A Menu in Time...

This time. The time is now. It is of the moment...and it was good. I have written many a time about my inspiration and focus of the conceptualization of a dish or menu and it is amazing how often that the inspiration comes from who's coming to dinner! It is not that anybody is better than anyone else. Hell no. As we have said, or at least thought throughout our budding careers as young cooks when someone has said "hey, Mr. X is coming in and he is a VIP" and the typical reply usually is..."everyone is VIP"! I get that and support it, and now as a chef, preach it and demand it. But...there is a little something extra special that happens when a guest comes in who you either know well, is a very special customer, or is a major foodie that truly is all about your cooking which sends you into a different realm. It inspires. It drives. It provokes thought. It stimulates and excites your ideas and senses. It pushes you into the challenge of doing something special and out of the norm. It brings out that inner cook in us that was made present as young cooks working on the line to just do whatever, without thought of food cost or labor cost, without the mindset asking us is it proper or not, or even, the notion of holding back because that might not be what they want, but it is because it is what you want to cook for them. I love it when that happens for me. It is, well...inspiring. Here is a menu from a recent chefs table dinner in which that culinary spiritualism took place. I hope you can enjoy the inspiration of our cooking in which to stimulate your own.
~amuse du soire~
chilled maine lobster salad "en oeuf"
mango, avocado, american sturgeon caviar, yuzu-champagne sabayon
(not pictured)
chilled asparagus-potato "vichyssoise"
black mission fig-lonza skewer, shiitake dust, chevre de cremier
trampetti olive oil
copper river salmon belly "crudo del fuego"
beet tapenade, shiso, english pea-orange mint salad, aprium ice, horseradish crema
bergamot dressing
honey bunches of oats crusted foie gras
hazelnuts, cacao nibs, poached rhubarb, brown butter-balsamic vinaigrette
(not pictured)
seared diver scallop & veal sweetbreads "porridge"
truffles, house bacon, fava beans, fregola sarda, morels and madeira jus
"bouchee revigorant"
heart of palm "ravioli", plum confit, lemon verbena, wild elderflowers
elderflower compressed cucumber sorbet

cumin & coriander rubbed loin of lamb "sliders"
frozen yougurt lozenge, "greek style" baby tomatoes, fennel, basil, olives
and caramelized garlic

heather honey lacquered breast of squab
baby zucchini puree, porcini mushrooms, pork cheek ravioli, pea blossoms
and a pineapple sage jus

lemon pudding cake, rhubarb, plums, rhubarb sorbet, langue du chat
local strawberries, pistachios, grains of paradise, goats milk gelato
passion fruit curd "refreshment"
valrhona manjari silk, caramel, espresso, sapote ribbons, sapote sorbet
praline milkshake (not pictured)
spanish olive oil chocolates, strawberry pates de fruits, bacon caramels
hazelnut macaroon sandwiches
(not pictured)


A Vegan Experience...

Our chef's tables at the club are a special thing. No doubt about it~no denying it. It is where one can really experience a work of art in taste, texture and flavor come to fruition created by those that are passionate about their craft and happy to create for those that are into food and eating. We have done a handful of completely vegan chefs tables in the past and for sure a bunch of vegetarian as well, but most are full-on protein, dairy and richness! But this one was all about the vegan approach. I embrace it always...why not? Some chefs cringe at the thought. Some despise the notion and some run for the damn door. I do not understand it really. I have written about this concept before a few times and as a chef, I am baffled by the thought of being intimidated by it, or worse, just not wanting to cook for them at all. I get excitement by it...the sheer idea of being able to create a dish or in this case a 9-course menu with only vegetables and their counterparts, is a cool invigorating challenge. Our dishes on any menu consist of a protein or two-ish and a plethora of supporting vegetal actors, all in which contribute to the overall flavor of the dish and the success or failure of them. How can we as chefs look away from using beautiful, farm grown, hand harvested, loved and nurtured vegetables as a component in harmony and sum of it's parts or as a focal part all on their own? I do not personally eat vegetarian or vegan at all...I love pork, fish, game, cheeses and dairy, but I understand the argument to eat without. I do not discriminate, but rather encourage as our team is all about the art and love of cooking, and without prejudice. That doesn't mean I don't get irritated in the middle of a large event or service and after 45 minutes into the meal, service tells us that there is a vegan in the crowd and now we need to back track and start over. That shit sucks for sure. It is like an allergy issue...tell me up front when you make the reservation or at very least when you walk in the door so we can plan it, not when you have already eaten the first course or two and then speak up and say "by the way...I am allergic to nuts", oh yea ass hole...and you just ingested two different types and now better stick yourself with the epi-pen on the way to Swedish! I realize that veganism is much different, but respect is the crucial detail. Maybe that is why so many chefs freak on the deal. At any rate, we enjoy it...we embrace it...we do pretty damn well at it. Here is the last menu from the chef's table we cooked for some special folks, two of which being non-vegans. They loved it!
heart of palm-carrot "ravioli"
chayote squash-shiso roll, citrus, macadamia "rappe", red ribbon sorrel
bergamot oil and a yuzu kosho dressing
roasted beet salad
truffled apricot marmalade, pear-pistachio "lollipops". chervil, beet oil
"tasting of local asparagus"
chilled "vicyssoise", potato water, trampetti olive oil
warm salad, radishes, shaved hazelnuts, shiitake chips and mostarda
hot risotto, roasted portobellos, smoked olive oil drizzle
"hot potato noodles"
tunisian cous cous, peas, fava beans, truffled silky tofu nage
"bouchee revigorant"
lemon balm compressed cucumbers, cucumber-mint sorbet
grilled zucchini wrapped firm tofu
eggplant agro dolce, morels, white bean-garlic scape stew, mosto cotto
glazed artichokes "sous vide" and walnut oil
sauteed lacinato kale & corn composure
braised baby leeks, potato "vapeur", grilled oyster mushrooms, balsamic
and crispy salsify root
dessert symphony
chocolate sponge, hazelnuts, macerated cherries, chocolate sorbet
rhubarb-pecan crisp, rhubarb sorbet, olive oil
local strawberry-mango "napoleon", basil, feuille de brik
rosemary-almond brittle, aprium jellies, avocado-chocolate frozen lollipops


The Memory Remains...

OK...so I ripped it off of Metallica! It is a killer song and this was a killer food experience and one that literally has been in my memory since childhood. Picking fresh mussels on Puget Sound and eating them fresh is a wonderful thing~ one that everyone needs to experience at least once. My late mother used to send me down to the beach in front of our little humble abode and ask me to pick the mussels off the rocks and bring them up to her to cook. She would show me how to (painfully it seemed) clean them diligently and gently before doing so. Pull from the rocks and clusters...wrestle the beard out of the shell...scrape off the barnacles...soak and purge in cold running water...soak and purge again...one more time...and then, the magic started. She would take onions, garlic, thyme and other various herbs like fresh parsley along with white wine and/or vermouth, butter, and bring to a gentle simmer. Then, she would toss the mussels into the pot and cover while cooking gently over moderate simmering heat. Shaking the pan often and removing the lid periodically to see how things were going and to stir the mussels, then she carefully would remove the little beauties as their shells would open. Into a large bowl they would go and when all had opened, she would pour the fragrant and flavorful broth into the bowl for dunking French bread into as we ate. It was always just her and I...a special ceremony and celebration of food, taste, and togetherness, collectively sharing this special and memorable moment, and one that I will never forget. I miss her greatly. So, it is with this wonderful memory in mind that I shared my childhood experience with some friends and my sons last Saturday as we picked fresh mussels from the beaches on Whidbey Island, and then I proceeded to show them how the special process is done. For this outing, we must have harvested about 15-20lb. of the black bivalves(we could have gathered hundreds as there were a plethora around). Although the process of cleaning, soaking and debearding and general cooking is the same, I altered the recipe a bit...this time, I sweated minced shallots, ginger, lemongrass and garlic in butter and olive oil. Once softened, I added fresh thyme and tarragon and deglazed with chardonnay. As it simmered and reduced slightly, I rinsed the mussels once more. To the pot, I added a can of coconut milk and brought to a simmer. I let it reduce by about a third and added the mussels, covered the pot and simmered gently until the mussels opened their little shells. Lastly, I seasoned the broth and added a couple squeezes of siracha for heat and flavor. The aroma and smell of the sweet mollusks and aromatic broth was intoxicating to say the least, and eating them was not any different! It brought back many memories as we polished off the entire bowl in a matter of a few minutes. My mom would have been proud. Good times.


Some Kind of Voodoo...

On a recent road trip to Portland flanked by my posse(my two great boys), we found ourselves stumbling around town looking for something cool to check out. The city, though vibrant was packed with too many peeps and no hotel room to be found, except one, a cockroach haven and that was not how we were rollin. What we did find was an interesting phenomenon...this city has foodies! I always knew it, but never saw it as I did this weekend. It started with a line, literally a freakin line of food trucks, trailers and carts filled with everything from killa quesadillas to big ass sandwiches to phat burgers to whatever one desired. Tacos, sliders you name it. What I also found, while trying to find a damn place to park as I cruised through a somewhat seedy looking part of town, similar to that of say skid road, was another line...one of people, wrapped around the corner from this red door 50 feet plus long! What the hell was this I asked? We ended up continuing onward as we needed to secure a domicile for the night and I didn't want to have to drive back hundreds of miles to do so. This was about 9pm~ musta been a club with a bad-ass band playing killer jams. Damn...kids aren't 21 yet. The next morning, we venture back into the city hell bent on finding some good eats. We found ourselves looking to park and there before us was that line again. Man I thought...this reminds me of my youth standing in line to get concert tickets for Motley Crue or Van Halen. I pulled over and followed the line to the door. Here stood this small red door in the middle of a large brick wall with just a moderate sign above reading: Voodoo Donuts. We made our way for the back of the line. You did not have to ask us twice as we were totally into it. This was the place where Anthony Bordain traveled to, or so I believe. It took us over an hour to get in, with much overdone hype from others in line and some realistic advice from others. This was cult-ish! Kids, babies, Birkenstock wearing hippies, drugged out from the night before, rockers, both metal and punk ready for a fix to curb their cravings and addictions. Us??? basically the same. All I could envision was bacon donuts! When we entered, the person in front of us told us, don't bother reading the huge sign of offerings, as they do not carry all of them, only what is in the case for the most part. Good thing, cause it was hella-overwhelming. Too many and the line started to rush, as it would when the doors opened at Iron Maiden and one would have to kill their pint of booze in time before the bouncers frisked ya. Good times. We settled upon the bacon-maple bars, fruit loop donuts, "old dirty bastard"(a chocolate-peanut butter and chocolate donut, bazooka gum topped cake donut and a few apple fritters. All were ok and basically novelty filled with literally and figuratively childhood memories, except the fritters. The apple fritters were warm, huge, grease laden and scrumptious. Unctuous and full of flavor and oozing with goodness. The bacon was tasty, and who doesn't love bacon? But, I figured it would be filled with bacon and maybe bacon in the batter, and hell...bacon fat in the maple glaze??? Hoping really. That is how I would have made them, and do when I go that route. Slow rendered, still moist, but slightly caramelized. Folded into the batter, swirl in some fat and black pepper and aged maple. Damn, that would have done it. But no, just a piece of overcooked and hard, dry bacon laying on top. The flavor was good, but the wait in line didn't do it justice. Still all in all as we journeyed back north to Seattle, it was cool to munch on and think about how I would have made them, and what I do if I had a killer Voodoo Donut Lounge. There's food for thought!