Dish Composition...

After giving some positive thought about a question posed to me about my food, I asked myself "how do I go about composing and contemplating a dish"? Where does it start? When did it do so? Was it in the last few moments...or did it stem from many years of cooking in different kitchens under different chef's and sous chef's? Was it based upon a single ingredient or a whole concoction, whether a full dish or entire meal? Was it a recipe you just read or a distant memory from your childhood? Is there really one main correct answer? I feel it really to be all of the above. For me, it starts in various ways, and is based on what is the objective of the outcome. The decision can become the outcome of a single menu item(think ala carte), or perhaps as a sum of it's parts of a whole tasting menu. I typically fast-forward my thinking to "mentally taste" the dish/menu through so I can visualize where it stands on it's own and with a group. If a cook hands me a bunch of chanterelles and say's "what can you do with these" or when I ask them to pull me together a list of different ingredients in which to propose a menu of the moment, I think about how the ingredient(s) can have the utmost impact on the menu or dish. Will they be combined with truffles, squash, duck confit and caramelized garlic to become an uber-tasty and savory component on the menu, or do I feature them by themselves simply roasted or sauteed and served in their own spotlight? Who knows! It depends. Who is coming to dinner? Is it a group of business folks who are merely meeting around the table to discuss the losses of the day and the challenges of tomorrow? Or is it a couple who simply wants the best money can buy them for the ultimate in food sensuality and experience? One does not always satisfy the other. You must know your audience and their tolerance for the level of your creativeness. Sometimes I will take the said chanterelles and pair them with an ingredient(s) that will prove to become a more focal point on the menu or dish, in that let's say we have already set our sights on a nice loin of Elk or Lamb, nicely marinated and then seared and roasted to a slow perfection. You can almost taste it now. So, the chanterelles will make a fantastic counterpoint and accompaniment to the entire juxtaposition of the dish. In other words, it takes a bit of a back-seat. No worries, as it will surely be good. It will taste great and add much depth and flavor to the elk or lamb. Other times, as I am conceiving a menu, an ingredient or two(or more) will stand out as being those that I really want to feature as a whole, and I will seek to create a dish that will satisfy my own personal hunger in cooking and serve as a platform for style and signature, and by no means at any sacrifice of taste. Taste has to come first! So you see, it is very multi-dimensional and complex in the terms of the process, and yet quite simple. There are so many elements to the equation, and at the same time, could be very fundamental. At the end of the day, or night, and after all the dishes have been cooked and served, you need to know and be certain that the folks enjoyed the creations. And it is my personal belief, that one must satisfy oneself first and foremost, for if not, you are cooking without heart, and nobody wins in that case. Of course, we all are here to make the guests happy, but it must be mutual. It is basically a double-edged sword, in that... an unhappy guest= a broke and unemployed chef, and an unhappy chef= an unhappy kitchen, unhappy food and thus, unhappy guests. Search your inner-self to find that happy medium so that everybody wins. How to compose a dish I ponder...seek inspiration from the season, the guests, the ingredients, the mood, the rest of the menu, the rest of the ingredients in the refrigerator or walk-in and start cooking! Try different combinations as the more you do, the more one learns about flavor marriages and what does not go together. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, as that is how one will learn. Have fun.


A Tasting for StarChefs.Com...

Just prior to the big feast day(Thanksgiving)...I had been in contact with Heather Sperling & Antoinette Bruno from StarChefs.Com about a trip they were making to Seattle to "taste" a plethora of the local chef's food for their on-line editorial magazine. I was to be so honored to be a part of it. I say that because as a chef in the "private sector"(club), one does not get that much media publicity or even an opportunity to be interviewed or covered as their readers can not then reciprocate that experience that they just read about. It used to bother me a lot when I first started working there, but as the years have gone by and the amount of outreach, community involvement, marketing and public appearances I have done, and...from the amount of high profile public that have graced us with their presence inside the club, I have no worries at all. We cook good food period! StarChefs.Com covers chefs and restaurants all over the nation, and from all types of establishments. They have dined with the best, the elite, the top of the crop. Daniel...the Laundry & Per Se...Le Bernardin...Alinea...you get the idea. Their site offers readers with not only the reviews and photos of their travels, but interviews, thoughts from those leaders of the industry, articles on local trends, issues and recipes amongst others. It seemed as though the visit from StarChefs.Com was to be a very quick "in and out" experience as they had many to taste, little time to do so, and a minimalistic appetite in spite of all the food they were ingesting. So...what to do? I knew that there were so many things I wanted to cook for them, and yet, not enough time for the dishes in mind. I would later be informed(cordially and professionally mind you) that some of the combinations were too much, in that there were too many flavors on one plate. I have known that potential about my cooking for a while, yet I feel it not present in most cases. I simply was trying to expose the two ladies to as much of what we do as possible, without creating multiple dishes, which I knew was not desired. It was mistook as everything on one plate was meant to be paired together, which is was not, and yet, I feel they went well as one if you must. Feedback, constructive criticism and commentary is good for a chef, and one that can (and will) listen to it objectively, will typically reap many good benefits and insight about his or her cooking. I am no different and I too shall prosper. Still, in the end, I feel the dishes to be strong and tasty. As with anything, it is an opinion...for good or for worse. Go with it...learn from it...think and contemplate it...or discard it...no matter which one decides, keep asking yourself; "is it as good as it can be"? And if not(mostly) keep pushing forward. Here are a few of the shots I was able to snap off during the plate up...
Frozen Foie Gras Lollipops, Caramel, Fleur de Sel
Maine Lobster Salad en Oeuf, Lobster, Avocado, Mango, Caviar, Yuzu Sabayon
"Flamed" Toro of Hamachi, Togarashi, Citrus-Watermelon Radish Composure, Micro Mustard
Seared Foie Gras Tart, Onion-Fig Compote, Vadouvan Bananas, Pedro Ximenez

Spiced Duck Breast & Skate Wing
Carrot Puree, Rice Beans, Chanterelles, Truffles, Squash & Mosto Cotto Jus

Coffee Crusted Lamb Loin, Celery Root, Crosne-Persimmon-Orange Cauliflower "Salpicon"
Matsutakes, Corn Pancake and Douglas Fir Jus
Valrhona Manjari with Caramel, Pistachio & Espresso Flavors
Quince, Pumpkin Tapenade, Olive Oil Gelato, Hazelnut Macaroon


A Recent Feast...

Or should I say an orgasm of taste??? I choose the latter, really...as it was a sheer explosion of flavor. I feel quite fortunate when someone allows us that very pleasure to simply procreate ideas and introduce the most awesome of uninhibited combinations, free from normal form and fashion, free from boundaries and traditional approaches... those are honestly one of the most inspiring moments of my professional life. There are others, sure, like when a young cook blossoms into a great sous chef and beyond...or seeing perhaps a challenged "amigo" climb out of the pit an into the prep areas, and knowing it is only a matter of time before he or she can provide a better life for their family...or having the privilege and honor of working with great people who will inevitably change or have a profound affect on my life for ever... or when we as a team have huge challenges of our own as an organization and working perseverely and collectively to overcome them in order to see the positive outcome. Those are all instances of inspiration for me that come and go at different times. But when it all boils down, the cooking is what fuels my fire. Here is a menu of the moment that presented itself to us manifested by the inspiration, known simply as the term~ "just cook for us" that was bestowed upon our team the other day...

Truffled Goat Cheese-Potato Napoleon "Croustillant"
Maine Lobster "en Oeuf"
Mango, Avocado, Sturgeon Caviar, Yuzu-Champane Sabayon
Potato-Brandade Terrine
Heirloom Tomato Jam, Boquerone, Smoked Paprika Aioli, Red Endive
Silky Uni "Cappuccino"
Flash Torched Hamachi Toro, Demi Radishes, Blood Orange Vinaigrette, Togarashi
Roasted Pumpkin Gnocchi
Shaved Truffles, Hazelnuts, Pecorino, Truffle Oil, Pedro Ximenez
Chilled Terrine of Foie Gras, Figs, Cacao Nib Financier, Balsamic
Seared Foie Gras tart, Caramelized Onions, Vadouvan Bananas, Fig Vinaigrette
~Refreshing & Frozen~
Persimmons "Ravioli", Compressed Apples, Pear Sorbet, Elderflower Infusion
Wild Mushroom-Garlic Strudel, Broccoli Rabe, Celery Root Puree,
Crosnes & Demi Thumbelinas
~Pan Roasted~
Atlantic Monkfish, Matsutake, Oca, Farro, Mosto Cotto Jus de Poisson
Coffee Crusted Loin of Lamb
Truffles, Chanterelles, Organic Corn, Creamy Polenta and Douglas Fir Jus
Foie Gras & Diver Scallop "Martini", Foie Nage, 30 year Balsamic, Potato Mousseline
Seared Foie Gras, Caramel, Macaroon Crumble, Gianduja
~Seared & Roasted~
Pepper & Sumac Seared Oregon Elk
Fingerling Potato "Boulangere", Squash Galette, Liberty Apples, Huckleberry Essence
Grilled Sheep's Milk Sandwich, Leeks, Truffles, Apricot Conserve and Potato Gaufrettes
Ancho Chili Panna Cotta, Chocolate Arabesque Croquant
Pumpkin Sponge, Melted Grapes, Banana Sorbet
Lemon Yogurt "Cremeaux", Strawberry-Basil Salad, Lemoncello Gelee, Mint Meringue
Manjari Silk, Caramel, Espresso, Pistachio, Pears and Olive Oil Gelato
Salted Caramels, Strawberry-Champagne Pates de Fruits, Olive Oil Chocolates, Macaroons


Microsoft Dinner...

last week we had an amazing opportunity to cook for a group of "distinguished fellows", 70 some-odd to be exact, which was orchestrated by a former colleague of mine, who used to work side by side with me at the Salish Lodge, many moons ago. Her in the front of the house, and I in the kitchen, it was a long-overdue time coming for sure! She now runs her own Event Planning & Management company and previously ran the Gates' Estate! Way cool. We started planning this event which was to take place at the club probably a month and a half ago. It started out to be a guest chef event with Bobby Flay and I, teamed up and some speaker to the likes of Bill Clinton or Tiger Woods entertaining the masses. Next...scrap the guest chef(bummer) and bring in Collin Powell. Stuffy most likely, but we'll never know. Nope, scrap that also. They settled on William Shatner, yes, that William Shatner. Beam me up Scotty(sorry, couldn't resist). The meal though was all mine. How selfishly happy I was, although I was extremely looking forward to cooking with Bobby. How cool would it have been to expose that level of celebrity-ism to us and visa versa?!? I offered some awesome alternatives like Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, Todd English. No bites. So, after a many weeks of planning, going back and forth with the Microsoft team, the event team, and our team, we entered into this hella~cool dinner which went down like this~
Ambiance & Mood~ a cool, sleek set of rooms set with leather furniture, bistro tables, candles, gold and amber linens, and the giant fireplace roaring.
Passed Hors d'Oeuvres~ Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Tartare "High Heels", crispy Ginger, Yuzu Aioli, Smoked Paprika...Maine Lobster "Martinis", Citrus, Mango, Golden Caviar, Spicy Langue du Chat Wafer
Fireplace Station~ Whole Lobes of Spice Rubbed Foie Gras, roasted in the embers until silky and with a nice crust of spice. Sublime! Served with a Cocoa Nib Financier, Wild Huckleberry Gastric and Cocoa-Caramel Powder. Freakin wicked good!...Also, Roasted Portobello "Pave" as a vegetable offering. Bobby would have loved it.
Fish Course~ "Trio of Seafood"...Potato-"Brandade" Terrine, Heirloom Tomato Jam, Boquerone, Red Endive, Smoked Paprika Aioli...Dungeness Crab Salad "en Oeuf" with American Sturgeon Caviar, Avocado, Chervil and Yuzu Foam...Crudo of Japanese Hamachi, Togarashi, Citrus, Radishes and Sea Salt. A very nice, yet complex tasting of fresh ingredients from "le mer".
Meat Course~ Fire roasted "Saddle of Lamb", paired with roasted Striped Sea Bass, grilled Lamb Sausage, Baby Carrots, Hubbard Squash, Truffles, Caramelized Onions and a Douglas Fir Essence. A bit busy, but good, solid flavors. Should have backed off on the ingredients, yet was not anticipating the sea bass. MS had to have it for their distinguished fellows. No worries.
Fruit & Cheese Course~ a composition of three cheeses and various fruit embellishments. Shaved Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, with Melted Grapes and Mostarda,...Cabecous Feuilles Chevre rolled into "Truffles" with Pistachios and Truffle-Apricot Conserve,...Raw Sheep's Bleu with Heather Honey and Marcona Almonds.
...then we followed by an hour long chit chat about this and that from our guest speaker; "Captain Kirk", we wrapped up the evening with the
Dessert Course~ Back to fire again! This time, dressed Bananas with Lemon and Brown Sugar, slow roasted to caramelize in the fire. This was accompanied by Pumpkin Cake, Warm Gianduja Pudding, Toasted Hazelnuts and Graham Cracker Crumble. Very tasty. Our Anti-Griddle Station was flanked to the side with various frozen nibbles and lollipops(Dark Chocolate, Caramel, Lemon, Yogurt-Elderflower). Mignardise flowed throughout the room which consisted of Strawberry Pates de Fruits, Olive Oil Chocolates, Hazelnut Macaroon & Mascarpone Sandwiches and Salted Caramels. As the evening wound down to a close, the overall consensus was that it was an awesome soiree. The food, the service, the rooms and the planning all came to fruition. The guests, who came from various points on the globe such as Paris, India, Dubai, and beyond, were stoked. Our team showed it's true colors. They rocked! I am one lucky guy. Until next time...in good food and cooking...cuisinier.

Gypsy...the Last Dance...

wow...it seems like forever since I last posted anything. I end up having a so many thoughts, yet so little time~ or so it appears. I know I only have as much time as anybody else, as there are only 24 hours in a day, and at times, it seems as if I use all of them for whatever. Over the last couple years or so, I have posted about my experiences of cooking at Gypsy...Seattle's underground cool eatery for the hipster foodies. A clandestine hangout for the sexy. An "atelier" for the insane cooks and chef's to present their craft to the few who come to dine. Well, this time, my reflection is about the dinner from a different point of view...as one of the foodies. The mastermind behind Gypsy(name purposely withheld), invited me to come experience the "Last Dance", or the last feast as it were, as a guest of his. I had never eaten his food and as colleagues and cohorts on several occasions, it was time. What an honor! The evening was amazing and very fun. We sat with another couple who we are friends with and one couple that we just met, which turned out to be quite pleasurable. The dinner started with some hors which were passed around and laid upon the "pass" in front of the dining room, then led into the plated soiree, heavy on Italian influences which were made possible via a very recent trip and which played out like this... A Diver Sea Scallop Tartare, embellished with Caviar, a Champagne Gelee, Nigella Meringue, dried Mango Powder and Umbrian Olive Oil~ a very unique chilled dish with subtle, yet fresh flavors. Next was a Cocoa Nib & Matsutake Consomme, rich with a hint of bitterness and garnished with a nest of ingredients whereas one would dip theirs into the "pho" as they chose. Raw shaved Foie Gras, Sweet Lobster Tail, Apples and Barley all played into the broth~ as one or as a sum of it's parts. Warm and wintery. A Hazelnut & Delicata Squash Fritter arose next with Persimmons, Bacon, Wilted Arugula and a 90 minute Duck Egg, which became a 90 second chicken counterpart as something went awry. Tasty dish nonetheless. Truffled Black Cod, or Sablefish followed with Duck Confit & Turnip Rosti (crisp potato cake), Mustard Cuisson, Chervil and some Italian Truffles. MMMMMM! Then, as somewhat of a tribute to some previous food conversations of he and I, was the Fire Roasted Foie Gras from the Brick Oven outside! Although as a lover of the fat, I wanted more, but a slice of the lobe was adorned with Garam Masala spices, Quince Mostarda, Thyme and toasted Country Bread. An intermezzo popped up as Green Olive Cotton Candy with Olive Oil Sorbet and Herb d' Provence Shortbread Wafer. I unfortunately did not receive a substantial portion of the candy, yet enough to taste the olive, albeit quite subtle. I wanted more! The sorbet was nice and the shortbread tasty as hell. Good times. Heading into round 2, we started with Fried Bone Marrow over toasted Brioche, with Parsnip and White Chocolate Puree, Aged Balsamic Condiment and Gremolata. Next was pure unctuousness...Maple Braised Pork Belly with wilted Escarole(a bitter green), grilled Mackerel, Raisins and Pedro Ximenez Vinegar. Rich yes, tasty yes, my kind of dish...for sure. By now many are feeling like they had had enough. The portions were a bit too big in my humble opinion. I always try to down-size the portions when serving over 8 courses, especially when exploring into the double digit realms. Onward. Local Seared Lamb Chop "crepinette", stuffed with braised Offal(innards) and wrapped with Caul Fat and served with Chanterelle-Farro Risotto, or Farrotto, Roasted Beets, Prunes and crispy Guanciale from Hector, or some such name of hog he had put under the blade. The stinker cometh! Washed Rind Talleggio, a richly tasting cow's milk cheese from Piedmont with White Truffle , Apples, Walnuts and Chestnut Honey. Tasty, yet not everyone's bag. Guess we'll keep the Epoisse under wraps for now. The next dish was a dessert taste of Honey-Olive Oil Sponge and Black Olive Caramel, Roasted Pear Sorbet, Porcini Streusel, and Chestnut Bubble Tea...a nice segue into the last bite of Ricotta, Espresso and Zabaglione Parfait, or somewhat of a alternative to Tiramisu...absolutely tasty! Caramel & Fleur de Sel topped the sweetness for a fab finish. Some mignardise were laid out before us we sipped and savored teas and coffees and consisted of pumpkin pates de fruits, lemon marshmallows, caramels and foie gras chocolates.

All in all...fantastic dinner. As a guest, I try to leave my critical hat and mind behind. As a chef, I can not. As I mentioned earlier, it was an honor to be a guest and to experience the dinner by eating it, rather than cooking, although I am not sure which I like better. That's insane. The meal fostered ideas and thoughts about my own cooking and food. It helped me to appreciate the Gypsy experience even more and more thoroughly understand what he was driving after. It made me re-analyze my portioning and flavor profiles and combinations. Sitting next to the guests in a communal fashion allowed me the opportunity to hear comments, see reactions and realize consumptions, something that being in the kitchen is not always accomplished. This was inspirational on many levels. My favorite dish...not sure, and although many flavors and tastes stood out along the journey, the dessert always has my heart. I look forward to the next page and chapter in the Gypsy book and look forward to cooking at them!


Thoughts on Food...

shaving fresh truffles over the branzino...

an alternate shot of the crudo...

That was the "heading of the moment" placed atop the menu for a series of courses yet to be unveiled to two guests of mine a week or so ago (we finally got the photos uploaded). This degustation of autumn was for a person I had met whilst a guest chef at the wonderful Foie Gras Dinner I participated in at Rover's Restaurant last spring, whom by the end of the meal, it was obvious that he was clearly into good food. An English gent...he had been a pastry cook at Bouley for god's sake! As Thierry, Jim and I and our guest sat into the wee hours of the morning talking about the dinner, the foie gras, food and restaurant life, I had mentioned to him if he was ever in town again, to give me a call as I would enjoy cooking for him again. I am always a sucker for anyone who is passionate about cooking and dining and wants to experience some cool food! So I get an email, and low and behold, it is Chris...letting me know that he will be in town with a couple days to kill to experience food and life and that he wants to have the best dinner in town and wants to dine at my joint. Always an honor for me. As I had some previous potential plans to go out of town with the family, I told him sure, but it would be with my team as I would not be in present...he accepted...he was in! Excited, I started to work on menu thoughts, combinations, juxtapositions of taste, layering of flavors and twists and plays on techniques. As I ruffled through my thoughts about 5 or 6 dishes, I knew I was going to be/have to be cooking his dinner. How could I miss this, if even just for two people, it is well worth it. This is what I do. It is who I am. It is what fuels my passion. The plans were placed on hold(the trip was still up in the air anyway). This was truly invigorating! Here lies what unfolded as some tastes I shared with him and his guest that evening...
Amuse part 1...

lobster, mango, avocado, sturgeon caviar, yuzu sabayon
Amuse part 2...

frozen foie gras lollipops, caramel, fleur de sel on a valrhona manjari block

hawaiian moi, heirloom tomato-ginger-evoo vierge, trout roe, fennel, orange, togarashi

silky lobster bisque with lobster, creamy corn cappuccino with crabmeat, duck prosciutto
and fragrant wild mushroom-pear consomme with pears, anise and truffle tea

braised short rib-potato-lobster mushroom terrine, foie gras mousse, endive, demi french breakfast radishes, red and gold beet tapenades, artichoke cream and walnuts

Seared Indulgence...
Seared foie gras tart, caramelized onions, figs, vadouvan butter braised bananas, PX

Pan Roasted...
mediterranean branzino, truffles, truffled pig's feet sauce, matsutake mushrooms, micro arugula


Seared diver sea scallops, "bacon & eggs", chorizo, micro leeks, lemon-chive essence,
micro burgundy amaranth

Refreshing & Frozen...
compressed granny smith apples, douglas fir sorbet, elderflower yogurt lozenge, tazmanian pepper, grated hot smoked salmon

a'la Plancha...(aka 2 Birds in 1)
marinated grilled quail, lobster mushrooms, anson mills polenta, truffles, roots and mustard jus
spice crusted muscovy duck breast, chanterelles, corn, bacon, carrot puree, chocolate

Slow Roasted...
peppered saddle of venison, cranberry confiture, cepes, olive short dough, cipolline onions
crosnes, micro celery, huckleberry sauce

"tranche" of fromage d'affinoise, honey braised quince, hazelnut oil caramel, heather honey,
hazelnuts, mostarda, micro greens


manjari chocolate, caramel, espresso, pistachio

pumpkin sponge, banana mousse, banana fritter, banana sorbet, chocolate crunchies

truffle macaroon sandwich, milk chocolate, pear sorbet

warm apple charlotte, hubbard squash, cardamom ice cream, apricot conserve


As things came to an unwinding finish about

1:30am(and 6 hours, 10 wines and 4 mignardise later)...

and after talking again about more food,tastes and experiences...

I once again had that euphoric feeling of personal satisfaction for taking care of someone

through my craft.

Sure, he had spent some cash on the affair, but that was so beside the point for me. I did it first and foremost for the love of cooking, which I hope was evident in my food that we hand-crafted for him and his date. I can only wait for my next opportunity to whom may be interested!