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Posts Tagged ‘multi course meals’

Lobster B&W

It all starts with Lobster

Don’t be fooled by imitations, there is only one Chef Jack Lee. Call him what you want, he answers to Captain Jack or even Kangaroo Jack. His name aside, one thing remains the same; Taste, consistency and innovation in the kitchen. We spent the day with Chef Jack where we experienced a taste of the finer things in life; traditional dishes with an Escoffier twist as interpreted thru the eyes of Mad Jack.

Chef Jack – steady as she goes.

We entered the inner sanctum of a beautiful Beverly Hills estate that is also the private art gallery called the DeVorzon Gallery. The walls were filled with beautiful works of art. As we went through the art filled rooms and corridors we finally set foot into the center of this home of creativity. There it was the hub, the hearth known as the kitchen. It was fitting that the Culinary artist Chef Jack Lee was in his art studio creating excerpts from some of his different culinary portfolios. Unlike many chefs, Jack Lee creates food as an artist creates a portfolio or body of work. He gets his inspiration from the world around him and then begins the process of creating a body of work around a specific theme much like many well known artists before him. The inspiration that created Monet’s Garden series or Picasso’s portraits of women. Weegee’s Naked City and Warhol’s Series of Marilyn Monroe and then there’s Jack Lee’s Portfolio of food inspired by life events. He calls his portfolios “Tasting Collections”.

Chef Jack Lee used food to tell a story, to represent how his clients feel and to personify who they are through his experience of

$100 egg roll in all it’s glory

them. He takes these experiences and translates them onto the plate. A few years ago he went through jaw surgery where he lost his sense of taste. It took him a year and a half to recover his sense of taste and retrain his palate. During his recovery he came up with the idea of his 6th tasting collection called “My True Colors” where he used food and colors to describe his thoughts and feelings through his toughest period after his surgery and his journey back to the culinary world.

A plate full of $100 eggrolls now that’s eating.

It was just such an inspiration that let him to create the $100 eggroll.  He was inspired by the opulence and abundance that surrounded him. It was an homage to the relaunch of his new concept after his jaw surgery. He debuted it at a celebrity fundraiser in Brentwood.

He wanted to add some “bling bling to this modern delicacy that is a staple at Chinese restaurants throughout America.” By using the most expensive seasonal ingredients available to he successfully made the ultimate eggroll. He sourced Maine lobster, seasonal French truffles, the best caviar and gold leaf. He uses taro root instead of napa cabbage to keep the roll fresh and crisp. He makes a raspberry sauce using lobster stock and then pairs it with a glass of Dom Perignon.

We were also lucky to have the opportunity to sample some of the creations from other Taste Collections such as –
Lobster martini that Jack calls it “happy juice”
Lobster broth, lemongrass, vodka with a  salmon scallop lollipop

Lobster Martini

Prime Rib Bahn Mi
Not your average Bahn Mi – prime rib, Huson Valley Foie Gras instead of aoli and a soy foie gras dipping sauce.

Prime Rib Bánh mì

Escargot
with a garlic pesto

Escargot with Pesto

and a Special surprise

Chilean Sea bass (signature dish)
-infused w sake, scallions and ginger – served w green tea soba noodles, scallions soy sauce and garnished with salmon roe.

Chilean Sea Bass with Soba Noodles

So it was a feast for the eyes, palate and all the other senses combined. Chef Jack Lee is a true artist who is among the ranks of the finest chefs around. He is one to watch in the coming years as he will certainly climb to ultimate notoriety.

Cheers, Amelia, Chef Jack and Adam

Chef Jack

We are looking forward to his upcoming Taste Collections inspired by Sake, Tequilla and his travels around the world. Cheers to Chef Jack Lee for taking the time out of his busy Chinoise Catering schedule to show us all a “Taste of the Good-Life.”

Article co-written by Adam Rubenstein & Rico Mandel for The Culinary Image and  VivaLAfoodies.com
Photography provided by Rico Mandel for Mizenplace & The Culinary Image
Video produced, edited and provided by Amelia Yokel

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Sangria

Sangria

I signed up for the Visa Signature sponsored event at Beso for Foodbuzz and was one of the ones who got to go. I decided to do some research on the net about Beso and didn’t find much that was positive. This made me skeptical but never having been there I went with an open mind and an empty stomach. Wednesday evening, September 9th, finally came.  I pulled up to a nondescript building that almost looked like one of the abandoned ones on Hollywood blvd.  I went in the large black wooden doors into a dark cavernous dining room.  The Hostess greeted me and pointed me in the right direction, where I found the other Foodbuzz bloggers mingling.rico-2836-2

I was greeted by Dorian Asch, assistant editor of Foodbuzz, who introduced me to some of the other bloggers.  Michael, from South Bay Foodies, and I talked about the foodie fights battle kohlrabi & rosemary, we were both in the same competition and we talked about the competition amongst other things. Dorian handed me my Sangria which was not as sweet or fruity as some that I have had in the past. It had just the right balance of red wine with a hint of sweetness and citrus flavor from the fruit. I enjoyed it very much.

Shooting Flatbread

Shooting Flatbread

A bit later we were escorted the the long table which was nicely set with menu and wine glasses ready.  The service was wonderful.  My Sangria glass was never empty throughout the starter course which included – Avocado Guacamole with corn chips and  Artichoke Guacamole with za’tar chips, basically corn chips with za’tar spice. The Sangria went well with the two of these. I was seated next to Nancy, Food Stylist extraordinaire from FoodArt , Dorian on the other side, Wendy the engineer who loves baking from Pink Stripes, across from me the team of Krissy and Daniel from Food Addicts and next to Nancy was Esi from Dishing Up Delights .

What a great group of people. It’s kind of funny, I almost feel like I’m breaking people’s anonymity writing this blog like I am outing them from the bloggosphere and screaming I have seen you and know what you look like. It’s more than just words and photos, blogs are people.  What a concept. I know to some of you it may seem obvious but there is always that realization when you meet people from the virtual world whether from TV, movies or blogs etc… there is that reality factor that finally hits you. That it’s not all make believe and that real people are behind these electronic devices that put words and images in front of up.

Ok enough of a transgression.  The tables were long and those I just described were in my immediate sphere of influence for most of the meal. Then there was Adam from LAFoodies, we talked a bit about Hell’s kitchen and cooking. He’s a gregarious guy, going  around to everyone there handing out his blogger card.  Blogger cards, another great idea, it never occured to me to have a blogger card.  A card that announces to the world that I too am a blogger, please read the stuff I post and look at my photos. I am one of a select thousands of food bloggers who have discovered this wonderful thing and want to share it with the world. It’s great to hang out with bloggers especially food bloggers the conversation never dies.

Margarita Flatbread

Margarita Flatbread

OK so back to the meal. The server comes around and pours the Grenache “Gran Feudo” Bodegas Julian Chivite, this was my signal to stop drinking Sangria.  Shortly after that the appetizers were served, Taqueria tasting – steak, ahi tuna, plantain, chicken adobo and fish, Shrimp and chorizo flatbread harissa, queso fresco, mexican crema, and Margarita flat bread – spicy tomato sauce, queso fresco and cilantro.  The plates went down and the cameras came out, everyone had their take for each dish. I try to shoot everything natural light so I was moving the candles around the table to get as much light on each thing as I could to get a shot. Less than perfect but a reproduction that works. The wine had a crisp slightly fruity flavor it paired well with the appetizers. I had the chicken taco which was a bit dry but tasty none the less, the flat breads were good the flavors came through nicely.  After some more stories from Nancy about food styling and the shows that she has and is working on there was the discussion of the difference between baking and cooking, baking being a science and requiring patience and delayed gratification whereas cooking is more from the gut using a mixture of flavors and cooking methods to come up with something new. It doesn’t require the exacting measurements of baking.  Two different disciplines both to be admired. In addition the conversation had to inclue  some reality tv talk thrown in for good measure.

Seared Diver Scallop

Seared Diver Scallop

The next course came out which was the Pescado – Seared diver scallop with oxtail rosti, roasted beet pico, carmelized fennel and horseradish this was served with Albarino, Don Olegario. From what I can recall about the wine it had a nice flavor crisp that paired well with the scallop. The scallop was cooked perfectly, I could taste everything except the oxtail, perhaps they forgot to put it on the plate, the textures and flavors went very well together. The sweetness of the scallop was offset by the horseradish crema and carmelized fennel it was definitely one of my favorites of the evening.

The evening had a leisurely pace to it, which I found very nice and relaxing. As the evening wore on the restaurant filled up. Seated behind us was Eva Longoria with her friends at a long table. There was some private party going on in the upstairs “special” room. Not sure what it was but it’s reserved only for super VIP’s.  Time for the Entree’s the white wine glasses were scooped up and the red was being poured which was a Malbec “Bonardo” (organic), La Posta.  It was ok but nothing worth noting. I love Malbec and this one was kinda dull.

Chili Rubbed Skirt Steak, Roasted Jidori Chicken, Beso Paella

Chili Rubbed Skirt Steak, Roasted Jidori Chicken, Beso Paella

The entree’s were Chili Rubbed Skirt Steak with tortilla fattoush, Roasted Jidori Chicken breast – aji-oregano rub, heirloom tomato, cornbread panzanella, crispy Maui onion on top, and finally the Beso Paella – saffron rice, lobster, roasted chicken, shellfish and chorizo.  This is my kind of entree buffet.  The skirt steak was out of this world wonderful flavor cooked medium rare and worked well with the wine. The chicken skin was crispy which was enhanced by the crispy Maui onion it was moist and tasty. I love Paella and when I saw this come out

Eva Longoria, Dorian Asch, The GM of Beso and

Ryan Stern, Dorian Asch, Eva Longoria, The GM of Beso

I was excited. The rice could have had a bit more flavor perhaps it just needed a bit more salt to bring out the saffron taste in the rice, I also prefer my Paella to have more of a seafood flavor that being said I liked it better than the chicken.  It was good the seafood cooked well and the flavors blended together nicely. All in all the entrees were great.

Greg from Sippitysup

Greg from Sippitysup

So, after this it was time to see what was happening at the other end of the tables.  I went over and introduced myself  and met up with Greg from Sippitysup and Abby from Pleasure Palate and Ken and Annalise with no blogs and I think that Barbara from Table Conversation was there as well. We were all just yaking up a storm about the meal blogging and the upcoming Foodbuzz event in November.  Several us will be going so it’s nice that I will recognize someone at the event. The scallop, skirt steak and paella were the best dishes. Dessert was served some sort of cheese cake and a nutter butter dessert and churros.

Cheesecake, bloggers photographing Churos, Nutter Butter

Cheesecake, bloggers photographing Churos, Nutter Butter

They were all good however there is nothing like the fresh churros that are made on Olvera Street.  At the end Eva Longoria stopped by the table to say hi to everyone.  She was very nice and appreciative of us coming to her restaurant. All in all it was a great evening, meeting new people eating good food and being in Hollywood, a town that I like visiting and I have fond memories of.

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A couple of years ago my wife Karen and I  were with some friends talking about food and wine when the idea was put forth to do our own tasting dinner. I would cook and everyone would split the expenses for the dinner including kitchen help. My first task was to create the menu and recipes, and  my friends Alex, Pearl, Natalie and Serge agreed to do the wine pairings.”

On the  night of the dinner I was nervous because one of the guests was a chef who had cooked for presidents and celebrities.  What would he think of my food?  Would I be able to live up to his standards?  Well, in the end the dinner went very well and everyone had a great time, including the chef, who was more than appreciative of  my efforts and loved the food.

In fact, the event was so successful that we decided to do another dinner.  Coordinating the schedules of 16 people was a bit of a chore but luckily I had help from Pearl and Alex who are very good at organizing events and staying on top of the details.  Between the three of us we were able to coordinate the scheduling and rescheduling of the dinner which happened on June 20th.  Alex, who helped coordinate the dinner and Brad are two wine enthusiasts who took charge of the wine pairings for the evening.  Each couple brought 2 to 3 bottles of their choice of wine to pair with a specific course.  Since there were 8 courses, we decided to go with light pours.

In the weeks before the event I spent a bit of time working on the menu.  Some of the proteins I pretty much had already decided on early such as a pork belly dish and Korean style ribeye. I also new that I wanted to do a lobster dish.  The rest was up in the air.  I thought about different proteins, including sweetbreads, thai snapper and quail.  Then there was a matter of the budget: since everyone was chipping in for the dinner expenses I wanted to keep the costs reasonable and at the same time create a great dining experience.

Another ingredient that went into the mix was the location.

Pearl setting table - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Pearl setting table - Photo Alex Kaliakin

We had a beautiful al fresco dining experience on a patio overlooking a dry creek bed nestled under a canopy of oak trees.  One long table and a string of lights overhead and the setting was complete.  Like being in Tuscany, enjoying a feast for the senses.

I began prepping for the meal on Friday Morning a little after 9:00 am when Elio. my sous chef. showed up.  I had done most of my shopping the previous day and had enough to work on.–8 live lobsters, a 6-pound section of rib eye roast, 4 pounds of pork belly, and black mussels. along with many of the items used to make the braising liquid, sauces, purees, etc… Elio began work on the poached pears and I on the lobster stock, needing it for the pana cotta and at that time lobster gelee.  The lobster stock was made using the bodies from the lobsters along with mirepoix (onion, carrot & celery), some brandy and aromatics.  I broke up the bodies in the food processor to extract the maximum flavor, then put them in a hot stock pot with oil and sauteed them till fragrant, deglazed with brandy, added mirepoix, aromatics and cold water, and let it do its thing for a couple of hours.  Next was a court boullion for the lobster claws and tails.  We tied the tails to wooden spoons to prevent them from curling up and cooked them in two batches in the court boullion till done.  Next, in went the claws.  They were set aside to cool before we took them out of the shells.  During this time I seared off the pork belly and made a braising liquid out of chicken stock(made the previous week and frozen for the dinner), star anise, ancho chili, cocoa powder, cinnamon, mirepoix, cloves, garlic, tomato paste, red wine and aromatics. Into the 275-degree oven it went for about 6 hours.

Next was the Korean marinade for the ribeye, ade from asian pears, soy sauce, green onion, brown sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, mirin, rice vinegar, chili flakes, Sprite soda and salt & pepper, then whisked together.  I portioned out the ribeyes into steaks a bit over an inch thick, dunked them in the marinade, placed them in ziploc bags filled with the marinade, and into the fridge they went to marinate for about 36 hours.

The cauliflower, curry saffron puree was next. I had Elio cut the cauliflower into small pieces roughly the same size, for even cooking, then placed them in salted water to simmer until tender. I made a curry saffron cream and reduced it. Once the cauliflower was finished I mixed it in a food processor adding the curry saffron cream, then passed it through a tamis to give it an extra smooth finish.

We spent the rest of the day prepping the  porcini mushrooms for the risotto, cutting the yukon gold potatoes for the pommes fondant and working on the lobster dish and pear dessert. I had to make a run to the Saddle Peak Lodge to pick up the mussels and some other items that needed to be prepped. Elio worked on making pear chips, which were having some difficulty.  Fruit chips can be very temperamental regarding the heat of the oven etc. Usually it is best to leave them in an oven with just the pilot light on overnight, which dries them out, giving them a nice crispness and keeps the color light.  My oven has an electric pilot light, so there went that idea.  We managed to produce a batch that were good, but the color was too dark.  Time to shelve it till the morning.

Meanwhile, the original lobster dish was to be composed of a lobster gelee encased in a lobster chive panna cotta.  Once my lobster stock had finally cooled I worked on clarifying the stock using a raft method (composed of eggwhites, carrots, tomato, parsley etc…).  The clarification process took a little over an hour.  We removed the stock from the pot being careful not to damage the raft. We ended up with a stock that was still a bit cloudy and not well clarified enough for a lobster gelee.  So now it was time for PlanB.  This is always a good thing to have.  One thing I have learned over the years is that sometimes because of time constraints and the fact that the human body does need sleep to function, we need to be flexible enough to change things midstream. It would take too long to try to clarify the stock to the point that I would be happy with it, so we decided to make a lobster panna cotta with a lobster meat center. Redesign the plate and make it work and move on.  So we made the panna cottas, one layer at a time, allowing each layer to set in the fridge before going on to the next.  It was getting late: 10:00pm turned into 11pm, then midnight.  We used the time to solve the panna cotta issue, prep the sardines and other miscellaneous things, and make a plan for the next day.

The next morning saw me going to Trader Joe’s to pick up some miscellaneous items and back by 10:00 to continue to prep. The pear poaching liquid was reducing and I was making the Moules marinier essentially to get the broth.  Once the mussels were done I removed them from the shells and gave them to my daughter Olivia to enjoy.  We tried to make the pear chips again on a lower temperature while we continued to prep. While I made the risotto, using a porcini mushroom stock that I had made the previous week and frozen. I had Elio begin organizing each element of each course to take to the location where the dinner was being held.  The risotto was finished to 80% donness, spread out on a sheet tray and put in the fridge to cool.  I assisted Elio to get everything together for the event.

Rico starting to get things going - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Rico starting to get things going - Photo Alex Kaliakin

After a quick shower I helped Elio load up the cars to get to the location.  We left a bit after 2:00pm.  I had to make 3 stops on the way, one to get cigars for the evening and the other to pick up the caviar. The final stop was to pick up the soft shell crab and New Zealand Green mussels from the Saddle Peak Lodge.  Elio went ahead to the location to unload and get everything ready to finish the prep.  I arrived about 3:30 and began by getting the braising liquid reducing and making the dressing for the lobster dish.  Brad, one of the hosts who loves to cook, finished up what he was doing and came in to help with the final prep.  I had him pick watercress, dill, and mache leaves.  Pearl arrived with our dishwasher assistant, Adela, a bit after 4:00 pm. Adela helped with the prep and clean up to keep things clean while we cooked.  Prep was going well, sauces were being finished and every detail of each dish was being completed one at a time.  Alex walked in shortly after 5:00pm in a very excited mood.  Things were coming together  and the energy level was rising.  Alex –assembled everything  for the cocktails, which were manhattans and cosmopolitans.

Champagne for the first course - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Champagne for the first course - Photo Alex Kaliakin

I had some leftover duck paté, made by John Stewart, who is a master salumist of Zazu and Bovolo fame, which I had brought back from an event in No Cal 2 days before.  I made some quick canapés with it and continued to prepare the first course.  My wife, Karen, was the last to show up, since she had come directily from work. When she arrived at the door she looked stunning.

It was about 7:15pm when we sent out the first course.
I am always a bit anxious before I start serving. (Will they like it? I shoulda done… the finish on… could’ve been better etc.)..  In addition this time I had let my daughters taste the panna cotta at home and neither one liked it.  They are pretty tough critics, and yet I had tried it and thought the flavors were wonderful.  I also know that the texture may have thrown them off.  So of course this made me a bit more nervous than usual.

Lobster Panna Cotta

Lobster Panna Cotta - Photo Rico Mandel

First Course – Lobster Panna Cotta with American Caviar and Herb Mustard Vinaigrette

We began plating the panna cottas and the dish was looking very elegant.  Now I was getting excited at how my vision was coming together. The colors on the plate were wonderful and the lobster layer showed through beautifully. It was truly an elegant dish.  We served it to the table with Elio and Brad’s help.  As the plates went down I started to feel some releif, at least for the first course.  This was paired with a Moët Chandon Champagne Imperial or White Star that went perfectly with the dish. Once the eating commenced and the compliments started I felt at ease.

Second Course – Moules Marinier Redux

Moules Marinier Redux - Photo Rico Mandel

Moules Marinier Redux - Photo Rico Mandel

This dish got its inspiration from a discussion I was having with my friend Chef Adam Horton. He was telling me how much he loved Moules Marinier, but since he was going for a Michelin star,he couldn’t put it on the menu.  We talked about ways to possibly turn it into a fine dining menu item.  Well this set up a challenge for me.

Elio Plating Mussels - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Elio Plating Mussels - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Adam was supposed to be at the dinner but unfortunately he was sick and couldn’t make it.  This dish was in his honor.  The broth made earlier that morning from black mussels was reducing on the stove and keeping warm. I got up from eating the first course and put the green mussels,in the shell, on the grill to cook. I removed them being careful not to lose the liquor from the inside of the shell. Elio brought me the bread to be grilled while I finished cooking the mussels.

A toast to mussels and great beer

A toast to mussels and great beer - Photo Rico Mandel

I brought them inside where I cut the bread while the mussels were being removed from their shells.  The bowls were out and waiting.  We stacked 4 mussels in the center of each dish and I poured the hot broth over the mussels and topped them with flying-fish roe and a chiffonade of mint along with some chopped chives to garnish the broth.  We whisked the dish out and it was served with Estrella Damm Inedit, the beer made by Fernan Adria of El Bulli fame.  The beer was silky smooth with a wonderful complex yet refreshing flavor that complemented the mussels wonderfully.

Third course – Grilled Sardines on a Zucchini & Black Pig Bacon Gallette with an Avocado Mousse and Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Cantaloupe Relish finished with Curry Oil

Sardines - Photo Rico Mandel

Sardines - Photo Rico Mandel

The inspiration for this dish came from chef Zoi Antonitsas, the Chef de Cuisine at Zazu, in Santa Rosa, California.  I love sardines and when I was up working for a day in the kitchen at Zazu I saw a grilled sardine dish they had that was served with chunks of avocado on grilled bread with a potpourri of greens from their garden. It looked wonderful. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to taste it because they sold the last 2 orders before service was over.

Plating Sardines - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Plating Sardines - Photo Alex Kaliakin

While I was finishing the second course Elio was finishing up the zucchini & black pig bacon gallettes.  I got up and made sure that everything was going well in the kitchen.  Plates in the oven to warm up, the relish ready to mix with lemon and olive oil.  We brushed the sardines with olive oil and placed them on a wire rack on the grill. Once they were done, plating began. Plates down, gallettes on each plate, the mousse was pipped out of a piping bag onto each gallette and sardines placed on top, relish down and a zigzag of curry oil over the sardine. Out the plates went and it was served with a Kenwood Reserve sauvignon blanc.

Fourth Course – Softshell Crab with a Cauliflower Saffron Curry Puree and a Noissette Sauce

Soft Shell Crab - Photo Rico Mandel

Soft Shell Crab - Photo Rico Mandel

I love softshell crab and since they are in season it was a perfect time to put them on the menu. I wanted to keep the dish simple and make the crabs without a heavy batter.  I like to see the crab when I’m eating it.  The puree had been heating and was ready the only thing to do was to fry the crabs and make the noissette.

Rico about to document the dish - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Rico about to document the dish - Photo Alex Kaliakin

We dredged the crabs in seasoned flour and fried them to perfection 3 at a time.  About half way through the process I made the noissette sauce, which is essentially a brown butter sauce with capers, parsley and lemon.  The plates came out of the oven and we put the puree down as a comet streak with a salad of pea and radish sprouts with lemon and olive oil and the noissette over that. We served it to the table and it was paired with an Italian white:  2008 La Soraia, Gavi, a white wine from the Piedmont region of Italy.

Fifth course – Braised Pork Belly with Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Braised Pork Belly W/Porcini Mushroom Risotto - Photo Rico Mandel

Braised Pork Belly W/Porcini Mushroom Risotto - Photo Rico Mandel

What’s not to like about this dish? Pork belly, one of those wonderful cuts of meat that has a lot of flavor and braises to a melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  Take this and deep fry it to crisp up the outside, and that is heaven on a plate.

Rico & Elio - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Rico & Elio finishing pork belly & sauce - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Once I had finished the last course I went in to finish the risotto.  I had sauteed the porcinis earlier and already had the mushroom stock heated.  I put some butter in the pot,  added my parcooked risotto, and began adding stock to finish it.  While stirring constantly I added butter and ladle after ladle of stock until it had a rich creamy texture. A few minutes before it was done I added the mushrooms and parmesan cheese and adjusted the seasoning. Meanwhile Elio was frying the pork belly and heating the bowls.  We put down the bowls and spooned out the risotto.  For this dish I reduced the braising liquid to a glaze. I dipped the top of each piece of pork belly into the glaze and set it on top of the risotto. I placed some nice full slices of porcini mushroom that I had baked earlier and reheated on top of the risotto. A thyme sprig garnish was placed on top of the pork belly and the plates were served. For this course Alex and Brad decided to have a wine duel, so first Brad Served a 2000 Barolo, Falletto Di Bruno Giacosa as a short pour then it was followed up with Alex’s 2000 Spanish wine, Castillo Ygay Rioja, gran Reserva Especial Cosecha 2000.  Both were excellent and went well with the pork belly.

Sixth course – Korean Style Ribeye with Pommes Fondant and Asian Slaw

Grilled Korean Style Ribeye - Photo Rico Mandel

Grilled Korean Style Ribeye - Photo Rico Mandel

Have I told you that ribeye is one of my favorite cuts of beef?  In addition I love Korean short ribs. I like the combination of sweet, soy and a bit of heat that goes into the marinade. So why not combine this wonderful cut of meat with one of my favorite marinades? I did this entree for a wedding several years ago and I liked the way it turned out so I made some modifications to make it work for this tasting menu.  The pommes fondant is a variation of Chef Ludovic Lefebvre recipe from his book Crave.

Elio Basting Potatoes - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Elio Basting Potatoes - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Earlier I took the steaks out of the fridge to allow them to come up to room temperature.  This makes the cooking more even and shortens the cooking time.  I grilled the steaks on high heat to a medium rare and set them aside to rest for about 5 minutes.  Everything was ready to go once I got into the kitchen.  We dressed the slaw with an Asian dressing I had made earlier.

Old Sparkey with Spanish wine for pork belly - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Old Sparkey with Spanish wine for pork belly - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Rico Grilling - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Rico Grilling - Photo Alex Kaliakin

The slaw had red cabbage, fennel, cucumbers, red onion and almonds in it. I had Elio cut them on the mandoline to give a nice thin elegant appearance when served.

Earlier I had strained the marinade and reduced it to use  as the sauce. The meat was cut and the elements placed as we served the 6th course around midnight.  This was served with a 2006 Schrader, “Old Sparky” Cabernet Sauvignon which got a 100pt rating by Robert Parker in the Wine Advocate.

Seventh course – Cheese Plate with Fumaison, Two Sisters Gouda and Bohemian Creamery Capriago Cheese

Cheese Plate - Photo Rico mandel

Cheese Plate - Photo Rico mandel

On a recent trip to Healdsburg with my mother,  I went into the Healdsburg Cheese Shop and we discovered a cornucopia of wonderful cheeses. It was like being a kid in a candy store: Where to start? What looks good? What do I want to try first? The woman behind the counter was a big help, we asked about certain cheeses that caught our eye and tasted a large variety of cheeses.  Mom bought several to take back to my brother’s house while I was concentrating on the upcoming dinner and what interesting cheeses I could serve.  I chose a French smoked sheep’s milk cheese called Fumaison, which had a rich smooth texture with a hint of smokiness at the finish. Next I settled on a younger cow’s milk gouda called Two Sisters, which is aged 2 years. It has a semi hard texture with a creamy finish with a pastoral essence.  The last cheese was a northern California goat’s milk cheese called Capriago made by Bohemian Creamery in Sebastapol.  It was a semi hard cheese with a milky white color and a smooth, complex flavor. Elio arranged the cheese plates beautifully with orange supremes, grapes, hazelnut bread, and Marcona almonds. It was a beautiful sight. The photo speaks for itself. It was served with a Baumard Carte D’Or 2004 Coteaux Du Layon Chenin Blanc to go with it that was wonderfully light.

The Eighth course – Wine & Cardamom Poached Pears Dipped in Chocolate with Vanilla Ice Cream

Chocolate Dipped Poached Pear - Photo Rico Mandel

Chocolate Dipped Poached Pear - Photo Rico Mandel

I was looking for a light dessert to finish off this wonderful meal,  thinking about a fruit dessert that would be elegant yet light on the palate.  I like wine-poached pears; the wine gives the fruit a rich flavor and deep red color.  Elio had made poached pears for a wine tasting dinner when he was working at the Saddle Peak Lodge. The poaching liquid consisted of red wine, dried apricots and cherries, orange slices, star anise, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Sous Chef Elio Serving Dessert - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Sous Chef Elio Serving Dessert - Photo Alex Kaliakin

We poached the pears and let them cool overnight in the poaching liquid to give them a rich red color and allow the poaching process to finish.  We strained the liquid and reduced it to a syrupy consistency.  Next Elio separated some of the dried fruit to be used both as a garnish and also to make a puree for the plate.  We dipped the pears in chocolate on-site  and let them cool. Elio plated the dessert and we served it to our anxiously awaiting guests.  The chocolate was a great complement to the soft poached pear. It was served with a 2006 Ben Ryé (Ben Ree-ā), a Sicillian wine fron the Island of Pantellaria.

Elio, Rico, Donna, Tony and Lisa enjoying the fire after the meal - Photo Alex Kaliakin

Elio, Rico, Donna, Tony and Lisa enjoying the fire after the meal - Photo Alex Kaliakin

The evening turned out to be a great success.  A wonderful group of friends, great food, fabulous wines brought by the guests, a dreamlike setting, and, for those of us who partake, a good cigar to cap off the evening. We started at 7:15pm and ended with the final course around 1:00am. A leisurely, decadent feast for all who came.

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