shipping and handling. We can say it is a very limited catch and that availability is scarce at times, which is not stretching the truth too much. Still…All of those things apply to just about everything fresh around the country don't they? So why aren’t the cases of fresh picked corn $150.00? How can we get fresh shrimp or line caught sea bass at half to ¾’s of the price? How can one get a Kurobuta Pork Belly at a fraction of the cost? To say that the public doesn’t know any better, or that chefs will pay it anyway is strongly misguided. Sooner or later, I believe that people will say f-this(some already have) and simply not order or choose to serve it at all. Do they care(the fisherman or distributors)? If they can sell to Japan and make mucho dinero, does it really matter what we think or feel? Probably not, or at least it won’t change much. The reply I hear all too often is that people love the fish, and enjoy eating it, but do not think that it is worth the high ticket bounty stamped on it's "Wanted~ Dead or Alive" head. I agree. And yet, nor can I look away from the fact that some of the fortunate souls are willing to pay for it, thus providing for higher revenues for our own bottom line in the restaurants we work in. At the very least, we as chefs are providing a service for those clientele so that they can experience the luxurious "poisson" prepared by a craftsman of the art. In summation, it is just something that I think we as chef’s and consumers have the obligation and responsibility to voice, in hopes to, if nothing else, contain, if not control this monopoly and racket of a product, all the while raping the public. Enough of the banter…get it while you can, as the season is almost over, and don’t forget to take out that second mortgage and forgo sending the kids to that four year college!


Le Degustation pour la Rotisseurs...

For those that know them...you know the story. For those that do not~ picture lavish parties for the "better thans", free flowing expensive wines from hundreds of dusty cellars worth more than some may see in a lifespan, tuxedos and evening gowns, ribbons and medallions around the necks to the likes of foreign military heroes, a savage culinary feast fit for the royal family and huge brigades of le cuisine & le salle worthy enough to make Escoffier himself sit up out of his grave and take note! This is the Chaine des Rotisseurs. A colossal sized entourage of food and wine enthusiasts, gourmands and connoisseurs, snobs and aficionados alike all out for the pursuit of a good time in the sake of grape and beast! They are doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women, philanthropists and philosophers, chefs, winemakers and those associated with the hospitality industry, typically with spouses in tow. It is a strange mix, one that does not measure up as food and wine professionals, but more so as advocates of, and in certain cases, act as if they were. What takes place in cities, states, and countries all around the globe are gatherings of "the Chaine" as they are dubbed, to enjoy and support the cooking of local talent while pairing wines from their seemingly bottomless cellars in styles of grandeur! Good times. They are a group founded in 1248 by a cluster of "roasters", most likely just looking for others to share in the importance of food and wine and the pleasures it brings us. Whatever the case, after almost a 300 year hiatus in the mid 17-1900's, they returned in full force, fueled with a mission and a passion to bring back the days of old. I have done many Chaine dinners in my career and other than having to listen to a "non-professional" tell me that a particular garniture does not fit the protein or a different sauce is more appropriate or that a different color is needed, it is a great opportunity to cook great food, do what we want and enjoy a sincere appreciation for the craft. The good thing for me is I don't always listen to that critique. What ever! I don't try to tell the winemaker how to make his or her wines, or tell a doctor how to operate, or a lawyer which tactic to use in a courtroom. Just let me man up and cook the way I know how to. This dinner was dedicated to our great team of cuisiniers and service who continually make me shine and have my back. I am forever in your debt. Thank you. Here is how it went down...
Marinated Shrimp & Watermelon Amuse
baby fennel, lychee, pea blossoms, yuzu-vanilla-lobster oil dressing

Ras el Hanout Cured Foie Gras "Torchon"
rhubarb batonette, roasted onion puree, apricto conserve, rhubarb gastric

Pan Roasted Mediterranean Branzino

grilled abalone mushrooms, rice bean-truffle ragout, house cured pancetta, white asparagus

micro tatsoi

Mostarda Brushed American Bison Loin

morels, fig braised ramps, crispy puffed quinoa, fava bean pesto, cocoa-espresso emulsion

and a smoked valrhona manjari essence

Creamy Robiola

house preserved bing cherries, dukkah spices, micro anise hyssop

warm salted marcona almond-px "caramel"

Bittersweet Valrhona Sabayon "Crunch"

hazelnut-citrus torte, ovendried strawberries, wild blackberry-thyme sorbet, orange caramel

B.Y.O.W. 06.08.07

Bring your own wine! A term I recall with fond memories of my late teen years and into adulthood. BYOB as it were. Wild parties. Too much to drink. Sometimes out of control. A freakin blast! This has become an annual event at the club- a lively food and wine event celebrating the start of summer with sexy food served up to pair with wines brought from various cellars of our membership. The behavior a little more reserved however. There are a couple of exciting elements to this gathering fro me, in that one...it is always interesting to see how the choices of wines paired vary from one table or guest to another. Truthfully, it is not always the best "pairing", but about the "experience". If one has a particularly awesome bottle of Syrah and we are serving Sea Bass...bring it on! This brings me to the second element-the food! Since we can obviously not pair the food to the 150 some-odd wines, selfishly, we get to practically do whatever we want. This menu was composed and conceived from notions of spring, taste, ingredients, lavishness & luxury and indulgence. If not for a minor "wrench in the spokes"; aka budget, there would have been visions without boundaries. Still, the flavors were alive, the textures exciting and the composure intriguing! The soire began with tastes of artisan cheeses that were procured the world around with some select house cured salumi and charcuterie. As the reception came to a close, we progressed into our amuse gueules; a snappy combination of flavor...
Ahi Tuna Tartare
baby fennel, golden pea tendrils, spring pea foam, shaved crottin de chavignol
and a savory nicoise olive-candied salmon chip
Next, was an indulgence of the senses with the silkiness of the foie gras...
Ras el Hanout Cured Hudson Valley Foie Gras "Torchon"
poached "Mr. Fryes" Rhubarb, Apricot-Truffle Conserve, Rhubarb Gastric
Buckwheat Crumble, Sauternes-Gewurztraminer Infusion and Micro Burgundy Amaranth
Then we served a riveting, intoxicating marriage of flavor all harnessed in a complex juxtaposition of tasty ingredients worthy of any serious gourmand! Nirvana in every sense of the word.
Pan Roasted Diver Sea Scallop & Kurobuta Pork Belly
smoked maple, artisan grits, morels, fava beans and their "alter ego"(the pesto)
red ribbon sorrel and a rich braisage blended with balsamic-onion jelly
The dish that most certainly was key in the decisive choice of which wine to bring was this one. For me, it was simple, fun and pure. No B.S. Nothing that would really cause one to shun it off as being too avant garde or "exploratory", or risky of wine pairing. It is a kind of dish that brings everything into perspective about tastes and textures and how (and why) flavor is of paramount importance. Enter the Angus Flat Iron. "Why not the customary Snake River Farms Kobe version usually exploited on most menus"? Remember the B word. Not only that, it was a great opportunity to do another type of exploring. A chance to promote and work with another local producer from Washington State. Kick ass flavor!
Porcini Crusted Confit of Angus Flat Iron
grilled abalone mushrooms, caramelized onions, sweet garlic, baby artichokes, crispy quinoa

As in life...all good things must come to an end. This gastronomic feast was no exception. As we served the desserts, the "oohs" and "ahhs" circulated around the amberly lit room profusely. The experience had come full circle.
Wild Blackberry-Tapioca Creme Brulee
pistachio chiffon, braised kumquats, lemon verbena ice cream, chocolate caramel, croquant
At the club, our motto has been, and continues to be; "Serious Food...Serious Fun"! It is about the experience and creating memories. As I reminisce about my wasted youth gone wild, it really has not changed much, except that it is done with much more taste, style, class and common sense and maturity. Short of a few years and just a slightly different shade of grey~ the song remains the same!