~young girl in the garde manger~
eager and energetic...fun...hard worker...

~a student working his way through the fish station~
serious...focused professional...respectful
~the production man of our banquet team~(background)
family man...always helpful...no bullshit...
~a backbone in the pit~
no speaky...fast...busts ass...

the most important facet of the operation! Our peeps. Without em...kiss it goodbye. You think you can do it all by yourself, well, think again pal. Treat your people well and in a fair manner, they are your biggest asset. Sometimes I think we forget about this crucial element. These are the faces of the soldiers of battle. Seldom do they see the guests reactions or the responses they express when they get awesome food and service. It is them to which this tribute is bestowed upon(both pictured here and not). You guys rock!
~proud and honored to have worked with her~
kind...awesome team member...great worker...
~new kid on the block~
dedicated...moldable...learning every day...
~partner in crime in the DR~
~our extension in the dining room~
strong voiced...committed...understanding...
reviewing the plate up

~a very helpful busser~
~a motley crue~
~the unknown soldiers~

Jam Session at the Chef's Table...

~foie gras fondant/hazelnuts/pistachio/mostarda/blackberries/hyssop~

~plating foie gras fondant~

cooking each night at the chef's table is like a jam session for me and hopefully the crew as well. It is a place where although we are serious and focused about the food, it sort of just happens and evolves before us. We plan the menu only a few hours prior to the guests arrival, purposely to avoid being over-rehearsed and thought out, to weed out predictable pairings, and to be in the moment in terms of the mind and vision. This way (although I am sure at times the cooks hate me for it) the food and ideas rolling out are new and fresh, and pertaining to the here and the now and reflecting the state of mind of our team and I. This can and does have somewhat of a negative effect at times however...in that, when I am rushed, overtaxed on administrative duties, overly pressed for time for even planning the menu due to other priorities, or when situations dictate, that I am not able to be there for the table at all that night, this is when things can be frustrating for me. Most all of the time though, it is very satisfying for us and the guests based on their faces, comments and clean plates. This is when the dinner seems to be more like a jam session. Things are rolling. A nice buzz is strumming about the air. The cooks and I are on fire. People are stoked. The vibe is cool. Maybe I wrote on the hand-written menu placed before us that we were going to pair foie gras with caramelized bananas, glazed onions and a vadouvan pate brisee, and yet in the blink of an eye, I decide to go with truffled apricot conserve, black berry gastrique and savory squash galette with crispy potatoes and salted caramel powder. Shit happens and that is ok with me. Who is to say that I made the wrong choice? Who is to say that the original was the best choice? Does it matter? The show is on, and this is real. I changed my damn mind ok!!! This is how I feel at the time. Go with it. Let's taste it. Does it taste good? If not, throw it out and start over! Be a cook already! The guests see the emotion, the intensity, the pressure of something perhaps not quite as I want it to be, and we make alterations right in the middle of it all. That is cooking! Here are some shots during one of our latest jam sessions with some wonderful people having a great time just as we were. It was harmonious to say the very least.

~daurade/heirloom tomato pickle/bacon mash/crab/opal basil~
~frozen intermezzo~
~rabbit saddle/gold beets/truffles/lentils/arugula~
~the board~
~plating fish~

syrah braised short ribs/grits/corn/matsutake/cuisson~


A Personal Perspective on Cooking...

As I put my last Gypsy soiree to bed, filing my notes, prep lists, staging thoughts and various contemplations of ideas, I came across an email thread of some questions that the coordinator for Gypsy had asked me to respond to prior to the meal so they could perhaps use as an example of inspiration when marketing the dinner, as well as during the dinner to create the sense of where things originated from and to provoke thought amongst the diners. As I read over the content of my reply, I realized that I didn't really think about it much, but just "fired off" some things that were on my mind at the time. What my point is, is that at that moment, that was what was the mood and vibe was. That was the drive of the moment. Today...another story altogether. What I also realized(and confirmed), although I have known this throughout my career, is that there are many different things that inspire us, and at many different times which do so. All of this can and will affect what you are doing and determine how the outcome is to take place, for better or for worse...till death do you cook! Had I been feeling differently at that moment, and of course during the whole process going into it, and during the meal, the outcome would have been totally altered. Would it have been better? The same? Not as sharp? Not sure. What is fascinating however is how well it did play out (I thought) and thinking about how if someone else was doing the dinner, what they would have been thinking about and what drives and inspires them and how their outcomes take place. Profound for certain. Here is the email and questions, thoughts and responses that prompted this post...

1.) What is your favorite sound?...a cross between the loud crash of the cymbals in combination of a heavy amplified strum of Metallica's guitars; the very "zenestic" and feng shui of the waves rolling in in front of our house on Puget Sound; and the sound of my two boys' voices go into high gear as I walk into our home each night after work. I guess in all fairness to my craft, the sound of a saute pan sizzling with a piece of foie gras cooking almost brings tears to my eyes.
2.) What smells or scent makes you feel~ Energized? Sentimental? Relaxed?...smell...wow! there are few~ (energized)-Fresh truffles, fresh roasted coffee, dark chocolate, fresh ripe tomatoes just off the vine and foie gras being seared or roasted. (sentimental)-Roasted lamb, spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, wild blackberry pies baking and fresh garlic. (relaxed)-My wife's cooking.
3.) What do you do/say/think to put yourself in a creative mode as a chef?...Dine out whenever and wherever I can. Read my cookbooks, or try to get to them anyway. Staying up late into wee hours of the morning, watching mindless movies while writing menus, ideas and thoughts, and writing my blog. Listening to other great chefs' thoughts, perspectives and ideas.
4.) If you had the opportunity to invite anyone(living or dead) to have dinner with you tonight, who would it be, and why?...Dinner guest...easy~ my late mother. Because she was my biggest inspiration and support person early on who enabled me to get into cooking professionally and was the one who fostered my desire and passion for food to be what it is through her own love of food.
I closed with this excerpt from my mind...All of our past as people have an impact on who we are and who we are to become. I am no different. Through my wasted youth and single child, yet very supportive upbringing, I was taught early on that the way we speak, write and behave in the presence of others can and will have a consequence, whether good or bad. It is during those years, having spent most of my time in the Northwest and having been given a true gift of passion to cook, the ability to "see" that style of life for me and the mind to go after what I want, is what enabled me to be as successful as I am. I have been very blessed as an individual for my good fortune- my wonderful wife, kids, and for the professional experiences and situations that have been bestowed upon me. For that, I am truly grateful. In the end...we are only as good as our last accomplishment or failure. I can only hope that I have had a positive and long lasting impression on my family and colleagues, to point them in the right direction. If that happens, then I can live or die with that!


Gypsy 08'...Recaptured...

And so it was...the final soiree. A voyage to the end of an era from the wild~ or at least of a series. This was it, as I was one of and the first of the last handful of chef's to be able to prepare and present their craft to some of the finest foodies and ingredient gurus of the Emerald City in a forum we have come to know and love, or hate as Gypsy. As I had mentioned in my last post featuring my proposed menu, this was to be my fourth appearance before the cloak and daggered diner. An opportunity to cut loose and create without inhibitions in this clandestine culinary atelier as it has waxed on through time...a food junkies workshop for the addictive and obsessed if you will. All of my gigs at Gypsy have been awesome in my mind, and I am truly hopeful that is has been in the minds of those that I have cooked for and in those that I had brought along for the cooking with me.
Perhaps, and with any such luck, I have left a small sense of unique profoundness upon those certain individuals along with leaving them with an open mind towards cooking filled with passion. One could only surmise. Enter the menu...Before you; lie photos of the menu, both literally and figuratively of what was to become probably my most favorite of the fab four. It went very smooth. My team was sharp. The service on the mark. Gabe worked his magic. Alex, Kat and Jazz all kicking ass. The food, well...all I care to offer on my own behalf is that I wish I could have been a guest, in spite of a missed foam of castelvetrano green olive. Shit happens right???

spicy popcorn, fig-chevre-olive skewers, tempura sea beans

"3 eggs in 1"
lobster, sturgeon caviar, poached quail egg, yuzu sabayon

crudo of yellow eye rockfish, compressed melon, tomato pickle, togarashi

indulgence of foie gras, peaches, mostarda, macaroons and cacao nibs

~frozen intermission~

spicy avocado and manjari
sesame-soy aioli and hot crispy calamari

seared scallop, beet-nectarine tapioca, orange cauliflower "cous cous", licorice butter

and tempura tuberous begonia

daurade & pork belly, moroccan spices, organic carrot oblique, crunchy quinoa
arugula-lemon pesto

~intermission part 2"~

compressed apples, fennel, yogurt powder, elderflower-douglas fir essence

slow roasted lamb, truffles, chanterelles, caramelized garlic, anise hyssop jus

syrah braised painted hills short rib

bacon-argan mash, corn, figs, lobster mushrooms and smoked olive oil

~more indulgence~
milk chocolate-foie gras "bon bon", walnut sponge, peach tartare, blackberry coulis, salted caramel powder, trockenbeerenauslese drizzle and rose geranium ice cream

what did not make the photo op was the mignardise...
we just simply fell into the moment and forgot about the camera all together!
They were as follows~
Spanish Olive Oil Chocolates
Salted White Chocolate Caramels
Rose Macaroon-Lavender Mascarpone Sandwiches
Heirloom Tomato-Bacon Jellies

in a word...damn good! (ok...maybe two)


Gypsy Revisited...

just a note to say that I am very much looking forward to Sunday's guest chef event I am doing at Gypsy in Seattle! It has been a little bit since I have cooked at one of the "cloak and dagger" dinners for them, but this being my fourth, it is going to be awesome. This is bitter~sweet as although it is sort of evolutionary in nature and is the first of a 5-part series, it is also the last and farewell as Gypsy will be laid to rest...R.I.P. Attached is the menu we are cooking...just a few tastes and textures from our atelier of late. Some have not even fathomed as yet. I will look to post pix's and thoughts afterwards for sure. Until then...I hope this inspires you as much as it does us!
Gypy’s Evolution Dinner
A Transition of Tastes & Textures…
into Thoughts and Memories

Spicy Popcorn, Tempura Sea Beans, Fig & Goat Cheese Skewer
“3 Eggs in One…”
Maine Lobster, Citrus, Quail’s Egg, Sturgeon Caviar, and a Yuzu Sabayon
“Crudo” of Hawaiian Ono
Begonia, Compressed Melon, Togarashi, Hearts of Palm and Summer Tomato Pickle
A Visit to the Anti Griddle…
Avocado, Chilies and Dark Chocolate
Sesame-Soy Aioli, Celery Root Remoulade and Crispy Calamari
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Grilled Peaches, Hazelnuts, Cocoa Nibs, and a Hazelnut-Balsamic Reduction
Diver Sea Scallop
Tapioca, Nectarine, Licorice Emulsion, Beet & Orange Cauliflower “Cous Cous”
and crisp Radishes
Mediterranean Daurade
Vadouvan Spices, Pork Belly, Glazed Baby Carrots, Crunchy Quinoa, Arugula-Lemon Pesto
Compressed Transparency Apples, Shaved Fennel, Yogurt Powder, Tasmanian Pepper
And an Elderflower-Douglas Fir Infusion
Slow Roasted Loin of Lamb
Truffles, Chanterelles, Sweet Heirloom Garlic, Green Olive Foam and Eucalyptus Essence
Syrah Braised Painted Hills Short Rib
Bacon-Argan Mash, Corn, Figs, Lobster Mushrooms and Smoked Olive Oil
Chocolate-Foie Gras Bon Bon
Walnut Sponge, Blackberry Coulis, Peaches, Salted Caramel Powder, Pedro Ximenez Drizzle
White Chocolate Caramel, Olive Oil Chocolates??, Rose Macaroon, Tomato-Bacon Jellies


Walla Walla Wine Weekend...

Enter Walla Walla...one of the best wine growing areas in the world and home to some of the best wines available anywhere! After numerous little jaunts around our hotel, trips to the fair, and local restaurants, we found ourselves in the heart of town at a small artisan shop called Salumiere Cesario, a storefront that caters to the foodies and appreciating many of all things tasty and good. It is a unique shop featuring a handful of artisan cheeses, being stored and tasted in a the "cheese closet", a small chilled room with a person who will discuss the cheese and sample you on them, as well as a plethora of artisan salumi, olives, oils, salts and wines, amongst others. We sampled several aged cheeses varying from a few from Neal's Yard, Cypress Grove and various others from Italy, England and France. An aged Goat's milk Gouda was nice and nutty from Neals Yard, the Midnight Moon from Cypress Grove are but two what we brought home with us. We ordered a "box lunch" filled with shades of salumi from Armandino Batali's Salumi, in Seattle, Fra'Mani cured meats from Paul Bertolli out of Berkley and another one from New York. Taking on a tin "flask" of Spanish Estate Bottled Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Merula, we were on our way to the wineries. Our first stop was to pay a visit to some friends from Buty Winery, whom I have known for several years, but alas after several attempts, to no avail. Bummer. People have long asked me why do taste if I do not drink, or how do I create elaborate wine dinners since I do not have a long history with wines. Simple...I enjoy the marriage. I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into making wines, and I respect the art. I taste and spit. For me, a simple taste on my palate can help paint a picture of a food and wine harmony that will be on my next menu! So even though I have been abstinent for many years, I enjoy the company. A block away amongst abandoned military barracks, where many winemakers, brewers and such take residence, we stopped at Russell Creek Winery, a seemingly well recognized(by the Wine Spectator) producer who focuses mainly on reds. We tasted about five, several of which were awarded 90 points and above! Around the corner was Dunham Cellars, ran by Eric Dunham, the wine maker. Here, a much cozier tasting room, complete with a food and wine "studio" or living room is attached where they hold lunches, dinners, intimate barrel tastings, soirees and an occasional "jam session"! We tasted a handful, from a Bordeaux-style blend called "Trutina", meaning balanced, the "Three Legged Red", another wonderful blend, the Lewis Vineyard Syrah(great!) some cabs and merlots and an exceptional Riesling. Next, we traveled just a vine's width in a southerly fashion towards a gathering of unique wineries with very high acclaim.
First stop was to Saviah Cellars, where winemaker; Richard Funk, who we had the pleasure of meeting a couple years ago when we were paired up with him at a local fundraiser, handcrafts his passion. A self-taught artisan, he makes some great wines to be held against any. Of the varietals produced; cabs, merlots, malbecs, syrahs, chards and a few Bordeaux-style blends, the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend and "The Jack"(a red blend) were our favs. The syrahs and cabs were also exquisite. As were saying good-bye and expressing our gratitude, we ran into one of our club members; an aficionado of the fermented "jus de raisin", Mr. Chan. We said au revoir to Saviah and followed our found foodies to our next watering hole...Pepperbridge Winery.
~the winery at Pepperbridge~
~Vineyards at Pepperbridge~
These wines here are very tasty. Phenomenal comes to my mind, as I am the least experienced, being the non-drinker of almost 2 decades. However, in my own defense, I have a good palate, and I know what tastes good. Pepperbridge does a great job! They are perched atop a small hill with vineyards draped over the landscape like what I recall of my trips to Tuscany. Simply beautiful! Their cabs were outstanding! We sampled several vintages and concluded that the 03' was the most stellar. A stones' throw across the grapes was our next destination to Northstar,
~Winery at Northstar~
~rows of grapes growing at Northstar~
another unique and exciting winery featuring and known for their outstanding merlots, as well as cabs, syrahs and Bordeaux-style blends, along with a semillon or two. Very highly rated, we enjoyed them all, yet opted for the prized 03' merlot and the Stella Blanca 06' Semillon...very clean and refreshing. We finished up our visit with a special personal tour of the inter-workings of the winery as a courtesy to "the industry". Very nicely done! We may just find ourselves coming back sometime soon for a guest chef dinner. We were invited back to the Chans' "vineyard estate" atop the hillside overlooking the grapes and wineries to visit and for a quick bite. One could truly retire in such a tranquil and picturesque setting. As the late afternoon slipped away and the sun drew close to the seven hills vineyards far in the distance, we started our journey back to Seattle. As I drove out of town and along the road from Walla Walla, past Lowden (home to L'Ecole and Woodward Canyon), past Prosser (Kestrel, Alexandria-Nicole and Hogue Cellars) and towards the Cascade Mountains, I knew that I would be returning, for there is still much to see, taste, sample and appreciate in this wonderful wine country named and found in Walla Walla, Washington.