Saturday, September 28, 2013

One Blog West has Moved

As of September 2013, One Blog West has merged into the One Block West Restaurant site: now everything is all in one place. All these posts from Blogger are on the new site and more new posts as well. Please come join One Blog West at its new home.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Couple of August Dishes

Here are a couple of dishes from recent tastings: 
Steelhead and Tomato Tartare

This Steelhead Trout tartare is as simple as it looks and relies heavily on the freshness of its constituent ingredients. The tartare is cubed Steelhead belly, cubed tomato, capers, shallots, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and a touch of shichimi togarashi. Garnishes are house-made crème fraîche, salmon roe, cilantro, and more shichimi togarashi.

Duck Prosciutto, Fig, and Onion Salad
And this is a bit of fun, showcasing our recent batch of duck breast prosciutto that is now 12 weeks of age and ready to eat. On the plate is a drizzle of saba, a syrup made by boiling down grape must. Then a caramelized onion jam, fresh figs, salad burnet, micro arugula, and very thin slices of our duck prosciutto. This dish is starting to show that our minds are moving into fall, here in late August.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dare to be Different

I remember customer wine ordering patterns a decade ago, around the turn of the century to a little after:

"I'll have a glass of Merlot." and "Please bring me a glass of Chardonnay."

Then for a short while during the summer of 2004 thanks to the movie Sideways, we couldn't give away a glass of Merlot. Miles seemingly singlehandedly put the words "Pinot Noir" on everyone's lips. The mantra was then:

"Oh, I'll have a Pinot please." Yet Chard still held sway in the white world. But by the spring of 2005, Merlot was back on top. That run wouldn't last forever, though.

Sometime in the last three or four years, customers moved on, in response to what stimuli, I don't know. Today, it's:

"I'll have a Malbec, please." and "Please bring me a Pinot Grigio."

This all strikes me as rather boring and, well, frankly, as an abdication of one's responsibility to continue to learn. Never mind that learning can be fun—seriously, how distressing is it to have to drink a glass of wine?—I always thought that it was one of the delights of growing up: learning for the sheer fun of it when nobody, not a parent or a teacher, is breathing down your neck.

We have a wine list here at the restaurant that is 70-plus in number of wines on offer by the glass (and this doesn't count many more than that by the bottle). Why is that? Because we love to learn about wines ourselves and we have fun sharing what we have learned with others.

So, know that we cringe a little bit each time you blindly call for a glass or bottle of the same old-same old.

Know that we spend a lot of time in finding really neat wines from lesser-known grapes such as Asprinio, Furmint, Robola, Melon de Bourgogne, Lagrein, Mencía, and Gamay Noir.

And know that we'd love to share them with you.

Will you dare to be different? Will you try something new?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bagel and Lox

Some dishes are just inherently fun and this is one of them, our whimsical tribute to bagels and lox.

Bagel and Lox
For the bagel component, we're using sliced and dehydrated bagels for a crisp, cracker-like effect. The lox is our own house-cured prosciutto of steelhead trout. I call it prosciutto for it is more akin to a country ham than it is to gravlax. We cure it for about a week, rather than a couple of days, and then hang it in front of a fan for another week to further desiccate it. At the end of this process, it becomes very much like a ham and like a good ham, it is intense and salty and full of umami and just a little goes a long way.

For garnishes, we have a honey-dill mustard, baby dill, tiny capers, salmon caviar, and the latest product to come from our ice cream machine: sour cream, caper, and dill ice cream. The creamy texture of this frozen sour cream is a lot of fun and is taking customers really by surprise and they're loving it.

Just having fun here with our re-imagining of a classic dish and our tribute to great delis everywhere.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sockeye, Squash, and Tomatoes

Sockeye, Squash, and Tomatoes
Fresh sockeye just flown in from Alaska sitting on a bed of yellow and zephyr squash "noodles" dressed with olives and a feta-olive dressing, topped with a salad of rehydrated tomatoes and oregano flowers.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Head Cheese

There's no denying that we love pork. In fact, pork is the only thing preventing me from eliminating meat from my diet. It is such a versatile animal and the meat is far and away the best of any animal. We go to great lengths to source awesome pork, including this year arranging with a local farmer to raise hogs just for us. Our first one came in last week and we were not about to waste a scrap of it, including the head.

Pork Head Cheese, Carrot-Dill Mustard, Cornichons
The head is covered in meat and after simmering away in a nice broth with bay leaves and peppercorns, that meat is fine, fine eating. Tony picked the meat and packed it along with diced and grilled heart for color variation (the heart is dark meat) into a terrine and then covered the meat with an aspic made from the cooking liquid.

And here you see the end result. As fine a piece of porky goodness as you could ever want. Customers loved it. We loved it more. Charcuterie: the reason I will never be a vegetarian!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ten Tips from Living with a Chef

I really do like to cook at home, not that I am there very often to do it. Many of you, I am certain, will find that odd, a busman's holiday of sorts, no doubt. But I do. Cooking at home is very, very different than is cooking in a restaurant. At home, I come up with an idea, get all the ingredients together, and prepare the meal from start to finish, the proverbial soup to nuts, just like both of you reading this that still cook at home. At work, we spend all day preparing food to be ready to cook. Then we try to chill for a few minutes. And then we spend the next several hours assembling dishes and doing the final cooking, a very disjointed process that is nothing like what happens at home.

So I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen at home doing what it is that got me into the foodservice business in the first place and that which I do very little of at work. As the king of the hill at work, how often do I really chop onions, mince garlic, and all the other little tasks that I do each time I am in my home kitchen?

I got to wondering what parts of work rub off on what I do in my home kitchen and because I am too close to the subject, I asked my wife Ann for a list of ten things that she has learned from me about cooking in our years together, things that she would like to pass on to others. She says:

1. For a great sear on anything, get your pan screaming hot.

2. When cooking shrimp, don't keep turning them over and over. Cook them once on each side, just like any fish.

3. To halve a whole bunch of grape tomatoes at once, place the tomatoes on the cutting board and put your hand over all the tomatoes and slice through with a serrated knife, between your hand and the cutting board.

4. Never be intimated to cook for a chef—they will eat anything—especially if they don't have to cook it! However, they WILL make fun of all your small cans and containers of food and your SMALL cooking utensils and say, quite obnoxiously, "Aww, they're so cute!" [guilty as charged]

5. Combine sweet flavors with salty ones and spicy ones. Don't be afraid to try any combination. I now use a lot more sea salt in my brownies and oatmeal cookies than the original recipes call for.

6. When cooking pasta, reserve some of the starchy cooking water to use in the pasta sauce. The starch helps make sauces creamy.

7. Use leftover fish bones, lobster shells, chicken parts etc. to make stocks for soups. Roast them all first ( I know...right?!?! Who knew?).

8. Presentation is EVERYTHING—even when making simple scrambled eggs!!

9. If the product you start with is awesome, cooking it in olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper is generally the way to go.

10. One is not allowed to eat/buy a fruit or vegetable unless it's in season.

And there you have it. Don't forget number 4 above. I'm available!