A Chef's Table Visit...

I had the great pleasure of cooking for some newly found foodies that are members of the club and great customers of ours. This was to be a special celebration for them, as they were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary as well as having their son and daughter-in-law in town. What does that mean for me you might ask??? Well, it means we have been charged with the awesome responsibility of making sure that we make them feel special and like there is simply no other place they would rather be dining at than in our "kitchen atelier", aka culinary studio, at the chef's table! What else could a chef ask for? I have no clue. If one doesn't reach nirvana on that, then I don't know what would. I am continually amazed at the euphoric sensory state I reach when our foodies, those who really enjoy good food and cooking, put themselves at our gustatory mercy. Here is a taste of the menu we served them for this extraordinary gathering in our humble abode...
Cellar Cured Salumi/Palmiers/Castelveltrano Olives/Paillettes
Maine Lobster "Chowder"
Corn/Potatoes/American Sturgeon Caviar/Lobster Foam
Rabbit-Bucatini-Morel Terrine
Truffle Oil/Fava Bean Tapenade/Chervil/Pedro Ximenez
Grilled Sweet Georgia Shrimp
Charred Sharlyn Melon/Arugula/Fennel/Trockenbeerenauslese
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Spiced Banana Sponge/Hyppocraticum Jelly/Roasted Apriums/30 year-old Balsamic
Flame Torched Copper River Salmon Sashimi
Morels/Pickled Ramps/Summer Pea Coulis/Togarashi
Fresh Hand-Cut Pasta
Shaved Summer Truffles/Pan Roasted Porcini/Reggiano Parmigiano
A Visit to the Anti-Griddle...
Ginger-Soy Aioli/Celery Root Remoulade/Crispy Fried Calamari
Foie Gras-Honey Silk/Caramel/Fleur de Sel
Spicy Avocado/Orange-Cinnamon Dark Chocolate/Murray River Salt
Roasted Baby Rack of New Zealand Lamb
Anson Mills White Grits/Braised Baby Turnips/Quinoa-Pea-Shiitake Composure
Raspberry Bavarois/Golden Raspberries/Vanilla
Carrot Genoise/Mascarpone/Roasted Pineapple/Gingerbread Dust
Rhubarb/Coconut Sorbet/Pistachio Florentine
Valrhona Manjari/Olive Oil Gelato
Spiced Almond Chocolates/Salted White Chocolate Caramels/Warm Lemon Zeppole
I can only wait until the next opportunity to present my craft...


Wooly Pig Celebration...

Arugula & Shaved Fennel Salad
With warm Quail Egg & Culatello Crostini, Grated Grana Padano Parmesan,
and Marinated Tomatoes

Pan Roasted Sea Scallops
Wild Mushrooms, House Cured Bacon, Creamy Polenta and Grated Pecorino

House Made Pasta “Carbonara” with Guanciale
Wild Asparagus, Cracked Black Pepper, Reggiano Parmigiano, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Hazelnut Biscotti & Gelato
Apriums, Rhubarb, Olive Oil, Mosto Cotto and Lemon Zeppole

As we embarked on yet another journey of fresh, local, and new product exploration of an artisan nature with our procurement of a whole Berkshire Hog from Wooly Pigs, we wanted to not only discover new tastes and flavors, but to expose our clients to the nature of what we do…cook! Cooking is not only applying heat to food, yet an entire commitment to finding new and interesting sources for sustainable ingredients, applying the best and most natural methods, and showcasing (while supporting) our community, all-the-while creating great tasting dishes. In fabricating this ever-popular “Wooly Pigs” Berkshire Hog, we wanted to truly create something unique and flavorful for our membership and guests. With this mission in mind and complete utter respect for the animal that just sacrificed it's being for us, some of the new things we created were Guanciale,
which is the cured hog jowls similar to that of pancetta, usually only found in artisan delis and shops. This was very cool to see through to fruition. It was even tastier than pancetta. Another was Culatello,
which is translated literally into "the heart of the prosciutto". This was probably our favorite amongst us chefs, as the product came out simply stellar. To say we were excited was a major understatement. Amongst many others, we also cured and hot smoked some excellent Smoked Maple Cured Belly, which found it's way onto the scallop course. Sweet and Spicy Coppa, Lardo and Salumi also proved to be outstanding. We went so far as to puree the Lardo in our Paco Jet to make a "rillette-style" spread to apply to the fresh olive breads that were presented. We were very excited to cook with these delicacies that had been aging in our coolers since we butchered the whole hog and placed it in cure in late April. Here are a few visuals...

Last week we decided to feature a special offering of the products we had labored over, to really bring the guests into our circle as to what we had been doing. This turned out to be very successful and extremely well received. The dinner was great, the food tasty and the response phenomenal! What was probably the best aspect of the whole entire dinner, was that Jim, Alex and I and a handful of our talented brigade of cuisiniers were totally inspired about the creations and the artisanal food we had just produced. From hand rolled and chitarra-cut pasta, to nurtured and massaged salumi, to extremely tasty culatello crostini, to silky and rich Florentine olive oil gelato...this was good cooking! No bullshit at all! A Tuscan inspired Summer menu; simplistic and comforting! Thank you Heath for raising such tasty swine!

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Pairing...

House Cured Moularde Duck Prosciutto/Honey Mascarpone filled Cocoa Crepe
Roasted Pears/Hazelnuts/Miners Lettuce/Fig Balsamic

Here was an appetizer dish we did for a wine lunch featuring Quilceda Creek Winery. It was all red wines...cabs & merlots. A time when the wine tends to take more center stage, and yet, as cooks, we don't just lie down and take it, we step up. Tasty pairing!


Thoughts on Taste at Spring Hill...

I am very excited and jazzed about a new restaurant called spring hill that has opened in my neck of the woods...West Seattle! We dined there last night with another couple celebrating our anniversary. Thank's Steve & Margot for making it such a wonderful night... Good times huh! It is truly the best new american cuisine style place to hit the streets of our paradise city on the edges of Seattle. It has a great neighborhood, casual feel, with warm, comforting hospitality from the owners and staff. All of our service team was gracious, friendly and outgoing to our party. In W.S.~ one expects a warm and inviting atmosphere. Not that you wouldn't in some other city neighborhood, but in this little "island" of Seattle, a place where it is not hard to see folks you know just about anywhere you go, it is what we are. It is why we are here. It is in my case, why I have never left...well, at least for not long! Now, in a place where I used to raise hell in my youth, I have watched this community blossom into it's own. It has always been a great place to dine, albeit most places are either great family style eateries, pizza joints, brew pubs, or tasty mexican standbys like Taqueria Guaymas. There is the typical corporate fish house on Alki, but not really my choice. This place is about raising the bar, and that they have done! Enter the scene from last night...630pm...place starting to buzz. The chef/owner; Mark Fuller at the helm, center stage plating dishes and organizing his crew as they cook various ingredients for tonight's service. We are sat by the host in a very pleasant manner. Our server was at our table in moments. It was then that we were graced with the good gratitude of a complimentary half bottle of Champagne. Since I am the designated driver of the crowd, I opted for a non-alcoholic alternative. We were then welcomed with the presence of Mark's wife and co-owner; Marjorie, who I had met previously at the club. It is loud, as the room fills with guests. The room sleek, and stylish with nuances of modernism, yet without the overdoing it which can create senses of cold, sterile and impersonal. You definitely do not want that in West Seattle...not in our hood! We start to decide in random order, just looking to taste and explore what Mark and his crew are all about. As a chef, I just want to try new flavors, or enjoy the familiar ones. Either way, just as long as they are good is what I expect. Here comes the food...Bread & Butter; warm soft rolls, so much so that they delicately tear apart with minimal effort. The butter, a bit of "creme fraiche" essence to it and sea salt from Kauai, adds a touch of welcomed acidity and sea(note- they do charge for it). Butter Lettuce Salad, a basic comforting composure reminiscent of a good caesar, yet not as heavy with paper thin sliced radishes, hints of parmesan and lemon was very refreshing. Roasted Beets...a long time favorite of mine. Simply prepared, wedged and laid out with a drizzle of beet oil, herbs, bosc pears and smoked hazelnuts~ pure and natural, yet needed a bit of salt. Salmon Spread...a smooth and unctuous "mousse" of cooked salmon with thin toasted baguettes, crisp mustard brined apples, toasted pine nut gelee and a hint of dill. This was a hit at our table. Duck Egg Ravioli...a several bite offering that encased a loose duck yolk and was embellished with slices of house cured duck ham, garlic chips and herb oil. A nicely done pasta that was very flavorful. Crispy Veal Sweetbreads...these were fun. Three dipping sauces accompanied them, although were not explained by the server, but my estimation was a garlicky herb "creme", a mildly piquant grain mustard and a spicy barbecue-ish concoction that brought it around. Sampling the little fried morsels in the various sauces was a fun and inviting experience. By making the dining a fun and interesting epxerience, it creates excitement and a sense of theatre. Not the type of Alinea or El Bulli, but a neighborhood one, one that is reachable, obtainable and comprehensible. That is why one would continue to go back again and again to springhill. Second Act...Razor Clam Crepinette...a sausage made of ground razor clams, and the flavor to back that up, rolled in caul fat? and roasted. It was accompanied by three little very slightly poached kusshi oysters, adorned with a gentle pickled essence to them. Very tasty! I loved this dish. Wood Grilled Prawns...with artisan white grits(again under seasoned) which sported a nice tooth to them, with poached duck egg, morels and a light jus of shrimp. The flavors of the wood and grill was so satisfying and welcomed that I sent a dish to another table who was occupied by a couple of lovely girls "in the biz"...oh yea, they work for me. Hope they enjoyed them as much as we did. Cold Bar bringeth~ a dozen Olympia Oysters, shucked fresh and served with a mignonette of cascade hops. Nice! On with the entrees...Sauteed Alaskan Halibut...with a very complimentary smoked clam "panzanella", or large toasted bread crumbs if you will, which went well with the dish. A wilted green (which was an un-announced sub for the pea vines) and olive oil essence finished the dish. This was probably the best tasting dish of the evening. Grilled Rainbow Trout...from Snake River was laced with brown butter, lemony artichoke slices, green garlic and sauteed herbed spaztle and quite flavorful. Handmade(house?) Tagliatelle... studded with fresh fava beans, morels, cherry toms, more green garlic and parmesan. Nice and tasty, but not as engaging as the others. No worries. Roasted Duck Breast...this was probably a tie with the halibut, and maybe even a bit better(I'm still deciding), came all dressed up and ready to go with thumbelina carrots, spring peas, pearl onions, a quinoa biscuit and a slathering of an orange mustard glaze. Cooked medium rare- simply awesome! We have been tasting all night and now it was time for a little sweet tooth fix~ Not too much to choose from, but I suspect that is because they are low in labor, and wanting to get things nailed first. Or maybe this Mark's style. Not sure. Either way, it was good. Chocolate Cake...more of a fudgy-terrine, almost like a marquise with salted peanuts, like toffee style, salted peanut ice cream and nothing else but it's ooey, gooey richness combined with the wonderful marriage of chocolate, salt and peanuts~Snickers anyone? Cedergreen Poached Pear...a fragrantly infused pear with a cube of olive oil sponge, somewhat similar to the one I make, with a lemon-vanilla whipped cream and some jus naturel. Ovaltine Ice Cream...just a scoop, no more...no less. Nothing else needed. No more to say. There were cheeses from various artisans around the Northwest, but that will wait until next time. I can attest that all of the dishes presented were looked after, thought about and cared for. The flavors were simple and pure. It was by far, the most stepped up menu and sense of contemporary refinement to hit the hood in a long, long while. This gives us new purpose as diners. New exploration to fathom. New thoughts to contemplate as chefs and foodies. Please pay tribute to this wonderful new addition to W.S. by your patronage. Prosperity brings new hope and vibrancy to all. Enjoy.