Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Derby Festival!

I grew up outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and late April/early May is a very special time of year there, with two weeks worth of festivities that culminates on the first Saturday of every May - The Kentucky Derby. To most, it is a one and a quarter mile horse race that last around two minutes, the first step of three to the "Triple Crown", but to those in Kentuckiana it is a celebration drenched in tradition... and bourbon.

FYI, it is often referred to as the "Run for the Roses" due to a blanket of 554 roses awarded to each winner. I've actually watched the intricate process of the blanket being made.....I'll stick with cookin'.

I was too young to go to The Derby before I headed off to culinary school and beyond, and I haven't yet managed to make it back yet to endure the infamous Infield; maybe I'll make into Millionaire's Row when I do finally return :). Still, though, there is a surge of warmth that rises within me when the Derby Festival nears, and while I have journeyed across this great country, I have yet to find an equivalent. Maybe I'm wrong - I have spent a lot of my time in kitchens and don't get out as much as I'd like to. So, if you have something in your Hometown, USA or have been to a small festival highlighting a local theme, I'd love to hear about it! I'm always looking for that regional touch and would love to feature a dish or concept about it at our restaurant as a special!! Please feel free to post them as a comment here, or email them to me, Cheffrey.
Let me start the theme off with this: nothing says The Derby more than the Mint Juilep (other than a horse, of course), so I decided to to combine it with one of my favorite bourbon cocktails that includes bourbon whiskey, pure maple syrup and fresh lemon juice. This is already a solid cocktail by itself, but when we use maple syrup instead of the simple syrup that is in the traditional mint juilep, the muddled mint swings the flavor of the maple over from fall into spring. Cocktails, like food, are all about balance, and I think that the Maple Mint Juilep has achieved perfection!

Before I get into the food portion of this blog I'd like to take a moment to remind you Seattleites that this Thursday, April 30 is the 16th year of Dining Out for Life for which we will again be a participating restaurant. Thirty percent of our proceeds for the night will go to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance which is committed to preventing the spread of HIV, and to providing practical support services and advocating for those whose lives are affected by HIV and AIDS. We still have a few tables available and would love to have you help us raise money for this great organization!! If you are unable to attend, please visit their website to make any kind of donation that you can.

Now onto this week's special: I did consider going with a Louisville-inspired dish, but since most of them are relived during Christmas time (i.e. Derby Pie, Bourbon Balls, etc.) I felt that they would serve me better during the holiday season. Instead, I chose a to push the limits of my culinary means to give some of the best of me, to you.

I Started out with whole chickens: methodically separating the succulent skin from the meat into one perfect sheet, then I removed the breasts, the wings (to experiment with for a future special, as promised in an older post below) de-boned the legs and thighs, for which I made a classic mousseline forcemeat by grinding and pureeing the leg meat with eggs, cream, a touch of chipotle powder and garam masala - a blend of spices found in Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani cuisines. I then spread this mixture over the thinly pounded breasts, rolled them up tight, THEN wrapped them in the reserved skin, left to be pan roasted in the oven until crispy. I balanced the meat compilation with grilled pineapple, mustard greens and finished it all with a drizzle of saffron-infused honey.

To be completely honest, this dish kicks my ass... so come on in and try it. I don't mind that it kicks my ass and you shouldn't either; think of it as one of those festival games where you throw a baseball at a target that drops the clown into a tank of water; but no matter how many times you dunk me, I'll keep getting up, smiling, waiting for the next one;).

With Love,


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring is here!!

It's no surprise that after a long winter of staring at root vegetables and rubbing my chin in thought that the bounty of new ingredients that the spring brings is more than just a warm welcome. Don't get me wrong, I love crafting new and intricate dishes out of winter's deep, earthy vegetable goodness and pairing them with rich and hearty counterparts. In fact, some of my best dishes have been pulled out of me with a mere tuber for inspiration, but there is something special about the anticipation of a new ingredient palate, with new colors, textures and flavors. For me it almost rivals the warm, anxious feeling of Christmas Eve; only now I know what gifts will come... and that makes me even more excited.

Honestly, sometimes the hardest part is choosing what vegetable to use, since many of them are only available within a short window of time. I am often torn between one idea and another, which is hard enough as it is, but then to be faced with the chance that I may have to wait an entire year for it to become available locally!?!

And that's what brings me to this dish. Almost this time last year I whimsically thought up the dyad of white asparagus pureed with white truffle oil. In the right balance, it can be ethereal, but too much truffle will crash the flavor faster than a drunken pilot. I came across this realization at the tail end of white asparagus season last year and have since waited with bated exuberance to use it again... until now.

Now that I have the sauce as my foundation, the only problem is that I don't do subtly well, in food or in life; I love big, bold flavors that punch you in the mouth, and, I don't mind saying it: I'm good at it. So I start building from there and decided to envelope handcrafted porcini fettuccine noodles with it, made by adding pulverized dried porcini mushrooms to a basic, egg-rich pasta base, kneaded by hand, rolled by machine (hey, this isn't the Dark Ages), then cut roughly with a Chef's knife. I then added fresh shucked English peas for more seasonality and sweetness, roasted tomato for some acidity and color, and finally the meat - ground Moulard duck rendered at the beginning of the dish, and finished with some duck cracklin' on top to complete it.

One note on the cracklin': though pasta dishes pack great flavor, they usually have the same mushy texture, and even with the occasional pop of the English Peas, I decided to take it a step forward and complete the pasta with a crunchy yet airy preparation rarely found anywhere.


Of course, no indication of spring is more evident than the surfacing of fresh rhubarb on the market. I for one decided to skip over the traditional strawberry-rhubarb pie for something a little bit different. Instead I ran some fresh topped strawberries and stalks of rhubarb through my (now angry) juicer to end up with a thin, concentrated blend of sweet strawberry and tart rhubarb, then I swirled in a hefty amount of rum to complete what I call a Strawberry Rhubarb Punch!!!

I know, I know... it sounds a little too simple to be called a "punch", but by juicing the fruits instead of cooking it all down into a thick pulp, the cocktail goes down so fast, one Tuesday night regular said it was more like a "slap in the face"!

I still like to think that the term "punch" is still more accessible for some reason.

With Love,


P.S. - The irony of it all: My allergies are acting up.

Stupid Spring......

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rich like Rockefeller

It is often assumed of me by those I meet outside of the restaurant that as a chef I only enjoy five star cuisine with cutting edge techniques and lavishly innovative dishes that venture into the bizarre and surreal, with a snooty indifference to traditional, or classical cuisine. While I do indulge in the conquests of great culinary minds (re: Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago) nothing satisfies me more than the simple foods (re:The Taco Bus, and chicken wings [coming soon ;)]. Of course it all has to do with the way I was brought up in NA,IN, as well as the way I came up in the culinary scene of NYC, but I truly have a deep affinity for the now traditional dishes that have reigned supreme for decades, which has ultimately led me to where I am now, and hopefully, you too!

I'll save my connection to New Orleans for a later post because that's not important here - what is important is the connection of Oysters Rockefeller to American cuisine. I'd be hard pressed to find someone these days that hasn't at least heard of it, let alone have sampled a variation or two, which originated in the fine city. In a restaurant that I was chef of in New York, ironically enough, I topped Penn Cove, Washington oysters with my variation of the traditional dish with great reception. Now I have decided to skew the concept into a new direction.

First, I needed a medium: For me, pork is my friend. It is versatile, cheap, and flavorful. What more can a guy ask for!?! So in this instance I decided to go for pork loin since it's a lean cut that could benefit by being a platform for a rich topping as such. Then, I decided to elaborate on my previous version of Rockefeller with the addition of oyster mushrooms (pun intended), as well as steamed baby artichokes, which are in season, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, spinach and fresh chopped tarragon in place of the Pernod, which I'll save for a future cocktail special!

To finish the dish I decided to add a touch of a steakhouse classic in the form of cream of spinach pureed with some freshly grated nutmeg. Old school style with modern technique - There's nothing like the satisfaction of nailing a catchy twist of an American dish in its adulterated form!!

Of course, I couldn't leave you without announcing the news about my new baby...

No, not the birth of Cheffrey Jr., silly... I'm much too busy for that!!!

Better yet, a smooth sipping cocktail built specifically to alleviate the tension of toddler tantrums, with a medicinal blend of freshly brewed lemongrass syrup, pomegranate liqueur, pomegranate infused vodka and a splash of fresh lemon juice, shaken until frosty an poured into a steep martini glass (I hate those squat glasses that spill more on me than into my mouth).

Behold the Birth of the Lemongrass Pomatini!!!

Please, feel free to kiss the baby!!!!

With a Labor of Love,


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bring on the Drinks!

Even though I'm just getting started with this, I'd like to begin this week's post in a new direction...

Those of you who are familiar with me know that I enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two (quit snickering, please...), so I decided to introduce a new dynamic for me and our restaurant: The Cocktail Special!! Each week we will feature a new concoction, and believe me, you can't wait to taste what's next!

Don't worry, though - my dinner specials won't lack enthusiasm or thought due to these; I still know which side of my bread is buttered (sorry, culinary pun; I'm full of 'em).

So, where do I start? Easy. You can't go wrong with the bubbly! So I decided to infuse my own liqueur by steeping blueberries, ginger, sugar, vodka, and a touch of lemon juice, then top it all off with some nice Spanish Cava and a pinch of candied ginger for some added punch...YUM!!

I could think up many clever and/or stupid names for this drink but for now I'll keep it simple and call it a Blueberry Ginger Spritz. Feel free to offer up your own name in the comment section below. Who knows, maybe there will be a prize for the best one.....

Now onto the business end of my gun - this week's dinner special:

One of my favorite types of fish to cook with is lingcod, and while it is ugly as hell to look at, nor is it even closely related to a ling or a cod, it is quite tasty, flaky and versatile, so I decided to pan sear it slowly in the oven to develop a beautiful, deep crust, then flipped it over to baste it in butter and onion confit and set it onto a bed of sauteed pancetta, spring onion, fava beans, and tomato; all laid in a pool of rich bourbon shrimp sauce.

Of course, even that description still doesn't delve into the levels of love that I put into this dish. But don't take my word for it. Why don't you come in to see for yourself?

With Love,


P.S. - Those of you who enjoyed the weather here in Seattle last weekend can thank my last dinner special post below - evidently the sun gods liked my shrimp cakes with sweet pea and goat cheese puree; I, on the other hand, still prefer the offering of cocktails! ;-)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dinner Special Starting March 31

This post is the first of an ongoing blog detailing my rotating specials. The funny thing about specials is that as a chef, you never can tell how well the dish will sell. Now, I have every intention to make each special as good (if not better) than the last, but sometimes I will sell out of the dish in the first night (like I did with this first featured dish), and it will only sell okay over the next few days, then sell out over the weekend, and so on and so on...

A lot of chefs offset this by having the same specials for several weeks, almost as if it was a hidden part of the menu, but to me that's not enough. I want every week to be something new, for me and for my patrons. For one thing, I believe that our customers expect something fresh, something new from me, not the same specials that they or their friends had a few weeks before.

Secondly, I like to think that my week is jump started every Tuesday morning with a new-found love for food by seeing these ideas come to fruition; and I am a firm believer that happy people make happy food.

So with that in mind, I have been wanting to do this plate (and the specials following) for a while now since it is lighter in style and more suitable for the warmer weather of springtime, and although it is technically spring, it doesn't look like it yet here in Seattle. So here, I offer to you, the sun gods a gift in exchange for sunshine and warmer weather:

Flaky Shrimp Cakes made with scallion, celery, and tomato aioli, with a Sweet Pea-Goat Cheese Puree, a mild, fresh-made Harissa, and Shaved Radicchio.

Enjoy Dios!!