5 Days in Mexico...

Carne Asada, Tripe, Corn Tortillas

Asado Master in Action

A trip like no other. Not in such a culinary sense (although I tried to make it one) but in a spiritual and godly sense. A group of teens and adults ventured to just outside Tecate on a mission trip to build a house for a less-than-fortunate familia. It was an eye opener for sure. We, as Americans, do not know first hand what it is like to truly suffer and try to survive. To have to wonder if our children will die today because of no food or water, or to have to sit idle and watch as our dog passes away from malnutrition and only to be left for the rodents and maggots to dispose of. I write that obviously without knowing few(if any) of you, so I apologize if I stand corrected, but in a general sense, we do not. Our community that stands alone as one under the bridges, begging for food, grabbing a blanket when they can, sleeping in alleys, yes are less fortunate and out of luck and down. We feel for them and try to help. But they are really living like kings compared to some of what I have witnessed. In a few words...appreciative, fortunate, blessed, those are descriptors that have now become a more prominent vocab for me. I was brought up that way, but living in this wasteful society we call the U.S., it is easy to become desensitized to it. I will leave you with that visual for now. Ok, now about the food...we were fortunate to be able to stay at a nearby ranch in Tecate before travelling about 30 minutes towards the job site each day and this where the couple who managed it cooked for us all, both breakfast and lunch. Tasty, home cooked meals with a lot of love and passion. Fresh made corn tortillas and several salsas every meal. It was the bomb! Tomatillo-Jalepeno-Cilantro...fresh Tomato-Chile de Arbol and Cilantro...Pico de Gallo...Chipotle-Poblano! Very good. We ate carne asada, braised beef and chilies with rice, spice roasted chicken with fiery adobo sauce. We were loving life for sure. Then there was chorizo, huevos and salsa with charred tortillas~ Simply awesome. We ate like this for four days while we rose, devoured, worked hard, played, dined for dinner, praised and searched our souls for an understanding and comprehension of what we saw each day. By then of our work, it was very emotional. To see the look on the family's faces when we turned over the house to them, was priceless. Tears of joy were running freely among the group. for us, we accomplished a mission, a commitment, a journey...for them, it was like Christmas a hundred fold. Our last night was spent in town at a local taqueria called taqueria Dumas. Crazy good! Out of control tasty. Our asado master was in true form and practicing his art without sigh or complaint. In the restaurant industry, it is not uncommon for the cooks to get bent or become bitchy when a table of 34 walk in un-announced. For him, it meant he could perhaps buy his wife something nice, afford another piece of meat, have his cooks stay an hour later, or simply take that financial edge off. We were ordering from everything they had on the menu...burros, tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, and the like. The flavors were freaking intoxicating. I started out with a quesadilla sensilla(cheese and cilantro), tacos cabeza,(literally head, with cheeks, toungue and eye balls, grilled, roasted and chopped with spicy sauce, chilies, avocado and cilantro) Not their best flavor combination, but still very tasty and besides...I could not travel to Mexico and not try this! Tacos campechanos(made with carne asada and grilled tripe mixed with avocado, chili sauce, and spices and fresh corn tortilla) a very hearty taco indeed and extremely tasty,... tacos adobadas (spicy marinated and slow cooked pork tacos roasted on a rotating barbecue of sorts with tomatillos, avocados, cumin, chilies and fresh corn tortillas. I went back for seconds as did everyone as they were probably my favorite. The chica making the fresh corn tortillas was cool She would roll the masa, stamp and grill then pass them to the amigo on the grill who was busting out the tacos faster than we could order. At one point, he called for some reinforcements but in an instant, had it under control. Fascinating. He had a warm welcoming look on his face and one that inspired the group. He was "at home", making people happy with the art and love of his craft. We should all be so fortunate. A quick glimpse of what we ate and experienced...

Condiment Bar...hot & spicy!

the Team...

Adobada, aka roasted marinated pork. Crazy Good Eats!

Chica on Tortilla Duty...

fresher than fresh


24 Hour Brisket part 2...

Came in today with a bit of down mood due to the dryness of the brisket, but feeling stoked at the new opportunities. We tasted it again to review the dryness I was implicating and low and behold, after 60 hours or so in the walk-in, the meat had thoroughly rested and maintained it's rosy red color. The flavor was still freaky, crazy good and the glaze was superb. What we found though was that ti was not as dry as it was that night when hot. It had reabsorbed it's juices. When in it's cold state, it was tasty for sure, but the flavors were not as pronounced. Sliced thin, then popped onto the plancha for merely seconds, this allowed the fat to render slightly, then this became an entirely different beast. Moist, tasty, succulent and very flavorful. It is destined for a warm spicy sandwich for sure. As for the future experiments, we will still move forward as that is what we do, but we will not discard the latter so quickly mind you. I have rekindled my thoughts and ideas as to what it may produce in a very positive way. Stay tuned for future results.


24 Hour Brisket...

The thought conjures up visions of slow roasted goodness. Succulent mouth watering luscious meat...tasty and tender with flavor abound. A crust and texture that is simply out of this world. That is what we sought out to achieve. We started with a marination. Not as long as would have liked as we were pressed for time(a problem from the start) with the weekend approaching and we were not going to be around. We used a dry rub with some liquid goodness...the whole gamut from chili powders, cumin and coriander, garlic and mustard, cayenne and a plethora of herbs and aromats along with Worcestershire and Tabasco. This was applied and allowed to set for only 3 hours. Then at 6:30pm into a 155 degree box it went with the addition of a slathering of ground coffee, ancho chili powder, chipotle, smoked paprika and garlic powder. The idea was to go nice and slow for 24 hours just as we do for our shortibs or shanks, shoulders etc. A tough cut for sure and one that could withstand the tenure and provide for the nice crusty and flavorful result as one experiences in a nice southern barbecue. Each hour or two, I applied a special "mop sauce" concocted of cider, vinegar, sugar, honey, mustard, herbs, spices and such. Here is a recap of notes made whilst researching the process...
7:30pm- not much difference at all.
8:30pm- basted. Smells great already!
9:30pm- departing for night. Box holding steady at 155. Feeling good.
6:15am- Jim in to take a peek. Smells awesome. Basted. Has developed a nice crust and caramelization around meat.
9:30am- more basting to be done. Temp holding steady. Tough when probed with knife. Would seem like needs much more time to tenderize.
11:45am- not much new to report. Baste again.
2:30pm- 20 hours in box. Great aroma and caramelization. Getting very excited about this endeavor. Want to taste it. Still tough, with some signs of give on ends.
4:30pm- Again basted. Not much different to report. Still somewhat tough.
6:30pm- Can barely keep myself from removing and slicing into it. All cooks coming to see and smell.
7:30pm- 25 hours in the making. Why still tough? Smells great though.
8:30pm- last baste(no more mop sauce). Putting out a banquet. One more hour to allow fro ample tenderization.
9:30pm- Pulled brisket. Looks beautiful. Smells out of control, freakin crazy good. Rest 25-30 minutes or so while cleaning up.
10pm-ish...slices wonderfully. Exterior is beautifully sexy. Then, the major bummer....it is dry. How could this be? It was slow cooked at 155, so as not to put undue stress on the cell structure. Nothing to extract all of it's moisture by excessive heat. This may be my last journal entry as I am not sure about eating it as the internal heat temp took some time to achieve even 130. If so is to be, then I hope it tastes great.
Taste Notes- the crust was caramelized and moist and thoroughly superb. If only the rest of it were in this realm. The meat actually tasted good, but just so damn dry. Dry like one left a tenderloin in a 375 degree oven for an hour, but very moist on the outside. So frustrating, yet exciting about learning about a new process. Sure, we have slow roasted many, many things in the past with stellar results. Braised beyond belief with the same outcome. Here is what has come to mind to look towards for the next experiment...second brisket subjected to an initial brine to allow for more moisture retention and cook for same amount of time, third brisket subject processed the exact same way and only allowed to cook for half that amount of time(recalling an excerpt from T. Keller's book "Under pressure" about even though a piece of meat can be kept at a low temp, it can still overcook, even though it is not overcooked). I am hesitant to increase the heat level of the box as I do not want to rupture the cell walls. I also know that when we braise shortribs for 24-48 hours, it works very well. Is it because the amount of collagen and elastin are far greater and superior to that of the brisket and thus ends up being a more moist cut? Is it due to the lack of a brine, which I know to be of great benefit when cooking poultry and other cuts? Why is our brisket for corned beef when boiled so nice and slow, and yet it tenderizes in the just under boiling temp a better outcome and at a fraction of the time? This will become the test to find out. I am hopeful that either the brining, the less cooking time, the temperature (if allowed to increase) will show signs of positive growth. So...two days later, feeling fine personally, yet disappointed emotionally. Only in the sense that we failed at that attempt. I enjoy and seek the ability to be successful on the first time of any project I take on. That is my nature. And yet, the drive and devotion to my own success is to persevere and strive to achieve that success in an accomplishment of the project itself, even if that means doing a billion times!


Wine Lunch 05.15.09...

A new day...a new dish. Not ground breaking or earth shattering, hell...not even really that intellectually inspiring for me, but when all said and done, damn right tasty! The flavors were wonderful, from the smokiness of the bacon to the richness of the sweetbreads and sweet nuance from the peas on the salad to the very hearty and savory terres major brushed with mostarda, an unctuous ragout of shiitake, onions, garlic chive crema and veal juices to the ethereal decadence of the Claudio Corallo chocolate tart and dulce de leche ice cream. Sounds like fall you scoff...perhaps. A few bites and you wouldn't care in the slightest. Ok, now back to Spring!

Salade Lyonnaise "Facon du Bouchon"
Poached Dog Mountain Farms Duck Egg, Bacon, Crispy Sweetbreads, Pea Pancake
and Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes in a Bacon-Sherry Dressing
Mostarda Brushed Terres Major Beef
Cipolline-Shiitake Ragout, Farro Risotto, Pecorino, Fava Bean Tapenade
and a Garlic Chive Essence
Claudio Corallo 75% Bittersweet Chocolate Tart
Compressed Rhubarb, Oranges, Dulce de Leche Ice Cream, Smoked Peanuts
and a Toasted Coffee Shortbread Wafer


A Play on Modern Mexican...

Enter Cinco de Mayo...yes, it is over. Long gone as it were. Past forgotten but a memory. A taste of what was and what could be. In short, it was fun, exciting and an experience. The flavors of traditional Mexican cooking is one of warmth and beauty. It has soul and body. Sexy to say the least. That is what I love about it. I could eat it every day, or so I believe. I never get tired of the flavors and boldness of the spice used in their cooking. So...when given half a chance, I use my own experience, skill, craft and love of cooking to create my sense of the modern approach to that culture. I am not traditional nor true to form, yet honest and passionate. I do not claim to be authentic by any means, nor do I want to be. I try my damnedest to give it heart and if nothing else at all, great flavor. That is paramount to our success as cooks. This was my attempt at modern Mexican. Sorry amigos if it is not to your standards, but this gringo played his own gig!
Frozen Spicy Avocado Lollipops
dipped in Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt
"Tortilla Soup"
Sea Scallop Ceviche, Shrimp a'la Plancha, Jicama-Red Onion Salad, Avocado Oil
Cucumber Gelee,Tomato Powder
and a Rich Tortilla-Cilantro Broth poured Tableside

Halibut Cheeks Sous Vide
Braised Pork Shoulder, Rice Bean-Tomatillo-King Trumpet-Pigs Feet Sauce
Scallion Coulis, Chorizo Dust

Beef Cheeks "Mole"
Banana-Poblano Empanada, Cotija, Yucca Puree, Cilantro Steeped Hominy
Mango Salsa, Smoked Peanut Crumble and Ancho Oil

Cinnamon Bunelos & "Chocolate a'la Taza"

Preserved Cherries, Claudio 70% "Gravel", Dulce de Leche Ice Cream,

Coffee Shortbread, Cherry Jus


Only as Good as Your Last Meal...

This statement holds truth for many. If we are passionate about our craft and we strive to do the best we can, we are only assured of just that~ that we are committed. There are no guarantees. No certainties that we will be the best at what we do, or any absolution's about the food we create. We merely push ourselves to do our extreme best...to soar above and beyond our own expectations, higher than any of those set by our guests, with an aim to set the bar higher than we know is obtainable. If we do this with committed persistence, and push ourselves into that realm, knowingly, we are falling short or our mission, yet in so doing, we tend to exceed our guests levels of expectations...sometimes. If we do not, then we are only second rate at best. We are judged by our competencies and levels of execution every day, every shift, every meal, and every ingredient. This is(and what should) what drives us to do better than we did the day before. From this experience, we learn and grow and hopefully, become better cooks and people from it. If we listen to our guests, we expand even further and with a humble sense of professionalism, we can do better. Our proof is in our work. Our last meal served. This menu was ours. Hopefully, we will have at least come close so that we know what and where we need to improve upon tomorrow.
Ahi Tuna Tartare & Avocado "Ravioli"
mango, beet oil (not pictured)
Diver Sea Scallop Ceviche
Cucumber-Lime Gelee, Compressed Cantaloupe, Shaved Marcona Almonds,
Meyer Lemon Dressing
Hawaiian Monchong-Potato Sandwich Snack (not pictured)

Duck Breast Sous Vide, Foie Gras Fondant "Brulee", Pea Pancakes, Rhubarb, Pea Ice Cream, Peas & Carrots with Lovage, Pea Boisson, Ramp Oil
Maine Lobster & Orange Mojo
Pan Roasted Monkfish, Grilled King Trumpet Mushrooms, Pineapple Sage
Coconut Emulsion


Fennel-Grapefruit Composure, Cherry Granite (not pictured)

Oregon Beef "2 ways"...
Oregon Country Tenderloin, Caramelized Onions, Morels, Salsify

Syrah Braised Painted Hills Short Rib

Green Lentils, Artichokes Sous Vide, Claudio Corallo Chocolate Essence

Warmed Brebirousse d'Argental
House Preserved Bing Cherries, Hazelnuts, Truffle Jus

"A Light Bite"...
by demand, a light degustation of sweet
Rose Geranium Milkshake, Cuillier aux Fruits
Apple Salad, Apple Sorbet, Caramel
Poached Pears, Chai Sorbet, Florentine

Chef's Table 500...

chilled duck breast sous vide
compressed rhubarb, oranges, lovage, hazelnuts, English pea ice cream,
chive blossoms, crispy salsify

I wanted to just take a moment and say thank you to all of you who have helped me throughout the years since we started the chef’s table program back in February 2001. I realize that many of you reading this have never or will never experience it, but to those that have, this is mainly for you. With only 3 tables under our belt by the end of the month, we started out quite slow and only and strictly by word of mouth. It was not mass marketed,… not publicized in the newsletter,… not auctioned off for all to expose themselves to,… and certainly not done without passion and team work. By the end of that year, we had only reached a total of 29. Well, the passion has not stopped and the team has changed, however, we have expanded our marketing efforts a bit. We have publicized the venue, albeit not too much other than my foodies data base and we do auction it off to various organizations. That is how we grow, both as a team and as an organization. The chef’s table is not any different. What was once just an idea has now grown to the remarkable milestone of 500 with tonight’s gathering of passionate diners! It was quite special really. I wanted to share this with you as the chef’s table has been a major source of proud importance and significance to me, the kitchen team, the service team and the club as a whole. We must never lose sight of the fact that we have created and developed something so unique for our members and their guests in this community. It is like one more notch in the club’s belt for being that special place in the city for them. Here’s to looking ahead to the next 500! Thank you.

This was actually an email I sent to our team thanking them for all of their hard efforts and work to create such a great thing. By some standards, 500 in that amount of time would be chump change, but I have always felt it is not the sheer numbers, but the extreme quality that exudes from it. If you can do 10 covers great and only 10, then that is what you focus on. Granted, one might go hungry and broke, but you know that 10 customers went away feeling great about what they experienced. At any rate, it was a special chef's table gathering, a special accomplishment and damn tasty food. Here are a couple shots from it...
muscovy duck two ways
seared foie gras, honey bunches of oats, cacao nibs, hazelnuts, pears
duck breast salad

chilled duck breast sous vide- alternate angle