Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grand Opening

The Wonder Bar will open for dinner business on Tuesday, August 6 th.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Nearing a Beginging

Tonight marked the first night at the Wonder Bar where people where served food developed in out kitchen. As you can see the space in by no means complete, but we wanted to get some of the very closest friends of the Wonder Bar in to get a feel for things. Our projected, and from what i can see realistic opening date is now August 6th. I can't wait to get the first rush of people in, there has been so much planning, so much testing, I'm ready to dive in and get started.

This is my new home. I have two induction burners, a 1/2 sized shelf double decker convection oven, and a pannini grill. No fryer, no grill, and I'm rather happy about that. Tonight went smooth, but we realized none of the plugs in the kithcen where capable of having 2 appliances pluged in at the same time!?!?!?!

The most frustrating thing right now is that nothing in the kitchen has a home. I don't know where to look for somehting, say a pair of tongs, likewise after I wash a spoon, I'm not quite sure where to put it so I know where it is later. We will have to find places for these misfits, a shelf, a hook, a hole?
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Start

I snapped off these photos of the still dusty space that will eventually become Wonder Bar.

The space is cozy and warm, long and narrow, with the kitchen all the way in the back, and completly open. We plan on having about 30 bar seats, an additional 40 table seats, and a patio seating of another 30.

The attention to detail in the construction reaches from floor to ceiling which is rather high, and should help carry the live jazz music through out the space.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Chef's Garden 2007 Chef Summit 1

The Chef's Garden invited myself, another 200 or so chef's and food professionals to the Culinary Vegetable Institute in order to learn about the farm, and share ideas about CG products. The day could not have been more plesant, breezy, sunny, a good day to spend on a farm. Thankfully Aaron, a previous co-worker and current CIA Napa student was able to join me.
Upon arrival we where invited to explore the CVI, and the amazingly modern and beautiful kithchen. Chef's where at work preparing lunch as pictured here in the high polished paradise kitchen.

Even the exust was a plesant site. Pictured from above the kitchen was a buzz with chef's hustling CG products about like toys at on orphanage.
The beauty of the polished kithen is quite a contrast to the blond wood cabin feel in the rest of the space. The dark library was absolutly amazing holding volumes of recipies that approached infinate. The structure of the ceiling pictured here gives you a good idea of how well constructed and contrasting the space is.
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Chef's Garden 2007 Chef Summit 2

Our next step in exploring the farm was a guided trip the included the CG sales area, green houses, research and development room, and packaging area. The CG takes alot of pride in food saftey, and there are many features of the farm that we saw displayed this. From the tray a seed is planted in and documented to the day it's packed with ice for a trip on fed-ex steps are taken to protect the safest product possible.
Pictured above are trays of germinating seeds. We learned that the CG grades there seed before they even plant them. They test specificly for seed density, which directly coerlates to plant growth with the highest efficiancy. In some cases as much as 90% of seeds purchased are actually planted as the farm sees fit only to plant the best, most viable seeds
This area of the greenhouses is where trays of microgreens are seeded, labeled, given a life long bar coded tag, and sent on a very effective mono-rail system to it's resting place. It takes anywhere from 3 to 7 days for seeds to sprout, and then they are watched daily as they reach there desired size.

Lucily we where able to sample an array of microgreens and other greenhouse items. I've long been a fan of corn shoots and popcorn shoots both rather sweet and mild. Crystal verde, ruby verdy and a third spinach variety where suprisingly succulent to everyone on hand. The CG signature Salad Sensation was rather mild and green tasting after reflecting on the zip of the micro citrus blend, and micro anise hysop.

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Chef's Garden 2007 Chef Summit 3

You can get an idea of the size greenhouse we visited, and in total there must be close to 15 seperate structures.
Here we can see a few trays of microgreens where some a completely full and other empty.
The CG space is a demonstration in effeciancy. This space between larger greenhouses has been assemled into a modest space able to hold a few clamshells worth of still growing microgreens

The beauty in this picture can not even be interupted by the fact we are actually looking at CG compost field. CG uses nutrient rich green grass as a way to intoduce nirogen into their compost. No animal manure is used in an effort to keep the farm as clean as possible. These compost heeps streached about 75 yards long and 4 foot high. When they begin they are turned daily and reach temperatures up to 160 degrees. The CG has a strict regime of rotating there field to take advantage of not only what a plant takes from the soil, but what it leaves in it's place. Oh yeah, the sky is wonderful too.

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Chef's Garden 2007 Chef Summit 4

After our tour we where treated to a wonderful lunch of CG greens, roasted carrots and potatoes, and salmon. Luckily we didn't over indulge because we visited a display of every CG product available, asked to taste as much as we could, and vote with a blue ribbon on our favorite. Aaron voted for the heirloom tomato, I voted for an experimental product not yet in full production whose name I never did really grasp. I instantly called in a purple berry loco tomato. They where champagne grape sized, dark purple, naturally sweet with the essance of a dark ripe tomato.
The overall best product category found it's champion in the full sized herb category. Sweet Aztec got alot of votes. While stevia is a common herbal sweetener, sweet aztec is blindingly sweet, double sweet, almost nauseating sweet, and that is only one leaf.

Most of the afternoon consisted of cooking demos, and lounging around the farm. The stage here, was very ample, and accessable to view, while the audio equipment was todays devils advocate. Mind you that we are in a tent, in the grass, about 1/4 mile from any building or electical outlet. I think the staff did an unbelievable job at the CG. Things seemed to go off without so much as a hint of trouble.
Will Goldfarb from NYC did a wonderful job entertaining us with his witty comedy, and a dessert consisting of a green curry yogurt mousse, a sable made with hard cooked egg yolk, and an instantly frozen tuile using an 'anti-griddle' or a 'frozen flat top' which is a very cool tool that can quickly freeze things on a super cooled metal cook/freeze top.
John Suley had fun with everyone playing with liquid nitrogen. Jeff Henderson celebrated his birthay with us along with his ideas, and motivation to help rescue trouble youths through cooking. Lastly Scott Crawford, a lover of beets not unlike myself shared a beet cured salmon that tasted as good as it looked with a dark red trim around rosey pink interior.

On our way out I realized that the landscaping around the CVI didn't consist of day lilys or roses, rather herbs, vegetables, greens, and lettuces. This is my final picture of this lettuce landscaping with the CVI in the background.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lakewood Farmers Market

Every wednsday a group of farmers associated with the North Union Farmers Market join together in lakewood on a mission to sell their farm fresh produce.

These Easter Egg Radishes are nicely colored pastels, but still sport that radish bite. The same farmer sports a selection of purple broccolli, and pole beans, along with plumb red currents. I've used his broccolli to make soup many times and the flavor is far superior to the grocery store variety.

Walnut Drive Gardens capped the end of the farmers market this week. Only 3 weeks ago did this same farmer stand proud selling only strawberries and a few rasberries, now she has a whole trucks worth of beautiful produce, like the green beans below.

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Snake Hill Farms at Lakewood Farmers Market

Snake Hill Farm is an all organic farm who brings their products to the market on a weekly basis. They grow the most wondeful baby vegetables...carrots, beets, turnips. Below is a boquet of flowers from their farm. On most occassions Snake Hill has the only, if not the best selection of salad greens at the market.

We learned from the farmer that over the winter Snake Hill Farms introduced some trace minarals and vitamens into their soil in hopes of harvesting more nutrient dense produce. Word is things are growing stong as ever. The Cippollini onions below are fresh dug, and haven't aquired that dried skin, and root end that have caused many hours of work for me in the past. The range in hue with out the dry skin is quite interesting, from dark purple to stark white.

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Farmers Market Flowers

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Which kitchen tools do I really need?

Every time I make my weekly visit to the discount store, or department store, usually for cat food and supplies, I take a selfish detour down the kitchen gadget, tool, machine isles and stare at the shinny little machines for a few seconds only to kick my own feet, bow my head, and walk off in disbelief after checking the price. They want $50 for a can opener? Not only the cost, but then I’m stuck with a machine the size of a toaster, with a cord, that is useful only to open cans.....how many cans does one person have to open for this to make sense??? Grandma with arthritis is the exception. I was wondering if I had a blank slate, and was short on money, and needed to build a restaurant kitchens small appliance cabinet, what would it consist of? A veritable who’s who of kitchen gadgets was my first thought, then as an example of how to approach this query I looked to the final pages of Dornenburg and Page’s book, Culinary Artistry where they asked chefs about their 10 most desirable ingredients. What I saw with deeper investigation was that most chefs wanted simple things, building blocks I would guess. Things like salt, butter, herbs where common items. I thought I would apply this strategy to my query about kitchen gadgets.
Top Five Most Desirable Kitchen Machines for the Professional Kitchen.

1. I want to start off with a bang, and I will do this by eliminating the two extremes that are available, I don’t need a paco jet, or a box grater, nor do I demand a emersion circulator or a mortar and petal, I’m being realistic here. I think the most useful tool in the professional kitchen is the Vita-prep commercial blender. If used properly this tool eliminates what most people would demand as their number two, a robo-coup. I’ll take the price and the power of the vita-prep. I can liquify lobster bodies, or chop nuts with the same machine, and with good reason the price of this single piece of equipment might very well be half of the total spent.

2. Mandolin. I’m bent between the classic french style metal Mandolin with 2 different julienne options, and a gaufrette cut, against the sleek and stay sharp ability of the smaller Kyocera Mandolin. I don’t care how good your knife skills might me, or how expensive your Japanese steel knife is, with a Mandolin a brainless slicing task is accomplished with consistent precision.

3. Kitchen Aid. KA makes the most capable mixers available. With the pasta attachment, and the meat grinder attachment, I’ve got a full accompaniment of kitchen tools all build around one mighty, lasting motor. While this is another $400 investment, the versitatliy is exceptional, and the end product is so much better than any rolling pin, whisk, or clever can accomplish.

4. Vacuum sealer. With the extended shelf life food gets in a Vacuum this seems to be a no-brainer but is rare in most professional kitchens. The creativity of marinates, pickles and texture manipulation with these devices is boundless.

5. Knife Sharpener. Most established professional in the cooking business have a desire to use their own hand tools while working. I’m the same, but keeping my knife as sharp as the knife service is a lot of work. I would like to invest in a quality knife sharpener, eliminate the service, and enjoy using the knives I’ve spent tons of money on without clenching in remorse every time my filet knife hits a bone.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Weekly Specials

Soup: Gelleed Melon soup with flavors of rum, mint, and lime

App: Brown turkey fig and french brie tart, icewine dressed microgreens salad

Salad: Belgium endive, red cherry, and buttermilk blue cheese salad, spicy toasted walnuts, white cherry vinagraitte

Entree: Ginger poached wild stripped bass, purple fingerling potatoes, Chef's Garden summer beans, orange beurre blanc

Dessert: Rasberry and blueberries, white chocolate-yogurt mousse, hazelnut cake

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Iced Coffee

Wow, it's my new darling. I stumbled upon a recipie for cold brew coffee, simply 1/3 cup coffee grounds to 1 1/2 cups water stirred together and left for 24 hours. It's not hard to rig your drip coffee maker to filter this brew when it's done either. I'm liking to add just a little creamer, no sugar needed. It's been these moments of un-motivation that have lead me in this direction, I tested the waters a few days ago, and I can assure anyone who might be wondering, 16 shots of esspresso does little more than upset your stomach. This won't stop me from moderation with my new favorite, cold brewed java.