Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bike Race pt 1

This won't be much of a report. The race started yesterday. Lance finished 22nd and Levi was in first. I have more fun following all of the Cat 3-4 racers who eat at my place.

What's more interesting to me right now is that last year the idea of serving a hundred voracious athletes scared the poop out of me. Now, its just a ho hum moment. The food is nothing special but the riders appreciate inexpensive, fresh food and that they don't have to wait two hours at the other restaurants. Makes for a fun crowd.

And, did I mention that our beer and wine license came in just yesterday! I've been told its the best list in town:

Oskar Blue Dales Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Orval Trappist Ale

Unibrew Don de Dieu

Deschutes Green Lakes

Rogue Xs Imperial Red

Rogue John John Dead Guy

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

Left Hand Smoke Jumper

Rogue XS Imperial Stout

Anderson Valley IPA

Rogue Xstreme Imperial IPA

Stone Ruination IPA

Ayinger UR Weisse

Ayinger Brua weisse

Hacker Pschorr Weiss

Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss hefe

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Full Sale Porter

Deschutes Obsidian Stout

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

Eel River Ravens Eye Stout

NB La Folie Bomber

Rogue Hazelnut Brown

Rochefort 8 – strong dark

Unibrew Maudite

Unibrew La Fin du Monde

Dopplebock Celebrator

Westmale Dubble Trappist Ale

Oskar Blues Yella Pils

Rio Grande Desert Pils

Rogue Estreme Old Crustation

Nimbus Monkeyshine

Oskar Blues Old Chub

Stone Arrogant BastardAle

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tour of the Gila and Lance Armstrong

The Tour of the Gila Bike Race has started - riders are out right now heading toward the Mogollon ghost town. I've got just under a 100 riders signed up to eat with me. The rest of today is pasta, pasta and pasta. The fad this year is gluten free - not because of allergies or celiac disease, but something to do with digestion and absorption. As a chef, I hope this one fades away. Pics and posts coming soon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: New American Table

Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table is perfect for the aspiring foodie with its vast array of cuisines. Although you’ll find nothing ground-breaking or especially innovative, adventurous cooks will enjoy the challenge of cooking across the globe and, ultimately, a modern definition of American Cuisine will appear right on their own dinner table.

Read the rest of my review at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Me & Ted: Cooking at Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch Pt2/2

Sunday took us to the Hermosa ghost town. The ghost town had its heyday at the turn of the century but had gone by the wayside until Ted Turner bought it to protect it and provide a hunting outpost.

On the way to the town we saw some amazing ruins and petroglyphs. The property is covered with incredibly rich architectural and historic treasures.

I was in the advanced team so once the camp was set up for photo ops I had a couple of hours to kill - my first respite of the trip.

I walked down the creek a bit and found another ghost town, then headed up off trail to the top of the nearest high point (its what I do). I then cut across the mountain playing on some of the cliffs and gazing across the valley - what a view.

(The Seco valley where the ghost town sits)
I finally headed back to start working on the afternoon tea (mesquite chocolate chip cookies) and sundowner - simpler today - guac and chips and brie with fig cake and crackers.

(The town kitchen - I opted for camp fire instead)
Dinner was my final adventure - dutch oven cooking. I haven't dutch oven cooked since I was 12 in boy scouts so this was all a big gamble. I opted for green chile cheddar corn bread and a hearty pot of posole.

Of course for me that meant Meyenberg aged goat cheddar and a posole of locally raised pork and chicken.

(My cornbread - 8 coals on bottom, 16 on top = 350ºF in a 12" round)
This was also my chance for the big photoshoot.

(One of the silly photo shoots)
And maybe it was the food, or maybe it was the moment, but this was the meal that became the biggest hit.

(MY silly photo shoot)
The crew from Santa Fe, all of whom have consumed massive amounts of posole in their lives, claimed that this was the best posole they had ever had.

I humbly said thanks since it was as much luck as anything else.

(My video shoot)
We all settled in for ghost stories around the campfire, the best being from Apache Joe who told the tale of a scorned cook who tried to steal his soul - I ended the story with, "You all better remember that one! By the way, there are dishes in the sink." The joke was on me, however, since I was the one who couldn't get to sleep because of the stories.

That's a wrap. Breakfast the next day was leftovers since everyone had to race out to get to their next location and the locals headed home. Ranch Manager Steve drove me back to the HQ to get my truck. This was my first time with Steve who shared stores of the ranch and Ted Turner and gave me a true appreciation for everything that they're doing on that ranch. I'm very appreciative for that time and have a new found respect for Ted Turner's conservation vision.

Who knows what role my food will have in the article, but it will appear in Conde Nast Traveler in their September issue which is one of their most popular - the innovation issue. Let's hope my food will make the final edit!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Me & Ted: Cooking at Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch Pt1/2

As I announced last week, I had the opportunity to cook at Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch this past weekend. Prior to the event I had little information about the job except that the primary purpose was to expose a Conde Nast Traveler writer to New Mexico's ecotourism initiative. I had been recommended based on local participants in the planning process, but the primary coordination was up in Santa Fe. It was clearly a job I couldn't refuse.

The participants included:
Katie Arnold (Writer and former Managing Editor of Outside magazine)
Ryan Heffernan (Photographer)
Ziggy Bergman (Videographer)
Chip and Sandy Cunningham (EcoTourism New Mexico)
Dave Stanton (EcoTourism New Mexico)
Joe Saenz (Apache guide)
Joe Kenneally (Local outfitter)
Bill West (Birding guide)
Nathan Small (Local environmentalist and Las Cruces City Council member)
Gary Emerson (Astronomy guide)
Steve Dobrott (Ladder Ranch manager)
This list changed throughout the weekend to capitalize on photoshoots, weather, travel, etc..

I learned quickly that this was a jam-packed weekend meant to show the reporting team as much as possible, and to allow the EcoNM team to film a marketing video for potential investors. What that means to the lowly chef was - be prepared to change everything at the drop of a dime and be dressed for photo ops at all hours.

I had my typical late start leaving town to drive over to the ranch. Last minute shopping and packing my entire kitchen, while my staff continued to serve lunch, was more challenging than I wanted it to be. The coordinator didn't have an arrival time for me, just a dinner time so my late start was fine except it meant I was a bit hurried when I finally did arrive.

The Ladder Ranch is really something amazing. I'll let you google it yourself, but the short version is that media mogul, Ted Turner, is the single largest land owner in the western half of the US. He uses his land purchases to entertain himself with hunting and fishing, but more importantly, he implements aggressive conservation efforts. I'm not at liberty to discuss two such efforts, but they're fairly well known in the search engine world. I'll also add that TT shares his land very generously with researchers, educators, youth groups as well as the slew of uber rich hunters, so this is no stingy rich man's folly.

(Ranch HQ and Lodge)
Talking with Steve Dobrott it was clear that the mission of TT and his ranches is to create ecologically friendly, but financially viable operations.

(View from the Lodge front porch)
So when I arrived I threw all of my tools and books and clothes and stale Ritz crackers in the kitchen so I could get cranking on dinner. At every interlude, I took time to organize and throw the Ritz back in the truck for Tyler's next snack moment. That night I cooked until midnight shifting from dinner to prep for the next day.

I finally hit the sack around 12:30 and had a very unrestful night.

By my estimation this should have been the night to set the tone. I was saying to myself, "You hired me for what I am, so I'm gonna give it to you." That meant - locally sourced, fancy and playful, and damn tasty! So on night one I went to my current standard of blue corn pork belly tacos. I started the night with my New Mexico fields amuse bouche, green chile corn chowder, local greens with chilied prickly pear tuna, and wrapped up with peanut butter pie.

(My superstar assistant Debbie)
I ran into my recurring problem of the pork belly being a bit too salty (I've since diagnosed the problem and it will be fixed this week), but otherwise everything was very well received especially the chowder and salad.

I was too rushed to worry about such things during dinner, but after dinner I realized that they were seating everyone in a room that was too dark for the photographer to capture my food. I was bummed, but he got plenty of pics of my lunches, teas, sundowners and final meal, so I wasn't too disappointed.

Starting at 5 the next morning, I was back at it and working on a breakfast of baked goods - scones, biscotti and yogurt parfaits with pop-rocks - for my foodie readers, for my parfaits I always strain my yogurt overnight in a mesh strainer to thicken it similar to Greek yogurt.

The team came back from morning birding to snack, then they were off to see the bison. Left behind, I moved on to lunch.

Lunch was a set photo op. Imagine a warm spring New Mexico day alongside a trickling creek full of brisk snow melt.

Lunch is served on a large woven rug abound with fluffy pillows and leather chairs. Perfect for the photographer, but no one wanted to sit on it because we were all the workers and that's where the guests go...but everyone was a worker - kinda awkward.

I sat my rear down to lead the way! Lunch was chicken wraps filled with basil pesto, feta, piñon and local greens. I also blasted them with my popular brownies.

Alongside I made foot-long potato chips seasoned with vanilla and bottarga.

The lunch photo shoot continued as they raced me back to HQ on the back of a 4-wheeler ATV to start on afternoon tea. Now for perspective, it took us 90 minutes to get from HQ to the photo shoot - this is a huge ranch! Tea was yuzu madeleines.

The guests were getting bloated at this point and were starting to refuse food, but I forced them to eat since that's why I was there. Tea transitioned to the guests exploring Indian ruins, then back for evening sundowner.

In Africa, the sundowner tradition is an imperialist tradition. As the sun sets, you gather with friends and family for a cocktail and light snack. Their snack tonight - fresh pretzels and mustard. Huge success - people raved...but again were getting really stuffed. I also had a comment in passing from the ranch manager about the scarcity of protein, so I adjusted.

(I used Balinese pyramid salt for the pretzels)
Dinner featured savory avocado ice cream with mesquite blini, chayote soup with cilantro crema, bison heart salad, clay coated purple potato, chicken molé crêpes and green apple mousse with a shot of my nocino. There wasn't a miss on the whole menu! The blini and soup were a great combo although some people tasted only the cilantro foam and didn't realize the yumminess was underneath. The heart salad has proven to be one of my top dishes at the restaurant and will be hard to remove. The potatoes were fun albiet a bit too strange for some, but the clay and squid ink coating tastes so good with those creamy purple spuds.

My chicken molé continues to be my top lunch seller for a reason and that nocino has aged so nicely. I can't wait to taste in in the coming year (its about to turn one year old).

After dinner the group was off to star gaze. I was able to join them since my ranch provided assistant was so incredibly efficient and hard working. This was my first escape from the kitchen and it was worth it. First, Steve howled to the wolves and sure enough they howled right back. Then Gary showed us a bunch of little white dots in his telescope with statements like, "That one is 50 million light years away." I was less than impressed. But when he showed us Saturn and the rings were clear as could be - wow!

(Me looking very tired after dinner)
Back to do some last minute prep and then in bed just after midnight. Back up at 5 to get at it again. Sunday was a hearty breakfast burrito with Niman Ranch bacon and our local Salsa Patria in a whole wheat tortilla. I whipped up my favorite pop-tarts just for Ryan since he enjoyed the nostalgia of my pop-rocks. And boy did they love those pop-tarts! I had to then pack up the entire kitchen to move over to the Hermosa ghost town.

Click HERE for the rest of the story...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

World Pastry Forum & Championship

Dear Student,

Thank you for your interest in our program. We have reviewed your application and are proud to inform you that you have been enrolled as a student at the 2010 World Pastry Forum in Phoenix, AZ for the Competiton series hands on class with Stephane Treand and Jean Marie Auboine.

This class will be held in the competition kitchens and you will be working as teams. We are holding this class for professionals only and it will be fast paced. The event will be held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge and Spa.

Included in your registration is a Chef Coat with the World Pastry forum logo, class curriculum on either a flash drive OR printed handout notebook, lunch during class session, Graduation party the last night of classes, entrance to the 2010 Amoretti World Pastry Team Championships, entrance to the awards ceremony, and Gala dinner following the awards ceremony. This year, we have also expanded our night program, where there will be a demonstration, mixer, discussion group, get together, etc, every evening that is also included in the student package.

Michele Huyke

Anyone else going?
Curious Kumquat

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My next adventure

Do you all ever get the feeling that my life is like a roller coaster? I'm not sure what I'm doing to have such a crazy life.

(photo credits embedded in the watermark)
The latest...I'm cooking a weekend of meals for Conde Nast Traveler staff. The story is really about the New Mexico ecotourism initiative, but I was picked to do the meals. The plans have changed so many times with the reporter and photo team's schedules, but the final plan is this:

Three full meals over two days at Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch
One full day of meals at the Hermosa ghost town

The coordinator called for "simple snack" and "easy breakfast"...she clearly doesn't know me. I'll be pulling a number of my new dinner items, and I want to do locally sourced foods. My real feat will be if I can pull off sous vide in a dutch oven. And I can't wait to see what Ted Turner's kitchen has in it!

Anyway, more on this later - my new staff is doing great so I have rest coming, and right after this big dinner we have our annual bike race which will be even bigger with the return of Lance Armstrong. And did I mention that our liquor license should be coming in any time now?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Recent playing - shiny dome and cannelles

See me? I'm in the dome. Chocolate mousse, passionfruit curd, flourless chocolate cake and chocolate mirror glaze.

I'm not making Canelés de Bordeaux because that recipe is secret, but I am making Cannelés de Bordeaux ala Pierre Hermé. A full post will come soon. If you can't wait, click over to Syrup and Tang for an article that got me going on this journey.

And I don't think I've ever properly thanked Lois for her gift of wine made by family/friends, both of which were very nice indeed (and long since gone).

Nor did I appropriately thank Andrea for her recent gifts. The honey was the base for the stinky ice cream a couple of weeks ago and the vanilla liquor is sipping away.