Fire in Action...

Fire Roasted Black Bass~ laid right over the flame

Searing Foie Gras on a plancha grill

A few more shots of cooking "on fire". TK has Under Pressure, I have...On Fire! Just a couple other angles and nuances to get the feel of the flame. Hard to sometimes get the greatest shot as the heat was freakin intense (think about 800-1000 degrees) and the light of the fire gave my digital camera a serious run for it's money.

Seared Scallops a'la Plancha~ built a "kiln" of coals right underneath.
Freakin intense heat and awesomely hot surface.

Spit Roasted Lobster a"la Broche"

Black Bass cooking

The Burning Beast...revisited

“la cocina del fuego” for fire-roasted food junkies~ or so it is called for this outing…

And so it was, yet another night at the infamous fire pit, savoring the primal moment and cooking our hearts out as if in a land and time from the first dawn of man. Another wonderful and almost spiritual experience cooking over the blistering heat of flame and fire for the elite few who were able to dine there. In this case~ an auction package complete with a 7-course feast cooked entirely over the fire(with the exception of a few garnishes, condiments, and such) wonderful Betz Family Wines, beautiful ambiance and gracious service in a “one-of-a-kind” setting one could only recreate at home on a much lower scale. If you read back through the historic posts of this blog, you will discover various passion filled occasions of cooking over this beast of heat, and each one a bit different. The moods change…the weather presents itself differently…the group chemistry altered…the simple desire to cook the ingredients has transformed…and our evolution of skill as craftsmen working over an open fire has taken place. We learn through our mistakes. We take notes and think about the challenges as a cook when working in this type of kitchen…one without the luxury of space, crew, resources and equipment. We aspire to refine our work and do better as cuisiniers so as to continue to push forward and never settling for good enough, because it isn’t.

We set the stage on the hearth of this grand fireplace and created the extension of the “chef’s table” (in the kitchen) which by the way, was in full overdrive of it’s own last night, ran by our executive sous chef; Jim C. who had some wicked mojo of his own going on. Intimate, cozy, and warm. Exhilarating with passion and focus, the guests ate and drank as they watched this winter inspired menu unfold before them. We were “on fire” as we sweated through each wonderful course with the greatest of care and pride. There is nothing quite like this type of cooking and not one that you see every day, hell…not even once a year for most. I am too fortunate to be able to do this every couple months. Here is what transpired during the 4-hour feast~
For the reception, we passed some fresh baked Gougeres filled with Yellow Buck Camembert and Truffle Oil and some fresh Portuguese Sardines, which were dipped in buttermilk and spicy cornmeal, then fried and served with a little puddle of Yuzu-Fennel Pollen Aioli. Enter the degustation…

Amuse~ Spit Roasted Maine Lobster “Tournedo” with chilled Lobster-Citrus Salad, American Sturgeon Caviar and a Tangerine-Champagne Gelee

Warmed~ Braised Beef Short Rib-Horseradish Terrine, warmed Celery-Walnut Salad, Celery Root Remoulade, Onion Mustard Crème Fraiche and a Fig-Walnut Dressing

Seared~ Diver Scallops & Hudson Valley Foie Gras a’la Plancha, Fire Roasted Apples, Squash Sponge and a Butterscotch Caramel

Barbecued~ Black Bass, with Skillet Roasted Sunchokes, Cipolline Onions, Hazelnuts and a Red Wine Braised Frog Leg-Black Olive Sauce
Hearth Warmed~ Wild Mushroom Ragout, “Kiln Baked” Sweetbread-Tasso Sausage, Salsify and a Potato-Garlic Foam
Plank Roasted~ Douglas Fir Moularde Duck Breast, DF Honey Lacquered, Baby Turnips, Ember baked Fingerling Potatoes and a Wild Huckleberry Sauce
Potlatch Roasted~ American Bison Tenderloin, Cacao Nibs, Brussel Sprouts, Smoked Pecans, Celery Root Puree, and Blackberry-Smoked Chocolate Essence
Grilled~ Hazelnut Crusted Picandou Chevre & Delice d’Argental Cows Milk Cheese, Quince Jam, Preserved Bing Cherries, Poached Pears and Heather Honey

Fire’s Out~ Earl Grey Chocolates


Tastes of Passion...

"The Man" and I

That is what I experienced while dining solo at Kevin Gillespie's Woodfire Grill in downtown Atlanta. For those that are not in the know, Kevin was one of the final runner-up ass-kickers in this last season of Top Chef. Throughout the season, most everyone I know that was paying attention, commented on the fact that they all felt Kevin's cooking was honest, tasty looking, sincere, simple and full of his love of cooking and great ingredients. Although he did not win the final smack-down, many felt he should have. Each day of filming, he seemingly left the bullshit at the door and cooked his heart out. Sure, some others did, but it was truly evident in Kevin's cooking that he displayed much more of the passion, which ultimately is how I wound up eating at his restaurant just outside of the high fashion and falutin' Buckhead district, albeit in a bit of a risque and shady locale. But hell, it was all about the food, not what was going on the corner or in a parking lot. Passion, desire and craft exuding him, this is really what inspired me to dine there while visiting my new-found family in this huge metropolis in the south. It is all about working with local farmers, ranchers, artisans and fishermen practicing great sustainability and stewardship, and using the freshest ingredients in season for Kevin. That is how I roll as well. Since I only managed to land the last seat at the bar, as reservations were packed to the gills, I was not able to experience the ambiance of the full restaurant...no worries! Again, it was all about the food for me. I commented that I could be standing in the kitchen or leaning against the wall on the back loading dock to eat and have a great time so long as the food is stellar, which it did not disappoint. They have a nice ala carte menu as well as a nightly 5-course "blind" tasting menu in which the chef and kitchen team cook for you without you knowing what is coming next. I "sold" that to several folks around the bar who were a bit unsure and squeamish of that format but by the end of their meal, they were stoked! I told the server that I wanted the "treatment"...the full deal...the best! Since they would not tell me what was on the tasting, I simply said "make sure there is foie gras", and "I would like several other courses whatever the chef wants to cook and let's throw in a cheese as well". By the end, I also had added a signature octopus dish and a chocolate addition to dessert. 10 courses later and many great tastes, I was satiated, stimulated and mentally fulfilled. His and his team's cooking rocked. The beauty lied in the simplicity and execution of each dish with the utmost attention to perfection and taste. For those able to experience Kevin's cooking, I highly encourage you to to do so. You will not be disappointed. Here are the tastes of passion I experienced during the four hours of degustation that night...

Woodfire Grilled Pecan-Raisin & Rosemary Sourdough Breads
Herbs de Provence Butter
Carolina Rice & Black Eyed Pea Fritter, Collard Gribiche, Hot Sauce
(Elderflower-Herb Boisson)
Spice Braised Baby Organic Carrots
Sweet & Sour Cabbage, Currants, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, Carrot Coulis
Seared Georges Bank Scallop & Confit of Shrimp
Mixed Radish Carpaccio, Clementines, Olio Nuevo
Washington State Kushi Oysters
Pickled Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Cauliflower, Fennel Cream
"Liqueur Naturel"
Seared Sonoma Foie Gras
Toasted Brioche, Persimmons Puree, Braised Pistachios, Buckwheat, Chervil
(Grapefruit Juice, Cardamom Syrup, Bitters, Meyer Lemon Mocktail)
Woodfire Grilled Bobwhite Quail
Honey Glazed, Potato Emulsion, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Baby Fingerling Potatoes
Berkshire Pork "3 Ways"
Wood Grilled Loin, Fig Glazed Braised Belly, Pulled Shoulder & Cracklings
Anson Mills Farro, Caramelized Endive, Fig-Apple Puree
Chilled Octopus Salad Sous Vide
Hickory Grilled & Basted
Coleslaw, Crispy Shallots, Kevin's Own Terminus BBQ Sauce
New Zealand Windsor Bleu
Clover Honey and Honeycomb, Micro Greens
Apple Shortcake Bread Pudding
Roasted Lady Apples, Cinnamon Meringue, Apple Caramel
(Elderflower-Citrus Bitters Drink with Blis Maple Brushing)
Warm Dark Chocolate "Pain Perdue"
Pistachios, Cacao Nib Creme Fraiche, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Feuillatine


Mind Candy...

That is about the only thing that comes to my mind at this point of the food we cooked tonight for the chef's table as I did not take any pictures for you to see(eye candy), record any of the sounds for you to hear (ear candy) or bring home any of the tastes for you to eat(simply enough...candy!). SO, with that said, you will just have to trust me. Or not. Whatever. Tonight was the first chef's table we have cooked since before Thanksgiving. It was somewhat subdued, yet fun, tasty and hopefully inspiring for those around me. We ventured into some new ideas and thoughts, and yet at the same time reintroduced familiar ones. Here is the menu and how it played out...
Warm Truffle Custard "en Chemise d' Oeuf"
with Lobster-Salsify Salad, Edamame and Truffle Oil
"Winter Degustation"
Braised Beef Shortrib & Horseradish Terrine, Celery Root Salad, Candied Walnuts
Mustard Creme Fraiche, Shaved Celery...
Frog Legs Sous Vide, Braised Baby Turnips, Lentil-Foie Gras Composure...
Silky Parsnip Bisque, Walnut Oil, Chives
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Sea Scallops
Hot Pomegranate Gel, Savory Apple Crisp, Cacao Nibs, Poultry Jus
Almond Crusted Soft Shell Crab & Grilled Aussie Blue Water Prawn
Wilted Mizuna, Heart of Palm-Kumquat-Orange Salad, Yuzu Dressing
Shaved Fennel, Pumello, Preserved Ginger, Green Apple Ice
Cepe Crusted Loin of Lamb Sous Vide
Celery Root Puree, Hedgehog Mushrooms, Eggplant "Agro Dolce"
Thumbelina Carrot Glace, Syrah Salt and a Mosto Cotto Jus
Tasting of Chocolate...
Jivara-Praline "Pave" and Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream
Manjari Silk, Hazelnuts and Douglas Fir Ice Cream
various winter inspired garnishes


Last Bites of 09'...

Foie Gras "Two Ways"
Honey Bunches of Oats Crusted, Quince, Hazelnuts and Balsamic
Silky Mousse, Apples, Green Apple Mustard Vinaigrette

Here in lies the last parting bites of 2009 shot here and there on the fly while cooking for the masses. Some were part of a larger sum of a tasting...some merely for a special customer looking for a new taste...some just to satisfy our own hunger for creating something fun and tasty to energize our soul and to give our passions an injection of inspiration like morphine to a heroin addict. I only wish there were more of it. So this will have to keep your appetite sedated while we venture into the new year, until we figure out what to cook next! Happy New Year~
Spicy Crab & Bass Composure
Heart of Palm, Pumello, Yuzu Kosho Drizzle, Frozen Elderflower-Fennel Lozenge
Seared Sea Scallop, Leeks, Trout Roe, Potato-Garlic Ice Cream
Watercress "Bisque"
Warm Potato-Truffle-Bacon Salad, Truffle Dressing, Micro Celery
Succulent Lobster Bisque "Cappuccinos"
Hawaiian Monchong Sous Vide
Quail Breast, Pumpkin Gnocchi, Salsify Puree, Squash, Bacon Dust and Squash Juice
Seared Great Lakes Walleye
Roasted Quail, Butternut Squash, Squash Gnocchi, Bacon-Truffle Dashi Broth

Happy New Year...

To everyone the world over! May this new year be filled with happiness, prosperity, good health and the desire to create something exciting and with your heart and soul. This year has been a tough one on me personally and I could not have waited much longer for this new year to start! As I sit and sift through my magazines and books piled up on my desk that I never ever have enough time to get to during the holiday rush, I search for new inspirations and ideas. Concepts and thoughts that provoke others. Shades of flavor and nuances of texture. What do I want to do....? Start over. At any rate, the next few weeks will surely serve as a playground for those new ideas to surface and manifest themselves onto the menu or for special events, tastings and chef's tables. And to think...it has been now 10 years since the birth of Y2K! Man, how much has changed and yet really while looking back through time...not much at all. In good cooking...