We continued our recent trend of having a very well defined theme for our weekly tasting menus, but decided to keep things domestic. This time around, the Pacific Northwest was our region of choice. Pretty interesting area, and one I’ve actually always wanted to visit. Just to clarify, we’re talking about Oregon, Washington, and even into Northern California. Some things to take note of would be the obvious things like proximity to the ocean, which means seafood is an important part of the repertoire. Additionally, being a heavily wooded region plays a big role in the cooking- use of nuts, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns(we were able to get these in fresh, which was nice for that real authentic feel to the food), and apples are all pretty apparent and something we made a point of showing. In addition to seafood, because of the geography and it being such a heavily wooded area, game meats are pretty popular- namely venison and elk(we used venison). Finally, the food is all prepared very simply- nothing particularly complicated about any of. The focus here is on the fresh local ingredients.
So, for one of our appetizers, we decided to use Artic Char(which is sort of like a cross breed of salmon and trout). We cut the Char into 3oz portions and hot smoked it, and then served it chilled. We kept the dish extremely simple, and just served almost like a salad of herbed fingerling potatoes, pearl onions, and bacon(we actually made this bacon in-house), along with a brandied apple chutney.
For our second appetizer, we used a slightly more complex preparation(just tedious really, not necessarily hard), but kept the flavor profile very simple. We used King Crab meat and made a cold set terrine. I’ll spare you the details on how to build a cold set terrine… it’d be as tedious for me to explain it as it would be actually build it and I don’t feel like doing that again. Basically, we have a terrine mold(this one was basically shaped like an arched doorway), with the edges lined with carefully arranged leg meat from the crab. The inside is a pea mousse. Pretty simple- its like a cylinder of pea mouse with the crab leg meat going around the edges. We just serve a slice of this as an order, which gives that visual appeal. After this slice of king crab and pea mousse terrine, we made a nice little relish of pickled corn and prosciutto, and a basil gelee(basil pureed into water and white wine, with some xanthan gum added to thicken it).
For our fish course, we took advantage of it being King Salmon season, which is a pretty brief time of year. I’m generally not a fan of salmon, but King Salmon really is something special and its something I actually really enjoy. The problem is that it goes for roughly $20 a pound for whole fish- regular garbage farm raised Atlantic salmon goes for more like $7/lb for sides(skin on, not portioned). You won’t find a whole lot of restaurants that serve King Salmon- very few with the clientele that’d be willing to pay for it. Luckily, for our members, we made this part of our weekly 3 courses for $30, so they won’t have to worry about all that. So, we crusted this wonderful wild caught salmon with pine nuts, and served it with some sauteed fiddlehead ferns, and a wild mushroom and potato hash. Instead of a sauce, we just made a simple rosemary gastrique(rosemary, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, port, sherry vinegar, honey, all just reduced to a near syrup), and drizzled it over the plate. Just simple ingredients prepared the right way here.
For our not fish course(we did too damn much with fish this week), we decided to use venison. I really hadn’t expected this to sell, but its actually handily outsold the King Salmon(shocking since our members are lame and generally order seafood like its gonna all be gone by tomorrow). I guess I should be encouraged by that, I dunno. This dish couldn’t have possibly been any simpler, to be honest with you. I’d eat it, though. We started by marinating venison tenderloin in some olive oil with garlic, thyme and rosemary, and grilling it to a nice medium-rare. Next up, we caramelized some fennel, and toasted some walnuts in the same pan… we then added a bit of a very simple vinaigrette and very quickly and lightly wilted some spinach(not so much wilted, really, just warmed a bit), and added some dehydrated blueberries. This nice warm spinach salad gets finished with a little black pepper, and goes on the plate with the sliced venison, a couple pieces of maytag bleu cheese, and a nice blueberry jus(just our has bacon jus, pureed with some blueberries) to finish things off. Again, just simple fresh ingredients prepared the right way.
I actually really enjoyed the food this week- nothing pretentious, just good simple food. Also, the members seemed to enjoy it all, and actually “got it,” so to speak.