A few stages left, and the most boring TdF I can remember watching is winding down, fitting that the Brits have got it salted away in first and second place. I miss the days of the Postal Express freight train, and the Wild West years that followed . . . . Maybe next year Tejay will take on Froome and we’ll have an American on the podium again.
As for food . . . we’re ripping through the summer cornucopia, stonefruit in every direction, grouper, wild shrimp, coon stripe shrimp, sand dabs, cranberry bean agnolotti, bumblebee bean ragout, melon with nam pla and coconut clouds, on and on. I’m not saying it’s Steve Jobs’ parents’ garage circa 1975 but there are some very cool ideas and flavors bouncing around in our kitchen. And I bet you ten large ones it smells better than Jobs and Woz did in that garage.
Chef D_____ was in for dinner last night on a big table. Ryder worked up a mozzarella panna cotta to line the bottom of this big wild glass bowls that look like Snoddys and garnished it with four types of basil flower (opal, lime, fino verde, genovese) and some charred and peeled sun sugar tomatoes that grow next to the basils in our garden. The server drizzled gaspatxo de catalunya over it all tableside.
Bartender says, “Where’d you get that?”
Parrot says, “France. They got millions of ‘em.”
That’s called in media res. I think. Vergil used it. Better than I did. Less name-droppy, too.
Such is the state of things during a busy summer, though. We put on a great wine dinner with Charnu Winery and Dancing Hares Winery; the theme was surf and turf because I was cooking for six different Napa Cabs, all fairly young, and I couldn’t think of what other concept could match that weight course after course and still proceed in a manner that made sense on the palate.
Long sentences are a fact of life when I just cooked for 166 lunch guests in a 94 degree kitchen. I don’t know if it’s the oxygen supply that’s missing necessarily but something has me dizzy. And adverbs are firing repeatedly, unwantedly, and uncontrollably. Anyway here goes
Pan-roasting veal tenderloins with thyme and butter
In the time since I last posted, melting icebergs have caused eastern Canadian sea levels to rise 4.875 feet; my good old state of NC, former home of southern Democrats, has voted to invest its remaining budget surplus in paper drachmas (turns out I might not be as ironic as I thought . . . ) and Manny Pacquiao’s next fight; better just post the pictures, actually.
We have a new first course on the menu–wild texas shrimp wrapped in our house recipe pancetta, seared on the plancha and served with a deconstructed romesco sauce, baby leeks, and potato-roasted garlic mousseline out of the thermal isi gun.
Needless to say–flying off the line. Wash it down with cava or a cold beer, better yet some Basquaise hard cider.
And then there are the sardines . . . I swear it’s such a good feeling to have every dish we put on the menu be my new favorite. When that goes away, time to hang up the apron. Better be a while yet.
Those are involtini of Monterey Bay sardines with an olive farce, sitting on a swipe of saffron rouille and garnished with baby fennel, dried olive, and a calasparra rice fritter. Get on the fast boat around the Med . . .
Banh mi never sells when it’s on our menu, winter or summer, but it’s one of my favorites whether it’s at Saigon Sandwich or Solbar. Today we have a roasted duck banh mi on the menu with a duck pate:
Ooo. Good and livery, just the right amount of quatre-epices, pistachio, and chunks of duck breast. Plenty of pork fat in there too.
Finished product: crusty baguette, spicy mayo, cilantro, pickled carrots, shredded romaine, sliced and seared duck breast seasoned with plenty of nam pla. Served next to a pile of crispy sweet potato chips.
I like sandwiches. A LOT. I realize that’s not a terribly incisive or original observation, but realize that I’m a chef because I love food. And sandwiches have a special place in my belly’s heart. They are the sine qua non of restaurant work because they’re hand-held whole meals that I can eat standing up. Empires have been built on less.
ADD THIS BANH MI TO THE LIST!!! It is freaking stunning–crunchy, spicy, rich, meaty, tender, acid/sweet pop, just . . . ah.
new items this weekend
–hot and sour sweetbreads with orange-peanut hoisin, puffed rice, pickled orange, and kimchi puree
–little gem salad with creamy lemon vinaigrette, sugar snaps, and fines herbes
–pastrami-cured hamachi with fresh horseradish, heirloom beets, rye crouton, and dill creme fraiche
–confit lamb shoulder with mustard butter, turnip puree, baby turnip greens, and pearl onions
–carrot salad with a melange of baby carrots, garam masala, carrot paper, lime froyo, date-pistachio truffles
–sweet onion and sunchoke soup with grapes, cracked almonds, and marjoram
–green asparagus salad with mache, grain mustard, and a crispy poached lily’s egg (lunch)
–green asparagus salad with shiitake puree, fresh water chestnuts, pickled daikon, and cashews (dinner)
–handmade mozzarella and roasted portobello on solbar lavash bread with spinach, all’arrabiatta, white bean spread, and fried spring onions (lunch)
Staring up at seven straight days of rain forecasted for all of NV . . . at least the sweet peas will be happy, and the cows. The sunny February was great for business on our patio but if the plants and animals don’t have any nourishment, we’ll run out of local food by Memorial Day.
The uproar–or tempest in a teacup, depending on your perspective–among West Coast food writers at the moment is whether or not they should assign stars (or, in the case of the Times-Picayune, beans) to accompany their reviews. Two weeks ago, it was the backlash of chefs against no-account Yelpers, who can trash a restaurant, for any reason, and never have to answer for it.
A critique of my food will never be something I can accept in an objective, cold-blooded, detached frame of mind. You are judging my worth, my essence, my career, the reason I put on these clogs and jacket every day, my ability to feed my kids. It’s the application of heat, it’s dexterity with a knife. It’s performance-driven, it’s immediately obvious, it’s instantly gratifying or repulsive. And I asked for all of that.
And you know what else? When you tell me it’s great, it’s amazing, it’s unique, it’s the best you’ve ever had, I’m such a wrinkled, leathery cuss that I can’t quite believe you . . . and when you don’t, I’m convinced you’re a fool. Makes perfect sense, right?
Early spring steak salad–it was 74 degrees on the patio today, PACKED, and we had a one-day-only special on this entree. Sold out by 130 pm.
Roasted fingerling potatoes, chilled beef tenderloin, green garlic-meyer lemon vinaigrette, spicy deviled egg, topped with delta asparagus (roasted a la minute, nice and hot) with a few watercress leaves on top. Mm hmm.
The first english peas are already here from Santa Cruz as are the first favas. Goose made a new chicken dish with meyer lemon, peas, rhubarb, spring onions, a crispy egg yolk, and a chicken skin wafer. The chicken itself is the breast filleted open the wrapped around the leg meat and cooked a la plancha. Seared, hot, moist, on the money.
Starting tomorrow, we’ll be serving a brunch menu from 10am-3pm on weekends and holiday Mondays (just in time). Andrew and Joe have masterminded this update so that we can serve the best of both worlds.
I had a generous taste of the 1999 “microclimate 2″ of the Volcanic Hill vineyard from Diamond Creek. Unbelievable–12.5% alcohol, deep and dusty and dark yet still bright and alive and vibrant. Bradley tells me that Diamond Creek only makes it every 5-10 years or so. Happy Birthday, Boots!
There’s a lot more going on but it’s late and I’m tired and the cooks and I still have yet to press the duck confit, portion the brisket, and tie the veal shank . . . very exciting menu possibility with the veal. More soon.
All’s I’m saying is, you must go. It was packed on a rainy Tuesday in February, which in Napa Valley is normally true only of the DMV. Good luck getting a seat at the bar, though. Big menu, amazing design, good beers, reasonable cocktails, NV cognoscenti in attendance. There’s not another room like it.