Sunday, May 27, 2007

The evolution of a dessert

I'm a big fan of the website, mielleur du chef, they have a long list of trustworthy recipies and a very convenient metric to american calculator. I found a Potato Brioche recipie there, but at the time I had alot of sweet potatoes so i did an even swap and the recipie worked out well. I played with that recipie in conjuction with a foie gras dish, but in the long run, I just had a whole lot of sweet potatoes. Finally I decided to make the bread decidedly sweet, doubling the sugar, and display it more like a cake. This is how things unfolded. I sandwiched the bread with a coconut-sweetpotato mousse, and topped it with a butterscotch pudding, and i grabed that recipie from the

These little molds where cute, but i ened up using a hotel pan so I could cook about 4 times as much in the same time.

Sweet Potato Brioche
3 # each sweet potato puree, and ap flour
4 oz butter
8 oz powder sugar
4 oz brown sugar
2 oz yeast in 1/4 cup water
salt, ginger/pepper optional

First off the sweet potatoes need to be baked, skinnned, and pureed. Then we need to get the yeast going with the water, melt the butter, and mix everything together. The dough is very wet, but if you let it be it will rise, I let it go about 45 minutes, then divide it into pans and let it rise another 45 minutes, finally cooking at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes

Sweet Potato-Coconut Mousse
8 oz sweet potato puree
8 oz can coconut milk
1 quart whipped cream
9 sheets of geletin softened in 8 oz coconut rum

I took rome temperature puree and coconut milk and mixed them, seasoned with salt, and maybe sugar. Seperatly whipped the cream. and Heated the run over low heat until the softned geletin disolved, then mixed that with the sweet potato. Once this mixture was established, add the whipped cream untill a light, yet full flavor mousse is accomplished.
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Friday, May 25, 2007

Weekly Specials

Two sides of prized Copper River King Salmon, about 22 pounds

Special Appetizer with Chef's Garden Asparagus, Radish, and Popcorn shoots, along with a dill cream and boiled egg

Crispy Soft Shell over grilled Hallumi and melon salad, with basil aioli

Pan Seared Copper River Salmon, braised green cabbage, pork confit, and sweet potatoes in a maple demi-glace garnish with pickled cherries and Chef's Garden pea tendrials
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Weekly Specials

Soup: Black Bean and Chicken Soup w/ Manchego and Smoked Walnuts

App: Crispy Fried Soft Shell Crab, Grilled Hallumi and Melon salad, Basil Aioli

Salad: Smoked Salmon wrapped Chef's Garden Local Harvest Green Asparagus, Dill Cream, boiled Egg, Chef's Garden Radish and Corn Shoots

Entree: Copper River Salmon, braised Green Cabbage, Pork Confit, Sweet Potatoes, Maple Demi-glace, Pickled Cherries

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Non-Food Post

While most posts here have centered around food, it just so happens I work at a well appointed restaurant. I recently took some time to snap some photos around the place, and in full circle I realized these are in fact my everyday views from the kitchen.

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A Non-food Post cont.

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Creamy Corn Sauce

We use this sauce with corn ravioli at the restaurant, it's aroma and complexity grows with a few drops of truffle oil at the end.
6 ears Corn, cleaned, kernals only
2 yellow Onions, small dice
2 cloves Garlic
1 quart Chicken Stock
1 quart Heavy cream
Salt Pepper, Tabasco
Cook the onions and garlic untill brown, carmalized and sweet, then add the corn, cook untill all the liquid the corn gives up has reduced. Add the Chicken stock, reduce heat to low and reduce by half allowing corn and onions to cook through. Finally, add cream and warm up gently, puree half this mixture in a blender, this will thicken the sauce appropriatly. Season with salt, pepper, and tabasco, go heavy if you want more heat, and lastly truffle oil if desired.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Spring Menu Changes

Baked Lobster Cavatelli

Sea Scallops topped with Brie Cream and Bacon, Mushroom-artichoke ragout, Chef's Garden Watercress

Seared Alaskan Halibut, Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Hearts of Palm Slaw in a Basil-Lime Cream

Grilled Flat Iron Steak over Blue Cheese and Fingerling Potato Hash, Topped with Seared Foie Gras, Port Syrup

Grilled Lamb Loin, Spring Vegetagle Panzanella, Greek Vinagraitte

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's wrong with truffle oil???

In this weeks edition of The New York Times De Gustibus Daniel Patterson of Coi restaurant in San Francisco examine the use of truffle oil in an article titled, "Hocus-Pocus, and a Beaker of Truffles" With pictures of standard chemistry glassware in tow a first glance of the piece would give you the impression that The Times was bestowing great praise once again on the most un-approachable cuisines in the likes of el bulli, moto, or Aliena. Quite on the contrary, this essay goes on to mark the true fresh truffle as a supreme elitist food, and any product that has similar effects on the olfactories of diners as frauds, and the chef’s who use them as perpetrators of and evil plot.

It is very interesting to note that the quality press and interest that molecular gastronomy has garnered in the past few years has gone a long way to change peoples perspectives on how things should taste, look, and feel, as these are the exact qualities that most MG chefs manipulate in order to shock dinners. For instance at moto, the menu is edible, and in theory has flavors relative to the items described. Quite a shock to anyone who thought they came in for a sheet of seaweed wrapped around rice with raw fish inside. After considering instances like this I don’t think the average dinner who is aware of such gastronomic anomalies will be at the least troubled with the chemical make up of truffle oil.

Truffle oil has come a long way, not necessarily the product itself, but the way chefs have used it. Remember that one cold Christmas in the late 80's where every little girl on the planet wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid Doll, well, by the mid 90's chef’s had the same type of affinity toward truffle oil. We put it on everything, and lots of it, and we told everyone where we put it proudly. Some chef’s actually mixed expensive fresh truffles with the oil, or tried to pass off oil alone mixed with other fresh mushrooms as truffles, as noted in the De Gustibus piece. While I was fresh in the kitchen at this time, I followed directions and went through a lot of truffle oil before I ever so much as laid eyes on a fresh truffle. The first time I handled a fresh truffle I had a good 4 years of truffle oil experience under my belt, and I was very unimpressed with the $150 a pound dirtball that arrived in a brown paper bag lined with rice. It was at this point that someone explained to me the exclusiveness of the truffle, why it was so special, all the truffle products that are available, and what truffle oil was. In total agreement with the facts put forth by Daniel Patterson, truffle oil is a chemical compound and oil that has the aroma of truffles.

It is only with the past 3 or 4 years that I’ve grown into a chef who is experienced enough to have a light hand with the truffle oil. I find a few drops here or there go a long way in any dish, and the aroma is much more pleasant when it shares the spotlight with another ingredient, most obviously other mushrooms. I’ve come to use it so sparingly, except in a Vinaigrette, that I rarely feel the need to even mention it’s use. That said, I think it is a wonderful product and the use of it should not be admonished on the bases of it’s chemical nature. Everything is chemicals you see, that is what molecular gastronomy is teaching us, this is something Daniel Patterson seem to be forgetting. This chemical with the aroma of truffles is harmless health wise, even economicly it has not in any way replaced the use of fresh truffles as every year the prize truffles are more and more expensive. Once again, if we can infuse paper to taste like a maki roll, then how is it that truffle oil is fake and evil.

The expense of truffles pre truffle oil lead it to be a local, highly prized delicacy as pointed out by Daniel Patterson. Only the finest restaurant with the highest priced plates could afford to import truffles to the states for discerning dinners here. "Truffle oil has simultaneously democratized and cheapened the truffle experience," this statement is taken directly from the text of the De Gustibus piece. This seems to be quite the elitist foodie statement. I don’t think there is anything wrong with making high priced ingredient more accessible to a majority of dinners. Even if the experience of these ingredients might suffer in authenticity, I think this makes the real thing even that much more special. Let’s examine a parallel situation where name brand Tylenol is a fresh truffle, and CVS brand acetaminophen is truffle oil. I ask you this, is the experience of pain relief "democratized and cheapened" by the fact a generic brand is available at a fraction of the cost??? In this light I think it is ridiculous to challenge any chef who is honest and knowledgeable with regards to the use of truffle oil

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pizza Dough

I have recently started making pizza dough by hand at the restaurant. It takes two batches on the week-end, and that's alot of elbow grease. Due to the batch size, and heavy duty mixer usually implemented to do this type of task it never occured that I might share this recipie. After a few weeks going it the old school way, I'm realizing that everyone should give it a try. This recipie is directly scaled down from my 12 pound batch size, so if things are loose don't hold back in tossing in more flour.
6 cups AP Flour
2 cups warm Water
1/2 oz Yeast
1/2 oz Honey
1 tblsp Salt
1 tblsp EVOO
Disolve honey in warm water then add yeast, letting this mixture rest for 10 minutes. Measure out the rest of the ingrediants into a bowl and incorperate the water mixture. Using your hands mix this mass untill a fluid ball forms, then turn this dough out onto a table. Kneed the dough for about 10 minutes, I usually measure this by 3 songs on the radio. When you first start to kneed the dough will break and pull apart, after some time the dough will streach, and pull back on itself, this is what we want. Take the kneeded dough and place it in a oiled bowl and top this with a cloth soaked with warm water. The dough will grow, and when it is about doubled in size it is ready to portion. For a thin crust divide the dough into 6 pieces, for a thicker crust try only 4 portions. Take each divided piece, and using your hand as a cage, roll the dough ball around on the table top where the dough becomes tight, and uniformly round. At this point let the dough rest under a wet towl for another 10 minutes. At that point we can roll it out flat, top it with cheese and call it a pizza.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Weekly Specials

App: Chef's Garden Local Green Asparagus baked in a Morel Mushroom Omlette, topped with Morel Cream, and Gryere Cheese

Salad: Oven Dried Strawberries, Pickled Red Onions, Buttermilk Blue Cheese, Roast Garlic Crouton, Chef's Garden Watercress in a White Balsamic Vinagraitte

Entree: Alaskan Halibut, Seared with Parslied Day Boat Bay Scallops and Parisian Potatoes, Baked Cucumber and Chorizo wrapped with Bacon

Side Dish: Chef's Garden Local Green Asparagus with Foraged Mushrooms.

Desserts: Sweet Potato and Butterscotch Nepoleon, Strawberry-vanilla emulsion, Pineapple-Mint garnish.....layers of Sweet Potatoe Brioche, Sweet Potato-Coconut Mousse, and Butterscotch Pudding

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Visiting Velocity Bistro

On my day off today I stopped in at the crisp, newly re-opened Velocity Bistro. A fire shut down operations last year after a strong opening. Fortunately a lot of familiar faces, and menu items remain unchanged. The patio is quite nice, there is just enough traffic, just far enough away that there is a feeling of energy, yet you feel like you left rush hour behind. The biggest difference at first site is that the smaller side room has been brightened up, and looks like an equally inviting place to dine, where in the past it’s been something of cast off room isolated from the action.

I had a wonderful Mojito. I was craving one, and this version was straight forward and honest. For a started I tasted the Lobster Potato Skins. While the whole thing came out piping hot, only the smaller potatoes where cooked through, and lobster could have spent a few less minutes in the oven. The imagination of the dish saved it, along with the strong bacon-goat cheese flavors. Next I indulged in the Fried Bologna Stromboli, with fried egg, caramelized onion, and borsin sauce. The whole thing just felt a good way. The dough was nicely developed and plump with a crisp crust. The meat was flavorful, and the sauce added up to a meal that put’s my Bologna and mustard sandwich to shame.

The staff was very friendly, yet professional. Some servers seems drastically more polished than others, but at least everyone was pleasant. I watched the patio fill up right around 6pm, which is very promising for a first day back.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Weekly Specials

Soup: Carrot-Tangerine Bisque, Peekytoe Crab and Sweet Potato Brioche Panzanella

App: Artichoke and English Pea tart, Meyer Lemon curd, Shotzie's garden fresh Lemon Balm Sprigs

Salad: Chef’s Garden Asparagus Salad, Red Cipollini Onions, Frizee, Ricotta, Balsamic-Bacon Vinaigrette

Entree: Lake Erie Walleye, Curry-Cauliflower Cous-Cous, Green Peas, Raisons, Fried Capers, Baby Fennel, Frescobaldi EVOO

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Creative Time

The pace at the restaurant has allowed for some creative culinary creations and time to photo them. Two intersting dishes this week are pictured here. I found the recipie for the Meyer lemon skillet cake at, if you haven't visited this blog, you should. It is one of my favorites.

To finish we offered this Meyer lemon skillet cake with Meyer lemon curd, grilled Strawberrys with truffle honey, garnish with Chef's Garden Mico Citrus Herbs, and Vanilla infused Sea Salt.

As a traditional amuse it was a Grilled Lamb Loin with Curry Cauliflower Fregola Sarda Cous-Cous, English Peas, Raisons, and Fried Capers drizzled with Chervil Oil and Fleur de Sel.The cous-cous worked out well, I warmed the pre-cooked cous-cous with butter, puree of cauliflower that already had curry madras, english peas, and our house blend pizza cheese. The texture was suprisingly light, yet had great cauliflower flavor with sublte curry background. The addition of raisons and capers seemed almost cliche, but worked well.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Foie Gras Dilemma

The Ancient Egyptians began domesticating geese as documented in tombs build around 2390 B.C. The practice of gavage was most likely implemented at this time to produce a fattier bird. With the exception of the affluent Western world of the twentieth century, every culture has treasured clean animal fats due to their high caloric ratio, digestibility, and vitamins. A goose can turn corn, and grains with a low caloric ratio, and low digestibility into fat with much more success than people can. For this reason it made both culinary, economic, and health sense to breed, and fatten geese.

The Jews of Rome became maybe the most dedicated and dependant culture to be associated with fattened geese. One of the first documented cases where the practice of gavage and fattening of geese is chastised occurred in a parable by Rabbi Bar-Bar Hannah in a third-century parable. After describing a morbid fattened goose the rabbi comments that, "The Israelites will eventually have to account for their conduct before justice" For the past 1700 years the debate over force feeding geese in order to produce a fattier end product has raged. At times the demand for high calorie animal fat has far overshadowed the somewhat cruel practice of gavage. During other times farmers have intentionally tried to alleviate the cruelty involved, for instance in the 13-century German-Jewish farmers began force feeding the geese a dough instead of raw grains which had the potential to harm the geese throat.

The idea of eliminating the cruelty in foie gras production continues to this day. While the geese are now ducks in the United States, and the farms are large standardized productions, the idea is the same. A duck must be force feed with a tube for the last 15 days of it’s life in order to produce a liver fat enough to be considered foie gras. With the prospect of foie gras being declared illegal by the government, farmers are scrambling to convince the public that a humane foie gras is possible. The New York Times story by Juliet Glass recounts some advancements that one has to assume are a direct result of current pressure.

The economics of foie gras play an important role in the desire to obtain a cruelty free product. I believe there is a way to obtain a fattened duck liver using a modified duck feed, and habitat manipulation relieving most of what is considered to be cruel by todays critiques. While in the past it has been advantageous to use a goose as a vehicle to change the chemical make up of a whole lot of difficult to digest grains into a relatively small amount of calorie and vitamin packed animal fat, this is no longer the case. Unfortunately the whole lot of grains are very inexpensive, and when used to feed ducks to produce foie gras the monetary return is good. For example, a pound of course ground corn meal cost me around a dollar. Top of the line fresh domestic foie gras cost about $30 a pound, and the rest of the bird is available for sale as well. When will the foie gras farmers be willing to face up to the fact their product margins in the future can either decrease or disappear.

I think Duck feed can be the cure for the problem. The market for modified foods available to the human consumer is amazing. A visit to GNC will produce protein powder, carb drinks, vitamin capsules, dissolvable fiber all at a price above what it would cost to get those same nutrients from raw food. The lesson here is that high quality, high calorie, easily digestible feed can very well be produced, but it’s going to get expensive. Consumers have shown they are willing to pay high prices for luxury ingredients, as well as homey organic small batch products. I’m betting that consumers would welcome a high priced less-cruel foie gras.

The idea that today ducks are treated in a cruel way can be contested in and of itself. The life cycle of ducks, geese and other migratory birds involves a period where the animal over feeds itself during periods where food is available. Fat is the most efficient storage medium for all animals, and ducks have developed a way for their livers to store fat at a rate and quantity that would be unhealthy to most other animals. The fact that farmers have capitalized on this natural occurrence in conjunction with the birds extremely strong digestion system, specifically it’s esophagus, creates a gateway to the idea that ducks are in fact quite happy gourging themselves for 2 weeks.

It is my opinion that the ducks farmed for foie gras are not treated as cruel or more cruel than any other animal used for human consumption. For examples of how some farms treat animals visit, The idea that foie gras was once a useful tool in harvesting animal fats from vegetables makes any discomfort to the animal in some ways acceptable. This is no longer the case, and foie gras is purely a moment of indulgence, and for this reason I think it is important to investigate the humane treatment of these animals. I will continue to purchase, prepare and eat foie gras as often as possible. I believe that the treatment of these animals is acceptable, but can be improved, and without my support future advancements would be more difficult for the farmer.