A Sweet Dish...

Pan Roasted Veal Sweetbreads

Wild Morels, Sugar Snap Peas, Daurade du Riviere, Summer Truffles

and Madiera-Sherry Vinegar Pan Juices

Sweetbreads or Ris de Veau...not everybody's favorite snack for sure. My wife wouldn't touch the stuff. No way in hell. She is not in that boat alone. They can be a hard sell in just about any establishment or eatery, unless perhaps a German, or of course, a haute French bistro or brasserie. There, they are the norm, and expected! I tend to place them on my menus here and there, yet mostly practice that introduction at meals and tastings where I have a captive audience, or in other words, a set menu where they get what I serve. I do not expect that everyone will like them, or eat them at all, yet, I do push to expose them to it, if only just in my explanation of the dish. Typically, they will try them, as the dishes thus far have been inviting and exciting(hopefully), and there has been an ongoing, growing development of trust. I try to compose dishes that inspire and provoke thought and produce a new understanding in cuisine and philosophy, and if I have done well, then a new enlightenment towards eating and food, which in the end creates a born awareness and comfort level in trying new combinations and foodstuffs without as much hesitation. So, lately, I have been playing with sweetbreads in various forms. Mostly pan roasting this time around, as it suits my preferred method of preparation with the parings of late...with or centered around fish! We first soak the whole lobes of pristine white, and just a hint of pink thymus glands in milk, bay, peppercorns, coriander, thyme and a touch of sugar overnight. Then, we rinse well and soak in cold running water for an hour or so. I then sweat a small amount of mirepoix(mix of onions, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, small diced for a flavoring compound) along with various herbs of the moment...thyme, marjoram, savory, bay, rosemary, and chervil & parsley stems. I add some Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, reduce by 2/3, add fond blanc, or white stock (preferably veal, but chicken and/or vegetable will suffice), and bring to a subtle boil. When it reaches a gentle simmer, I allow to cook for 3-5 minutes or just until slightly firm. Then, plunge into an ice-bath to stop the cooking for several minutes. Remove, pat dry and carefully pick off outer membranes and sinew, keeping the whole gland intact. Remove any tough visible connecting tissues. Wrap up carefully and tightly in towel or linen and place into a shallow pan. Place another pan on top, and weight it moderately and allow to sit in refrigerator for several hours, or preferably overnight. Then we either slice, bread/coat in flour or breadcrumbs and saute... season and cook whole in brown butter, while turning and basting in a pan...

poach and then coat with aromats and sauces...pick the lobes apart into small pieces, separated by the natural membranes and dredge in herbs or spices or whatever. Very tasty indeed. Still...they are what they are and some ain't buying! To me, it is still about the art and determination of education of our guests, as I could clearly confirm by the thought of why our last guest did not want to eat them, as she thought they were the "tender part of a male"...the animelle...the testicles, or as she put it, the gems down south of the border. Bless her heart...at least she tried them!


Non Alcoholic Drink Menu...

Pineapple-Mango-Cilantro Cocktail
with Hot Coconut-Curry Foam

although we did not get all the shots from this hella cool drink pairing for another "designated driver" of the bunch, as am I, it goes without saying that this was a huge hit. Even the drinkers of the fermented grape were a bit jealous. This is starting to become a new passion amongst us...

Mixologists in thought mode...

Cucumber-Honeydew-Basil Mojito

with Kauai Black Salt rimmed Melon

RC "Cherry Cola"

a blend of House Preserved Bing Cherry "Cuisson", Pepper, Lemongrass Dry Soda

Here are some of the other libations we constructed that evening...

Sparkling Crimson Rhubarb "Cocktail", with pellegrino and GUS Ginger Ale

Yellow Tomato-Ginger "Martini" with Rose Petal Infusion

Red Plum Froth with Muddled Mint, Lemon Verbena and Plum Juice

Warm Sweet Yellow Corn Crema, Thyme and Summer Truffle "Nectar"

Root Beer & Rose Geranium "Float"

Chef's Table of the Moment...

Another few shots of some dishes we are crafting at and for the chef's table. These dishes were from the Faris' table last week, which since we have met these foodies at heart, have become very much fun to be around. Whenever I am summoned to cook before our guests in the heart of our culinary atelier, not only is it a great honor, but a huge inspiration(unless of course I am swamped, behind, stressed, exhausted, burned out or otherwise simply dead)! It is exhilarating to say the least. Every now and then, we are guided into one's lives that seem like there is a deeper connection. This is the case for the Faris'. If nothing else, they are just folks that truly love good food and what we do for them. And at the heart of it...the food we cook becomes so very personal for me. Imagine that...a plate of wonderful ingredients transposed into a matrix of emotion and personality laid out for all to see and taste. That is what cooking has become for me...a huge expression of my emotions. I truly believe it always has been. Here is the menu laid out below...

Dungeness Crab, Avocado, Oranges, Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
American Sturgeon Caviar and a Rose Geranium-Champagne Sabayon
Diver Sea Scallop-Maine Lobster Terrine
with Baby Carrot Gelee, Mango, Lobster Salad, Spicy Scallop Tartare
Fennel-Parcel-Celery Root Composure
Warm Rabbit & Lentil Salad
Pistachio Pesto, Mostarda, Crispy Wafers, Argan Oil
Broiled Portuguese Sardines
House Cured Duck Prosciutto, Smoked Paprika, Marcona Almonds, Tangerine Oil
Pedro Ximenez Reduction
Steamed Atlantic Fluke with Foie Gras
Nappa Cabbage, Sweet Corn Coulis, Peas, Asparagus, Baby Leeks
A Visit to the Anti Griddle...
Sesame-Soy Aoili with Hot, Spicy Calamari
Smooth Avocado, Dark Chocolate, Murray River Salt
Lemony Yogurt, Fennel Pollen, Lobster Candy
Daurade & Veal Sweet Breads
Morels, Fava Beans, House Cured Bacon, Bacon Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Emulsion
"Duck Rubbed Duck"
Spiced Moularde Breast with Quinoa, Porcini Mushrooms, Golden Beets
Grains of Paradise and Plum Relish
Lemon-Sage Brulee/Manjari Silk Mousse/Anise Hyssop Milkshake
Macaroon-Mascarpone Sandwiches/Raspberry Pates de Fruits
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Chocolates/Salted White Chocolate Caramels


Sensual Chocolate...

Wow, I just found a cool new retail store in Seattle that sells my favorite food...CHOCOLATE! The name is Chocolopolis. Small and quaint, yet providing a very in-depth array of specimens of cacao. The magnitude of such, seemingly spoke out in an eloquent manner almost in overload. There was a nice organizational and categorical arrangement, ranging from various blends to single origin beans to single estate bars, all laid out for one to see, smell, feel, taste(perhaps), purchase and explore. If you enjoy chocolate, this is a cool place to hang. They had a member of the team from Theo's Chocolate (also in Seattle) there(one of the only producers and roasters of organic and certified fair trade cacao beans/chocolates in the US), offering up a "degustation" of some of their product line, which was quite tasty, and the customers were definitely stoked. After some time of discussing the realm of bean and bar with Pam from Theo's, I engaged in a lengthy conversation with Lauren Adler; the owner of Chocolopolis, who shared with me her thoughts and passions for opening her boutique retail store. Although they do not produce a lot of confections there at the store, they seek out, procure, and sell some of the finest around the nation. As for bars, they literally carry products from most all of the heavy hitters...Valrhona(my fav!), Pralus, Amedai, Michel Cluizel, Theo's Chocolates, Chocolate Santander, Dolfin, and many, many others, of whom I was not familiar with. I wanted to buy one of everything, yet I refrained from doing so, as that would have kept me from returning any time soon, so I opted for these three so I can make sure to come back shortly after this ephemeral experience to try some more. Here are some notes...

Chocolate Santander, 70% cacao, Colombian Single Origin- a bar with fair amount of acidity, quite smooth and yeilding notes and nuances of tobacco, coffee and richness tempered with hints of savoriness and moxie. A good one for savory cooking.

Valrhona Araguani, 72% cacao, a blend from Venezuela flaunting bitter, sharp notes of cocoa, with a slightly sweet flavor profile yet leaving one with a pleasant fruity finish. A tad sharper than my favorite Manjari, yet nice, with aromas of licorice, raisins and chestnuts.

Valrhona Ampamakia, 64%, 2007 Estate Grown vintage from Madagascar, which was a wonderfully sexy chocolate with a very fruity character showing off beautiful notes of cherry, huckleberry, and ripe fruit with just the right hint of acid, sweetness and snap.


Guest Chef at the Fairmont Hotel...

Chilled Sweet Shrimp Flutes
Citrus, Golden Caviar, Lobster-Vanilla Vinaigrette/Cool Coconut Puree
Hot Spicy Mango Foam/Black Olive Brittle

Frozen Spicy Avocado-Lobster Pops
Cinnamon-Anise infused Dark Chocolate/Murray River Sea Salt

earlier this week, I was invited to participate at a local event for a guest chef appearance. It was to be made up of 5 local chefs; the famous and ever-popular Thierry Rautureau from Rover's
Restaurant, where I spent a couple years as chef de cuisine before my current gig, Tom Hurly from Coupage in Madison Park, who I have just recently gotten to know, Gavin Stevenson, the Executive Chef presiding over the ranges at the Fairmont Hotel, the hosting property, my friend
Shiro-San who has oohed and aahed the populous in Seattle and beyond with his expertise in sushi at Shiro's in Belltown, which he has now sold most of his stake to another sushi family, and yours truly. It was hosted by a friend and associate who was looking to put on a spectacular soiree for some 100 conference attendees and colleagues. It was a smash hit for them.
For me, it was fun to participate, great to cook again with Thierry and the others and an honor to be associated with such practitioners of the craft. Here are some shots of the food we did.


Blind-Sided While in Motion...

This night will definitely go down in my history book of "cooking memoirs" as one odd freakin experience. There have been a few here and there, and surely some that are not even mentionable on my blog,(at least while I have young kids that can read it) that can be chalked up to what this crazy, damn, f*d-up biz can hold for you. It was on course for a great night of cooking...nothing too crazy in our reservation line up. Special menus ready. Staff in place. New flavor combinations and plating ideas to be unleashed. A chef's table for two~easy money! An amuse sent-(dungenss crab, mango, avocado and yuzu sabayon served in an egg shell) Cool enough. We ventured into our first course with plenty of normal conversation~ rabbit confit and bucatini terrine, fava bean tapenade, lemon creme fraiche, white asparagus-sweet cicely salad, mostarda...buzz starting. I should have seen it coming as we rolled into our second course, but yet I was blind. Something was off. Sweet Louisiana Shrimp, Pea Risotto, Duck Prosciutto, Preserved Lemon Tempura, Lemon Leaf Essence made for a nice foil for the culinary emotions that lay ahead. Signs were there...the monster was coming. We all were not paying attention like we should have. A wonderful Citrus Smoked Catfish dish with Creamy Bacon Mashed Potatoes, Golden Beets, Morels, a Porcini Syrup and PX Vinaigrette made sure to distract us from signs of the inevitable while we poured our thoughts and minds into the intermezzo. Ugliness was forthcoming and we didn't even know it. What seemed to be a nice refreshing palate cleanser of Summer Melon, Peppered Honey Gelee, Rose Geranium Syrup, Pistachios, Murray River Salt and Honeydew Melon Ice didn't even come close! By now, it was clear that there was something in the air that was not right. A bad vibe. An intuitiveness that told us that something was clearly bizarre, and yet, still, we were blind to it. Why? No signs of heavy abuse. No swaggering. No knocking over glasses and slurring of speech. No excessive and exaggerated laughing and carrying on as one would expect at some shitty frat party. No vulgarity. No real signs of anything. We forged ahead with the meat course of Crisp-Skinned Muscovy Duck Breast, Quinoa, Seared Foie Gras, Grilled Porcinis, Sweet Corn Coulis, Peas and Douglas Fir Sauce. That was it! The dish pushed aside. A bleak look on their face. Nothing but emptiness and that numbing stare before one gets sick. Yak! Hurl! Spew! The tone changed in a blink of an eye from that of excitement, passion, drive, ambition, desire, fulfillment, and sheer devotion to food to one of solemn, shock and desolation. Wiped out of all emotion, with the exception of disbelief, we(the cooks) were done. The party was over. We didn't even get to finish cooking the meal. Was it the wine? Was it the richness of the food? Something they ate earlier? Who knows? As we stared at each other in amazement and utter perplexedness as to what we just witnessed, we finished service as best as we could while stewards cleaned the mess. I felt so sorry for them, both the guests and the stewards. They had come to experience something great, didn't get to finish, and only ended up with an unfortunate occurrence. I only wish them a more favorable experience the next time they come to dine with us, and hope they feel better in the morning! What a night to remember...and forget!


Simplicity at the Beach Pad...

For years, the 4th of July has always seemed to have revolved around food in this country, and plenty of it! I have cooked many different things during this holiday gathering, from slow braised this and that(mostly my beloved pork in various forms and fashion), savory and hearty steaks and grilled meats or poultry, firecracker shrimp, briny clams and sweet mussels cooked in seawater(with flavor enhancers of course), sous vide halibut cheeks, pastries of all sorts, and yes...fire roasted foie gras! That was quite a blast. Most all the meals are centered around the abundance of the local offerings obtained from the markets that day or couple days prior. And, most would swear to it that at my place, it generally takes on an influence of my favorite nature...spicy southern american. I more often than not send in fiery reinforcements to just about every dish. Fire is good...fire is our friend! This year, we had just returned from Cannon Beach, Oregon(see last post) and the bounty of the farmers was first and foremost on my mind. A couple stops at a local bakery and a farmers market, a quick read of food and wine and I was quickly off on a bit of an Italian mental wandering through the Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany! From marinated spicy fresh Shrimp, roasted with Basil, Elephant Garlic, Lemon and Pinot Gris to a very tasty Panzanella Salad, adorned with fire grilled Garlic Como, Olives, Tomatoes, Ricotta from Jacobs Farm(OR.), fresh Mozzarella, Basil, White Balsamic Vinegar and Italian EVOO.
Various spreads and dips, Chickpea Salad with Red Onions, Sheep's Cheese, Tomato Confit and Red Wine Vinaigrette and of course...hand-formed Ground Sirloin Patties, laden with herbs, spices, balsamic vinegar, chilies and a platter of freshly Macerated Berries and Nectarines(in a brown sugar, vanilla, honey, lemon, & black pepper bath) on a pillow of soft, luscious and silky Ricotta-Mascarpone(again from Jacobs Creamery) "fondue" laced with honey, vanilla and orange and topped with Fleur de Sel. All this was splashed with a bit of 30 year-old Balsamic Condiment. As we sat and enjoyed the company, the libations and the meal at hand at the waters edge, one would be hard pressed to find a reason to complain. With such simplicity...can life be any easier?


Cannon Beach Farmer's Market...

~simply delish!~

My family and I just returned from a visit of a Southerly nature to Cannon Beach, right on the coast in Oregon just outside of Seaside(about a 3.5 hour drive from Seattle). We have traveled there numerous times with much joy and fun-filled excursions such as jaunts to Tillamook creamery, EVOO cooking school, a winery here and there and various restaurants, bistros and cafes. This time was no exception, with the only one being that we stayed right in town this time, chilled and hung out on the beach and enjoyed the sun(well, overcast for the most part), surf and local scene. The emphasis of this post and the highlight for me this time was our attendance and finds at the local farmer's market on Gower Street in the center of town on Tuesday. The fare was that of many a Seattle farmers gatherings...uber freshness, exciting ingredients, interesting "cultivateurs" of the land, and just down right tasty foodstuffs! Enjoy this "journey" of ingredients we sampled and savored as we drifted through the stalls sipping our Sleepy Monk Coffee...

~baby white turnips~

~freshly baked breads of the moment~

~fresh churned and produced farmstead sweet butter and ricotta~

~gathered herbs from a local garden~

~icicle radishes, baby gold and red beets, and beans~

~living strawbs~

~basket of freshly harvested wild porcinis~

~Bings, Lamberts and Lapins...sweet as pie~

~Rainier Cherries...oh so nice!~

~Willapa Bay raised oysters~

~Wild Morels right from a burn~

A Night to Remember...

this was some wicked good cooking that we pulled from our dusty archives. This kitchen menu "firing list" was underneath miles of notes and menus left for dead. It reminded us of some hella cool dishes, tasty combinations, remarkable dining room experiences (Jason...you have your shirt?) and good times on the line. Here is looking forward to our next encounter...