Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A New Beginning

Well friends, the time has finally come. By this time next week I will be the official full owner of Table 219. It's a daunting thought for sure, and one of the drawbacks to putting myself in the forefront of decision making is that I won't have the time to continue with this blog. I need to focus on improving the restaurant by emphasizing our strengths and building up our weaknesses.

What does that mean for my specials? They will continue on in the same way that they have been. I plan to dedicate a section of the new website to descriptive weekly updates, start an email list and continue feeding the social media sites, Facebook and Twitter.

As for the food itself I plan to keep doing what I've been doing - making it delicious, and this week is no exception!

It's pumpkin time and I love cooking with the scary little orb. I thought long and hard about what direction to take it and I finally settled on an old favorite: risotto.

When I started at the restaurant it was called El Greco, a Mediterranean restaurant that had an ongoing weekly risotto special that I really enjoyed creating, so I thought this would be a fitting end to this epilogue.

I began by roasting sugarpie pumpkins. These aren't the large ones you see everywhere. Those are so starchy that they are only good for two things - carving and making pumpkin beer. The sugarpies are sweeter and more tender, but much smaller. While they cook I simmer arborio rice in onions and chicken stock until just before the rice is cooked. This allows me to finish cooking the rice to order and infuse the roasted pumpkin that I pureed in half and half. I then added chantrelle mushrooms - a fall favorite - as well as fresh tomatoes and hulled pumpkin seeds.

For the protein I went with a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast that I special ordered for it's size since all that's usually available from my company are huge. I like the portion size that I get from a three pound bird, leaving me with the bodies for stock and legs to save for an already thought out chicken and dumplings special. To pair with the pumpkin, I created a spice blend by combining garam masala, paprika, chipotle powder, California chile powder, salt and black pepper. The spice caramelizes nicely as the chicken pan roasts and I finished the breast by basting it in butter, cloves of garlic and fresh thyme sprigs.

Even though the spice on the chicken plays very well with the pumpkin in the risotto I felt it necessary to bridge the flavors even further by creating a pesto featuring the pumpkin seeds once again along with fresh parsley, cilantro and extra virgin olive oil. The addition gave a brightness to the dish that really created a unique combination of flavors.

Caralyn and I are still working on cocktails for the new menu, and while we were focusing on dessert cocktails I think she came up with one that could be popular at either end of the meal.

By using some of my own limoncello shaken with our new favorite whipped cream flavored vodka and a shot of fresh whipped cream and straining it into a martini glass she was able to replicate an iconic dessert; a lemon merengue pie. It's a cocktail that isn't too sweet to be pigeonholed as a only dessert drink.

To those of you who have followed and supported me through this culinary writing adventure: thank you. You have inspired me as much as the ingredients on the plate.

With Love,


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sausage Party!

Sometimes it's difficult to come up with a protein that is new and interesting. There's only so many things you can do with a chicken breast, and a steak is just a steak. I tend to get stuck on an idea just because I'm bored with the monotony of a simple protein, even though to the rest of the world sees them in a better light.

While I do have a list of the types of meats and seafood that I have used for specials in the past, I realized this past weekend that there is one area that I haven't taken advantage of enough: some of the great sausages produced locally.

We already use sausages from Cascioppo Brothers for our corndogs and our brunch, sides, and I have been using a sweet Italian blend from Isernio's for my sausage gravy that adorns my happy hour fried chicken sliders as well as the chicken fried steak brunch item that I love. I realized that if Isernio's Italian sausage is so great, I bet their chorizo would be too!! So for the idea that I was stuck on simply using pork tenderloin again I opted instead to pan roast a couple of links of the spicy Mexican variety instead.

What I also wanted to do is incorporate some of the seasonal ingredients that I was going to use with a more simple meat, which actually played very well with the spiciness of the chorizo sausage.

For the sauce I had the thought to infuse fresh apple cider with roasted ginger, like you would do for Vietnamese Pho, along with beef stock, caramelized onions, sage, thyme and a small length of cinnamon stick. I originally wanted the ginger to be more pronounced, but I had already used a lot of ginger in the first place and I was really happy with the way that it turned out.
To keep with the Autumn flavors of the sauce I made a puree of celery root, one of my favorite ingredients despite my general dislike for the standard variety (even though they are technically different plants). I used half and half, milk and some water to cook the root along with some potato to help make it a thick, creamy puree that still had some of the deep characteristics that the root has to offer.

Finally, to balance some of the sweetness of the sauce I sauteed broccoli rabe, or rapini, in onions and garlic with a little butter and extra virgin olive oil. The bitterness of the rapini is also commonly combined with the likes of sausage, especially spicy ones, so it fit really well into this dish. 

Last year I had made an attempt of creating a caramel apple cocktail for this season but I wasn't as successful as I would like to have been. That was probably due to my lack of bartending experience and the fact that, at the time, I didn't have the experienced staff that I do now to confer with.

One of my new servers, Carolyn, has had a lot of bartending experience and has offered one of her cocktails - a Fuji Apple - to be added to the expanded drink list that I plan for Americana,  the future of Table 219. We had the chance to work the drink further and finally perfect the seasonal cocktail that I originally wanted.

We started by muddling fresh lime wedges with ice before adding the unlikely Southern Comfort with Apple Pucker and Baileys Creme Caramel. It's shaken and strained and garnished with a slice of a lady apple - a cute little varietal that reminds me of a crab apple, but much sweeter and more flavorful.

With Love,


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It shouldn't come to much surprise that sometimes my inspiration comes from one of my own home-cooked meals; afterall, comfort food is the foundation of Table 219's ideology. So when I cooked an iconic dinner for my wife and I on Monday, I realized the potential for a special.

I cooked whole wheat spaghetti with turkey pesto meatballs for us, and I said to Anna "this dish never gets old!". I then remembered once trying out an idea where I made a pasta with pureed Moroccan oil-cured olives, so I went with a play on that Italian-American classic that is ingrained into our society.

I made the pasta by pureeing the pitted olives with whole eggs and then mixed that into regular flour to form a dough that I rolled and cut with a Kitchenaid attachment as opposed to the traditional pasta extruder. Not exact, but close.

For the meatballs I took a cue from the lamb burger on our menu by mixing two parts of ground Anderson Ranch lamb from Oregon with one part all natural beef from Northwest Natural to tame some of the gaminess of the lamb. For a  Moroccan flair I mixed in my own blend of spices like coriander, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, parsley, preserved lemon and some breadcrumbs to retain some of the delicious fat within the meatballs.

My sauce is also something more than your usual marinara: I slowly cooked onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil before stewing them with tomatoes andred wine. I finished the sauce by adding spice like dried chipotle pepper, chile flakes and Sriracha chile sauce as well as blending in fresh oregano and basil. The sauce has such a zip and powerful flavor without being too overbearing!! 

Now that the word is out with my purchasing of the restaurant everyone wants to get their piece. Sometimes it's annoying due to all of the solicitors, but every now and then there's some good that comes from it.

A liquor rep of ours, Lucy, came by touting some new products to replace some of the top shelf liquors without the premium prices. One of her product lines is Effen vodka which I've had success with their cucumber version, but since that's their most popular vodka she wanted me to try out one of their other flavors: black cherry.

After speaking with one of our new servers, Carolyn, also an experienced bartender, she suggested this week's drink special: a Cherry Drop.

Similar to a lemon drop, it's made by muddling a fresh lemon wedge, adding a splash of simple syrup, a healthy pour of Effen Black Cherry vodka and finished with my own brandied cherry made a couple of months back with some leftover cherries from another drink special.

With Love,


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Americana Dream

One of the few guarantees is life is that things inevitably change. Fortunately, sometimes that change is for the better.

Over the past month or so I have been in negotiations with my business partners, Gary and Stacey, to buy them out, making me sole owner and operator of the restaurant and now we are in the home stretch to make that happen. As of November 1st the place will be mine!

What will be different? Not that much. While I'm planning to make some minor cosmetic changes to better solidify the style and brand of the restaurant, the one thing that I won't change (and the biggest concern of our regulars) is the menu. I still plan on offering the same great food for brunch and dinner, only changing what I would've made anyways with a few nice additions.

Unfortunately, the one thing that will change for the worse is this blog. Since I will be taking on the additional duties that two other have been doing I won't have time to continue writing the beautiful descriptions like I have been. I will continue uploading my weekly specials to Facebook and Twitter (and hopefully to a new website for the restaurant) as well as a weekly e-mailing list that I will be setting up soon. So it's a loss for some and a gain for others; I hope!!

In the meantime I still have a special to introduce.....

Since the temperature is falling suite with the time of the season I felt it right to begin offering specials with flavors more reminiscent of what we taste when we think of autumn. 

I've been wanting to have a dish with roasted figs for a long time and there's few better meats that pair well with fruit than pork, so while I slowly sear thick cuts of pork loin that I tied with butcher's twine in order to maintain a circular shape I roasted fresh mission fig halves to concentrate their sugars and to create a more robust flavor.

For the sauce I didn't have pork stock on hand so I combined beef and chicken stock instead and reduced them down with an equal portion of red wine along with a blend of spices called Garam Masala which is an Indian spice blend containing cinnamon, black pepper, fennel, cloves and other autumn favorable spices, to which I enhanced with a cinnamon stick, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary and whole allspice berries. 

Another great ingredient and pairing for this season is braised cabbage, which is available locally this time of year. I cooked it in onions, garlic and a little fresh thyme that, for some unknown reason, tastes like fall to me.

Even though I offered a gin drink last week I couldn't resist this one, especially with the flavors of the entree special above.

Since October is synonymous with fall to most of us I intentionally poached pears with sugar, cinnamon sticks and allspice berries for last weekend's French toast topping so that I would have the remaining cooking liquid for this week's drink special. Clever, eh?

I felt that the autumn spices of the pear poaching liquid would make a really interesting combination with the complex flavors of a dry gin, so I made a twist on the classic gin fizz by shaking the pear liquid with Gordon's gin and egg white powder and topping it off with club soda for that classic feel. 

Only a few more week's to go!

With Love,