A Taste of Summer...

If there is a time when it is so fun and outrageous to cook with the all of the many ingredients that come stumbling upon our door, from near or far, it has to be the summer. It is a time when it becomes a reviving and thoroughly rejuvenating space that simply inspires beyond other moments, albeit Spring and Fall a close second! For us at the club, we take this opportunity to embark on the long journey of preserving...cherries, apricots, peaches, figs, lemons and tomatoes. Vinegar production becomes underway in a very strong fashion with rhubarb, blackberry, raspberry, fennel, fig, and apricot filling every crock we own, set and left alone to mature, grow and transform itself into something only nature can do. Well OK, maybe not. You know what I mean. Alchemy batches are started in just about every bain marie or pot we can find and it too left to develop into it's better side of glory. All the while this is happening, we are no different. We are looking at food in all the different ways in which to cook and present them. We have just launched a new dinner and lunch menu for our ala carte offerings. Here is a look at a few of the variations of them...

Crenshaw Boisson, Dungeness Crab, Trout Roe, Roasted Heirloom Tomato Sorbet

Pickled Watermelon Rind, Lobster-Vanilla Oil

House Cured Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, Sweet Corn Pudding, Tomato-Plum Composure

Braised Baby Fennel, Jus de Poisson and Tomato "Glass"

Marcona Almond Crusted Mediterranean Branzino, Heirloom Tomatoes, Haricots Verts,

Basil Gelatin and Tomato Water


Cooking Independently...

July 4th is always a time of year that I find myself searching for something(s) to cook that will satisfy my inner soul and cause me to question my tastes. It is a time that we typically will invite our friends over to join in the celebration of our country's independence, gorge themselves on various bites which I have labored over, drink new bottles of wine, or perhaps engage in a tasting of lively cocktails that my lovely wife has so creatively concocted, watch the setting sun over the Puget Sound, participate in the burning of the local driftwood creating a huge fire and settle in to watch us and others practically blow themselves up lighting various degrees of legal and illegal fireworks. Good times! The food is always a focal point however. I wait until the last possible moment to decide on what to cook. This drives my better half crazy beyond all means. Each year, I say that I will make an easier menu, pick simpler ingredients and spend less time in the kitchen so that I may spend more time with our guests. Yeah, right! This is where I am at home. Literally and figuratively. These dishes I come up with are not restaurant dishes, although they could very well be in their own right. They are not complicated, although that too sometimes is open to interpretation and subjection. They are foods and dishes that I dig deep in my flavor files and memory banks to cook and aim to create a lasting memorable experience for our guests, and selfishly, for myself as well. I love bold flavor. I love spice and character. And I love heat! People ask me at times why I do not cook like this in my restaurant...for me, the only thing I can think of is that is something I reserve for me and my family and those that join us for meals at home. Yes, they could make great restaurant meals, presented in a more rustic flair and "flava", probably would be well on their way to a much more lucrative and successful style restaurant than that of the more stylish, sleek, sophisticated and avant garde one that I work in now, but that is for another time and place. Perhaps in the future, I will explore this. The menu this year went down like this...

Some of the freshest line-caught Blue Marlin from Hawaii, seasoned and marinated in salt, pepper, Sweet Moroccan Pepper (paprika-ish) and a touch of some Australian spice blend(coriander, cumin, garlic etc) with a dash of Olive Oil was grilled, then doused with a warm bath of Moroccan Preserved Lemon, Picholine Olives, Garlic, Tomatoes, Shallots and Olive Oil. This even had my ten year-old asking for more. Very Med.

Next, was a play on the overly used technique of sous vide. I picked up some fresh Alaskan Halibut Cheeks. Naturally, a bit on the tough side, I decided that this technique now had great merit. I seasoned them with Salt, Pepper, chopped Fennel, Cilantro, Anise Seed, Lemon and Orange Zest and Olive Oil and let them sit overnight. The next day, I packed them into the zip-lock bags(home style sous vide) with Shallots, Olive Oil, Orange Juice, an Orange Segment and a splash of Harissa. Sealed them tight and cooked them in 125 degree water for about an hour. I then removed them and let them sit at room temperature for a bit, then charred on a hot grill to get that last "smack" of flavor in a bold form. They were delicious. The flavor held all of it's natural goodness and added a new dimension to the cheeks.

There were also the typical salsas; Pineapple-Red Onion-Cilantro~(a signature) and relishes; Mango-Red Jalapeno with Mint and the like, but the real showstopper was the marinated, spicy Pork "Sliders"! This was the HIT of the feast! Many of us could not stop devouring these little "muffulata-like" sandwiches. First I took a boneless shoulder and placed it into a agro dolce vinegar-honey-brown sugar-salt brine for an hour to tenderize it a bit, as well as add a little bite of acidity. It was then patted dry and rubbed with salt, black pepper, smoked sweet paprika, chipotle powder, Moroccan pork rub(cumin, garlic, pepper, poivron rouge, coriander, bay, ginger etc), garlic powder, chili powder and a splash of evoo. This was left to do it's thing overnight. The next morning, very early, I sauteed a mixture of onions, carrots, garlic and shallots, all chopped very small so as to just melt into the braise later, in which I again added more of the same spices to create very intense, highly aromatic foundation to the pincage. I added in the pork and browned in the very hot marmite. Next was the deglaze with various means of flavor...balsamic vinegar, molasses, honey, water, white wine. Throw down a bit of brown sugar, thyme and oregano and bring to a simmer, cover and then this is left for the long endurance of cooking for 6-7 hours at 250 degrees. The sliders were embellished with a lathering of Orange-Paprika flavored Aioli, slices of late-harvest sauvignon blanc vinegar Pickled Jalapenos(with a hint of mustard seed, honey and pepper), the Mango-Red Chili Pepper Relish and fresh picked Cilantro leaves all stuffed inside a soft, yet crusty shelled "po-boy" style loaf. Damn tasty.

To cap off the feast, my good friend Tyler Anderson, did us good with fresh cooked-to-order Cinnamon Doughnuts on our deck. One look around, and the faces said it all. This was what it was all about. As the last sparks flew in the sky, and the explosion blasts came to an end, and the embers on the beach burnt out to smoldering ashes and the stuffed guests stumbled out to the road, I was able to record this 4th as yet another great party at the beach house. Anything I would do differently??? Yes...hire a person to clean up!