Andrea Robinson, pairing

We had the pleasure of Andrea dining with us tonight. She is one of 14 women who have been awarded the title of Master Sommelier. It was an interesting dining experience for both of us. She sent back a glass of some awesome wine for me to taste and left it up to me to make the pairing for her. I chewed the wine for a moment and was hit by a refined earthiness, hint of sweetness, not over the top acid, smooth and a well balanced mouth feel. The next step was pin pointing the elements of that taste to highlight the wine. No pressure, just a master somm leaving her several hundred dollar bottle of wine in your hands. I hit her with some halibut. It's a neutral fish that can support many flavors. Here is the dish.

Halibut, parsley root and coulis, chanterelle, heirloom carrot, braised radish, truffle vinaigrette and air, foie mousse. According to her it was a perfect pairing. I couldn't ask for anything more than that coming from someone of her caliber. She is doing a demo at Epcot Food and Wine tomorrow, be sure to check her out.


Seattle and it's Coffee

Let's just start off saying these people take their coffee seriously. One of our days in Seattle consisted of hanging with our Orlando tranplant friend Brad and he brought us up to speed on the Seattle coffee scene among other things. On our tour of the city we stopped by Victrola. According to Brad, their are two places to get great coffee in the US, Intelligenstia out of L.A. and Victrola! Stumptown still seems to be a favorite to some in Seattle, but not Brad. Acording to our knowledgable friend stumptown is expanding and the quality has suffered slightly. I can't comment on this considering I did not try stumptown coffee when it was only local. OF course compared to most Fl coffee I would consider Stumptown superior.
I am an espresso advocate but as true with most restaurants/coffee proprietors/and general businesses I base a lot on the simplest thing on the menu or the simplest service that they provide and how well they do it. Can you produce and excellent burger or simple entree, can you make a perfect drip, is your most basic product the best it can be? This usually answers a lot of questions for me in terms of how a company views it's products and how they treat most customers.
I can tell you right now people in Seattle care about their food, wine, beer, and coffee. The level of quality and thought behind what they are willing to intake is right up there with the top cities in the country.
We visited Pegasus, the oldest coffee house in Bainbridge, not a bad showing. The only people going to Starbucks seem to be tourists. Having several coarse ground french presses from various purveyers, Victrola seemed to be superior. Of course taste is subjective, and people have their routines of visiting the same place every day depending on where they are in they are in the city. Some make the extra effort to go to Victrola, some do not. Granted I can't name a place in Orlando that roasts their own beans everyday, has a visible roasting room with a giant black and gold roaster the size of a half ton truck, 100lb canvas sacks of raw beans from all over the world with a staff dedicated to just roasting the coffee beans perfectly. That just doensn't happen here. We have small organic coffee/tea houses that don't come close to the level of what we are talking about. On the Orlando scale they are good, but it's hard to compare. I hear Portland has a good showing with Albina and I'm sure there are many more around the country that do as well but I can't comment on them if I haven't been there.
Coffee is as complex as wine, spirits or food. I'm sure this i why coffee, tea and spirits are part of the Court of Master Sommelier's program. As an introductory level sommelier we focused mainly on wine, beer and sprirts in our training classes. Wine and service of wine above all. The certified somm test incorporates more, as does advanced somm, then of course the master somm goes even further. After talking to one of our master somm instructors who spent a year on tea service, flavor and varieties it was clear that this profession is never ending. Their is never a point where anyone can say "I know Everything". Coffee plays a role in so many individual's everyday lives, whether it's a caffine boost to get you going or the pure enjoyment of a perfect brew. Cupping Coffee is it's own craft. I guess you have to decide what you prefer and nothng else matters.


Buyout Dinner

This is a post about a dinner we did on 9-23-10. Fresh off a plane from star chefs I had a couple hours to get my self together then walk into this 125pp buyout dinner in bluezoo. These were mostly meeting planner from around the country who come to the resort then we wine and dine them into sending future business the hotel's way. Not a bad gig being a CMP(certified meeting planner).
We started off with some menu training for the evening. The servers got the low down from our Executive Sous Chef Arnaud Violtat on the platings and components.

Every execution starts with mise en place.

Amuse for the night was a crispy oyster with "rockefeller flavors"

Of course we plan for the occasional shelfish dislike or allergy with a vegetarian amuse option

1st Course hawaiian tuna, dashi noodles, avocado, sesame

Poussin and lobster terrine followed

3rd is Loup de mer, artichoke barigoule, chanterelle duxelle

4thd course was veal tenderloin, veal tail croquette, porcini

Here we are getting ready to plate the amuse

We lined the halls with our standard plating set up for VIP events

The FOH had a huge set up. Once our guests had finished dining in the restaurant the we directed to our version of a speakeasy. Here is Adam Bagwell in the weeds prepping for the speak easy bar.

The guest were led through a series of back, underbelly hallways of the hotel that had some deliberate grafitti art, trash, and street perfomrers about. The came to a door, knock, small peep hole opens, give the password, and enter a kitchen converted into a faux chinese laundry. Pastry Chef Wes Mayton was setting up his display of desserts in black light cooler.

Here is the bar that was set up behind the laundry entrance.

The first thing the guest sees when entering into the speak easy. This was staffed with some of our asian associates.

Shot of the sign.

As the guests ventured further into the speakeasy there is a bar and high top tables to belly up to. Some jazz musicians playing very low toned sets.

Setting up the bar was no simple task.

Something fun for all of us to be a part of.


Sante, Vitamix

It's been a crazy last couple of weeks around here and it's not slowing down. We're marching into season with a new menu and tons of special events lined up. I attended Star Chefs ICC this year with a little more on my mind than usual. I competed in the VitaMix Challenge this year and we took home 2nd place. Not a bad showing. Here is a picture of our dish that was presented. Loup de mer steamed in the blender. I poured in a hot aromatic fume using the bones of the fish into the base of the blender, then suspended the fish at the rim of the blender top using plastic wrap, poked a couple holes, oiled the surface, placed the lid on top and wrapped the top in plastic wrap. Turned on the blender and let it work it's magic forcing hot steam up through the holes cooking the fish. Later I added some peeled baby tomatoes, touch of xanthan, and mounted the sauce with some house cured lardo. Other components consisted of carrot and espellete noodles, pickled squash, anise hyssop blossoms, compressed malabar spinach two ways, purslane, carrot powder and various herb garnishes and flowers that tied into my theme of summer and fall coming together.

I don't like losing so much but I had to step back and look at it as a learning experience and in the end I did learn a thing or two as well as had the opportunity to cook with some great chefs. I missed the announcement of the winners as I was gathering all my equipment and getting ready to hop on a plane home. Just before I left the armory I got a call letting me know the outcome. I don't enter many competitions but this was a way for me to be a part of star chefs after learning and networking with great chefs in the past years of attendance. I felt obligated to at least enter and maybe provide some level of entertainment and participation after what they have done for me. A big thanks goes out to the staff at Star Chefs, VitaMix, multivac, and my bros Tony, Kevin and Mac from Olives for letting me ship a bunch of stuff to their NYC kitchen and taking care of it until I got their.

On to the next bit of exciting news we received today. Sante Magazine awarded bluezoo with a award in Culinary Innovation representing the Southeast US. This award really belongs to all the cooks at bluezoo. Throwing out ideas and plating techniques for our menu changes and daily chef's tasting. I can write menus all day and tell people what to do but that's not how I like this place to run. We are a group of young cooks in the business with a passion for what we do and hats off to my guys and gals for their hard work to make this happen. Bluezoo would be nothing without our dedicated culinary professionals.

Seattle and Bainbridge

Seattle is awesome! I love the west coast laid back approach. After spending 4 years in Flagstaff, Az studying forestry at NAU I have been hooked ever since. This was my summer/fall vacation that I needed. We are headed into some really busy times and this little getaway helped me get my head straight and I brought a slew of ideas back with me for future dishes. Immediately we hit Garagiste and filled the back of my cousin's truck with cases of wine. Next off to the tourist capitol of Seattle, Public Market. This is where the fish are thrown, not saying I want my fish thrown but this is where it happens with tons of people taking pictures and enjoying the super fresh seafood fare. Dungeness crab as far as the eye can see, salmon, shellfish, butcher counters, Beecher's cheese shop, bakeries, you name it and it's here.

We were brought to Matt's in the Market for lunch. Lamb burger with a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA did me right.

Gas Works park with a stunning view of Seattle followed.

Our friend Brad, an Orlando transplant, took us over to Capital Hill where he lives and showed us around. Literally across the street from his apartment was a restaurant called Monsoon. Heath Putnam of Wooly Pigs told me we should check this place out and see what they are doing with the mangalitsa that he provides. It was a great lunch and a small world we live in that a random recommendation and our original path landed us in the same place. Heath was their with his crew just the day before and I wish I could have caught up with him but it just didn't work out. We did however enjoy some conversation with our server and she knew well of him. Next time HP. We hit Elysian Brewery afterwards for an Immortal IPA that was awesome, what can I say, can't refuse a good IPA. Also toured around The Comet where Nirvana played before they were big. Lots of history here.

Jason, one of my line chefs knew I was in Seattle and text me to check out the Maximus and Minimus pig shaped food truck but it was closed as we went by. Next time for sure. Salumi was on the list as well, but every time we went by it was a 2 hour wait so Salumi will have to wait but I did score some Salumi bacon at Pegasus Coffee in Bainbridge that was part of one of their breakfast sandwiches.

Next we headed over to Bainbridge where my cousin lives off of Agate Point. The ferry ride over showed off some of the views.

Can't beat this driveway to their house if you tried.

Here is a picture of their house from the beach of the Puget Sound. Yes, I'm jealous.

Views from their property. Relaxing and beautiful, don't really need any other words to describe the view.

Getting the canoe ready for some "sound" exploration.

Here is our canoe access point, doesn't suck.

We had the awesome opportunity to visit the local CSA(community supported agriculture) at Butter Bean Farms. Our cousin provides an initial donation that is spread amongst several farms in the area that helps with seed and feed money. The farms then grow and produce their products. At certain times during their harvest goods are available here in Butter Bean Farms garage. It's an honor system, drive up their property, go in the garage, pick what you want, write it down and it is subtracted from your initial investment. Awesome to say the least.

Onions hanging from the rafters are just one thing on hand this visit.

Here is only part of the vegetable layout for todays harvest. Local wine, pickles, fresh eggs, pork sausage, meats of all kinds grown locally.

Back to the house and hit up the wood fired hot tub.

Some hammocks near the canoe landing to chill in.

Taking in the local plant life.

Wild berries growing everywhere.

Grand firs and cedars rule this area. This is a second or third growth grand fir, hard to tell. Most of Bainbridge was clear cut at the turn of the century and before to support San Francisco's growth. A natural area to harvest with it's sea faring ports. Now is a different story and preservation is key.

Wild flowers were popping everywhere just before the winter sets in.

This our pre-canoeing debacle in the sound picture. Yes, it's fuzzy. As is our memory at the time. What doesn't sound good about hauling a canoe across the tide flats at 1am and taking a ride to play glow in the dark bocee ball somewhere we shouldn't be. Needless to say we lost some wine, cava, and various other equipment, saved the bourbon though. Let's just say it was a good idea at the time, bad in retrospect, and walked away with a story to tell. You just won't hear it here.

Off to Poulsbo, a unique Norwegian fishing community just minutes north of Agate Point. The norwegians settled here because it reminded them of the fjords in Norway and I can see why.

The Central Market in Poulsbo is ridiculous! The most intense shopping experience period. Live dungeness in river like flowing tanks, huge oysters from hood canal and totten inlet harvested just minutes away. This is a shot of the produce section that set me back a minute. Everything is perfect! They really take care of their products. An in house bakery, butcher, cooking demos, cooked to order take away, you name it this is the greatest grocery store I've ever seen. It's hard to come back to Florida and compare what we have to this place.

When I say they have everything I mean it. Fresh cactus, aloe branches, you name it.

For our last endevour we headed off to Tilth, the 95% organic restaurant on the out skirts of Seattle. 95% only because the wild foraged foods they use are not regulated by the FDA so it's pretty safe to say that everything they use is organic. We had an awesome meal and met with Sous Chef Jason afterwards and exchanged some stories. They are doing great things here and if you are ever in Seattle you should take some time out to witness it.