Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Chef's Table is Set Again

Under a full Supermoon, the Chef's Table was born again.
One of the more exciting developments in my life these days is the revival of the concept of The Chef's Table, the restaurant I held in Old New Castle for just under two years.  The University and Whist Club, where I have been executive chef for the last 7 or 8 months, has enthusiastically embraced a multi-course (8, to be exact) Chef's tasting menu, beginning with a reception of Champagne and hors d'oeuvres and moving through appetizers, seafood, game, intermezzo, meat, cheese, dessert and patisserie, all paired with wines, of course.  When you're a chef who doesn't just cook but creates, this, my friends, is what you wait for.

The style of cooking I've developed over the years is certainly not one that is unique or ground-breaking, but it is distinguishing.  I like to cook clean.  I like build flavors, layer them, but  I want them to shine not get muddied from putting too much in the dish.  The more I work with food (and really great ingredients), the less effort, I find, it requires to make it taste great.  Yes, you can also make exciting, interesting food by purchasing a centrifuge, immersion circulator and sous vide machine, as you'll discover from the newly released Modernist Cuisine.  It's an anthology of cooking methods from the very beginning (that would be Escoffier, not cave man) to the present.  It's five volumes of gorgeously photographed and constructed food.  But, if I may be so bold, it's the construction that turns me off.  In these gleaming volumes some call "the most important cookbook ever assembled", the final product looks nothing less than absolutely- well, perfect.  I'm more a naturalist when it comes to dressing up food for its close-up.  I believe the right time to photograph your food is just before you're about to eat it.    

Last weekend was the Inaugural Chef's Table event at the club, and sixteen members ebulliently arrived for an evening of seasonally inspired cuisine.  I share with you their menu and some shots from their meal:

at the
University and Whist Club
Of Wilmington
March 18, 2011

Sea Bass Brandade~ Yukon potato, olive oil semolina toasts
Braised Pork and Pineapple Empanada
Nicolas Feuillatte, Brut NV

Amuse Bouche
Torchon of Foie Gras
on shrimp toast, tahini and macerated grapefruit
Royal Tokaji, Red Label, 5 Puttonyos, 2006
Silky Slices of Foie Gras Torchon for the Amuse Bouche

Admittedly an odd looking and sounding dish; yet, talk about UMAMI, mommy!

First Course
Medallions of Monkfish
chick pea puree, garlic-tomato confit
and crisp pancetta
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, 2009

Second Course
Lasagnette of Rabbit
royal trumpet mushroom, young spinach,
petite basil
Antonin Guyon, Savigny-les-Beaunes, 2008
A bechamel bound with gruyere both binds and acts as a sauce for the dish; basil infused oil punches up the flavors

Margarita Sorbet
sel gris and lime zest
A scoop of margarita sorbet rimmed with gray sea salt.

Roasted Leg of Lamb
spring morels, minted English peas
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 2003

Cowgirl Creamery “St. Pat”
olive-raisin chutney, upland cress
This aged cow's milk is made in Spring and wrapped in stinging nettle leaves
Lemon Ricotta Cake
orange-cardamom glaze
Jorge Ordóñez & Co., Moscatel,2006
Bellwether Farms in Sonoma County, California provided the ivory colored, thick curd ricotta

Friandises and Coffee
White chocolate dipped hazelnut, dark chocolate Cognac truffle, pineapple-coconut macaroon and pistachio-caramel brittle

Thanks go out to sous chefs Andrew Ramage and Stephen Seth, pastry chefs Deb Saienni and Michael Preske, Beverage and Dining Manager Caroline Robino, Dave Stewart (Lil Dave) and Brad "Butters" Borton for his skillful photography.

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