Wednesday, July 30, 2008


We must be feeling fruity! Tonight's dinner was a rubbed salmon cooked on plank with green beans, Israeli couscous and this great salad.

Passionfruit Tartlets

One of my dessert specials - Passionfruit Tartlets with fresh Mango on top.

The After

This isn't the prettiest plate I sent out, but its my special for the week. Two salad rolls atop a bed of organic greens with a sweet and tangy dressing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No skin off my back...

but quite a bit off my finger! Today was the first day I had restaurant injuries. First was the peeler to the finger nail. Then it was the Microplane to the finger tip. And finally the hot loaves to all of the finger tips as I pulled them from the oven without a towel. No blood loss, but more damage than I would prefer. I didn't have any troubles last week so I assume it's because I was more comfortable in the kitchen today. "Excuse me sir, would you like finger with that sandwich?" (no worries-I properly cleaned and cared for the food.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Its all a blur

See that glaze in my eyes...that's after two weeks of waking up around 5 to get in and start baking. Do you see the sacrifices I make so you can buy your $3 loaf of bread! :)

And here's a little snack I made for myself. Its some boiled down apricots from my dead neighbor's tree on a slice of my 5-grain batard:

Our house

For those of you who've never seen our store. Here's a pic of the outside as we were opening up for the day:
And here's the kitchen I'm working out of. The stove is to the right out of the picture. This is kind of messy - just before lunch service:

Say Cheese!

We had a cheese party last Saturday. We served a pecorino with pepperoncini and a soft Italian cheese with black truffles. The truffled cheese sold out very quickly, the pepperoncini...well, let's just say you'll see it on the menu this week at the cafe.

Chicken & Greens

Some simple marinated chicken breast strips, grilled over hot coals:
Becomes chicken chimmichurri with mixed greens:

Summer Standards

This is our summer standard - juices or syrups from some Eastern block country with fizzy water from our ISI drink maker. Sometimes they become cocktails, sometimes just fancy sodas.

Hutto Hopping

Here's a meal we had at our friends, Joe & Linda Hutto. They started with a smoked salmon dip:
Some grilled pita from our store:
The main - a pork medallion salad:
And of course the wine flowed:
Finished with an apricot pie:

The Before

Last week I simply copied Chef Mel's recipes and technique. On Friday I started to use my own flairs. This is an order that I sent out before my changes. I'll try to get a pic of the new plating. The sandwich stacking is mine, as is the flaired apple and kumquat macaron. Nice touches I think. I've gotten rid of the plastic and paper and we're using faux-fiestware now.

And here we go...(in no particular order)

I barely remember making this, but I remember it was darn tootin' good!
A bit of mustard, hot sauce, mango chunks and lot's of shrimp.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wake up

Here's a post just to wake up the taste buds! I've got one week under my belt solely running the Cafe at the Kumquat, a week of full production sourdough baking, and a back that is sore as all getout! This is my first real day off, so I'll be posting a bunch of posts to fill you in on all the gory details. Til then...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Coming soon

I'm not ignoring the world of blogging - its just that I've been gearing up to take over our cafe, which happens today! More on all of this shortly along with a bunch of great meals, and baking that I've been doing. Hope you'll wait for me :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Leftover Lunch

For lunch today, I had the extra BBQ chicken from the catering tasting on Sunday with sauteed squash from our across the street neighbor.

Tamales Dulces

We finally enjoyed the tamales dulces last night. Tyler poured a bit of Grand Marnier into some heavy cream and drizzled it over the tamales. As always, very thin masa! Great.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In our free time

And as if preparing all of that food wasn't enough to keep us busy, immediately after we raced up the street to Tom & Consuelo's for a tamale making lesson. Consuelo had made a filling of papaya, pineapple, raisins, and other stuff. Her masa was made with water from soaked anchos. Here are the pics:
Look at how Consuelo smears the masa into the husk grains
We get to eat them today!

Feeding the Bride

Last night I did a tasting for a family who is considering us for their September wedding. I'm sure I'll post more on this in the future.

I started with BBQ chicken on sweet potato biscuits. The sweet potatoes were not nearly as flavorful as I wanted and it did effect the flavor of the biscuits, but they were still very popular. In fact, the family argued for a good half hour if these shouldn't be an entree instead of an appetizer. I used some bottled zesty BBQ sauce on thigh meat - I wanted a high fat content which turned out to be a good choice (and a good value). Contrary to the picture, they were served closed, not open face. I made them a bit larger than I will for the event.

Next were the salad rolls. These were the bride's favorite, but everyone else's least. Guess who won that battle? I explained that for the event they won't be cut because I'll get smaller wrappers. And to avoid the mess of dripping dip, we smeared the inside of the wrapper with a bit of spring roll sauce (sweet, spicy). I also suggested that these may not be as appealing in late September. The bride disagreed and who am I to argue.

If there was anything that people wanted to lick the plate from, it was this. I made a homemade mayonnaise with sherry soaked morels. Drizzled that on lightly steamed asparagus tips, which were set on serrano ham. You don't see the serrano in the pic because three of the guests were vegetarian, so we were modifying the recipes as we plated.

Fresh tomatoes tossed in six year balsamico, fresh basil, parmesan "nests" with pinon. This also had split feelings. Everyone liked it, but they wanted more garlic. I explained that I try to go light on garlic for social events like this, and they appreciated that, but we all agreed it could use a bit more flavor. Easy enough.

And finally the entree plate. The Swedish potato salad was a huge hit. It uses white balsamico, a bit of dill relish, and a hint of dijon with celery, onion and potato. The beans were the only flop of the night, which of course is funny. I kept saying to Tyler, "I can't even boil beans. I'm such a failure." Joking of course, but apparently I can't boil beans! :sad: They were so salty that only one person finished them. The family said they would give me their recipe for the event. Their tips, salt only after taking it off the heat and add a handful of green chile. The two briskets were good, but nothing special to me. They unanimously preferred the harissa rubbed brisket to the standard recipe of garlic, salt and pepper. They debated for quite some time if they wanted brisket or a nicer cut. We ended up with brisket.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bastille Bash!

We were invited to a friend's Bastille Day party. John and his wife, Judy, lived in France for a number of years, and now John works with us at the store. He has a story for everything! The party was the revelry that you would expect for a Bastille Day party...and here's what I was able to get pictures of from the food (most was already eaten).

First, lavender cactus and lavender lavender:

Then, some crazy Frenchman (actually I think he's Polish)

Here is some deer sausage that our friend's the Leidichs brought. It comes from their kid's backyard. In case the Game Warden is reading, we'll leave it at that. It was very good. Made by a German butcher, it was very similarly seasoned to Oberle Sausage, my childhood favorite.

I made a beautiful flourless chocolate torte with a mirror glaze and brandy macerated apricots, but it got devoured before I could get pics. I also bought some beets at our farmer's market, roasted them, sliced, drizzled with oil and served with pinon and Gorganzola Dolce.

Friday, July 11, 2008

King Potato Head

I dub thee Sir Rob, King Potato Head! I made these potatoes last night to go with some salmon and green beans - very easy and very good.

Warm 2 T. of butter in a skillet. Using your best knife skills, cut even and thin slices of potatoes (I used large red). Layer them around the bottom, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with salt.

Then grind some pepper - I used Tellicherry for that tongue numbing experience.

Let them brown a bit on the stovetop with thick cut onions. I also sprinkled on a bit more salt and some Berbere seasoning. Drizzle olive oil around.

Then, into the oven with thee! 350F for about 30-45 minutes until they smell done. Turn them out onto a cutting board or serving platter and enjoy!

Queen of Tamales

I dub thee Lady Consuelo...Queen of the Tamales! She made us a dozen of these shredded pork tamales with mole seasoning and they were very good. Look how thin that masa is!

Send Me A Sample

We love the samples that are sent to us, and often they do influence our buying choices for the store. But sometimes, not. We received these tea infused chocolates the other day. The package was cute, but hard, very hard to open. Of the four flavors I only liked one. So note to vendors...make sure you're sending something good!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Down the Street Dinner

That's right! We had dinner up the street at our neighbors who don't know their ups from their downs, and they made empenadas. How could you not look forward to this meal?!

While Tom filled us with a Spanish rioja, we enjoyed Consuelo's spinach, pinon and cheese empenadas that she made that afternoon. A perfectly thin crust that was filled with filled with either the spinach or a few had beans. She also prepared marinated tomatoes and steamed green beans. Another dinner on the veranda.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Celery: The Next Evolution

Celery gelatin wrapped around white chocolate ganache surrounding dried olives (binded with cocoa butter). Surprisingly good. I'm tellin' ya...celery is the perfect dessert companion to any ultra sweet item like white chocolate.

However, not everyone liked it. Here's our host:

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lemon Macaron

Lemon macaron filled with dark chocolate ganache and three fresh blueberries. Just a snack for you while you wait for the next post...

Missing the Tiramisu

I know that in some circles tiramisu is out of fashion. And I know that my regular readers expect something a bit more challenging in my desserts. But there is something to be said for the classics. I also recently learned that our readers want here is a traditional tiramisu, gussied up for individual summertime serving!

Let's start with the ingredients:
  • 16-20 Lady fingers
  • 500 g Mascarapone, room temp (I use Igor because its much higher quality than Belgioso)
  • 1/2 C. Brandy, split (If you won't drink it, don't cook with it)
  • 4 Eggs, Separated and at room temp
  • 10-12 oz. Espresso (Cafe Bustelo is the closest thing I've found to Italian espresso - on the recommendation of John, our crack employee at the store), cooled to room temp
  • 4 T. Sugar (for egg whites) & 2 T. Sugar (for espresso)
  • Cocoa for dusting
  • Cacao Nibs for decorating

This whole process takes less than 10 minutes if you have all of your ingredients ready to go. Start by whisking the sugar in with the yolks. Next, cut in the mascarapone. And finally half of the brandy.
You'll end up with this:

Now you'll learn one of my deep, dark secrets...In search for a food safe tiramisu (non-raw egg), I essentially made an Italian meringue and incorporated it into the tiramisu. What I ended up with may not please the food police (I make no claims to the safety of this recipe), but it really improved the texture of the tiramisu. So here we go:

Start by whipping your whites until peaks begin to form. Then take your sugar and add it to 2 T. of water in a small saucepan on a medium flame. If you understand the term "softball," take the sugar to softball. If you don't, just boil until your bubbles seem to thicken a bit. Pour the boiling sugar into your whites and continue to whip. They will get thick and glossy.

Next, fold the whites into the cheese mixture. Don't worry about being too delicate here, simply fold, fold, fold until full incorporated.

Okay, set up your mis en place:

Since I make mine in individual cups, you'll see that I've trimmed the lady fingers to fit. Depending on what you put your tiramisu in, you may or may not want to trim. Whisk your 2 T. Sugar into the espresso, and add the remaining brandy. Feel free to play around with other liquors - Amoretto, KahlĂșa, etc. Dip the lady fingers into the espresso and immediately pull them out. Those little suckers will suck a lot of coffee very, very quickly and you don't want a soggy mess, so dip and pull, don't think! Line your cup however will look best in your serving container. Then a dollop of the cheese mixture goes into/onto your lady fingers.

I'll then add another piece of soaked lady finger (my trimmings), dust with cocoa and more cheese mixture.

And last, but not least, a few crushed cacao nibs on top. Chocolate covered coffee beans would be very nice as well, or if you're a cheap, lazy, bum, a dusting of cocoa still does the job :P
Let sit up over night in the fridge and enjoy on your porch with a glass of Rustico Prosecco or a fresh espresso. I think you'll find the texture on this version to be very nice, not dense, and very enjoyable on a hot summer night. Let me know what you think.