Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

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

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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Kaz, Pastry Chef Sequestered in the corner

I set my GPS with the address of the Test Kitchen and away I went. I came upon an old building with no name on it bathed in a red paint with black trim standing regally on Pico Bl. I parked in back and came through the back door and followed the signs downstairs into the kitchen. I walked in to see the crew from the  restaurant all lined up doing prep. The crew had been there since 10am busily getting ready for the evenings performance.  You see Test Kitchen brings in chefs from all over to test out new recipes and concepts for their restaurants or new establishments to be opened up. The prep was in the final stages when I got there. As always my first thing is to ask what else needs to be done.There were a few last minute things such as slicing some more cibatta.  I also had to use the slicer to cut buffalo tenderloin for Carpaccio. The Tenderloin had to be frozen to make cutting to the right thickness easy. The one thing that I don’t understand is why restaurant slicers are usually in less than optimal condition. Noisy seemingly on their last legs yet they do the job.

Christopher Barrigan getting ready for service.

Chef Adam Horton of Saddle Peak Lodge made sure that he had plenty of help in the kitchen, to keep things running smoothly making everything looking effortless. They put Kaz, the pastry chef, in the back corner of the kitchen like a sequestered mad scientist experimenting with all he could find.

I saw crisp chicken skin on his station and I was wondering what that was for. I soon found out, chicken skin nougatine. The  wonderful combination of flavors sweet  from the caramel, salty from the chicken skin and salt and and a bit of heat from green curry to finish it.

Chef Adam Horton getting ready for Service

Another item I saw on his station were apple slices that had been infused with hibiscus using the cryovac. The flavor combination of the hibiscus with the apple was addictive. This was part of their cheese course which included Parmegiano reggiano with white chocolate namelaka black olive nougatine and aviation cocktail sauce (gin, lemon juice sugar water Creme de violet) micro celery and a thin curved crostini. It is a very creative and tasty way to do a cheese course and tastes absolutely divine. The apple hibiscus combination is so refreshing and pairs perfectly with the intense flavor and saltiness of the  Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Chef Adam Horton, having servers taste the menu and answering quesitons

At this point the kitchen is shifting it’s energies to setting up for service. Meanwhile the front of house staff is busily readying the dining room for another big night. The next item on the list is to make on of each course for the wait staff to see and taste so they can accurately describe it to their customers. The chef gives the order to fire and the plates begin to materialize. One  by one they get put up on the pass and taken to the staff table so that Adam can

The open kitchen, a few hours before service

describe each and answer any questions that might come up. Wild Boar spread with grilled toast, Heirloom tomato buffalo and it’s cheese, Escolar with summac, edamame, horseradish uni, flavors of pho and puffed rice, Pork belly with vadouvan apple yogurt and cucumber, Elk with almond bacon brandied cherries and squash, Parmigiano Nero with apple hibiscus, white chocolate and olives, Dessert Thai green curry with chicken lemongrass cilantro and lime.

first 3 courses

First 3 courses - Wild Boar, Heirloom Tomato Buffalo, Escolar

The menu is heavenly and of course I had to taste each dish, for safety’s sake of course. They all passed with flying colors.

Last 4 courses

Pork Belly, Elk with squash scramble, Parmigiano Nero, Thai green curry

One of the new experiences for the Saddle Peak staff was the open kitchen which keeps everyone on their best behavior.

Joshua Pressman, checking tickets and plates as they go out

The Test Kitchen staff was very accommodating and everyone seemed to be working very well together. Service begins and there is a slow ramp up as the dishes are easily put together. One by one, Joshua Pressman, the expediter for the Test Kitchen, calls out the orders to the kitchen as Chef de Cuisine Chris Kufek confirms them and keeps the kitchen staff humming. The dining room begins to fill as sommelier and master mixologist

Christopher Barragan, working the drinks

Christopher Barragan is manning the bar pouring 5 drinks that he created just for the evening.  They are Tang’ent, My Darling Clementine, Q-Cumber, Pearl Jasmine, En Fleur, Testing Cocktail and Testing Mocktail, so ask for these when you see Chris at the Saddle Peak.

En Fleur - Gin, St Germaine, Sauvignon Blanc, fresh thyme and lime

Meanwhile Joshua Buckner, GM of the Saddle Peak  bridges the gap between kitchen and front of the house to make sure all is going well and of course it is.

Some of Adams friends and even current and former wait staff from the saddle peak come by to congratulate him and say hi.  The plates are going out at a steady pace one of the nice things about having only one set menu is it makes it easier for the kitchen staff while making the dining experience even more of a pleasure.

The board is filled with tickets

Service is at full swing now. The board is full with orders, “Carpaccio out, 53 four out, 4 elk grazing on judges table 44 out, a boat here for 31, 44 walking” are the call outs from Joshua to the kitchen as he inspects each plate for drips etc… before releasing them to the servers throughout all stages of service.

The focus and concentration of the expediter as he continuously scans the tickets is intense . Keeping the proper timing going is job “ad 2 more desserts, 5 all day” then he pulls the tickets down for those tables.

Ramon on Grill and Sean on squash scramble

The elk with beef sauce is so tender and sweet. The mesquite wood grill ads just the right amount of oakyness to the flavor captured with the sous vide process. The wild boar has a full flavor to it mixed with the reduced braising liquid with sherry wine. The flavor has that sweet fresh sense of the woods. The way it is raised,  there is a buttery quality to the meat that is not often found in boar.

The quenelle of lemongrass comes through beautifully. It’s like tasting lemon with the additional flavor of slight bitterness. It’s layered with candied carrot slices etc… A wonderful refreshing alternative dessert.

The line is filled and humming along

The call outs continue as the peak of the evening has passed. 9:04 and things are beginning to slow a bit. “27 pork is squeeling” as another order goes out. Ramon keeps the grill flowingChris Kufek works with Josh the expeditor to make sure that all flows smoothly. 9:09 a lull in the storm. Things are slowing. Then another wave comes in. There are 10 first courses being readied to go out. The dishwashers are humming along. Sean is busily making the butternut scramble for the elk as Ramon keeps the grill fired up and humming along with elk and the grilled cibatta slices to go with the boar. Pork bellies are frying and all cylinders are firing at the same time 9:19. Things can change at a moments notice during service. “25 & 54 elk grazing. 22 Abraham lincoln, Kufek you need boar for three Rick asks to get clarification, “pick up 3’pork 5 all day.” The board is full again and the orders are moving out.

Rick working the Wild boar

Josh comes back to tell us that the people are really happy with the food, “pick up 4 deserts goes the call as the plating continues.” Each facet of the meal is going out in perfect harmony with the next. The last table is in and now its just a matter  of working through each ticket and knocking them out one by one. One by one the dots go down on the plate then the cucumber balls and finally the pork belly, fried to crispy

Adam putting the finishing touches on Pork Belly

perfection with a soft center. One by one the tickets disappear and the last of each course gleaming. “33 fish are swimming” As the evening winds down the staff begins to clean up each station one by one as the last Wild boar Spread goes out, then the Buffalo carpaccio, then Escolar, the last of the pork belly and then Elk, and finally the Parmigianno Nero and last but not least the Thai green curry dessert.Meanwhile wellwishers come into the kitchen to congratulate Adam and staff on a spectacular meal. One person asks Adam how he would describe elk, “It’s like filet mignon on drugs”

It was a highly successful evening as Chef Adam Horton and the Saddle Peak team came together to do what they do best, create a great experience and make great food.

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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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I am in the process of wrapping up my business day getting ready to head over to the Saddle Peak Lodge for the Foxen wine dinner when my phone rings, it’s Chris the Sous Chef, “Hey can you stop on your way in and pick up 10 cucumbers?”, “not a problem”, I say, thus dispelling any doubt I had that they might not know that I was coming in. I stop by Vons and pick up the cucumbers and am on my way.  On my drive over there I was thinking about what the menu was going to be and what I would be doing.

I arrived and said hi to everyone in the kitchen.  They were working on the crab louie appetizer which was a beautifully executed.  Made from peekie toe crab and then covered with a thin layer of cocktail sauce gelee made from consommé. It was served in a Chinese soup spoon.  I asked Chef Adam Horton what he needed me to do, “Cut up the watermelons put the chunks in the blender and puree. Here try one of these as he gave me one of the crab louie appetizers. It was wonderful. As the gelee melted in my mouth I could taste the flavors of the cocktail sauce developing in my mouth and blending with the crab for a truly divine experience.  I pureed the watermelon and added it to the blend of heirloom tomato, blanched bell peppers, garlic and cilantro that Manny was blending as he added sherry vinegar salt and pepper to balance out the flavors.   The braised short rib Wellington’s were wonderful small bites. Braised short rib meat  cut into small pieces wrapped in puff pastry dough and baked till it was golden. Dipped in the foie gras sauce and it was heavenly.  Not necessarily heart healthy but a wonder on the palate.

Watermelon Gazpacho, Short Rib Wellingtons with Foie Gras Sauce and Crab Louie

Watermelon Gazpacho, Short Rib Wellingtons with Foie Gras Sauce and Crab Louie

These were served with the 2007 Block UU Bien Nacido Chardonnay. It is a very drinkable wine.  I don’t mean this in a demeaning way on the contrary it has a pleasant flavor that goes well with a variety of foods.

First Course

2007 Old vines Ernesto Wickenden vineyard Chenin Blanc
Compressed melon, Japanese Yellowtail “prosciutto”, arugula, lemon and Terre Bormaine Riviera Ligure Olive Oil

So I see “goose” slicing up what looked like cured yellowtail and he told me it was  prosciutto.

Plating the Yellowtail Prosciuto

Plating the Yellowtail Prosciutto

The yellowtail fillets were cured in a mixture of salt and sugar for one day and hung to dry in the walk-in for 2 days.  The result a fish with the concentrated flavors of yellowtail,

Compressed melon, Japanese Yellowtail “prosciutto”, arugula, lemon and Terre Bormaine Riviera Ligure Olive Oil

Compressed melon, Japanese Yellowtail “prosciutto”, arugula, lemon and Terre Bormaine Riviera Ligure Olive Oil

a bit of sweetness and a silken texture that melts in your mouth. Another component was the compressed melon which is made by slicing melon and then putting it into a cryovac and using it to compress the melon by putting it under pressure in the bag.

It concentrates the flavor of the melon and gives it a more translucent appearance.  These elements were combined with arugula, lemon and a wonderful Ligurian olive oil and it was a dish that tasted as wonderfully as it looked on the plate.

The chenin blanc was a perfect pairing with the yellowtail.  It had a crisp refreshing taste, light and citrusy which was a perfect balance to the yellowtail prosciutto. The  harmony of flavors that were extraordinary.

Second Course

2007 Pinot Noir
Duck “Poche-Roti” with daikon, bing cherries and couscous

Daikon radish is one of those vegetables that can be used in a multitude of ways.

Chef Adam Horton making dots on the plate with Bethani and Goose helping out on the plating

Chef Adam Horton making dots on the plate with Bethani and Goose helping out on the plating

It has a clean slightly piquant taste with a soft crunchy texture.  It is a great compliment to sweet flavors. Chef Adam Horton used them as a container to hold couscous.

The daikon was peeled and cut into 1.5″ thick slices.  Then, using 2 round cutters they were cut in the center with a 1″ round cutter then followed with a 1.5″ cutter for the outside dimension. Next the daikon was blanched in saltwater and quickly cooled.

duck with stuff

Duck “Poche-Roti” with daikon, bing cherries and couscous

The Duck was cooked sous vide, a process of cooking food in a vacuum sealed pouch which contains all the ingredients.  This process allows the flavors to infuse the product better and creates a very tender result from the slow cooking.  Typically proteins can be cooked this way and are later seared for final service. After the duck was poached sous vide without the skin to a perfect medium rare.  The skin was rendered till crispy put in a food processor to make into small bits and used as a garnish too add crunch to the dish. Was plated first with the cherry sauce and some bing cherries on the plate. The daikon was stuffed with the couscous and topped with a bing cherry sauce. The pinot noir went well with the cherry flavors bringing out the berry notes in the wine.

Third Course

2005 Range 30 West
Wagyu beef New York steak with onion brulee, creamed corn and sauce bordelaise 

Wagyu Beef with a creamed corn

Wagyu beef New York steak with onion brulee, creamed corn and sauce bordelaise

Heaven on a plate is the easiest way to describe this course. I love Wagyu beef. It has a buttery texture and the flavor of what I always imagine beef tasting like on the commercials or in the movies. The marbeling in the meat is extraordinary and it is very tender by nature. It has a very high percentage of unsaturated fat and is also higher in omega-3 and omega-6 than regular beef.

The Wagyu beef was first cooked sous vide to rare and then placed on a mesquite grill to add the smokey flavor and bring it to a perfect medium rare that just melts in your mouth. Creamed corn was made from fresh ears of corn. Kernels cut off the cob and then sauteed with butter, shallots, cream salt & pepper. The bordelaise was made from demi-glace, red wine, bone marrow and shallots. The sweetness of the creamed corn and the onions melded very well together and the slight acidity of the bordelaise helped to round out the flavors. It was paired with a Bordeaux style Meritage, Foxen 2005 Range 30 West. It had a complex fruit forward flavor transitioning to a bit of a pepper with hint of smokiness in the finish. A perfect pairing for this dish.

Fourth Course

2007 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
“Peaches and Cream”


Peaches and Cream

Earlier in the evening I had to slice one side of the panna cotta’s so they would roll around on the plate.  Taste them I was told. So being the obedient sort I decided to oblige them. The taste and texture was wonderful.

Bethani readying dessert while Chevo looks on.

Bethani readying dessert while Chevo looks on.

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert made from cream, milk and sugar and mixing it with gelatin.  The beauty of panna cotta is that you can flavor it with just about anything. It is also great for making savory items as well. For savory applications leave out the sugar.  In this case the panna cotta was made with the addition of meyer lemon zest to give it the lemon flavor without adding additional liquid to the mixture.  The cream, mik, sugar mixture was strained through a chinois to remove the zest before adding the gelatin and placing it into ring molds lined with acetate strips for easy removal. When it came time for the plating Chef Adam Horton showed Bethani how he wanted it and she was off to the races putting down the caramel followed by the peach puree, panna cottas and fresh peach slices. The chenin Blanc was sweet and creamy tasting a perfect balance with the lemon panna cotta and peaches on the plate. The taste was divine. It was light and lemony, like a great home made lemonade, not too sweet, everything done to bring out as much lemon flavor as possible. combined with the peaches, caramel and peach puree it had the taste of summer in every bite. The Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, had a wonderful acidic sweetness that paired well with it.

Another successful evening in the kitchen of Saddle Peak Lodge.

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Cabernet & semi sweet chocolate cake with raspberry sherbet

Cabernet sauvignon and semi sweet chocolate cake with raspberry glaze and sherbet

The dessert course is a Cabernet sauvignon and semi sweet chocolate cake with raspberry glaze and sherbet.  At the Saddle Peak all their ice creams, sherbets and sorbets are house made.  I have gone in there from time to time to taste such frozen products as guiness or chipolte ice cream in addition to mango sorbet or a rich creamy chocolate ice cream.  The nice thing is that with the Paco Jet they can make a plethora of frozen concoctions to delight their guests and satisfy their demanding palates.  Elio who works on many of the desserts, (he has since left the Saddle Peak) made the cakes earlier in the day.  Sometime after I had arrived he was cutting out the chocolate discs that set on top of the cake.

Elio & intern Finishing dessert with quenelle of raspberry sherbet

Elio & intern Finishing dessert with quenelle of raspberry sherbet

The plates went down and Elio began plating each of the desserts along with the help of

one of the interns.  Sauce down, followed by the cake and then the choloclate disc with 3 raspberries on top. The last thing with balancing the quenelle of raspberry sherbet on top of the raspberries.  It was a bit trickey, if the raspberries weren’t spaced out properly then the quenelle didn’t stay on top.  In the end we worked against the clock to put the sherbet on before it started melting to get it out to the eagerly awaiting customers.  It was served with a 2006 Pritchard Hill Estate Vinyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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The third course of this sumptuous tasting was a Duo of wild boar, chops with morel mushroom fava bean fricassee,crispy belly with tomato and pepper confiture. Chef Adam Horton, like me and many other chefs loves pork and all things pig. Whether it’s domestic, wild or heritage, pig is in my mind the finest meat out there.

Rick & "Goose" on the line ready to plate the pork duo

Rick & "Goose" on the line ready to plate the pork duo

Earlier in the evening I was helping Ramon and Chris the Sous Chef, prep the wild boar racks for service. Each rack needed to be trimmed of all fat and sinew to leave only the tender meat on the bone. Each bone needed to be “frenched” a process that removes all meat and cartilage from the rib bone above the tenderloin leaving only a clean exposed rib. The pork belly was braised the previous day to a melt in your mouth tenderness, and chilled in the walk-in. The day of the event the pork bellies were removed and cut into 3/4″ thick slices and then deep fried for service to give them a crispy outside with a soft center. The boar racks were all grilled on a mesquite grill, by Ramon, grill master extraordinaire, to add some of that smokey flavor. Nothing beats cooking meats over a wood fire whether it be steaks, pork and even seafood.  It was time to get all the components together on the line for plating. We assembled on the hot line, Rick working sauté, Ramon working the grill, Heather heating the morel fava bean fricassee and Manny, Goose & myself there to plate.

Marco and Juan Garcia ready to go.
Marco and Juan Garcia ready to go

Time for service, the hot plates go down on the line and in assembly line fashion we each grab an element of the dish and start to go down the line. We traded off one had the tomato confiture and the other the fricasse those went down first, followed by the greens on the tomato confiture and next the meat.  Ramon was getting the chops up to temp and slicing them while Rick was heating the pork belly up to temp for us to plate.  Once the meat was down the sauce was applied and it went up on the pass for the Garcia Brothers to take out to the dining room.

Ramon, sous Chef Chris Kufek and Goose after thrid course goes out

Ramon, sous Chef Chris Kufek and Goose after thrid course goes out

Boar Chops foreground - Duo of wild boar, chops with morel mushroom fava bean fricassee, crispy belly with tomato and pepper confiture

Boar Chops foreground - Duo of wild boar, chops with morel mushroom fava bean fricassee, crispy belly with tomato and pepper confiture

Pork Belly foreground - Duo of wild boar, chops with morel mushroom fava bean fricassee, crispy belly with tomato and pepper confiture

Pork Belly foreground - Duo of wild boar, chops with morel mushroom fava bean fricassee, crispy belly with tomato and pepper confiture

This dish had a flavor profile unto it’s own.  The medium rare boar was tender and very flavorful with a smokey and mildly sweet flavor.  Combining that taste along with the earthy flavor of morels, the freshness of the fava beans and silkiness of cream made for an irresistable tirumverant of decadence that could soothe the most savage of beasts.

The pork belly had a pleasant crunch followed by the sweet moist flavor of bacon without the smokyness melteing in my mouth. The tomato & pepper confiture complimented the pork belly to round out the experience and cut through some of the richness of the meat. Once I tasted the heavenly duo I couldn’t resist doing some flavor combining of my own, so I took a spoonful of the morels and placed a slice of the pork belly on top and endulged myself for the ultimate gastronomic experience.  This course was served with the 2006 Mountain Cuvee.

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"Goose", Sous Chef Chris Kufek and Chef Adam Horton In between courses.

"Goose", Sous Chef Chris Kufek and Chef Adam Horton In between courses.

So the first course goes out and the shrimp heads start coming back.  Our prediciton proves correct that most of the guests wouldn’t eat the heads and we move on to the next course: Braised veal cheeks with wild ramp & asparagus risotto, crispy shallots
and merlot “Bordelaise”. The veal cheeks were braised overnight at about 200 degrees. Then the cheeks were separated from the braising liquid and the liquid was strained. Part of the liquid was used to cover the cheeks in the 400 pan (a large rectangular pan about 6″ deep, 12″ wide and 24″ long) and was set aside in the walk-in to store for the next day. The liquid cools to form a gelatin seal around each of the cheeks, adding to the flavor and also sealing them from the air. The rest of the liquid was reduced to form a beautiful rich sauce. The risotto was par cooked earlier in the day and put in the walk-in to cool. Asparagus stalks were prepped with the tops being separated and lightly blanched to bring out the deep green color and used as garnish. The rest of the asparagus was finely cut to put into the risotto. Shallots were finely cut and tossed in flour and deep fried.
Time to assemble another 23 plates! Line up the plates, finish up the risotto add butter, parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste and bring it to a nice creamy thickness. Pull the cheeks out of the oven and assemble. We assembled a line, one with risotto, me with the cheeks, another with the asparagus tops and another with the fried shallots. 5 minutes or less later the second course of creamy and delicious goodness went out to the dinner.

Braised veal cheeks with wild ramp & asparagus risotto, crispy shallots and merlot “Bordelaise”

Braised veal cheeks with wild ramp & asparagus risotto, crispy shallots and merlot “Bordelaise”

It was served with the 2006 Napa Valley Merlot, which has a nice balance of berry flavors with a hint of acidity and tannin on the back. So what to do after it goes out? Well, taste the whole combination. The cheeks just melted in my mouth, so why not try the combination of the risotto, shallots and cheek?  Next thing I know, a spoon is presented to me with the combination risotto, cheek, asparagus, and topped with shallots–what a bite of food! The veal cheek literally melted in my mouth as the risotto’s creaminess blended with the rich flavor of the meat and then was topped off with the crunch of the shallots and the subtle flavor of the asparagus. Wow, what a mouthfull. Ok, so I had to have some more.

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