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,


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