Wednesday, September 24, 2008

End of summer poll results

It was a win by a nose situation, a pure drag race down to the last second. What will we miss the most? And it’s a roll of the dice, an even split, a draw, no one gets their chicken dinner. Or do they all win, and all get a place IN our chicken dinner? I guess that’s a matter of perspective.

By only the slightest of margins we have decided that Ohio sweet corn will be our most highly exulted summer indulgence. Peaches and heirloom tomatoes are right behind, and in their proper place as far as I’m concerned. My personal vote went to the peach because for the past few weeks I’ve had a wonderfully ripe, soft, juicy peach for breakfast, and it will fully enrage me a few weeks down the road when I grab peach from the ice box that is harder than diamonds, dry, and has a flavor reminiscent of a cardboard box. This is what makes all 3 of these local beauties so special, the drop-off in quality is almost unbelievable as we move out of season.

While I like my peaches, I fully endorse sweet corn as the winner. I can think of a great many uses for sweet corn, places where sweet corn either stars or plays a superb supporting role. When I think of peaches, they are best in their virgin state. The fuzzy skin, juice on your shirt, and giant pit are all what makes a peach great. Cooking it, peeling it, puree it, changing it in any way seems to detract from it’s appeal. The same goes for those super ripe, fragile, busting at the seams heirloom tomatoes. They are so very good just sliced with some salt and pepper that turning them into soup, or salsa, or sauce just doesn’t do them justice. On the other hand, corn on the cob is great at a picnic, but that super sweet ear of corn is equally great in a soup, or as a corn cake, or off the cob and sauteed. It’s my opinion that what we enjoy about sweet corn isn’t diminished when we manipulate it, and for this reason it will be mine, and many others most cherished summer indulgence that will all too soon disappear.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taste of the NFL 2008

Last night I was able to represent Nemo Grill at the Taste of the NFL 10th annual celebrity dinner. The goal of the event was to raise funds for the Cleveland food bank, along with other organizations helping to alleviate hunger. The event is held at the Cleveland Browns Stadium on the club seats level. This makes for a great venue, a perfect blend of sport venue, and plush upscale service. It’s equally enjoyable to work the event at this venue since everything there is on such a massive scale.

We offered pork shoulder confit over braised red cabbage. A very flavorful offering when your only presenting people with 2-3 bite sized portions. Everyone seemed to sincerely enjoy it. Most of the people we spoke to where not familiar with the restaurant. Hopefully a few of them that walked away with cards with come to the restaurant in get a larger taste of what we are doing.

The only down side was that we prepped almost twice as much food as we used. There where a lot of people there, and plenty of other restaurants exclaimed how busy they where, but we where slightly disappointed. Our table was all the way at the end of the venue, which wouldn’t be so bad if the venue was a straight and narrow shot, start and end. But in this case an escalator brings people up right in the middle of the venue, which is where all the action is; the booze and wine, the seating, the live and silent auction. You can’t blame them as it’s easy to find everything you need in that area without wandering to the far wings where we waited quietly to dish out our sampling.

Luckily at these event restaurants are more than happy to share with other restaurants and everyone gets to sample each others presentations. While I missed a lot of things I found the veal tortellini from Lago very good. The tuna from Players was full of flavor. The best thing I tasted was prepared by the Cleveland Browns chef’s and consisted of blue cheese risotto toped with a small piece of braised short ribs, tiny cherry tomatoes, and a strip of parmesan cheese. The reserved use of blue cheese added to the flavoring instead of taking over, and the burst of acid from the tomatoes really brought this little sampling together.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Specials for this week-end

Soup: Local Broccoli and white cheddar chowder

App: Foie gras mousse, mini truffle pound cakes, green tomato marmalade, marinated tomatoes

Salmon: Artichoke-red onion quinoa, tomato-corn relish, roasted garlic vinaigrette

Entree: Seared Lake Erie walley, lemon-thyme fingerlings, lobster-panchetta creamed corn

Entree2: Beef tournedo 'surf and turf', grilled medallions, butter poached lobster, lobster risotto, grilled zucchini

Monday, September 15, 2008

Restaurant etiquette

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has had somewhat of an ongoing conversation over tipping, and how that money is distributed. This interesting conversation coupled with the dangerous weather and power outages at the restaurant last night which left us cooking by candle light, without ventilation, for customer who where getting pushy about where their food was, has ultimately lead me to share some of my personal rules of etiquette when I choose to dine out.

If I make a reservation I arrive on time with the correct number of people in my party. I refuse to go to a restaurant within a half hour of it’s posted opening or closing. If I am late, I will do everything I can to not be the last table. From the inside out, I understand by following these rules I will receive the best service available.

Substitutions... if I want to mix and match what I eat, then I go to a buffet. If I would prefer the risotto over the sweet potato hash, then I ask for a side of it. Perhaps if I had an allergy I might be more open minded here, but basically I never ask for substitutions. It’s that much more respectful to the staff.

I adapt to my surroundings. It’s ok to cheer for my team at the sports bar, but that is about it. If my destination requires a certain dress, then I conform to that. I try not to be in the minority with respect to other customers.

Finally, the tip! I believe the tip is a tool to tell the server they did a crappy job. Then again it’s also the best pat on the back. I’m likely to way over tip for good service and inexpensive food. Likewise I’m happy to under tip on good service and over priced food. Unfortunately for the restauranteur, if my service is crap, I won’t return to the restaurant ever again no matter what kind of tip I leave. It’s an easy equation, if the server does a good job, they get rewarded. Since Kari and I are more than likely to know someone where ever it is we go out, more than likely the server. It is always in our best interest to leave a generous tip as we believe it will come back around to us someday. Restaurant employee karma if you will.

Lastly, I push my chair in before I leave. I keep track of my valuables and don’t leave anything behind and if the electricity goes out at the restaurant while I’m are there, I would be understanding.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two pot sweet corn bisque

In an effort to turn half a crate of sweet corn into soup as fast as possible I devised this scheme to blaze through the whole process. This would work great in the home kitchen as well since we are always in a pinch for a few extra minutes.

12 ears of corn
1/4 pound butter
2 onions
2 carrots
half stalk of celery
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons whole coriander

First shuck the corn, and separate the kernels from the cob. In pot One Sauteed one onion in the butter, then add the garlic and corn kernels and set heat to low. In pot Two brown off the mire poix and add the corn cobs broken in half, toss in the coriander, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for ½ and hour. Strain the corn broth right into the pot with the kernels, bring to a boil then remove from the heat. At this point we have invested about 40 minutes, not bad.

Using a blender, ideally a vita-prep, puree the soup and strain through a chinois or the finest mesh strainer you have, discard the solids. Season with salt and tabasco sauce.

This is a great vegetarian soup, vegan if you want to leave out the butter. It’s fast, simple, and perfect for our now chilly nights. Corn is as good as I can ever remember right now. I’ve gone through about 6 crates and haven’t had a bad cob yet. If you enjoy the soup and have a little left over it makes a good base for a batch of corn cakes.

Nemo's weekly specials, September 12

Soup: Sweet corn bisque, truffled asparagus.

App: Fresh Ohio Edamame, steamed with garlic oil and sea salt.

Salmon: Seared over basil pesto flavored cous-sous, local baby carrots, and green tomato marmalade.

Fish: Almond encrusted wild stripped bass over garlicy braised greens and creamed ohio sweet corn with pancetta and shitake mushrooms.

Entree: Tournadoes of beef, grilled with spiced sweet potato puree, brocolli-white cheddar bread pudding, poached 'Sarah's farm" farmers egg, truffle oil and black pepper.

Sweet: Ohio summer fruit 'chowder' red and yellow watermelon, cantelope, plums, and blueberries in a vanilla-melon broth garnished with fresh mint.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fresh Fork Market, the new purveyor in town.

I’ve been a huge supporter of local produce, and farmers markets. I shop for myself almost exclusively at the Lakewood Farmers market this time of the year. Unfortunately shopping for the restaurant is a whole different situation. There are things for the restaurant I know I will need, and how much of it, and showing up at the market, hoping to find what you need is not all that fun. Especially when you walk away empty handed. Fresh Fork Market has fixed all that. My second delivery arrives tomorrow, and I’m very happy with how things have worked so far.

Fresh Fork Market is a new purveyor to the Cleveland area. They are currently going through their first Ohio growing season. FFM is a local food distributor. They are working with over 50 small farmers over a 80 mile radius surrounding Cleveland. The customer interface they have created is one of the most pleasant ordering experiences I’ve ever had. Delivery days are Tuesday, and Friday, and ordering deadlines only 24 hours ahead. Upon accessing the FFM webpage you can easily navigate through what is available, order what you want, from which farmer you desire, at a set price. 36 hours later the product is delivered fresh from the ground to your door.

I understand that FFM does not inventory anything. There is not a warehouse with cases of ripening tomatoes, or rotting greens. An ordering cycle would process like this. Product is delivered on Friday. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the farmer takes an inventory of what they will have available for a Tuesday delivery and posts this on the FFM webpage. Customers have until midnight Sunday to place an order made up of the product the farmers will have available. Monday, probably at 1 am, the farmer gets an order from FFM upon which they pick, and pack what’s needed and ship it off to Cleveland where FFM re-packs things for distribution Tuesday. This process is genius. The lack of inventory, the farmer created availability, the ability to complete an order online, all allows for some of the freshest local food to be dropped at my door twice a week.

Who needs a distributor? Not Solomon’s Farm in Avon. For all my chatting up of FFM online interface, I regress to my weekly call to Solomon’s upon which I talk to the person who both planted and will pick my produce. All the while creating an ‘inventory’ and ‘pricing structure’ in their head as we go. Delivery day, well that goes something like this, "if it doesn’t rain tonight I can pick that tomorrow and see you around 6pm" said Solomon’s, and I know if I wake up and the ground it wet, I will have to wait an extra day for my delivery.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Born out of abundance

This interesting dish evolved out of a brainstorm that centered around ordering too many melons, and needing an appetizer special for the week-end. No matter how hard I could have tried, this is something that comes to you while standing in the walk-in cooler staring at the condensation, opposed to sitting with a pen and paper. Plenty of odd dishes with abstract flavor combinations have come and gone with little notice, but customers actually enjoyed this one. We offered this last week-end: Hot Italian sausage, local summer melons, feta, truffle honey, borage flowers, leaves, and pickled stems, finished with fleur de sel.
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Friday, September 05, 2008

Nemo's weekly specials

Chilled heirloom tomato soup, gorganzola panna cotta
garlic oil, cherry tomatoes.

Grilled bistro steak, baked ohio sweet onion, spicy red skin potato salad
roasted garlic-goat cheese spread

Seared salmon, saffrron rice cooked with nuts and dried fruit,
creamy leeks, herb coulis
Also in the works but pictureless include:
App: Hot italian sausage, watermelon, feta, borage, truffle honey
Entree: Herb crusted walley, sweet corn-potato croquette, beer braised carrots,
spicy vegetable relish
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Slow Food Nation; Mission Accomplished?

Last month I posted some of my personal comments on Slow Food in response to a NY Times piece that previewed the Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco as well as criticized the organization rather one sidedly. After reading the NY Times follow up articles on this event, I feel reluctant to be so critical of Slow Food.

From reading a few reviews of the event a lot has been accomplished from it. Slow Food vaulted itself into the national spotlight, even if short lived. This introduced a lot of people to slow food who might not have otherwise given the principles much thought. The physical event itself brought many different people together and broke down a plethora of boundaries that people abide by unwittingly. Farmers got to mingle with customers not just chefs, and customers got to see raw product, and examine it’s path before it got from the restaurants back door to the plate. Social and economic communities mingled together reminding each other to recycle, or compost, or shop locally. These were the reasons the event was put on, and the message was presented as planned. Only time will tell how responsive people will be. Just reading about this happening encourages me to examine Slow Food a little deeper, and more open minded.