Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I love the holidays; even as the weather turns down there is an elevated spirit in the air drawn from thoughts of giving to family, friends, and strangers alike - and instead of fretting on the things that we don't have, we start to realize and embrace the things that we do.

Last Thursday we had our own celebration at Table 219 where we owners invited friends and fellow transplants, who also live too far from our original families to visit, to celebrate Thanksgiving with us in our own way. I took care of the turkey, stuffing, gravy and desserts (Derby Pie and Bourbon Balls, my personal touch taken from my own childhood Thanksgiving) and everyone else chips in with their favorite side dishes.

How, as a chef, did I prepare my turkey? Instead of the traditional roast (or fry) I deboned the meat, ground the legs and thighs, diced the breasts, mixed them with pureed shallots, garlic, coriander and seasonings, rolled it tightly, wrapped it in the leftover turkey skin and baked the whole thing until golden brown and crispy (known by chefs as a ballotine). The process sounds tedious, but the end product is moist and delicious because the roast is an even size and the white meat is surrounded by the moist, dark meat.

Another personal touch that I used was taught to me by an old-timer cook back in my days at the '21' Club in NYC: Italian sausage stuffing with sauteed onions, fresh herbs and banana peppers. The slightly spicy peppers add a whole other dimension to the stuffing, which I push even more by using half sweet sausage and half spicy sausage. Louie was a mentor to many who freely shared many of his little touches, but the one that I'll never tell you is his finishing ingredient for sweet potato soup.....

Speaking of secret finishing touches, there's one of my own that helped me develop this week's special - the simple potato. An amazing virtue of a starchy potato such as our own Washington State russet is that cooking a little bit in a soup before pureeing will result in an amazingly velvety texture without actually adding cream; a refreshing supplemental for those of us who are trying to watch our cholesterol.

So for a sort of sauce I pureed sauteed onions that were simmered with some peeled potato and chicken stock along with lightly roasted garlic cloves and finished it with a touch of heavy cream (hey, our restaurant isn't called Healthy 219...).

For the main component I wrapped pieces of skinless Pacific red snapper with finely shaved strips of Bavarian Meats bacon (if I said it before I might as well say it again - THE BEST BACON!!) that were pan seared on all sides until crispy.

A classic and seasonal compliment to anything bacon is cabbage, so I pan-stewed shaved savoy cabbage with julienned local leeks in butter and white wine, and, as a sublte final touch I drizzled just a few drops of White truffle oil over the potato and garlic puree.

Now that the chilly months are here I thought that I would try my hand at some warm cocktails, though no monthly themes this time!

Co-owner Stacey had a regular a couple of weeks ago ask for one that I had never heard of before, a Blueberry Tea.

Even though it doesn't actually contain any "blueberry" flavoring, its components lend to a similar taste. The original recipe calls for Amaretto, Grand Marnier and Orange Pekoe, but Stacey uses my personal favorite kind of tea, Earl Grey, instead, due to its bergamot orange flavoring that only enhances the Grand Marnier. Add a twist of orange rind and it must be complete!

Warm up with a fire by your side, or with this drink in your hand, but you know which one will make you feel better!

With Love,