Archive for April, 2009

Re-leaf Re-visted.

April 28, 2009

Very rarely do I have the chance to look at the events I go to through another’s eyes. With out a doubt I pay attention to what’s going on around me as well as take stock of what other’s there have to say. Which is why the concept of an open house where we have almost complete control of the event from start to finish really grabs me.

Dani does some awesome photography and here’s some of my work seen through her shutters.

Good photo work makes a world of difference eh?



Traveling thru Time

April 28, 2009

All of us can: shy of a drinking binge, blow to the head or both, remember our firsts as adults.

First date, first kiss, first car, ETC.

I recall my first open house with AGA. Much as I wish there were parts that I didn’t.

Oddly enough the photographer that night didn’t take a single photo of the food. Which not only boggles my mind but kinda pisses me off. It was my first open house, a momentous occasion. And I would have liked to have had some sort of proof that the event happened, even if it didn’t go according to plan. Granted, this was a freebie to get their name out there but all the same. We’re in the FOOD business and there were more photos of the venue, which we’ll never do business with again, than of our presentation or food. Live and learn I suppose.

The theme this time was an eternal one, ten years in business and much like marriage, you’re supposed to make that gift a diamond. And much like the to-be-wed young gentleman that musters up his courage and bank account to obtain said stone I bit off way more than I or my immediate staff could chew. Thankfully, none of this showed on the floor. I was sweating blood and gargling stomach acid, but the guests never knew a thing was wrong. Which I’ve come to understand is an industry standard. You can fly by the seat of your pants for every event, but so long as they don’t know how close them come to utter disaster everything is easy peasy.

I actually had to go into the archives to look up the menu for this event. I had blocked out, and rightfully so, many of the details that went utterly wrong with this one. But on a second glance I also saw there were some gems there amongst the shrapnel that I could use again, so let it be said that I can indeed learn from my mistakes, even traumatizing ones. If the theme was diamond I certainly choose a rock hard menu, one that I definitely don’t look forward to doing again.

The appetizers were seemingly innocuous:
Bacon Wrapped Scallops, Black and Gold Caviar Potatoes, and Gorgonzola Phyllo Puffs.

My first problem being that I still wasn’t familiar with what was ordered from where or how much is in each case. My food reps, bless their dollar wrapped souls, were kind enough to endure my steady steam of mistakes, corrections, and questions through the transition process. But the phyllo cups and caviar proved the hardest to acquire. It’s not mentioned but I gave the scallops a twist, grilled pineapple was coupled with it and then dredged in flour before frying. It then was drizzled with a white balsamic sage sauce. Beautiful, delicious and very hard to assemble!

You try getting two slick and slimy things to stay next to each other under pressure when you wrap them in another greased thing and try to stab it with a bit of wood. I almost gave up they were that much of a pain. The Gorgonzola cups tasted great but apparently they were meant to be a cold item, and the name puff to me elicits a baked good. So there goes my truth in menu out the window.

Next came the autonomous appetizer station, the “award” winning Lobster Tarragon Bisque. This was another inherited recipe that I didn’t quite nail. For service in a champagne flute it needed to be MUCH thinner in consistency and making my own biscotti instead of buying it would improve the quality leaps and bounds.

The salad, sushi, and veg tray, and carne asada came off with out a hitch but the real gem that shown in my mind was the cheese ball display. It featured four different type, an Italian: pesto, pine nut and parm. A French: shallow, red wine, and brie with pecan. An American: cheddar, bacon, and ranch! And not to be understated Asian: tofu, Chinese five spice, and black sesame. Folks just couldn’t believe that last one was tofu cheese, they went back for more even after I broke the news to them!

The last station was a carving one with some added hot starch. This time: turkey breast and tricolor potato pirouettes. The turkey was a little dry, but the gravy more than made up for it.

The potatoes how ever, they were a whole other beast. You see, I had had little experience in having to make my food travel for an extra hour from my kitchen to your plate. Add in bad Seattle traffic and what started as a towering tuber ended up as multi-colored mush. They tasted great, and we even had some folks switch from a roasted potato to this dish but it just didn’t hold up under the pressure. They were also VERY hard to make, each tier requiring a lot of attention to detail piping a very thick potato through a small opening.

The only other mention of note was the pasta. Originally it was to be my signature dish. Patrick’s Pesto Penne Pasta. What can I say, I’ve always had a love for alliteration. And again, my inexperience with long distance travel let to some very flat, dry, and under flavored pasta. Pesto, and prosciutto in a pasta dish can be very good or very bad and this was definitely on the darker side of that spectrum. I have hence changed brands of pasta, and learned to barely cook the stuff so it’ll hold up that extra two hours necessary.

But the night left it’s mark, and I haven’t done a signature dish since. The following open houses went far more smoothly, as earlier and following posts will confirm.

That’s it, the kitchen is closed.

Spring Open House 2009- Re-leaf

April 21, 2009

With out a doubt, these open houses are my greatest source of pride and joy, as well as pain and suffering. On the one hand you have¬† decadent food, often chosen exclusively by me and my peers, new and exciting ideas crafted from the raw product for the first time ever! And then you have the fact that it’s all free to those invited and it comes directly out of the company’s food cost. A bit of a downer but with any luck we’ll be charging for these things in the future. Kinda like an advertising restaurant, hell, I’d be happy to break even at cost and not make a dime if I got to write the menus all the time.

Like all open houses there’s usually a skeleton crew as we never make any money on staff, despite what we charge, so it’s always stressful to prepare and present. Granted, the day usually ends with all the folks who worked the event, their significant others, and anyone lucky enough to know the boss to drink themselves silly and party like a rock star now that the event is over. I abstained this time mind you as the van still had to go back to Tacoma to be unloaded but even if not, getting up at 8 to put the event out the door at 2 just takes more out of me than it used to. And while my contemporaries would scoff at the fact that I lament my lack of resilience, they being much older, it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t drink any day of the week and come in fresh as a rose like I used to. Alas, time marches on as it does for all of us.

But enough whining, on to the food! (With apologies to all photographers and photography buffs, my skill and equipment are lacking.)
First up, my Green Goddess Canape
Rating: 5.5/10
This one wasn’t the win I was looking for. The original recipe was actually a chicken filling I adapted to a canape form because I had a lot left over. How ever, what I didn’t take into account was when you sub out fresh garlic and onion for powdered like I had in the recipe and leave off some of the panko for a more readily pipable product the garlic flavor gets WAY too strong. Even Moe our sales manager whom loves garlic to death was even thrown aback by it. How ever the color and texture were spot on so the next time I make it the dish should be perfectly palatable. The dish it’s self is presented in a phyllo dough cup and garnished with a cherry tomato quarter for color and just a splash of something fresh to compliment the spinach in the smoked gouda mixture.

Next, Mini-Cupcakes from Sugar Rush

Rating: 8.9/10
I will be the first to admit my skills are a baker are average at best and sub par most of the time, thankfully, there are those out there that have made it their passion and it shows in the delectable nibbles they craft for parties such as our party in the Chinese Room of the Smith Tower. Monica and Moe had raved about them all week prior to the event and now having finally sampled their work I can see why they’re such staunch supporters of these sugary confections. I’ve had good cupcakes and bad cupcakes, and these were the BEST I’ve ever eaten. I don’t normally endorse pastry students, out of culinary school rivalry, but I will always recommend them in the future. The chocolate mint was very moist and flavorful, not always easy as chocolate flavorings can dry out a cake. The lemon was nice, though lacking a little in the flavor department. But again, very moist and the frosting on both was complimentary not the main attraction. I can’t stand coconut or coffee so the other two remained untested but based on the fact there were none left at the end I can only assume they were a hit and with the discerning Seattle palate that’s a compliment in and of it’s self.

More bakery follows with Rolls from Baker Boys!

Rating: 7.5/10
I know what you’re thinking. “But Chef, how do you screw up a roll?!” Well I’ve seen it done and it’s an ugly sight. Either the bottoms are over cooked, the dough isn’t proofed enough and you’ve got a bread rock. Sometimes they put nuts or olives in so large it’s interupts the texture or tries to mask the flavor of substandard dough. Not with Baker Boys! Their light fluffy rolls are a welcome addition to any meal, and for what they charge easy on the wallet as well. As a testament to their staying power I had my first Bocca roll from them in 1998 and I haven’t changed since. In addition to the fluffy dinner style roll they have more rustic additions as well as a wide varriety of other items they can order from pastry companies for your consumption. Featured here are brioche, french, bocca, wheat, and some kalimata olive rolls I threw in for a change of pace.

And here we have Sole Amore in Passionfruit Burre Blanc

Rating: 7.3/10
Now this one surprised me, despite my PNW heritage and living situation I have never been a big fish eater. Something about the nightmarish dishes my old man would cook up put me off it for decades. But more recently, especially in the sushi department I’ve become more open minded and adventurous. Case and point, sole. It’s often over looked because like chicken it doesn’t have a huge whopping flavor like hailbut or salmon. It doesn’t have the texture of calimari or swordfish. It’s not even pretty like ahi or torro. Which makes it perfect for my flowers idea. You take a plain piece a fish and with a little marinade, some butter mixed with panko, and a flavorful sauce you have cute little preportioned tulips perfect for a seated meal or buffet. The trick to this one was to grind up mandarin oranges for the filling. The extra sugar makes for those browned tips giving it a more three dimensional shape. It was by far the most popular item by both staff and guests polled.

Another appetizer follows with the Award Winning Veggie Cakes
Rating: 6/10
Easily one of our more popular appetizers. With the clients because of the taste and texture, with me because they cost almost nothing to make. This is a varriation on a predicessor’s,I put flour and more onion in mine. Mostly because I don’t feel you should call something a cake unless it has bloody flour in it! Granted, panko is bread crumbs which is made from rice flour but it’s not the same. Besides, there’s a lot moisture that gets purged when you grate and shred the veggies and that extra bit of starch geletanizes it trapping in flavor and moisture. This fine dish, while not my favorite, is topped with a spicy sweet thai onion relish. Personally, I think the dish is missing something. Perhaps an herb cream on top instead of spiciness, as there’s already a bit of kick in the cakes themselves. Ah well, a work in progress.

Well, that’s about it. The only other thing I really wanted to report on was the Chicken Punjab I gave a shot at for the first time. Personally, I think they’d do better as a beef meatball alternative being mostly protein and panko, but it works as a skewer as well. Definately going to have to work on the mango dipping sauce. The ones I ordered were two woody and underdeveloped. But that’s what I get for not peeling my own.

KM CD out.

Greetings and Salutations!

April 9, 2009


Let me be the first to say thank you for taking time out of your valuable Solitare and Facebooking time to read my blog. In the weeks, months, and as long as I’ve access to the interwebz years, to come you’ll see my various exploits, bungles, and other culinary creations made at work, home, and abroad.

Check back each week and you’ll see something from yours truely in one form or another and with any luck some pictures. Because you’ve gotta have pics, or it didn’t happen.