Friday, December 24, 2010

Resolutions and other urban myths (maybe a word on character)

With the new year fast approaching, people tend to think about resolutions. I happen to be one of them although I cannot for the life of me, remember one that I have kept. Quit smoking...NOT. Go to the gym...ha ha. But, I think this year is going to different. I believe that I will commit to a New Years' Resolution that is attainable. One that, I believe is monumental yet so basically simple that ANYONE could achieve it without even trying very hard.

I vow to purge all of the crap out of my life. To rid myself of all negativity. To get rid of anything that can bring me down or just plain ruin my day. I vow to stop letting others dictate my mood on certain days. They are my days and my moods and I will have complete control of them.

For reasons beyond my own comprehension, I have, in the past and occasionally, allowed other people to dictate my life to me. That is hereby OVER. Other than my children (who have complete control over me. hehe) there is NO ONE so important that I cannot say 'no" to.

And now a word on Character.

I have always tried to conduct myself in a way that is upstanding and truthful. Granted I have slipped, hard, from time to time but for the most part I concider myself to be a pretty decent guy.

There are people in my life who are not and I am sick and tired of having to deal with them. My father taught me to be honest in business as well as in my personal life. It is sometimes a struggle but I think people who know me and know how I do business would say that I am the guy who almost always takes the "high road". I will let the others around me deal dirty, lie cheat and swindle. I may not always (perhaps never) get rich this way but I will go to bed every night with a clear conscience and sleep very peacefully knowing that I tried to do right by the people that I deal with every day.

My father also taught me that a handshake is as good as any signature on any document. I know that lawyers will disagree and that I am REALLY naive in that aspect, but it is who I am and it is something that I am proud of. I could not bring myself to swear any oath and lie. I couldn't bring myself to blatantly lie to someone just to win something or get ahead of someone.

Now I am no saint. I am VERY FAR from perfect and God knows I have told my share of lies. I'm bad at it and I have always been found out and they have always blown up in my face. I have also learned my lessons from these mistakes and have tried very hard not to repeat them and hopefully that says something about me. or not. Whatever! I am who I am, and if who I am is someone who gets taken advantage of, abused in any way, or hurt, it is my own damn fault and I will deal.

The point I am trying to make here is that I hope to instill some semblance of good in my sons. To teach them the difference between right and wrong. To teach them that they MUST be honest with people they deal with and that this is NOT a winner take all life. It is NOT all about who dies with the most money or property or equity. I will teach them that it is far better to be respected than to be feared. That it is better to live your life with a clear conscience. That it is better to leave this world knowing that people loved you and remember you for the good in you. Not for how much of an asshole you were.

What will you teach your children? How will they remember you? What will be your legacy on this earth?

I have known quite a few men with character far beyond what mine will ever be. I have great respect for these men and much admiration. I can only hope that my sons turn out more like them and I will name a few of them now. If you know them then you will surely agree. If you don't, beat a path to their doors and introduce yourself. You'll be better for it

Richard Sagar
Ron Guntert
Jerry Butterfield
Douglas Bradley
Larry Jaffee
Richard Bellof
Jeremy Gray
Damon Burke

Ther are many more than would fit into this space but these are the few that come to mind at this late hour. If I missed you I apologize You know who you are. (trust me they do and wouldnt admit it anyway)

Happy and prosperous new year to al of my friends.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wine dinner and other random crap

After last minute prep day, the Stagg's leap wine makers dinner was a great success. Guests feasted on Seared Blue fin tuna with compressed melon and Panganisian Sea salt - A salad of fresh summer fruits with a poppy seed and lime dressing (big hit) - Sous vide Dover sole scented with Tahitian vanilla and served with compressed Greens - Prosciutto wrapped Quail and a dessert of Raspberry injected chocolate pots du creme. (The wine wasn't bad either! hehe)

My halibut dish is a big hit and I think I'm gonna menu it for my upcoming summer menu revisions. It is Roasted with clarified butter and finished with a saute of heirloom tomatoes and asparagus with basil and Arbiquina olive oil.

Speaking of heirloom tomatoes, Mine are taking off like wild fire. The sweet 100's are growing like crazy and I have been harvesting about 2 pounds a week now, for the past three weeks.

The Brandywines and Green striped ones are starting to come in now and it looks like I'm gonna get about 30 pounds of them. Crazy. The ones I've picked so far are like sugar bombs. Really tasty
Sadly, I only got 1 artichoke and that was anemic at best. Better luck next year I guess. Almost as bed as the corn. Not being a professional farmer, I think I left the corn on the stalks a week too long and the corn I managed to pick was dried out and tough.

On a lighter note, Gabriel has gotten his front, top two teeth and has also found his tongue. Pretty freaking funny to watch him play with his tongue while he crawls around. He sticks it out and wags it a lot. Being 17 years since Zack was that little, I forgot how fun this is. I'm a dork, I know, but babies are an everlasting source of joy for me.

Next wine makers dinner is with Grands Amis. If you can make it to this one, you will have the privelege of hearing Jonathan Wetmore speak about his winery and about Lodi wine. He is a dynamic speaker with a great passion for Lodi wine. His wines are fantastic and I'm going to have a very special menu to pair with it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pine Ridge Wine Dinner

So...needless to say, we blew the doors off this place Monday night with our fourth wine makers dinner. Pine ridge is a formidable winery with a great selection of Napa juice.

The first course was a fantastic way to start off the evening. A chilled salad of julienned scallops. I dressed the cut scallops with a Welsh sea salt that is infused with Tahitian vanilla, Spanish Olive oil, sherry wine and ground tellecherry pepper from India. I then vacuum sealed it and cooked it in my circulator, for an hour and 10 minutes at 128.7 degrees. The result was a phenomenal texture with a slight vanilla undertone that paired great with the Viognier. I finished the plate with lightly dressed micro herb salad, gelled mango and a pineapple and cane sugar gastrique.

Second course was, again, chilled. I wanted a cold soup but didn't want to do the 'normal stuff'. So, typically, I bit off more than I thought I could chew with this one. It was a chilled and deconstructed version of Avgolomono. Chrystal clear and perfectly jellied chicken consomme that I flavored with lemon and thyme. Sous vide cooked chicken breast that was quite buttery. Soft cooked quail egg (148 for an hour and a half), and puffed rice. Worked out perfectly with the Chardonnay.

Third course. With the Merlot I decided to go 'game". I made a duck confit that I flavored with a little coriander and nutmeg. pulled the meat, mix it with chopped Amarena cherries and marcona almonds. Wrapped it in caul and roasted the crepinettes for about 30 minutes. finished it with a macadamia croquant for a little crunch and a demi infused with blackstrap molasses. The molasses and the Merlot were perfect together

The fourth course was a bit extravagant. Kobe tenderloin, simply roasted, with a red onion marmalade, simmered wild mushrooms and roasted Heirloom potatoes. finished off with a Cabernet glasage and it went with the Napa cab. Nice pair!

For dessert I wanted to do a 'Mina" style trio dessert with strawberries. So...strawberry pain perdu, layered with roasted strawberries and a strawberry liquor, Strawberry compote flavored with amaretto, Fresh strawberries macerated in Cane sugar and vodka, and a clarified strawberry consomme shooter in an aperitif glass.

Next one is Stagg's Leap...July 6th Be here or you'll, again, have to just read about it!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Salmon and stuff's that time of year again. The Alaskan Copper River Salmon season is opening up and we will be getting some of this "perfect' salmon in starting this weekend.
For those of you who don't know, Copper river king salmon is, to me, the best salmon on the market all year. For 12 hours about 500 boats are allowed at the mouth of the Copper river to net what they can and then it's done. The fish is fattened for it's impending swim upstream to spawn and the flesh is firm and pink and oily and delicious. Wonderful stuff. It is also about twice the price of "regular salmon".

We started our "family style" dinners last week, with a successful fried chicken dinner. Those who came (and there were quite a few) raved about the new concept. Check us out every Monday night this summer. Next week is BBQ night in honor of Memorial Day.

Pine Ridge Wine Makers dinner is scheduled for our June Event. Check out the website for details on times and $$

On a personal March I planted 13 various heirloom tomato plants, 2 "Sweet 100' tomatoes, 12 corn, 5 snap peas, red bell peppers, jalapenos and artichokes. Last weekend the girls and I picked our first tomatoes and they were like candy. Its gonna be a home grown caprese summer at my house this year.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Farewell Old Friend

Short and sweet today...I am a VERY sad chef. I was in Los Angeles over the past weekend and was terribly saddened to hear of the demise of one of my favorite places in the city.

The Cook's Library is closing down after 20 years of serving chefs, home cooks, and collectors. I used to go there at least once a week and they received about a 20% share of my weekly salary. Other than Kitchen Arts And Letters NYC, no store that I have EVER been to carried the extensive inventory of books on and about cookery. I am sad to see them go.

You should know that it was a sign of the times. As I walked down third street, in West Hollywood, just past the Beverly Center, I was struck by all of the "For Rent' signs. approximately 1/3 of the storefronts are closed along that strip of land. Sad.

Now where am I going to spend all of my cookbook budget?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Books You Need

After writing last weeks tome, I started thinking about books. I mentioned Joan Roca's book and, believe me, this is a book that any chef would be crazy not to own.

Let me say that I own approximately 700 cookbooks and books on and about food. I have read every one of them and have gleened unfathomable knowledge from them. Those books are my school, my hobby, my apprenticeship and my part of my passion. I will leave them to my children.

Anyone interested in cooking as a career or as a hobby will have a certain number of their favorite books that they constantly refer to for recipes or inspiration. At this point in my career and with my experience, I still refer to my library for inspiration on either presentation, product or technique. I'm lost without it.

It is in this vein that I offer the "list".

Escoffier - The bible of cooking. EVERY chef has it

Larousse Gastronomique - runner up to the Escoffier book. Again, Every chef has it.

Jacques Pepin's La Technique

Julia Childs' French Chef Book

Art Culinaire - Quarterly publication that is vital to any chef wanting to learn what all of the top chefs in the world are creating NOW. Fantastic stuff!

My last supper - Melanie Dunea. What a great compilation of "Last meal choices" by some of the worlds' best chefs

ANYTHING that Charlie Trotter writes.

Again, ANYTHING Rick Tramonto writes. This man is probably my favorite chef in the U.S.

El Bulli Cookbook by Ferran adria. Of course it'll set you back about $400 (and there are three of them) but it's money well spent. I recommend that you use your Ecomonic stimulus money for this one.

Alinea - Grant Aschatz. Art on a plate

Of course there are hundreds more but these are, in my opinion, the essentials. Happy shopping!

More Stuff: I am working on my next submission. Should be done in a couple of days. Last week I went to a Prosciutto party. No...we didn't eat it...WE MADE IT!!! What a great day! I have photos and a play by play. Lots of fun.

200+ for valentine's day so far. Should be a fabulous night.

New menu is rolling out after "V" day. I'll keep you up to date on that as well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cuit Sous Vide my quest to perfect the everyday average chicken breast I have come to the conclusion that Sous Vide is the way to go.

For those of you who don't know, Sous vide is a cooking process whereby a product is cooked, in a vacuum, for a VERY long time At a VERY low temperature. This process keeps the product tender, moist, quite soft in texture, and locks in flavors that might other wise leach out in "normal" cooking processes. There is a whole chain of chemical and physical events that the product does (or does not) go through with this process but that is not important here. Whole books are dedicated to this cooking method so if you need to know more I recommend that you pick up a copy of Sous Vide Cuisine by Joan Roca. It'll set you back about $150 but it is money well spent.

So, back to the subject at hand.

I marinated a 12 oz chicken breast in a little soy and sesame oil for my first try. (when you vacuum seal proteins like this, the marinade is forced into the product at a much faster rate so long marination is unnecessary) After vacuum sealing the breast I cooked it at 158 degrees Fahrenheit for about 2 hours. Then I plunged it into an ice bath to rapid cool it. When I was ready to serve, it took just a few minutes in the broiler to bring it back to temp and I sliced it for presentation.

Let me tell you that this chicken was different from any other I have tried. the flesh was soft and supple. Reminiscent of a well done piece of salmon, in texture. The marinade was detectable right to the center of the breast but not in an overpowering fashion. The slightly salty flavor of the soy brought out the flavor of the chicken without masking it and without out taking over the entire flavor profile.

I am VERY pleased with this process and look forward to the next step which is trying to figure out how the heck to present and plate it. I'm thinking black "forbidden"rice! Maybe a nice ginger and lemongrass vinaigrette....

Til next time......