Sunday, September 26, 2010

Balsamic Harvest Dinner Preview (Monticello, NM)

Any foodie worth their salt has been to or put on a balsamic tasting dinner (okay, actually I never have), but rarely do you get to experience that on the farm that the balsamic has been grown on. I've previously reported on the Darland's organic balsamic farm and next weekend I'll be putting on a 10-course tasting dinner to feature their amazing vinegar.

Maybe its my own personal insecurities, but I always feel like I need to say, "I know what you're thinking...New Mexico...balsamic...but you just need to trust me on this one." I remind you that I sell 25 year balsamic from Modena and the Darland's rivals if not surpasses those $200 bottles.

I won't say it again. Your skepticism will be your loss! As I type this entry the Darlands are out in the field picking their blend of grapes and by the time we get to the farm next Saturday, the fermenting room will be ripe with black gold.

(Here are their vines from two weeks ago, covered to protect against bugs.)
But this farm is much more than balsamic. An amazing array of both culinary and non-culinary lavender fill nearly an acre.

You feel like your in the south of France (or a Bed Bath and Beyond shop).

And the vegetables - oye! Here are some beautiful peppers.

And even as staunch of an anti-smoker as I am, I was impressed by Steve's stash of heritage tobacco. If I recall, he has three plants, one will be used for the wrapper and the other two for the filling.

They gifted me with these shashito peppers. All the rage at the Sante Fe farmers market, these little peppers aren't very spicy hot (one out of ten will kick your rear), but addictive when flash fried and seasoned.

Simply throw them in a hot wok with some oil - I used peanut oil. The Darlands swear by saffron salt.

And the farm is littered with other bounty - so much so that I don't even remember what this is, but I know its important because I took the time to take a picture (oregano bud maybe?)

And Long Island Cheese, I immediately made that into a spicy soup and served it back to the Darlands for dinner - beautiful color and fantastically rich flavor.

But enough about the farm, dinner (which is sold out) will begin at 6 pm. My tentative menu is:
Tomato beignet
Fig and grape salad
Cashew ravioli
Grilled apricots and balsamic foam
Goat cheese terrine
Cantaloup carpaccio/duck prosciutto
Portabello mousse
Braised pork belly
Carbonated watermelon with balsamic dimple
Balsamic ice cream and dulce de leche napoleon

I'll be sure to post pics next week.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What if Alinea was opened in Omaha?

Would one of the world's most famous restaurants be famous if it were opened in Omaha? What if the French Laundry had opened its doors in Boise? When a restaurant opens in a location that is not known for having a conglomeration of foodies, can it find its potential?

Lately I've been thinking about when Alex and Aki were in southwestern Colorado at a little known lodge. I used to live in that neck of the woods so I know that its at least five hours to the nearest major airport and hence major metro area. They found fame through the internet and dedicated followers, but surely it was a tougher road to take than if they had lived in NYC or San Fran where food writers and bloggers could highlight the work they were doing. Now living in the northeast, they have widely known fame and a much anticipated book.

But they were just a couple of passionate chefs doing their thing. They weren't a restaurant trying to make its mark on the American restaurant scene (they may dispute this).

So what if Grant Achatz decided to stay in small town Michigan? His skills surely would have drawn the attention that would lead to greatness, but would it have been the same if it weren't in Chicago? For that matter, what has Alinea done to elevate Chicago's status as a foodie city? I would suspect that Alinea would be a destination restaurant, but not to the degree that it has become. Grant may have thrown in the towel and headed to a bigger market in hopes of staking his claim.

As the human psyche ponders the cost-benefit of a great meal versus a three hour drive from the airport for the meal, few would make the trip I suspect. I wouldn't visit Boise or Omaha just for a meal...well, unless Alinea opened up in one of those cities. Maybe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: Foods of the Americas

Recently released in paperback version, Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions, brings renewed life to this James Beard Foundation book award winner of 2005 (originally published in 2004). Numerous books have been written about native or indigenous cooking in the Americas, but most focus on a small subset of people, and are rarely written by accomplished chefs. Fernando and Marlene Divina, in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, have created a book that documents important cultural history, and thankfully convert it into a useful culinary tool.

Read the rest of the review HERE.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Need a recipe tester

I'm working on publishing a dessert recipe and need someone at sea level (or at least not a mile high) that can test a recipe for me. Any takers? Please email me or leave a comment. Thanks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mooncake Festival 2010 falls on September 22

I know that my local Asian restaurants won't have the gumption to celebrate mooncakes, so I'll have to become the mooncake capital of Silver City. I'd love to get some tried and true recipes if any readers want to share them. I'll send a box as a thank you :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Upcoming Event: Balsamic Farm Banquet

As usual, my apologies to my regular readers. I'm in the middle of creating a new dinner menu and have been busy planning a very exciting event. Some of you may remember our visit earlier this year to a New Mexico balsamic producer HERE. We've negotiated a behind-the-scenes visit to their farm and I'll be preparing a sumptuous balsamic-themed banquet. I hope you'll consider joining us on Saturday, October 2nd starting at 3 pm.

HERE is the link to their farm website.

And here is more information about the event:
Join hosts, Rob & Tyler Connoley, as they introduce you to one of our
local great food producers - Steve and Jane Darland of Monticello, who are producing truly world class balsamic vinegar. We believe their vinegar rivals even the 25- year old, $200 per bottle variety that we sell at the store. Its stunning in its maturity and flavor complexity.

Chef Rob will be creating numerous dishes throughout the day culminating in a multi-course balsamic-focused feast. The meal includes all wine pairings and other beverages. The Darlands will offer an exclusive behind-the-scene tour of their farm, the fermenting room and the aging attic - sure to be the highlight of your visit.

Transportation will be available for those wishing to come for just the day, and the Darlands have two guest cottages for those who wish to make it a weekend (minimum of two night stay please).

You are being invited because of your support of the Kumquat and your passion for great food. We believe this very unique opportunity is something you simply have to experience. Please join us for $95 per person. RSVP quickly and feel free to invite friends. Limited to 30 guests.
Call 534-0337 or stop by the store to register.