Friday, March 16, 2012

Guajes and Smoked Octopus

We keep on playing games with food here and some things work and are worth repeating and others get relegated to the it-was-interesting-but-not-that-interesting file. Here are photos from our latest Chef's Table, our regular 6pm 6-course tasting that we hold every Thursday evening.

California Roll Salad. We decided to deconstruct a California roll and present it as a salad. Honestly, though I am sure that the flavors are all fine, I'm underwhelmed by the result in the sense that it is probably not as good as a straight up California roll. I think there is too much going on here, something that I am not often guilty of: avocado, sesame seeds, wasabi, guaje seeds, yellow tomato, puffed wild rice, crab marinated in yuzu vinaigrette, tobiko, and slivers of nori. All fine ingredients but fails to adhere to less-is-more and I'm not wild about the presentation either. Minor fail.

Skate Cheeks. Everyone who eats seafood should try skate cheeks at least once. They are such wonderful morsels of pillowy goodness. You see them here in a sautée of artichokes hearts and pancetta, finished with white wine, herbs, and butter. Life is very good after you eat this dish.

Rosemary-Smoked Octopus. For me, this was the highlight of the dinner. I have never had smoked octopus before and not sure what prompted me to smoke it this time, but I am hooked. This is a really good dish. We poached the octopus in court bouillon until it was tender and chilled it overnight, then I cold smoked it lightly over cherry wood and fresh rosemary. At service, I tossed the octopus in unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel and warmed it on the grill. You see it sitting on an orzo, feta, and oregano custard. The dish is garnished with more olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and the tiniest of sprigs of oregano that are just now popping up outside the restaurant. This dish is a winner, hands down: well conceived, well executed, nicely presented, and outstandingly delicious.

Grilled Brined Pork Tenderloin. We had some leftover trimmings from a pork tenderloin entrée, so we decided to brine and grill them to show off our dried cherry olivada and amarena cherry mosto cotto. The brine is salt, brown sugar, allspice, and pepper. The "olivada" is a tapenade-like condiment consisting of dried cherries, olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, thyme, oregano, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. We colored a parsnip purée with spinach for contrast on the plate. Very tasty.

Local Lamb Rack Roulade. I removed every other bone from a large lamb rack and then butterflied and stuffed the rib-eye with a mixture of brunoise of sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke), rosemary, Dijon mustard, panko, and goat cheese. Then I rolled the rib-eye back up, tied, seared, and roasted it. Here you see it with a wild watercress pesto and a glazed lozenge of celery root.

Baked Alaska. How often do you see Baked Alaska at a restaurant? When made correctly, it's a light and whimsical ending to a meal. On a base of sliced pineapple, we mounded our jackfruit and Meyer lemon granita and then piped on a layer of coconut Italian meringue made from the whites of all the local duck eggs that go into our pastries.

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