In Search of a Cure...

Sweet Coppa, Tuscan Wine Cured Salami, Chorizo Riojana, Fennel Sopressata
Bresaola, Coppa Basilicata-Style

17-month aged Prosciutto
sweet, luscious and naturally "funked"

Sweet Coppa...black pepper, white pepper, thyme, garlic

Most are aware that October is National Cancer(breast) Awareness month. It is good to be aware. Good to be searching for something that will lead us to a better tomorrow. As it were, I have personally been affected by this hellish and f'd-up disease they call cancer. Lost my great inspiration; my late mother to it. Lost my father to it. Lost a handful of close friends and relatives to it. I know there are thousands of folks working on a cure. God bless them. God help us all. This post is a tribute the them and to all who have loved and lost. Enter a different search for a different kind of cure...the cure of pristine meats known to some as the lovely sexy word salumi. To the rest... it is just salami. As a devoted salumist, and one who has been exploring this art and craft for years, I relate a lot of my mission and dedication to the search of my own perfection and prison as that of a doctor working hard at finding the cure for cancer. You are constantly hard at work in a never-ending search of perfection. Trying to "get it right". Trying hard to get "a little farther" to make a difference. Committed only to something better, more refined and closer to the "end" than before. Like an addict who is desperately trying to reach a higher plane by gettig a better high...one needs to realize they may just not find it. Not to get off subject matter and in the spirit of those great medical researchers...sure the hell don't stop trying! Here are some of the latest pieces that are ready that tasted phenomenol and litterally kicked our asses in taste and texture. And now...the search continues.

Autumn Eye Candy...

A Tribute to Thierry Rautureau of Rover's Restaurant and every other great French Chef...
Scrambled Eggs, Lobster, Truffles and Creme Fraiche with Brioche-Chevre "Croustillant"

Porcini Seared American Bison, Hazelnut-Horseradish Potatoes, Fig Jam, Corn-Bacon Beignet
Matsutake Mushroom, Wild Huckleberry-Douglas Fir Essence

Pumpkin Sponge, Malbec Pears, Caramel, Maple-Pecan Ice Cream
Jasmine Pots de Creme, Spice Tuile
Pumpkin-Praline Ice Cream & Chocolate-Ginger Whoopie Pie Sandwich, Quince
Dark Chocolate Manjari, Huckleberry-Citrus Composure, Pear Sorbet

Citrus-Fig Salad, Fennel Pollen, Spicy Cool Citrus Boisson, Blood Orange EVOO

Torched Atlantic Fluke "Sashimi", Beets, Compressed Apples, Chili Threads, Walnuts, Bergamot Olive Oil Dressing

Spice Crusted Hawaiian Opah Belly, Scarlett Runners, Squash, Chanterelles, Cipolline Onions
Wild Mushroom Tapenade, House Cured Guanciale, Sherry Jus

Seared Sonoma Foie Gras, Pickled Pears, Cacao Nibs, Pear Gastric, Pumpkin Crouton
Anardana Broth(dried pomegranate)(not pictured)

Ok...more food porn...here is some here and the now that is taking place in the kitchen this fall. It is about flavors and tastes...textures and ingredients...methodology and technique. And of course...it is about having fun and fulfilling your passion and dreams as a chef. I am thankful for the gift that has been bestowed upon me for my cooking. Not because I feel myself to be good, (hell...I'm just a lucky cook) but because I love what I do and that I enjoy making others happy! Hope you enjoy the visual. Happy Halloween Weekend!!!


This Little Piggy...

OK...I am sure some of you (the squeamish, faint hearted, or just lightweight foodies) are seeing this and asking yourself; "how cruel" or saying "this is just wrong", but freshly roasted suckling pigs are damn right tasty! We do not get in the baby piggy's that often and so when presented with an opportunity and the honor to cook them, we jumped at the chance! How cool is that for a chef. I am sure there are many chef's who cook them all the time. We do not. We cook other things~ baby goats over a roaring fire...whole lobes of foie gras...potato-truffle dinners...beautiful fish and basically whatever the hell we want. We had a guest ask us if we could prepare and present a special suckling pig with various accompaniments. Here is what we provided...silky wild mushroom "bisque"...creamy pumpkin risotto, tuscan evoo, shaved pecorino...artisan salumi(sweet coppa, spicy coppa, sopressata, tuscan wine salami, antelope andouille, prosciutto, spanish chorizo, spicy italian "chorizo", lomo, bresaola)...cougar gold cheese...cider cooked lentil salad...slow cooked piggy's...seasonal farmer's vegetables...bourbon-orleans mustard jus...dark chocolate molten cake with brown sugar brulee. The sucklings were the show stopper though~ all the cooks and staff alike stopped by the table when we were stuffing and trussing them to see what they were about and to snap a quickie on their i-phone to send to a friend or significant other whom they knew would be probably grossing out and retching at the site. Whatever. We started with a rubbing of evoo, kosher salt, cracked black pepper and thoroughly embraced the inner cavity. Then, stuffed with apples, onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano, trussed and tied...we were ready for the oven. We started them this morning at 8am by a quick "skinny dip" in the deep fryer, then slow cooked at 200-225 all day long in the oven. Around 430pm or so, we started to baste with melted fats and moved into a hotter oven at 325. At 5-530, we basted some more with fats and started a "lacquer" of cider and back into a 350 oven until very succulent, fragrant and luscious! Hella good. So, out it came at 6pm and into a holding box to finish the lacquering. Broken down, it was out on the platter for ravaging by 730pm. As we sliced the sexy tender and delicate meat from one of the carcasses for presentation, we could not help but to nibble on what had became sheer heaven.


Sexy Heirloom Beans...

At least that is how I see them. They are very elegant and sexy. Long legged and voluptuous in nature. In a word...beautiful! Enter the Scarlett Runners~ We usually only see them in a dried form from various a staples supplier. They are quite cool in that state as well and we enjoy using them during the cold fall and winter months when the NW is somewhat barren in its offerings. But, from a few select special sources, we are able to get freshly harvested shelling beans, which then become the hearty legume once they are dried. We use them fresh in this case though. Granted, they still need to be cooked low and slow for a while to become softened as they are not able to eaten right out of the gate. The husk is hard and tough. The bean has a skin, which is unpleasant and it is chalky and firm. But...when you give it some undivided and well deserved attention, nurture it a bit on the stove and add some love in the pot, you will be greatly rewarded and reminded of why this bean is so cool.


First Taste of Fall...

roasted beets, smoked salmon, golden caviar, horseradish creme fraiche

seared foie, scallop, pumpkin flan, cipolline onions, maple "brulee"

Fall is definitely upon us here in the wonderful NW! I love it. It is my favorite time of year to cook. The mental soothing pleasures of a good braise. The warmth from a hearty stew or ragout. The aromas and tastes from savory roasts and sautes. They are heavenly. From woodsy wild mushrooms to flavorful fish and crustaceans...from ethereal earthy legumes to tantalizing pungent truffles...from toasted nuts and natural grains to sexy silken chocolate~ I love them all. They play such an important role in my cooking this time of year. It is somewhat bi-polar though in that, in the summer, we are in the middle of "fresh-from-the-garden" season and yet we start thinking and fantasizing about the fall. In the height of winter, we long for springtime. In the spring, we can not wait to get into summer. We are never pleased and typically always impatient when it comes to food. That is the life of a cook looking forward to what he or she will prepare next. It is the passion inside that fuels our fire. The fall is intellectual and sensual though in my mind. It seduces you. It lures one via an avenue of warmth, feelings of closeness and a sense of relaxation and comfort. Even in it's most modern preparations and presentations, it can still be simple and bring you to that state of nirvana that we so love and are in search for, yet usually rarely achieve. Here are some shots I took recently at the chef's table and various dishes going out...enjoy and raise a glass to the season!
duck confit terrine, pears, walnuts, arugula, crisp shallots, fig vinaigrette
seared sailfish, corn pancake, leeks, lobster essence, chervil
pear sorbet, sous vide pears, grains of paradise
seared american bison, artichoke puree, caramelized garlic, huckleberries
parsnip jam, savory squash cake, bittersweet chocolate jus


Simple Pleasures...

Every once in a while, you come across something so simple, so minimalist in nature and so damn basic that you almost laugh at the very thought of its existence. If you blink, you may miss it. If you think too hard about it, you lose it. If you over think it, you f#*@ it up. If you just relax and enjoy it, well...you enjoy it! This is one of those items for me. For those that know me well in the kitchen, you know I tend to try to push it when it comes to ingredients and compositions of such. I enjoy simple when I eat most days, when I am just seeking mental soothing, total comfort and palate bliss. But when I cook professionally, it does not give me the stimulation like that of something more complex, more intricate, with more layering of flavors and sensory arousal. It doesn't turn me on. For me, it's like music...if I am just lying around on a cold, quiet night being brain dead and scanning various a cookbook looking for random acts of culinary goodness to contemplate, then a mellow, cool, simple tune will do, but most of the time, especially when I am awake, I want it loud, hard, fast, and full of aggression! Push it or go home right??? Otherwise, why do it. To each his or her own. The point of this post other than to convey my views on the simple is to offer up one of my favorite simplistic bites in the fall...here is a tray of warm, glistening, spicy and sweet pumpkin seeds delicately balanced with a savory edge and intoxicating textural element. Simmered first in butter, garlic, habanero chilies and arabic spices for the making of a flavored butter to cook with then fried crisp, tossed in sea salt, white pepper, sugar, and cinnamon. Tasty treats. In a word...Simple!


The Quick and the Dead...

Here it is, and now it is gone. That is how a dish can appear and then disappear in a blink of the eye and in the passing of a moment in the kitchen. One moment, you are looking at a dish and then it whisked off to the dining room only to be devoured by our guests. A good thing of course. As a cook working on the line, you may be working on a precise task, or series of dishes of your own and totally focused on the technique at hand and only catch a quick glimpse of another cook plating something you deem cool. You stop what you are doing and you make your way to the pass and off it goes. You ask your contemporaries about what it was, they shrug..."it was this and that"..."shoulda seen it...next"! Back to your station to keep going. Maybe you see the next one, maybe not. Next time pay attention and haul ass over before it departs. Having your camera ready at the pass and remembering to take the damn picture is another thing in it's entirety. If I had a dollar for every shot I missed simply because I was engulfed in the dish itself...well, let's just say I could probably retire! Seriously though...it is a discipline like any other. Here is a shot I actually was able to capture before it was lost into the depths of the abyssal thralls of dining pleasure...


Taste of Argentina...

Sorry folks...no photos. Bummer and lame as well I know. Just imagine the flavors though as I describe them. This post is not so much to entertain but to inspire! We had the great opportunity to cook a wine lunch Friday for a group of folks who were sampling some interesting Argentinian wines and making some comparisons to Napa, Australia etc. I so enjoy the warm, sensuous flavors of Southern Hemisphere cooking, and having dabbled in it a bit in S.A. interpretations in various menus, I went at it gladly and with passion of course! for the first course, I wanted to present an empanada, yet perhaps with a slightly different twist than that of being placed merely under a lamp with some plain dipping sauce. The dish was Roasted Saffron Milky Cap Mushroom & Fork Mashed Sweet Potato Empanada with Smooth Goat Cheese Coulis, Roasted Local Fuji Apples with Thyme, Chives, and a Black Mission Fig Vinaigrette. A couple drops of smoked Paprika Oil finished off the composure. The next course was a meaty yet very tender shoulder cut called a Terres Major. Billed as Chimichurri Brushed Terres Major with Silky Yucca Puree, Malbec Braised Heirloom Garlic, Banana-Jicama Relish, Smooth Date-Sherry Essence, Sea Salt and Crispy Leeks. A slightly tart and unctuous marriage with nuances of headiness and savory. Add a smathering of sweet and a dash of spice~ tasty! The "Last in Line"(pun in honor of one of the late metal gods: Ronnie James Dio's all time fav hits!-a few of my crew should enjoy this)...was a Roasted Pumpkin Sponge Cake with Malbec Poached Local Butter Pears, Candied Pumpkin, Mocha Creme Fraiche, Dark Chocolate "Fudgesickles" (more like Dove Bars they were...freakin tasty as hell though), Pear-Malbec Syrup and a dusting of Toasted Almonds and Ancho Chili finished off the ensemble.

Where this is all heading I do not have a clue. It is really just about sharing and trying to inspire others, just as what is done when cooking for friends and family. To share something that is special and/or personal to one with another is a great thing and a gesture that I try to do often. It is not just about putting any gathering of ingredients together on a plate for the sake of a meal or in my professional case to make money(although this is a business right?) yet about the gift one gives to another. I have always felt that the act to give or the motion of giving itself is a huge part of me and something very wonderful I inherited and/or was passed down from my late mother. For this I am ever grateful for. I really believe this is why I entered into this crazy business, have been as successful as I have...my spiritual calling if you will. Regardless, to make people feel better by preparing a special dish or meal is what I aim to accomplish and only wish more could experience what giving is all about. Sadly...some will never get it.


Wherever I May Roam...

Grilled Diver Sea Scallop
Green Zebra Tomato "Pave", Pedro Ximenez, Truffle Oil, Truffles
Herb Spatzle "Carbonara", House Guanciale, Black Pepper, Porcini and Parmesan Emulsion

and the kitchen is my throne...we adapt to the unknown(or die of course)! You know the rest of the song... Sometimes, I never know where an ingredient will take me. I let it roam where it may. I have written about inspiration many a time. I enjoy the privilege, freedom and ability to allow myself to wander and roam in search of a concept...a flavor...a vision and a taste. At the chef's table, this is the vibe that has lead me to this state of nirvana hundreds of times over. There is no rhyme or reason other than for the sake of creating great food and allowing my passion to be brought to the forefront in search of and for the purpose of kicking ass on the plate and for the palate! Of course, there is always structure, form and fashion as well as a strong discipline and foundation to craft the dishes based on technique and philosophy, but that is a given. Some day...we may just get to where we are headed...yea right! Here are a couple dishes crafted lately that didn't make the last post...

Seared Arctic Char
Braised Rainbow Chard, Roast Corn-Bacon Pancake, Apple-Thyme Jus de Poisson
Herb Oil


Shot of Addiction...

little tastes of sumthin sweet...

chocolate-hazelnut macaroon "napoleon" with pluots, corn brulee,

nectarine-almond tart, root beer float

fresh alaskan halibut cheek composition...different version
pumpkin custard, porcini, hazelnut, pedro ximenez, hazelnut oil, chanterelles

seared foie gras, cape gooseberry-walnut conserve
cacao nib stuffed french toast, coconut foam, honey bunches of oats
Or is it adrenaline? Don't they both tend to fuel a fire from deep within? For me, they sure the hell do. One is my poison, another a source of stamina and sustenance to survive the other. Have taken a few shots of both recently and wanted to share them with you all. Hope you can enjoy and appreciate as much as I try to create that for all...
bresaola of the moment~ ready and tasty to eat!