Top Chef in the House...

Wow...this week has proved to be simply wicked good! Food, many chef's tables, cool thoughts and a surprise special guest...last season's Top Chef Winner; Stephanie Izard! What started out as a normal Monday morning...bringing my son to camp, go to the post office, bank or some damn thing like that, ended up being totally awesome. It began with some uber loud music in the car...Godsmack...the faceless cd to be more exact. I love it all. It gets me pumped. It set's the tone and the mood for the day to follow. Exciting food, lot's of energy etc. You get the idea. Then, I get this call that Stephanie is going to be a guest at the chef's table. So, what do I do? DO I freak? Panic? Freak out? Hell no...I head directly for my great friends at Mutual Fish Company for some cool ingredients. Harry and Kevin and all the team there always take care of me. They are the best! The fresh daurade looks cool. I'll take it. Oh, there's some nice looking branzino. Ok, got it. Scallops...for sure. And...Oh My God...look at the live local Spot Prawns! The are the shit. Grab me some. Off to the club. As I am ordering some local chanterelles on my cell as I pull up, I already have a plethora of ideas. Here is what was planned and went down from about 330pm on...the mood was calm. The guests were scheduled in around 7pm. Kitchen team buzzing but quiet. No worries, we cook like this whether we have chef's in or our normal guests...everyone is important! The guests arrive with another local hero...Charles Smith, a wine producer for K Vintners in Walla Walla. Crazy hair and wild dude. Several other foodies who are anonymous for various reasons. Cool group. They are somewhat quiet and composed and into their own vibe at the moment. That will change. Hard to read actually. Not sure if everyone even knew what to expect. Did I? If it is one thing I do know...is that I am going to cook with our team and do it as best as we can with lot's of passion and love for the craft and to inspire others. Hopefully this was accomplished. The menu played out as this...

~snack #1~
House Cured Salumi, Truffled Apricot Conserve, Mostarda
~snack #2~
Frozen Foie Gras Lollipop, Caramel, Sea Salt
~amuse #1~
Chilled Santa Clause Melon "Boisson", Minted Creme Fraiche
~amuse #2~
Maine Lobster Salad, Avocado, Mango, American Sturgeon Caviar
Yuzu-Champagne Sabayon

"Crudo" of Alaskan Halibut
Peach Relish, Togarashi, Heirloom Tomato-Opal Basil Salad
Tomato "Toast", Blood Orange Olive Oil

Live Local Spot Prawns
Grilled with House Cured Bacon, Corn, Corn Nage, Shiitake Chips
Honey Bunches of Oats Crusted Foie Gras
Hazelnuts, Cacao Nibs, Apricots, Late Harvest Zinfandel Gastric
Frozen Yogurt-Fennel Pollen Lozenge, Elderflower Infusion

Pan Roasted Daurade
Fingerling Potatoes, Chorizo, Baby Clams, Olive Dust, Smoked Paprika

Seared Scallop & Foie Gras "Martini"
Potato Mousseline, 30 year Old Balsamic Condiment, Foie Gras Nage
Compressed Cucumber, Macerated Melon, Grains of Paradise, Cucumber Sorbet
Spice Crusted Squab Breast
Gingerbread Pancake, Compressed Cherries, Farmer's Onions
Lobster Mushrooms, "Claudio Corallo 80%" Sauce

Syrah Braised Painted Hills Beef Short Rib
Anson Mills Grits, Artichokes "Sous Vide", Grain Mustard Cuisson
Oregon Lamb Tenderloin "Sous Vide"
Cepe Seared with Sweetbreads, Chanterelles, Potato Gnocchi, Black Peppercorn Jus
"Street Food"
36 Hour Brisket, Spice Rubbed, Spicy Buttermilk "O-Rings"
Chimichurri, Chipotle Aioli, Smoked Salt
Lemon Verbena Shake and Lollipop
Olive Oil Sponge, Strawberries, Mosto Cotto
Valrhona Manjari, Peaches, Lavender Ice Cream
Salted Caramels, Blackberry Pates de Fruits, Bacon-Mascarpone-Macaroon Sandwiches
Spiced Bittersweet Chocolates


A Vintimate Affair...

Our ultimate "som" and wine guy; Chris came up with this cool concept to run a series of wine and food soires in the dining room a few weeks ago to feature some very unique tastes and pairings of food and grape. It is an opportunity for him and I to showcase what we do best and to provide for a more intimate setting of about 10-12 guests all revolving around this great marriage...enter Vintimate. The first was labeled as Beef & Bordeaux, second was Salmon & Pinot and this last one was Muscovy & Merlot. The worst is that I did not have my camera during the first two dinners. For the record, they all rocked! The guests loved the setting...small, intimate, informative, exciting, excellent tasting and creative on many fronts. Large format wine dinners can be fun, and usually are, but sometimes, something special gets lost when doing large numbers. For me, the food rarely tends to suffer, as I learned long ago from a quote from Daniel Boulud...whether the meal is for 10 or 10,000, just plan accordingly, have the tools and team to do it and make it awesome. That's my focus and I'm stickin' to it. But, in the end, mainly for the guests, it is just not as sexy as a small table of close friends or family to savor over an excellently crafted work of art and fine bottles of vino. The idea is that during the dinner, he will sit with the group and talk about the wine itself, the pairings, the food and why the two pair up really well in a great marriage of taste and texture. It allows the guests to learn more about food and wine pairings without the formality of a large format dinner or the sterility of a class room-style gathering. The creation of the menu begins as simply the heading and I run with it. I am sure that at times it drives him crazy(in a good way) cause my food is not always the easiest to pair wines to. Hopefully he and his team enjoy the challenge. Here is the menu and photos below for your own enjoyment.

organic baby carrot sorbet, mango, toasted coconut, carrot oil

seared diver scallop "martini"
peas, corn, house cured bacon, heirloom garlic-thyme emulsion,
caramelized garlic "twist"

spice crusted Muscovy duck breast, gingerbread pancake, chanterelles
caramelized fennel "sous vide", compressed cherries, oregano blossoms
"claudio corallo" sauce

tuma trifulera "brulee", pluots, hazelnuts, shiitake chips, truffled kettle corn
truffle-late harvest zinfandel vinaigrette

slow roasted heirloom tomatoes, basted in their own caramel & vanilla
lavender ice cream, olive oil sponge, raspberries, bacon praline, basil seeds, lav tuile

tomatoes being slow roasted and basted
with vanilla, bay, black pepper, brown sugar, honey and tomato water


Chef's Table Shots...

from tonight...
wild striped bass "chop", fingerling potatoes sous vide, spanish chorizo
charred baby octopus, green olive vierge

from monday...
grilled block island swordfish, farmer's squash, chorizo, tomato sofrito
marjoram blossoms, crispy shallots, jus de poisson

Over the last several nights, we have had a couple chef's tables that warrant some air time. Rather than post them in a singular fashion, and all in and of themselves, I am combining them as to show more of the transformation of thought as the week goes onward. For better or worse, it moves forward. There is no stopping the progression and motion of the food and the kitchen. The life takes on a form of it's own. When energy and a positive attitude are high, we excel. When we are moody, tense, or emotionally spent, the food suffers. There is no way around that. One can not be on top of their game if they are fatigued or not in the right mind. Try it...you'll see. Anyway, we felt good about the flavors and dishes presented within. Fun flavors, fun folks, fun times. Summer rocks...hope you can enjoy the passion as we do...
Monday's Table...
maine lobster "brulee" with citrus dressing, melon-heart of palm salad
honeydew melon "boisson", yogurt-elderflower frozen lollipop
fresh hand-cut pasta "threads", heirloom tomato, basil, dungeness crab
tomato water "vinaigrette"
honey bunches of oats crusted foie gras & scallop
hazelnuts, cacao nibs, pickled red onions, plums
~bouche revigorant~
mango relish, organic carrot sorbet, toasted coconut
slow roasted muscovy duck breast, peas, corn, asparagus, chanterelles
sweet corn emulsion, balsamic infusion
pan roasted loin of lamb, potato gnocchi, caramelized fennel sous vide
chianti jam, bittersweet chocolate essence
Tonight's Table...

spicy buttermilk dipped portuguese sardines

fennel-orange salad, chili aioli, fennel pollen, blood orange dressing

honey bunches of oats crusted foie gras, diver scallop, sauteed pluot

late harvest zinfandel vinegar gastric

spice crusted muscovy duck, gingerbread pancake, chanterelles, carrots

caramelized fennel, elderflower compressed cherries, oregano blossoms

"claudio corallo" sauce