Monday, August 23, 2010

Gregoire Restaurant, Berkeley, CA

Many years ago in San Francisco I worked at the now closed Amelio's restaurant in North Beach. It was then what is now known as "old school French" and we cooked all the classics. During this time I met and developed a friendship with a young guy from Paris, France (we were all much younger then) who came to our restaurant to work.
His name was Gregoire Jacquet and we worked together for a fun and crazy year or two before I quit and put everything I owned into storage before setting off to Explore Australia and Asia. I have since kept in touch and I try to make it to one of his popular restaurants whenever I get the chance. He has two restaurants now with the original tiny location in Berkeley, and a second and bigger location opened a few years later in Oakland. The Berkeley location is very small and serves all of its food in nice to-go containers. There is limited seating with a few tables in front. The food is amazing and it's all made from scratch on site using the best natural and organic ingredients. Quality sandwiches and entrees such as "Orecchiette pasta with WillieBird smoked Chicken and Artichokes" or "Sauteed Dutch Valley Veal Scaloppini with Porcini Sauce" with a average price of $14.50! What ever you get, make sure a order of potato puffs is part of it, they are getting a cult status now and the kids really love the crunchy fried crust with the soft cheesy filling. Check out either location for great meal and be sure to say "hi" to Gregoire for me.
Berkeley 510-883-1893
Oakland 510-547-3444
Photo note: Potato puffs with garlic Aioli, Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella with Crostini

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Plums, Plums and More Plums

I took a recent trip across the bay to the city of Berkeley with the promise of some of the best fruit and vegetables on this Western Coast. The store I went to is the famous Berkeley Bowl which is simply amazing with its huge selection of all foods. The one item that really caught my eye this trip, was more plum varieties then I have ever seen in my life. I really needed to buy and try one of each variety, and I also wrote down all the names so I could remember what each one looked and tasted like. The crazy names included King Midas, Flavor King, Elephant Heart, Mariposa, etc. I ate most of the Plums plain and raw but had the idea to grill some to go with a mixed green salad. The plums were pitted, quartered and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and placed onto a hot grill for about a quick minute to still retain some firmness. The grilled plums developed a somewhat smoky flavor and a sweetness from all the natural sugars caramelizing. Simple and delicious.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BLT Sandwich with Salmon and Avocado

At this time a few years ago I was working at Glacier Bay Alaska and the memories of that experience reminded me of a sandwich I made then using the local king salmon. It was a variation of the classic bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich with the decadent addition of the salmon and creamy sliced avocado. Today I recreated that same sandwich but using another salmon then the absolutely fresh king salmon that was in abundance there. Lots of color, textures and very good flavors.

Alaskan BLT Sandwich
3 ounces thin sliced salmon fillet, King if possible
3 strips smoked bacon, crispy cooked
3-4 slices heirloom tomatoes
1-2 leaves lettuce
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
2 slices good quality sliced bread, toasted
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1. Saute the salmon fillet, allow to cool
2. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both bread slices.
3. Layer all ingredients between the bread slices.
4. Slice in half and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pan Seared Halibut with Harissa Sauce

On a recent week night without much energy to cook a elaborate meal, I did a very simple pan seared fillet of local Halibut with the fiery chili sauce Harissa, the origin of the sauce is from Tunisia and made with dry chili peppers, coriander and caraway seeds blended to a thin paste. I served baby Yukon gold potatoes with the fish, but maybe next time for a more authentic flavor I will use steamed cous cous instead of the roasted potatoes?It still was still very good and the best part, easy.

Note: Pre made Harissa can be found in Middle Eastern or well stocked markets.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spanish Style Stuffed Squid

Spicy Tomato Braised Stuffed Squid

One of the perks in living in the San Francisco bay area is its close proximity to the vast Monterey bay which is where most of the Squid sold in the U.S. comes from, for us here that means fresh and cheap! About $1.99 a pound (0.453592kg) I normally go to one of the many Asian markets in San Francisco's Richmond district to buy my squid, the turn over is high which insures fresh squid. I had the idea to cook the squid in a Tapas style using Spanish flavors. To start after I cleaned the squid, I took the cleaned squid tubes and stuffed them with the chopped tentacles and uncooked rice, I did not put to much rice in because it expands when cooked and will break open the tubes. Toothpicks are used to secure the ends. The squid then goes into a small pot with pre sauteed sliced onions, tomato, garlic, Spanish smoked paprika in olive oil. Then the tubes are covered with water or stock, brought to a simmer and then cooked for about 30 minutes. The Squid then come out of the liquid and the toothpicks are removed, the liquid is then reduced down to a sauce consistency and finished with chopped parsley and pitted green olives. The stuffed squid turn out tender and take on the flavors of the aromatic cooking liquid. I haven't made the trip to Spain yet but this is really putting me in the mood.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Clams My Way

Chinatown Shellfish

Grilled Bread & Little Neck Clams

I cooked a batch of little neck clams today using the common flavors of smoky bacon, sliced onions, garlic and tomatoes in local Anchor Steam beer, served along side plenty of grilled bread to get all that great cooking liquid. I was able to get these fresh little clams at one of the well stocked seafood shops in San Francisco's Chinatown district.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Squash & Goat Cheese Roulade

Basil Infused Goat Cheese Wrapped in Grilled Zucchini

A perfect Summer food idea in a small bite size bundle, with only a few ingredients, its the best way to showcase amazing Summer flavors. The herb goat cheese filling provides a creamy yet tangy flavor which contrasts with the sweet acidic cherry tomato sauce. This is very good as a small first course or maybe it can be served skewered and passed at a Cocktail party.
6 oz. Goat Cheese
1/4 bun Sweet basil, sliced
1 Green Zucchini, sliced long & thin
1/2 basket Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil as needed
1 garlic clove, peeled, chopped
Kosher salt/Pepper

1. Mix the Goat cheese with basil and stir into a smooth paste, add a touch of water if necessary .

2. Slice the Zucchini into long thin strips using a mandolin or chefs knife.

3. Season and grill the zucchini till tender but not too soft, drizzle with olive oil.

4. Make a chunky sauce with the olive oil, garlic and cherry tomatoes, season to taste.

5. Place a small mound of the goat cheese mixture on one end of the squash and roll up.

6. Serve the roulades with a spoonful of rustic tomato sauce.

Yield = 12 bite size rolls

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Caveman Cut Rib Eye Steak

"Caveman Cut" Rib Eye Steaks

High Heat Grilling

Rib Eye Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Potato Gratin

It is not often that I will eat steak, but I just had this craving for it and my new grill helped with that decision. When I was looking for a proper cut of meat to grill such as a Porterhouse, a huge rib eye steak in the meat case jumped out at me, it was a locally raised cut of beef with really nice fat marbling and with the bone still attached, this monster weighed in at 24 ounces (683.28G) because of its large primal size it has been often called a "Caveman Steak". The secret to keeping the flavor is to simply season it with lots of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and then placing the room temperature steak on a very hot grill to seal in the juices and produce a flavorful charred crust. To do this I used a good quality mesquite charcoal which burns very hot. After about five minutes on each side for medium rare it was done and then needed to rest for about 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving. I made a compound butter with balsamic caramelized red onions and rosemary to spread on the still warm meat, it melted into a Delicious sauce. With the steaks a served sauteed shaved Brussels sprouts with bacon and a crispy Yukon gold potato gratin.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Wine Country Escape

This Summer has been unusually cold and foggy in the bay area, so I planned a quick escape to the wine country just North of me. I was not alone with this idea and I soon joined a long line of cars heading towards the Napa and Sonoma valleys. It was nice to get away from the cooler weather and be in the middle of vineyards filled with maturing grapes. Harvest will begin in about a month and last till the first rains of October. I visited a few wineries to try their new vintages before settled on a bottle of crisp Pinot Gris, after a few glasses it was time to head back South into the cold wind and fog.

Friday, August 06, 2010

New Orleans Event & Kitchen Sights

Massive Refrigerated Walk in

Dinner for 14,000

Rational Combi Ovens

My trip to New Orleans is finished and I really regret not being able to visit every restaurant I had wanted to; it was a working trip after all and the hours and days were just to long.  In the end, our kitchen team produced over 40,000 plated meals spread out over five days. Using modern kitchen equipment made it seem almost easy, the star appliance was our bank of six German Rational Combi ovens. These $60,000. each high tech ovens can be loaded by wheeling in a full rack of food and with a push of a few buttons the oven's computer will roast, bake or steam the food perfectly. We were able to cook 14,000 orders of potato gratin all at the same time!  The next step after all the food was cooked is having lines of conveyor belts to move the plates across onto the dish up tables where cooks placed the food in the appropriate spots, then the finished plates were covered and loaded up in huge heated boxes to be wheeled to the tables to be served.  It was a good experience, but next time when I visit it will be just for the food and sights of New Orleans.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Mother's Restaurant, New Orleans

Mother's Restaurant on a hot Evening

Soft Shell Crab Po Boy

I have heard about this place for a long time and I discovered it was only less then a block from where I am staying in New Orleans, the famous Mother's restaurant. This classic Southern place has been around since 1938 and it has all the great food you can expect from this region, Po boys, Gumbos, Jambalaya, Oysters and more. The first thing I noticed when walking towards the restaurant was the huge line of people patiently waiting outside in the 95F heat, it really must be worth the wait. After my short wait to get inside I found it to be old and funky with lots of signed photos on the wall from local and more famous celebrities, a menu is handed to you and then you go back and forth on what its going to be, today its a huge fried soft shell crab Po Boy and a side of red beans and rice. after I take a seat it is delivered and then the second choice, Tabasco or Crystal hot sauce? I choose Crystal which I like better with its pronounced vinegar flavor. From what I hear the name comes from the simple and cheap idea of serving meat scraps with gravy on a bun, the name comes from the person who does not have a lot of money when ordering it, "Poor boy", mine was not that cheap but really good.

Mother's Restaurant, 401 Poydras, New Orleans, LA 70130 (504) 523 9656