Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A slow night at the restaurant

If it wasn't for the camera on this night, we might have found something un-wholesome to take part in, but luckily, we have these!

These are shaved garlic rounds to be dried in the microwave as described by Thomas Keller in his famed French Laundry cookbook

This is a plate ready and waiting to be finished, we have a lemon-parsley emulsion on the right, pickled cherries and brandy soaked walnuts on the left

The finished plate added seared foie gras over a ragout of chipollini onions, yellowfoot mushrooms, and a pool of 50 year old balsamic

Oh my God, even on a slow night the servers bread station looks like a mess. It seems like the more people available to clean an area the less likely it is to stay clean?!?!?! Things work differently on the other side of the line.

The next few photos show the growth of our Scallop presentation. Here we have our seared scallops and next to it garlic asperation.
Here we begin plating with our foundation of Pamasean-Mascapone risotto, sided with the garlic asperation.
The beatifully camalized scallops crown the risotto here as the plate comes to completion.
A healthy drizzle of Villa Monadori Balsamic vinager dresses the plate raising the seaminly deep, dense, and one dimensional dish to highly flavorful and complex.

Monday, February 26, 2007

One lonely steak.

Last night I was not working. I had already extinguished my desire for bar food with a lunch of hot wings and popcorn at Pacers in Lakewood. The availability of open restaurants was closing by the minute as we approached the nine o’clock hour, and the freezing rain eliminated most travel ideas. I want a steak!!! I exclaimed finally as if a great epiphany had come over me. This made things easy to sort out, here, there, the obvious suggestion was the Chop House. Well, this just wasn’t the solution I had in mind. Trucking through the rain downtown to the Chop House and it’s frozen bar top definitely wasn’t what I wanted when I stated, "I want steak."

Cooking a steak, seasoning it, and applying just the proper heat over a specific amount of time, that is what I wanted. I was not in search of just cooked meat. I had a desire for the process, a process that I carry out many times daily at the restaurant, but almost never for my self. In a very egotistical, selfish way I wanted me to cook a steak for myself. I wanted to look among a mound of meat and pick out just the right steak, a filet is what I wanted, and I wanted the perfectly cylindrical 3 inch thick, deep red piece of beef. I wanted to pat it dry and coat is with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. I like the way beef tasted when salted before cooking, it brings out a nice roundness, a wholeness across the palette. Some might argue that this salt helps dry out the meat, but I would trade the flavor for a 1/8 inch of "dryness." My steak wasn’t going on the hottest grill known to man, why would I do that? I want my filet to cook for about 9 minutes, and I demand that it be flipped over every time it is touched. Harold Mcgee explained that the moisture in a piece of meat rushes away from the flesh in which heat is being applied, and that the best way to cook a piece of meat on a grill would be to cook alternating sides, flipping every 38 seconds or so. Well, since I want beautiful cross hatch grill marks, I’m gonna let my filet sit for about 2 minutes before I turn it over. Rest is what is needed after such a intense application of heat. My steak is gonna be rosey and juicy throughout. I’m gonna hold back, and let that wonderful piece of meat work it’s magic on a molecular level redistributing moisture, and moving that salt around. After a few minutes, I like my filet sliced and sprinkled with a heavy pinch of Fluer de Sel.

This process, this wonderful interaction, these chemical processes and application of physics, this is what I meant when I exclaimed, "I want steak" When you understand each stage, each process, and the reasoning behind every step, then you can truly enjoy your cooked meat for what it is.

As for last nights meal, well..... how about a bottle of Sauza, and take-out from Chipotle, Chicken Burrito. A decant decision, at least it wasn’t Taco Bell.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Weekly Specials


Soup: Potato-Fennel Bisque with Smoked Trout

App: Rolled Salmon Ceviche, Spicy Root Vegetable Slaw, Strawberry-Basil Coulis

Entree: Grilled California Sturgeon, Truffled Celery Root Puree, Chef’s Garden Baby Root Vegetables, Lemon-Parsley Emulsion

Foie Gras: Seared La Bella Farms Foie Gras, Sauteed Yellowfoot Mushrooms, Porcini Polenta, Truffle-Parmesan broth

Sunday, February 11, 2007


French for "gherkin," cornichons are crisp, tart pickles made from tiny gherkin cucumbers. They're a traditional accompaniment to PÂTÉS as well as smoked meats and fish.

The gherkin may have been introduced to the American public by one Minton Collins of Richmond, Virginia, who was offering it for sale in the Virginia Gazette in 1792, although it might have been known in Colonial times under another name. It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. Pickling of gherkins was at first a domestic activity, but the jar of pickles became a commercial product in France as early as the 1820s. The condiment rapidly became generally popular, although always more so in the USA than among the British, for whom the generic ‘pickle’ remained the small, sweet onion.

In the United States, consumption of pickles has been slowing, while consumption of fresh cucumbers is rising. In 1999, the consumption in the US totalled 3 billion pounds with 171,000 acres of production across 6,821 farms and an average farm value of $361 million. Worldwide, production is highest in China, followed by Turkey, Iran and the US, which produced 4% of the world's cucumbers.

Suprising to most people cucumbers grow in a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. These ‘heirloom’ cucumbers are very popular at farmers markets. It is common to find a cucumber at the market that is neither elongated or green.

There are three general types of cucumber: greenhouse or indoor, outdoor or ridge, and pickling cukes or gherkins.

Greenhouse varieties include: Crystal Apple, Danimas, Telegraph, Telegraph Improved, and Yamato.

Outdoor varieties include: Bianco Lungo di Parigi, Burpless Tasty Green, Chicago Pickling, Crystal Lemon (the size and tang of a lemon), Long Green Improved, Marketmore, and Boothy Blond (a fat yellow cucumber).

Pickling or gherkins include: Arena, Athene, Gherkin, Hokus, Midget, National Pickling (first introduced in 1929 by the National Pickle Packers Association in Britain), and Vert de Massy Cornichon.

Cucumbers are fruit! Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, cucumbers are scientifically classified as a fruit. Much like tomatoes and squash, despite the scientific classification their sour-bitter flavor contributes to cucumbers being percieved, prepared and eaten as vegetables.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Henry’s at the Barn is taking leaps and bounds towards success. The restaurant is a short drive to the west in Avon, and sure enough, there is a blue barn as advertised. Since opening this past November Henry’s has played through with a successful holiday run, and was quite busy for a weeknight in Avon when we where there recently. So much so, if you happen to call, and find the answering machine is on, don’t worry, they really are too busy to answer the phone. With three different dining areas, anyone is sure to find a comfortable seat. We sat in the bar area which is very cosy, the fireplace is within reach of most seats, and the room stays quite, with the dark wood tables, hand picked driftwood, and stone walls. The lighting was quite appropriate in that the fire’s gentle flicker lights up the room, but at the same time our menu was readable without strain. There is a lounge area above the bar, which is donned with plush seating for optimal comfort. The main dining room is nicely appointed and leans to a brighter atmosphere than the bar. The chairs are plush, the room is open and airy. It was explained to me that when the time comes, a wonderful patio is available, nicely hidden behind the barn and guarded by urban forestry from the drudgery of the parked cars.

The kitchen is run by Chef/Owner Paul Jagielski. It is in fact his warm personality that infects the restaurant as a whole, not only the southern delights from the kitchen. I’m a big fan of ‘comfort food’. While that term means something very specific to most people, I think it has a more expansive definition in todays dining environment. I think every good mid-westerner claims meatloaf, or a steak served with mashed potatoes to be comfort food, and why is it comfort food, because is makes you feel happy, warm, and cared for. As the average dinners knowledge of different food traditions and cultures expands, I think it is very realistic to think that food from a different culture, prepared in un-traditional ways may very well induce feelings of happiness, warmth, and caring. Personally I’ve come to find ‘comfort food’ in congee (Japanese rice pudding), braised cabbage, and a quick Elsalvadorian spicy chicken soup with a hard cooked egg. While these are relatively new to me, they are instantly ‘comfort food’. Overnight, Pauls take on low country southern cooking went from completely new to instant comfort food.

We started the night with a plate of pimento cheese which had just enough bite to wake up your lazy taste buds, yet not wear them out. The pimento cheese recipe is a family tradition, as is Pauls famous cocktail sauce. The cocktail sauce is spiked with extra, and then a little more horseradish. Which is quite appropriate because while an almost violently spicy explosion of chilled seafood and cocktail sauce livens up the night, the radish heat quickly fades with the juice of a lemon wedge or either of the two other sauces that accompany a ‘fish bowl’. A fish bowl is playful name for Henry’s presentation of chilled shrimp, crab, mussels, clams, and raw oysters. We found it a wonderful way to open our meal. Light and refreshing, yet we cautiously dabbed at the cocktail sauce and sipped our Chardonnay by the fire.

We shared a plate of Paul’s Shrimp and Grits. This dish was absolutely wonderful, instantly one of my top 5 favorite dishes in Cleveland. The shrimp where clean and tender. The anduille sausage as tasty, and appropriately sliced and portioned. The grits where heavenly, I feat of culinary exelance. The texture is so smooth and velvety without any tacky starchiness, and the flavor of corn seemed to swim elusively though the grits as if only to remind you what is what. Once again, like the pimento cheese, the sauce over the shrimp showed the deft touch of spiciness, just enough to make you warm, but no where near hot. It’s as if the capsicum is teasing your taste buds, drawing you in, wanting more is the only result.

We tried three other warm appetizer, all where very well prepared and presented. The use of long rectangular plates is welcome, and appreciated. Gone are the days of the early 90's where we stacked thing 5 inches high and at the slightest touch with a fork the pile crashes down into a pale tasting mass of un-identifiable ingredients. The scallops are accompanied by a petite blue cheese and sweet potato pie. The combination worked will, the pie was quite tasty and could have easily stood alone as an appetizer in and of itself. The fried green tomatoes where original with the addition of pimento goat cheese, but like all the other fried green tomatoes I’ve had, the breading doesn’t like the skin of the tomato, and that weakness means the tomato and breading usually part ways at some point before entering the dinners mouth. I thought these green tomatoes where rather hard, maybe if we blanched the tomato to get the skin off the breading would stick better and the tomato a little more tender??? Oh, I’m sure someone else would have thought of that by now.

The duck appetizer was a nice earthy piece of duck, paired with corn and an inspired BBQ sauce. The Delmonico came with grits, and to be honest, I wanted more grits. I was not unhappy when the dish arrived. The beef held it’s own under a heavy saucing of Tasso Demi. The greens where tender and flavorful. The grits this time with the addition of Pimento Cheese where a success once again. The variety of flavors on this plate all work together very well considering how good each one stood out alone as well. I think this is true of all the plates we had at Henry’s. Everything was very good alone, and the manner in which they where paired made them even better. This is a rather fleeting achievement, but Paul has done a great job putting the puzzle together.

The staff as a whole made us feel very welcome. The hostess offered to show us around before we decided on enjoying the bar instead of the main dining room. The restaurant manager, Mr. Smith welcomed us personally with a plate of Pimento Cheese. Our server was very diligent, kept our glasses full, and queried periodically about our happiness. I’m not a big fan of using old flatware, it just seems criminal to ask someone to use the same fork for 2 hours over 4 courses and laying the pour pricker on the hopefully microbial free tabletop. Praise the role-ups, and much thanks to Henry’s for having servers replace flatware with every plate. I mean, we had enough linen napkins to sew a small quilt, but it makes for a much more enjoyable dinning experience. Chef Paul was out and about the dinning room late during service on the night we dinned. We had the luxury of learning about the all the personal touches worked into Henry’s. The search for alligator looking driftwood, who is Henry, and Paul’s woodworking craftsmanship on display in the restrooms.

I will return to Henry’s! This is something I don’t often say after visiting a new restaurant. Henry’s has what it takes to be successful over the long haul. The food is superb, and unique. The atmosphere is warming, welcoming, and fun. The vision, and execution of an independent entrepreneur, to open and execute on the level that Henry’s does in such a short time! Cheers to Paul and his staff, good job.

Weekly Specials

Soup: Creamy Broccoli Bisque with Bacon encrusted Chedder cheese

Salad: Roasted Chef’s Garden young beets, Ice wine Vinaigrette, Whipped Ricotta, Dandelion Greens

Entree: Country Style Cassaulette Chef’s Garden vine dried horticulture beans and root vegetables, topped with a mixed grill of Duck leg Confit, Braised Pork Shoulder, Grilled Garlic-Pork Sausage, Wild Boar Meatballs, and Grilled Beef Stripsteak

Foie: Seared Foie Gras, mashed plantains with cocnut, Mojito emulsion