Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gingerly Embraced

This past Sunday we had our annual joint employee party with our sister restaurant, Geraldine's Counter. It is a tradition that Gary and Stacey started well before I got there, and each year it is something different.

This year we rented a party bus to shuttle us between both restaurants, Trade Route Brewery in Pacific, WA and ACME Bowling in Tukwila; a wise choice considering the amount of booze we brought on board and the extra hour we spent riding around when the driver was lost while trying to get there (sorry, no incriminating stories or photos from me... all I can say is that restaurant people sure know how to party!). While we spent the majority of our time at ACME (the nicest bowling alley that I've ever been to, btw), it was my experience at Trade Route that influenced me.

We sampled five different types of beer that they are currently brewing, one of which is a pale ale brewed with fresh ginger that was so fantastic that I now have the arduous task of trying to get it on our tap at the restaurant. After talking with the owners/brewmasters we found out that a fortunate by-product of the ginger ale is all of the leftover ginger, which they then candy!

So with a bag full of candied ginger left to me by the brewmasters I worked on a cocktail that I have been planning since the Blueberry Tea last December: Ginger Tea.

Cooled, fresh brewed green tea is muddled with the candied ginger and mint leaves along with a touch of simple syrup and finished with brandy. I had originally planned on serving this cocktail exclusively hot, but due to our abnormal warm and sunny weather here I decided to offer it either way.

Though this particular cocktail is not directly beer influenced, I do have a few in mind that are, but those beer cocktails may have to wait for some experimentation and/or warmer weather, like the Stout Beer Float that I've always wanted to do, especially since I am now churning my own vanilla bean ice cream.

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It is no secret that I love crab, though it may come as a surprise that I love crab even more than I do pork (Bavarian Meats bacon excluded...), but due to the generally high price of crabmeat I can rarely use them for dishes in our price range. Now that we are in Opilio crab season in the Bering Sea (yes, I watch Deadliest Catch on Discovery), I am finally able to put the amount of crab on a plate that I feel is more than respectable.

While researching ideas to use king crab in a special a few months ago I came across a classic American dish called Crab Imperial, an east-coast recipe made by stuffing a shell or other vessel with an abundance of blue crabmeat, seasonings and just a bit of mayonnaise that is then topped with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven until golden brown.

In keeping with the season I decided to instead use snow crabmeat mixed with Old Bay seasoning and our house-made aioli to fill pre-roasted acorn squash halves, and then topped them off with fresh breadcrumbs made with the same sourdough bread that has made our French toast famous. As accompaniments I added two traditional parings for crab: fresh avocado slices and tomato, in the form of a chutney, made from stewing Chinese red vinegar, brown sugar, dried currants, onions, garlic, fresh diced tomatoes, Garam Masala, and a touch of arbol chile flake for warmth.

Aside from the squash vessel, the chutney adds an unbelievable dimension to the traditional crab dish, but for the purist who prefer their crab unadulterated (like myself), I kept it on the side to be enjoyed if interested.

With Love,