Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Taste for Writing

When I started this blog a year and a half ago my sole intention was to use it as another way to reach people and gain exposure for my restaurant by introducing them to the exciting specials that I prepare every week. Throughout an epic recession I use this medium to entice nervous customers from their shells with high caliber food at very reasonable prices, and slowly but surely I have piqued their interest. Since then it has grown into something even greater than that.

Writing isn't new to me - I've enjoyed scribbling prose and poetry since high school - but the long hours and creative thirst of a young and budding chef overshadowed (almost) every extracurricular activity, until eleven years into my career when I realized that I was able to combine both talents and use my words to convey every ounce of passion that goes into each special, as well as the constant struggle to grow as a chef and make each week better than the last.

Now I have a loyal following; not just readers, but regular customers... because unlike most food blogs on the Internet they can they read about my creations and then actually come in to try them!

For my first Foodbuzz challenge I needed a dish that exemplified me as a chef in terms of flavor and creativity, but in the end I simply kept true to my blog and the food that I've been doing all along...
This dish is a partial throwback to the early days of my career when I was starting out in New York City, when the Asian/Latino Fusion was king, and like any other fashion has dictated, there is always a comeback... (like the Korean taco!)

The pairing makes sense due to the similar ingredients and general spice level that both cultures use, but I wanted to take it a step further, and as I have been studying Indian dishes lately I realized that they too share a common ground.

So I started with the notion of making tamales with some blue cornmeal that I found at Whole Foods that had the same fine consistency of masa harina which is used to make traditional tortillas and tamales. Once cooked the muted color of the cornmeal transforms into a striking purple (there is not true blue color in food). I decided that some duck confit woud make an excellent filling if I used a little huitlacoche, or "corn truffle" to moisten it, and since I was going to go that far I might as well keep pushing the envelope and try out those cans of black truffle peelings that I have been holding on to! What I ended up with was some of the most earthy, robust tamales that I have ever tasted!!

I wanted to counter the soft and mushy texture that is the result of well prepared tamales, so I salted thick slices of local eggplant to help relieve it of its bitterness and excessive moisture, allowing me to quickly saute diced chunks of it along with a little red bell pepper, scallions and fresh cilantro. To finish the mixture I made an interesting paste by combining cooked ginger, garlic and scallion with hot and sweet curry powders, and rounded it all out with a touch of soy sauce for that fifth dimension of taste - umami.

To bring the two worlds together I needed a sauce, or in this case, sauces. The first is a simple creme fraiche that I made by letting heavy cream sit out overnight with a little buttermilk so the healthy bacteria can naturally thicken it; a throwback to the first time I ever had plain tamales that were served in a pool of sour cream. The second sauce was a little more intricate: I simmered dried ancho chiles with tomatoes, red bell pepper, onions, brown sugar and vinegar until thick and sweet before chilling and pureeing, creating an exciting variation on the traditional chutney.

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As an added bonus I fancy myself as a sort of mixologist by supplementing my lack of bartending knowledge with culinary know-how, coming up with quirky cocktails like this one...

After the success of the Cinnamon Pear Martini I decided to try another sorbet-integrated cocktail after having some beautiful plums leftover from brunch that I couldn't let go to waste!!

Since they already had the perfect balance of sweet and tart all I had to do was puree them with a little corn syrup to help keep a smooth texture before straining the mixture and churning it in the ice cream machine. Once set, I scooped a nice ball into a martini glass and topped it off with a portion of Pikesville rye whiskey that was shaken with a touch of sweet vermouth and a couple of dashes of Peychaud bitters to help round it out.

Even though my menu is based on the idea of American comfort food, this country has become even more of a melting pot than when that metaphore was first coined over 200 years ago, allowing me to draw from more cuisines as inspiration and introduce those flavors to my customers and, hopefully, creating a whole new sense of  word "comfort".

With Love,



  1. Great post. Voted for you. Good luck in the competition.

  2. Looks delicious! I just gave you a vote! You can check out my entry here: Thanks and Good Luck!