A Modern Spanish Vintner's Dinner...

Last week proved to be a busy one with many festivities and functions happening left and right. As previously posted, our Prez. Ball was a huge undertaking and nothing but a great success! The event that followed was not any different. It was a special vintner’s tasting dinner for a local fundraising organization called Poncho, which has proven to be the biggest wine event of the year in Washington state. Poncho, which raises monies for the arts organizations around the community, held it’s annual fundraising auction event on Saturday, Oct. 18th for hundreds of fat cats at some local hotel, and as a perk to the 70-some who sported at least a thou to get in(not including the dough spent at the auction) they were treated to a special dinner to which I was so honored to be asked to cook for. It was awesome! This year’s theme was Spain(of course) with magnums of Spanish wines everywhere, Georges Riedel in attendance from Riedel Glassware and even a professional master ham carver flown in from Valladolid. We were to serve some passed hors d’oeuvres, along side some wonderfully delicious Spanish Iberico Ham which was brought in from Embutinos Fermin, of Fermin USA and in collaboration with Jose Andres, which was sliced to perfection by Roberto Sanz; our maestro of the knife from Valladolid, a region of the Castile Leon in North central Spain. We watched him carve the luscious fat laden ham in the kitchen and at a station in front of the guests. As you can see,
it was nice to watch him prep the ham in our kitchen quickly and efficiently as we savored the rich, sweet funky flavor that this ham and Spain are so well know for. This was the Jamon Iberico, the least richest of the three that Fermin produces (but nothing close to inferior mind you), as the other two are not yet available in the US, or are just now starting to enter our prized country. For the reception, we served up some fantastic artisan and fermier cheeses from Spain, ranging from cow’s milk(mahon, manchego), sheep(roncal) goat(garroxta, drunken goat, montenebro), and blue(valdeon), along with Chilled White Gazpachos,
marinated green olives with orange and garlic, fresh rustic breads, Dauro de L'Emporda olive oil, romesco, quince jam, marcona almonds and passed Rolled Omelettes
filled with foie gras, smoked paprika and manchego, and set on a small spoon with a good drop of truffled apricot conserve and sherry reduction…a sheer puddle of goodness!
The dinner then played out with a plethora of very savory flavors, flanked by nuances of sweet, subtle boldness and unctuousness that hails from my research of Spain as well as my modern northwest take on the whole ordeal. For those that know me, they know I never claim to want to be “authentic”~ Hell no! Set your own path and stake your own claim! We started with a Potato-“Brandade”-Date Terrine,

all layered in a savory sweet collee embellished with hints of saffron, and served with an heirloom tomato jam, Spanish Bouquerones, fennel, smoked paprika aioli, micro greens and sherry syrup.

Next was a Seared Foie Gras Tart with caramelized walla walla onions, glazed black mission figs, vadouvan braised bananas, micro burgundy amaranth and a warm vinaigrette of the vadouvan butter and pedro ximenez.

I’m sorry, did you say it doesn’t get much sexier than this??? Following that sensory overload was a Seared Diver Sea Scallop on top of a braised slice of rich pork belly.

Now some may attest to the fact that this does not do the scallop or any fish justice. Maybe, maybe not. I can tell you though, that the flavor rocks even if it is a bit competitive in nature. We paired that with sautéed leeks, an olive oil enriched chickpea puree, “poached eggs & bacon”, which was seasoned egg drops poached in butter, and dried chorizo dust, both strewn over the top for flavor and fun. A light and refreshing quince essence served as a nice foil for the richness.

The main course was a Roasted Garlic Crusted Loin of Lamb, which we sprinkled a dry streusel on top with artichoke and potato powders and finished them to a nice medium. It was accompanied by roasted red grapes, a slow braised "pave" of sugar pie pumpkin, roasted cipolline onions, valdeon cheese crumbles and wild chanterelles. All this and more in a bath of smoked tomato and paprika subjected lamb jus.

Dessert followed and was dubbed as “Queso & Chocolate” which was a slow poached white nectarine, then bruleed, and snuggled up close to a staircase of manchego cheese, black olive syrup and brittle, a chocolate a’la taza, or hot chocolate for the lay…topped with a warm cinnamon tossed bunuelo(donut) and lastly a bite of Spanish Dauro olive oil chocolate. This dinner had so many flavors happening, yet was very soothing to the soul. The flavors worked well together and the flow was great. Then kitchen team was at a good steady hum. People in their places, product ready, ala carte not too crazy. Our peeps did well and did me proud! As I wrote this though, I felt it weird…every now and then, I feel that we are doing these really cool things and cooking some awesome kick-ass food and forging fast and strong ahead and I look around for a moment and catch a glimpse of someone and get the perception that it is no big deal to them. Not really this time, but once in a while. I wonder~ is it that perhaps the meal we are doing is not all that? Are they too comfortable and now bored? To used to a good thing? Not aware of the color of the grass on the other side of the fence or all the above. Is it me? Probably. Maybe I am just twisted and have a jaded perception. Maybe I am too damn comfortable!?! Time to step it up and keep it fresh. At any rate…I hope they liked it, because I know that the passion that is evident in this kitchen is not everywhere for that I am certain and thankful for. We should all be so fortunate...

notes...contemplation of thought about the plate up

service...plating up the terrine.


Foie Gras Tart...

Here is a new dish I created for a chef's table last week. Normally, I do not just write about one particular dish on this site(saved for thedigitalkitchen) but the flavors were so warm, inviting and unctuous, that I felt compelled to do so. The dish seems to have a lot of room to grow and also a mind of it's own, in that, it seems to creep in flavor as it is being plated. The bananas strengthen in deepness, the foie gras becomes richer and more savory with it's individual umami flaunting itself as the flesh is seared and resting on the tart. The flavors of the short dough; made of vadouvan...a play on Indian curry spices, intensify as it is warmed through, the onions and figs unite as a harmony of tastes, which are all bound together by the Abbamele Honey Caramel...damn that was tasty! Fun to just think about it, luscious in every sense of the word.

A Culinary Journey of Global Inspiration...

Last week, we had a unique opportunity to create some wonderful food for our guests for an event dubbed as the Presidents Ball. It was a culmination of luxurious tastes, exciting textures and sublime flavors, all juxtaposed in a marriage of global influences that was simply top notch! It flat out kicked ass. I had so much fun orchestrating the event and interacting with the crowd, which proved to be hands down, phenomenal. The flavors were so freakin awesome. The concept incredible and the outcome of execution, even more so. Our team rocked. The menu was inspired by various personal travels, research, current "hot spots" and just great ingredients, food and passionate cooking. We decided to make up stations of various countries represented by our modern take and spin on their famous or traditional culture. The biggest bummer of the whole deal was we did not get any pictures as we were too busy humpin to get the food out. No worries, as the memories will last a lifetime for me. Here is how it went down...

"Spain a'la Catalan"...
Marinated Fresh Sardines "Escabeche"
Orange & Pepper Scented Olives
Paella Stuffed Squid with Chorizo, Onion Sofrito and Manchego
Piquillo Peppers filled with Brandade and House Cured Ham
"From the Back Streets of Morocco"...
and into the Fire...
Savory Grilled Lamb Merguez Sausage a'la Plancha
Fire Roasted Leg of Marinated Local Lamb
Cous Cous en Tagine with Golden Raisins
"Casablanca Accoutrements"...
Marcona Almonds, Moroccan Salt, Harissa, Date Relish
Capers & Caper Berries, Olive Oil, Ras el Hanout, Charmoula
Italy & France...
"Nuances of Tuscany, Gascony, Lyon & Piemont"
House Cured Salumi & Charcuterie
Artisan & Fermier Cheeses
Foie Gras Flan with Truffle
Terrine du Campagne au Pistaches et Pickles du Maison
Bow Tie Pasta with Basil, Goat Cheese, Heirloom Tomatoes and Olive Oil
Baguettes, Roasted Garlic and Tapenade
"The Golden Triangle"...
Raw Vegetable Rolls with Spices, Peanuts and Yuzu
Hot & Fiery Shrimp with Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic and Lime
Somen Noodles, Cashews, Basil and Sesame
"Nem's Spicy Pork Dumplings"
Pickled Fruits of the Moment
"The Northwest Bounty"...
Cold House Smoked Salmon, Fennel, Lemon Creme Fraiche
Cones of Crispy Calamari & Razor Clams, Spicy Aioli
Penn Cove Mussels, Coconut, Garlic and Mint
Dungeness Crab & Summer Corn "Chowder"
Sauteed Sea Scallops, Chanterelles, House Bacon and Herbs
Early Fall Harvest Vegetable Composure
"Fire & Ice"...
Dark Chocolate and More Dark Chocolate
Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone
Lemon Cocktails with Figs
Warm Zeppole & Madelines
Macaroon Sandwiches
S'Mores Roasted Fireside
Anti Griddle of various Sexy Flavors


Salumi Fest 2008...

our award winning Wine Cured Tuscan Salami
Spicy Pork Sopressata
Molasses & Bourbon Cured Prosciutto

The 2nd Annual "smack-down" of locally produced, nurtured and handcrafted forms of salumi by various artisans in Seattle proved to be a very satisfying outing for us. Our showing of our craft stood strong and proud amongst the dry cured provisions lying on the slab, waiting to be judged by Armandino & Gina Batali and their cohorts. Last year, (the first of it's type in Seattle) the competition caught us off guard and blindsided as we did not have time to really put something together in time, and what we had, had been drying for more than they should have been. We had also been struggling with a lot of humidity issues, over-drying, case hardening and such. Our flavors were awesome. Our technique sound and solid and process was stellar. Our environment was the culprit. For this year, we had planned accordingly and worked on the surroundings.
Worked on bringing in more humidity, planned a schedule that provided for optimum conditions and steered the course and stood steadfast on our mission of giving the competition a run for their money. We did. We took the top designation for professionals. What an honor it was to not only see our products lined up like well polished soldiers looking awesome next to the others, where there was some good competition, but to hear our name called as the winner of the event in front of the crowd attending the Italiafest. Jim and Alex and I were stoked. How cool was that! Jim and I had worked hard at building the control... the refined factors that can and do control the destiny of the salumi, and is what one will use as a guideline and basis for all future missions into the artisanal dry cured arena. It is how we gauge our attempts, our success and our failures as craftsmen. Talking with Armandino and Gina Batali about our products, our processes and environments and hearing their responses and feedback to our questions proved to be invaluable last year and even more-so now for our future as the information and comments from these professionals and leaders of the trade is a priceless tool in which we will use to move forward and grow from to continue to forge ahead in our commitment in the dry cured art of salumi production. As we await our next batch of aging charcuterie, we sit anxiously in content, while we honor and worship the golden pig! Here is to the support of the slow food movement!