Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

As I prepare for my departure to Hong Kong next week I needed to get my ducks in a row and carefully plan my specials for this and the next two weeks, as well as an upcoming menu change, making my disappearance go as unnoticed as possible.

I'm lucky that we're in the budding months of spring to inspire me in these times of need, but as the winter was winding down I developed the foundation for this dish, giving me a head start to all of the new dishes that I have to conceive.

I've been wanting to create a compote composed of green apples, dates and some of our great bacon from Bavarian Meats, which would, of course be a great accompaniment to pork, like one of my favorite preparations: pan roasted pork tenderloin; the ultimate in flavor, price and presentation. How could I go wrong??

I was planning on adding spring onions that I braised in red wine, but even though the spring onions weren't up to par to add themselves, the resulting liquid had the exact acidic balance the compote needed, so I drizzled it in instead.

Looking forward to the season I countered the sweet and sour compote components with the buttery, slightly bitter leaves of  Bloomsdale spinach, an heirloom variety that I sauteed in a mixture of white wine and stewed spring onions and garlic in olive oil.

The dish needed a final touch, and some might actually feel that it would be missing a sauce, so I blended some preserved Meyer lemons that I started a month ago as the base of a classic aioli. The preserved lemon gives the sauce another dynamic layer of flavor... the new reason why we preserve them in the first place.

I put a lot in this week's cocktail. A lot of time, a lot of thought and a lot of hard work. Do you know what's the worst thing about putting so much effort into one idea? the chance it will all crumble into an epic failure.

I've been wanting to make my own gin every since my re-introduction to it with a gin sampler in Portland last year, so I tinkered around with infusing a vodka with the standard juniper berries as well as a few of the flavors from my tasting like lavender, lemongrass and ginger. But even though I make my own gin, it's characteristics could go unnoticed; that is unless I pair it with something else I made, like my own tonic water, for instance.

It's the tonic and not the gin that has left a bad taste in my mouth after all of these years, and unlike most spirits, there isn't much variety when it comes to tonic, so I had the opportunity to create my own after reading a blog on handmade tonic using citrus, allspice, lemongrass and cinchona bark for that essential quinine flavor. Both had to be distilled in order to clarify them, otherwise I would have a reddish/brown concoction that no one would believe was a gin and tonic.

In the end, I was more nervous about this drink than any other because how discriminating gin enthusiasts are (just like scotch or whiskey drinkers), but after one regular's comments along the lines of "as good as a top shelf London gin" that he enjoys, my fears subsided... not to mention the fact that one of the two bottles of gin that I made were already gone by the end of Tuesday night --- as in half priced WINE night. If a cocktail sells that good on a wine night, then I must be doing something right!!

With Love,