Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

August 1, 2010

We had been talking about a quail dish for a while, and what better segue from the last post than to describe the dish we put on the menu tonight:  buttermilk-fried quail with cheese grits, fresh black-eyed peas, ham hocks, red eye gravy and pickled watermelon rind.  Serve it with a side of rusted-chevy-propped-up-on-cinder-blocks-in-the-yard and that’s as Southern as an Alabama Slammer.

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July 28, 2010

Protein cookery can be divided into two categories:  dry-heat and moist-heat.  Moist-heat cookery encompasses poaching, braising, boiling, steaming, and the like, as well as sous vide techniques where a water-based solution is added to the protein before vacuum packing.  These are usually done at lower temperatures–obviously these processes cannot exceed 212 Fahrenheit, except for steaming, which is actually gentler than boiling (because of the lessened density of the cooking medium).

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Or so (almost) goes “One More Saturday Night”.  Far Niente threw their a 125th birthday bash last Saturday night and invited me, along with 14 other chefs, to cook for their 800 guests.  The crowd was hip and excited, the music was festive, the Cirque du Soleil dancers were out there.  You can see a better picture of, and read about, the soiree here.

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On Wednesday and Thursday past, I opened–6am–because Zach had a few well-deserved days off (though at 945 Thursday morning, as I returned to the kitchen from a meeting, he had come in to do his dry-goods order and got stuck in the middle of the breakfast line, plating pancakes and hash browns in his flip-flops to dig out the new breakfast cooks).  My prep list on Thursday started out:

smoke andouille

smoke eggplant

smoke shortribs

smoke pork ribs

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July 4, 2010

I’ll skip right over the brilliant lamb entree (leg of pozzi farms lamb, wrapped in our house-made lavash bread with babaghanoush and summer squash, and served over tomato chutney with red wine-lamb sausage, tabbouleh, and pickled eggplant) that Ryder added to the dinner menu tonight–so I can speak to the PORK CHOP that I composed with cornbread, rapini, white corn, our cajun andouille, and roasted fig-sherry jus.

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Big spread in the Chronicle’s F&W section for our town this past weekend!  From restaurants to tasting rooms, wow.  Chateau Montelena, Dutch Henry, and Kelly Fleming are Vintner Members at Solage, Joe and Jill Cabral of Lava Vine are members, and the Lynches and everyone at Bennett Lane have always been loyal solbar supporters.

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This week, Andrew and Ryder brought in pork racks from Long and Bailey Farms, and Goose brined them with rosemary, brown sugar, black pepper, and apple juice.  The term for cleaning up a rack (be it buffalo, rabbit, or anything in between), is “french”.  Now normally when we french a rack of anything, we trim it all the way down so that there is no fat or sinew left on top of the “eye”–the long loin muscle that is the eye of the rib, or ribeye (and which becomes the saddle of lamb or veal or the strip loin of beef in those respective animals)–and the bones are made long and clean.

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June 20, 2010

On Friday, Lily Berlin came to our staff lineup before dinner service to pour her wines for the crew. She and her family are the owners and operators of El Molino, on of the smallest wineries in NV and (I believe) the only one that makes Pinot Noir from exclusively Rutherford grapes. They also make a Chardonnay, and those are their only two labels. It’s an insider’s wine, rather than a cult wine–there’s no tasting room, there’s no marketing scheme, but it’s available if you ask for it.

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It’s finally fruit fruit and more fruit as the rains have stopped and the sun ripens everything . . . we have peach cobblers going out to banquets, red plum mostarda on the new duck breast, and a killer parfait of lemon cream and crumbled graham crackers with Ortiz Farms raspberries on the solbar dessert menu. Look for pecan French toast with vanilla-poached peaches at breakfast soon.

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Last Thursday night, Zach and I went to Shane and Suzanne Phifer-Pavitt’s house to cook a Wine Auction dinner.  Ted Osborne is the winemaker for Olabisi and Datenight (which is Suzanne’s Cab), the labels of the five wines that were poured over the course of dinner.  I’m going to let the pictures tell the story (Kim Wedlake, Ted’s wife, took the good ones), and try and locate a couple of links for pieces done by food writers who were at the dinner.

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