Chef's Blog

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

February 11, 2011

Pork rinds.  Hm.  Kind of have a socioeconomic stigma where I come from–but so do ”git’er done” ballcaps, popped collars, and jeans in church.  But in our constant effort to bring soul food to California (solidarity, Fremont Diner!), I thought we’d fry our own pork skin here at solbar.

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February 8, 2011

Chicken and sausage gumbo is on the bar menu, took me about four hours to make it.  A good batch, too, though I had to use red bell peppers instead of green, so it’s a tad sweeter than I prefer.  NO OKRA AND NO GUMBO FILE POWDER!  Both make the stew too mucillagenous for me.  I was offered fried okra at school lunch every day through senior, and my opinion of it hasn’t improved much since then.  A beautiful, mahogany roux is all you need to thicken the gumbo to the perfect degree.

February 5, 2011

At least that’s what I told the 30 hotel guests and members who enjoyed bloody marys, cold beer, and fish tacos by the Solage pool today.

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February 3, 2011

Had a great meal sitting at Bar Terra last night, in a room where I’d already had a few formal dinners over the past ten years.  Hiro and Lissa have one of the most beautiful buildings in the Valley as their canvas, and it’s wonderful to see them  move with the times and split up their restaurant so that guests have the choice of a fine-dining experience or a more casual one, prepared with the same great ingredients and attention to detail.

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February 1, 2011

(Post #100).

For some of us food is no more fuel—eating as an animal instinct, muscles in need of glycogen.  For others, food may be a vocation, an avocation, an addiction, or, as many highfaluters would have it, art.  Like art, which you can enjoy much more after taking a class in its appreciation, the more you know about food, the more you will like the good stuff, and the less interested you’ll be in eating for fuel alone.  This isn’t snobbery or sophistication, it’s civilization.  In my mind, cavemen painted their cave walls by the light of fires over which they roasted their mastodon meat.

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January 28, 2011

Sardines a la plancha, piquillo sofrito, baby fennel, cured mandarinquat, saffron aioli, tiny radish:

young red and white carrots, tiny carrots, green chickpea puree, pretzel-black cumin crust, sausalito springs watercress:

Arriving today are not just “baby” vegetables, but “tiny” vegetables–red onions, radish, carrot.  Ric over at Cook’s promises me that the vegetable part itself will be 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter, with beautiful, edible greens intact.  A few ideas that we’ll be working on:

–Monterey bay sardines a la plancha with cured mandarinquat, piquillo sofrito, tiny radish, and seared baby fennel.  Flavor profile a la valenciana.

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Dungeness crab bisque with saffron foam and rouille:

Poached egg with Perigord black truffles, beurre colbert, and Lyonnaise potatoes:

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January 18, 2011

Hunter S. Thompson practiced a highly editorial, sometimes mostly factual form of writing that he called gonzo journalism.  When asked, he said that GONZO is “learning to fly while falling”.

I’ve worked with a few amazing gonzo cooks.  John Besh absolutely could not be stumped, be the ingredient wild arugula or wild boar still on the hoof.  Eric Ziebold, who was the chef de cuisine at The French Laundry during the two years I cooked there, was the king of gonzo cooking.  Watching those two, I learned to be especially wary when someone makes it look easy.

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January 17, 2011

“Poolside patio at Solbar is the spot to get a glass of wine and watch the sun go down over the Mayacama mountains across the valley. The Euro lounge-y vibe and a bar menu — served until midnight — with all the comforting basics make it an ideal place should you want to eat after most restaurants’ closing time of 9 p.m. (they get to bed early in wine country). Early risers, too, will find rare respite with breakfast and a Sunday brunch menu. While there’s a slightly trendy vibe, don’t be surprised if a couple wanders in wearing bathrobes — Solbar sits on the premises of Solage Resort. The haute-hearty dinner menu has garnered raves, though, and Solbar stands alone as a singular distention.”

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