Food For Thought...

Just two dishes that made up a culmination of tastes and textures from two different chef's table dinners at the end of the week. We were busy so the rest of the "family" photos of dishes and tastes went MIA. My bad. Bummer too, as there was some kick ass food, or so I felt. You will have to only imagine and conjure up your own images of culinary pleasure.
act one...
~wooley farms pork terrine en gelee, green apple mustard, compressed apple-walnut salad
~lobster two ways- chilled salad, ground cherries, golden caviar, lobster aioli and hot cappuccino
~seared "la belle farms" foie gras, spiced sumemr peaches, blis maple gastric, tea bubbles
chocolate-brioche "ravioli"
~ pan roasted soft shell crab, corn-bacon pancake, trumpet royale mushrooms, baby tomatoes
lomo, pea puree
~glazed pork belly & seared scallop with braised pork shank, gnocchi, quinoa, chanterelles
blackberry essence

act two...
~maine lobster salad, ground cherries, avocado, golden caviar, yuzu sabayon
~ fennel pollen crusted local albacore tuna, corn-bacon pancake, chard, trumpet royale,
pineapple sage essence
~ spice crusted american bison, honshimejii, corn fritter, glazed fennel, smoked tomato jus
~ wild blackberry "crisp"- hazelnut macaroon crumble in bottom, fennel blossom ice cream, warm blackberry and jus
~ plethora of sweets and treats...too many to list
~ mignardise- passion fruit caramels, marionberry pates de fruits, caramelized honey chocolates
lemon macaroons

Killer Pig Feast...

Earlier this week, we were in the midst of porcine heaven and all that is pig! We had received a fresh whole hog from one of our local farms and had been preparing many different degustatory delicacies from the beast presented in various forms and fashions. From roasted loins and seared tenderloin bites to sausages and sauces to braised bellies and slow roasted shanks! Of course, one would put up some sausage gems only to be savored later when ready. We had some little odds and ends, not much to be able to really feature a dinner around with the exception of for a few friends. I had just the two in mind...one couple who have been all about what we cook and what our culinary mission is geared towards and the other couple who are so immersed in good cooking, great ingredients and food and all that is restaurants per se. Since the amount we had left and the very nature of the cuts were such that we literally only had two of some items, it made sense to treat them with respect and have fun with them and let the pork shine. Here are a few dishes of what became our Woolley Farm's Pig Feast, or "hog heaven" as it were...

Sliced Salumi with various condiments

Head Cheese Terrine aka "Fromage de Tete en Gelee"
roasted loin, shoulder and head cuts, compressed apple-walnut-parsley salad
green apple mustard, saba drizzle, beet sorbet
Seared Sea Scallop & Slow Cooked Kidney
peaches, foie gras, hazelnuts, montepulciano vinegar and thyme

Spiced & Slow Cooked Pork Brisket
(aka "Corned Pork and Cabbage")
Napa Cabbage-Chanterelle-Quinoa Roll, Potato Puree, Silky Herb Nage
Crispy Soft Shell Crab & Glazed Pork Belly
"fried green zebra tomato", cape gooseberries, basil, trampetti olive oil
brandywine tomato sorbet, tuscan melon tartare, lemon verbena foam
Syrah Braised Pork Cheeks
hand cut pasta, honshimejii mushrooms, chard, truffle oil, pecorino

10-hour Pork Shanks
summer savory, garlic and black pepper rubbed
with artisan grits, tasso braised carrots, trumpet royale mushrooms
cabernet onions, 3 sauces
Sorbets and Ice Creams of the moment...
bacon macaroons, blackberries, elderberries, lemon, pistachio and lavender


Dinner with my Posse...

Last week I celebrated but yet another birthday. 20-something~right...ah yea, that's it! Actually, I do not have issues with my tender young age...some do I know. I don't really think of myself as being old(I am sure my cooks do) and I know my son's do, but what the hell...you are only as old as one feels, and I have always been blessed with the natural feeling of youth. I figure when it is time to move on, then so be it. Whatever...live your life right? ...and be appreciative of what you have, not of what you do not! At the close of the week, I decided that I wanted to treat myself to a cool dinner and so we chose to make an appearance at Spinasse, a trattoria & locale of fresh artisan pasta, or pastificio artigianale as it were. I have heard much to do about this place and how awesome it is. Hell, the chef; Jason Stratton is one of Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chef's just this year, or maybe last...no matter. I finally made the time to venture into one Seattle's hot spots. It is a nice, quaint little spot on upper Capitol Hill area...a new mecca for local hangouts and watering holes. It was reminiscent of times spent in Italy. The vibe...the feel...the noise and atmosphere...the hustle and bustle of the service and the sexiness of the whole place. I dig it! We sat at the counter in full view of the kitchen(cool for me). Upon arrival, we were presented with an amuse of chicken liver toast, with a drizzle of sweet balsamic or mosto cotto(hard to tell). I enjoyed it, and thought for sure my kids would turn and run for the door. They didn't, and in fact, they both indulged. My oldest ate and could take it or leave it. My youngest made a face. Figured that would happen. I was soooo impressed that they even got it to their mouths. Things are looking up. We started with several Antipasti...Trippa con ceci e fegato grosso...tender braised tripe with savory chickpeas, nuggets of foie gras and italian parsley leaves all bound in a light broth. Cool homey and rustic and fully reminded me of my trip to Tuscany. The foie gras for me though needed to be much more bountiful, but I understand that this is not what the dish was about. My loss as I just love foie. Give me more! We also had a plate of Soppressata con mostarda di Cremona...Fra'mani pork soppressata, flecked with pepper and hints of fennel and spice, with a mandarin mostarda. Tasty for sure, but I will put mine up against it any day. We also had a nice Porchetta tonnata...his version of a classic of chilled thinly sliced (by way of a Berkel) pork loin with tuna mayonnaise, capers and pickled carrots. Nice, subtle and rustic. For the Primi courses~ we opted for the ravioli di melanzane...fresh thin raviolis filled with eggplant puree, olive oil, hint of garlic it seemed and a light braised walnut essence, although a bit acidic and undetectable. Nice, but as an entree...the price was too freakin high. My youngest didn't care for it much. Second choice was the Maltagliatti con ragu di agnello...nice "scraps" of fresh pasta as it was described with a light lacing of lamb ragout. Nothing else. No frills. No baggage. As it should be. Very delicate pasta and tasty. Again...for the price of an entree portion I would expect at least a some extra love, and these were SCRAPS!!!! Staff meal comes to mind. Don't take this the wrong way though...I did enjoy the flavor and I am in full agreement about the cost of excellence and craftsmanship and skill of the chef. But...! I had the special feature of pasta(as an app-$12.), which was a light, summery fun Tajarin o burro e funghi...fresh hand cut noodles with chanterelles, herbs and butter and touch of light stock and wine. very nicely done and well worth the price. We then settled on sharing a Secondi course of Polpetti di coniglio...three nice size rabbit meatballs, wrapped in caul fat with roasted baby turnips, pickled horseradish(although I did not taste a single "hare" of it) and a few wisps of turnip greens in a light jus. These were quite tasty and probably the best thing we had all night, although all were nice. My kids ate it up. Maybe it was the recognizable comfort, maybe the fact that the pasta was not their cup of tea or maybe they just did to appease me. Either way, we enjoyed. Lastly, along with a espresso "naturel" we shared a gianduja and coffee bombe(frozen gelato dome) with dark chocolate crema, candied hazelnuts and white chocolate caramel sauce. What a way to round out a nice meal...a very tasty sexy tasting dessert full of chocolate. Word on the street is that one of pastry team who used to work for me is now there. Fitting and appropriately so. I can see it. All in all, it was very fun and very special to be hanging with my buds enjoying a special meal and celebrating a day of life. The cost was high, and I am questioning the whole thing, but that was then...this is now. The moral...need to get back to Italy for sure!


A Blend in the Vitamix...

I am calling this a blend cause' it is a culmination of tastes and textures from three consecutive chef's tables during the festivities last week. And how do we come across that blend...we throw our wonderful ingredients in the ever-trusty Vitamix only to unfold into greatness of smoothness and purity. For those that are not in the know...the Vitamix is our life-line in the kitchen. A heavy duty, kick-ass blender that cowboy's up every time without fault or failure. Now that that is out of the way, about the food~

There were many dishes concocted and all were based and focused on the luxurious and luscious bounty of the season. The sexy thing we call summer, albeit a bit on the down-low this year. Heirloom tomatoes...cucumbers...squashes...tomatoes...stonefruits...lavender...
verbena...blackberries...and did I say tomatoes? So here is a "picking" of what was new and inspired by the moment, and the peeps that graced us with their presence to experience our cooking at the chef's table~

farm-fresh watermelon, black pepper, baby yellow tomatoes, feta and olive oil

green zebra, american sturgeon caviar, lobster, cape gooseberries,
brandywine tomato coulis, bergamot oil

"degustation of summer corn"
warm corn-truffle salad, micro bulls blood, saba-walnut dressing
corn-bacon pancake, honshimejii, 30 year balsamic condiment
silky sweet corn soup. white truffle oil

marcona almond crusted foie gras, spiced peaches w/ mint & jalapeno
"caribbean french toast", blis maple gastric

rice crusted soft shell crabs, grilled yellow taxi tomatoes, lomo
castellvetrano olives, zucchini & onion stuffed squash blossoms
micro arugula, smoked tomato essence

brandywine tomato sorbet, lemon verbena, grains of paradise
tuscan melon tartare

porcini crusted american bison, trumpet royale mushrooms,
caramelized nectarine, heirloom garlic, potato-horseradish puree

manjari, cherries, lemon macaroons, caramel
corn creme brulee, blackberries, blackberry sorbet
lemon tart, white donut peaches
lavender ice cream, lavender "whoopie pie"

chocolate-hazelnut macaroons, blackberry & peach pates de fruits
chamomile & caramelized honey chocolates
passion fruit caramels


Kitchen Eye Candy 8.13.10...

Just a few things that took place this week and a few things that did not...

First, we received our long awaited new KOCH vacuum seal machine(some non-foodies may think big freakin deal-dont blame ya) which is hella awesome for us. The bummer is that we had to go find oil to run it and then we got too busy with cooking to use it. Monday for sure!
Secondly, we put up more cherries by way of canning for the fall and winter. Can't wait to taste em. We also got some new salumi working, which right now is the most killer time to have it take place as the humidity and temperature are perfect for ripening and fermenting. A few things that we cooked,(amongst many other lost souls who did not get "their" photo taken) were an uber-ripe apricot & almond frangipane tart, glazed with a vanilla-citrus syrup before slicing. Very tasty when served warm right out of the oven with a subtle toastiness and slight acidity! We paired them with stonefruits and cacao nib creme fraiche. Next was a fresh local peach & vanilla pates de fruits...aka fruit jellies. Smooth, delicate with a burst of summer on your palate! A nice finish to any tasting menu for sure! Our current summer lamb dish made up of sauteed potato gnocchi, haricots verts, sous vide fennel, and a turkish fig relish. Quite savory....and a feature of Atlantic Fluke(think nice flounder) with a savory Shrimp composure, pioppini mushrooms, chick peas, basil pesto "vinaigrette" and a refreshing scallop-lychee "salsa" on top. Lastly, was a small army of devils food cupcakes, topped & stuffed with a valrhona chocolate mousse, wild blackberries, an ethereal lemon macaroon, blackberry coulis, and a "veil" of "berry tinted" marzipan. The marzipan was apparently the guest of honors' fav so we obliged. Not my style, but hey...they seemed to love it. Basically, when it all boiled down...just damn good times!


Just Another Day...

It continues to amaze me the extent of how much emotion and state of mind can and will affect your cooking in a professional kitchen, and even at home for that matter. Tense days can bring tense moments in the kitchen for sure. Somber feelings can bring low energy levels and less than inspired dishes or it can bring light, new approaches to existing ones by means of letting go with no regard for structure. Anger shows it's head in a variety of ways, usually to no benefit at all and happiness and excitement can make the worst of moments become actually enjoyable. Our kitchen and myself are by no way immune to these natural ways of life and challenges. I am one who tries to bury all my shit inside and not let my personal stuff get in the way of my work...yea right! I can be holding in the worst and allow it to manifest itself into beautiful art that is full of life and emotion on the plate however. The shit does come out though. I am after all...only human. I try to always think of my team first and hold them in the highest regard and put myself on the back burner for a while...just to make it through the week...the shift...the service and this one last dish! My emotion and inner chaos or happiness(depending on who's up to bat) exudes itself into flavors. I pair this of course with whatever metal I may be listening to in my head, which is stemming from the 30~minute drive in to work each day, all the while being riveted with decibels of destruction from my car stereo. The reason to this post is simple...it clearly states that we as chefs are human and all of life's obstacles that are thrown at us affect what we do and it is reflected in our food. The pain, heartache, lust, loss, glory, fear, stress, happiness, sickness, passion, despair, anger, love and hate, excitement, depression and joy all make their way onto the plate in some form or fashion. Some good...some bad...some so-so and some get filed for another day, only to reveal itself in some potentially unexpected way. Tonight, I was fortunate in that, although I have been dealing with some very deep personal baggage, we were able to pull off a very successful 5~course dinner that really rocked! Our team did very well and frankly impressed the hell out of me. We have not had a dinner of this type in a while and with everybody's personal state of mind being what they were(god bless) we executed very smoothly. My own emotions brought my focus to a plane equal to that of a calm body of water with lots of ripples on either side surrounded by high ocean swells. What it did was allow me to stay focused on the objective, keep a smooth clean perspective and have the fire and intensity from my inner demons to drive it where it needed to be and keep it sharp. This is just a glimpse of the dishes that were crafted tonight for about 75 special peeps based upon that inertia of chaos...

fresh shucked penn cove oyster, "shiro's" marinade, fennel-rhubarb mignonette
spicy calamari cones, chipotle aioli/heirloom tomato-basil gazpachos
halibut ceviche rolls, yuzu, togarashi, daikon, preserved ginger
veal sweetbread-morel terrine, arugula, fig relish, 30-year old balsamic
"corn three ways"
warm corn-honshimejii salad, corn-herb pancake, silky corn bisque
truffles and truffle oil
seared diver scallops, chive potato mousseline, caramelized garlic
bacon-hazelnut confetti, peas and blis maple-bacon fat dressing
local citrus basted grilled albacore tuna
tunisian cous cous, grilled abalone mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, olives, sriracha aioli
green apple mustard rubbed american bison
anson mills polenta "fries", farmer's onion marmalade, charred peach-hyssop relish
artichoke-pine nut sous vide, pineapple sage-huckleberry essence
"flavors of summer" anniversary cake...
raspberry, litchi, lemon verbena, white chocolate, elderflower, olive oil