Jim, Innkeeper at The Wine Country Inn

I’m currently staying in St. Helena at The Wine Country Inn.  Beautiful even though I have arrived in the middle of a huge rainstorm.  I have been put up in one of the luxury cottages.  Thanks Jim, even though I have yet to meet you.  And thanks to Jerry for setting it up for me.  The purpose of this post is to relay something that occurred to me by staying here.  An epiphany of sorts.  See, I like Jim already and I have not even met him.  Here’s why:

I read a small piece he wrote on how he says he likes 5 star properties. It went like this:

“For this video, my wife wanted me to tell a story, but it was too long. For my 50th birthday, I wanted a huge celebration trip. I               read reviews of great hotels all over the world. I came up with a long list of 4-Star and 5-Star properties to visit. My wife reviewed         the list.

“You hate 5-Star properties,” she informed me.
“What, I love them,” I corrected her.
“You hate them,” she insisted.
“What are you talking about, look at these places, watch the virtual tours, they are all beautiful,” I whined.
“Granted, they are beautiful, but you don’t like dressing for breakfast, or even lunch for that matter. You love the luxury, but you         hate the attitude.”
Of course, she was right. And as The Wine Country Inn has become more and more luxurious, I have kept that in mind. I hope you       enjoy staying at The Inn as much as I love running it.”

I have been writing a lot about fine dining and how it’s changing.  Evolving.  And this is exactly why.  There is a big move to a casual feel. For the most part, guests want 5 star food.  They want attentive service.  They don’t want to dress up.  They don’t want to have to choose from 12 different types of silverware.  They don’t want to sit through a 3-4 hour dinner.  Fun, new, exciting, quick.  2-3 courses.  Value.  But…  must be impressive.  This is how things are changing.  I did not have the words to articulate this, but Jim did it perfectly.  Unpretentious hospitality.  Thanks Jim.

Wine Country Inn

St. Helena, California

More Springtime.

River’s Edge Fresh Chevre Gelato with Spring Strawberry-Pistachio Ice Cream and Strawberry Gelee.  Now all we need is some micro lemon mint.  Where are those grow lights, anyway?

Kitchen Garden

Yey!  It’s going.  Pea tendrils, micro beet greens, micro radish greens, micro arugula, micro basil, micro parsley, micro cilantro…  All I am missing is the mint.  WHY CAN’T I FIND MINT SEEDS LOCALLY??  Okay,  mail order, here I come.

Imported Green Olive Brine…

What can we do with this?  Perhaps a green olive “caviar” to garnish a local cheese plate with rubharb compote?  Or as part of a wet brine for free range chickens?  Usually something like this may be discarded.  We, as chefs, are more and more realizing that this is pure flavor and can be used in many ways.

First of the Local Season.

Thanks to Louis at Mushrooms All Year for getting these for us!

Now all I need are some ramps!

Oregon Cheesemakers Guild Dinner SOLD OUT.

Sorry, folks.  I just got the cheeses today.  Man, are they fantastic!  Thanks to Rogue Creamery, Ancient Heritage Dairy, Three Ring Farms, and the Tillamook folks for all this killer cheese…  Here is the heart and the sole of the dinner.

No, They’re NOT From Costco. Scratch Cooking.

Kalamata Olive Ravioli.  This is the process…

 

Oregon Cheese Guild Dinner Coming!

Mark your calendars.  March 19th at 6:15pm at the US Hotel right next to the Jacksonville Inn.  We will be featuring cheeses from Rogue Creamery, Three Ring Farms, Tillamook and Ancient Heritage Dairy.  Tickets are $75 a person all inclusive.

http://www.roguecreamery.com/product.asp?specific=231

Menu

1st Course:

Ancient Heritage Dairy Scio Heritage Sheep’s Milk Cheese and Prosciutto Sandwich with Creamy Sweet Onion and Duck Confit Soup with White Truffle Essence

2nd Course

Green Olive Stuffed Quail over Tillamook White Cheddar Polenta with Crispy Cheddar Tuilles

3rd Course

Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue Cheese Crusted Filet of Beef with Oregon Black Truffle-Potato Puree, Spring Onion and Sweet Pea Ragout and Local Cabernet Reduction

4th Course

Three Ring Farms River’s Edge Chevre and Pistachio Truffles with Belgium Hot Chocolate

 

There is also a day-long festival on Saturday the 20th at Rogue Creamery in Central Point.  General admission is only $10 and $5 for a wine flight.  It will take place in a farmer’s market style under a huge tent and promises to be a lot of fun. 

“The farmer’s market format will present an interactive experience between makers and visitors, giving everyone an opportunity to talk about the product, the process and learn each individual cheesemaker’s story,” says David Gremmels, owner with Cary Bryant of Rogue Creamery. “It’s a way to truly be connected with the source of the cheese being presented.”

I hope to see you there!

 

MORELS ARE HERE!!!

Louis over at Mushrooms All Year has told me today that he found over a pound of morels!!  Early spring after all.  Who needs that old ground-hog anyway?

New Application for Sous Vide Cooking (For Our Kitchen Anyway…)

So, I have been doing a lot of slow and low cooking using my thermal immersion circulator…  But for the last wine maker’s dinner we did, I cooked filets that were sealed with salt, pepper and olive oil at 130 deg F for 1 hour.  This made them a perfect medium rare and the texture was like silk.  I did not sear them after.  Simply served them as they were.  Funny, they almost looked completely uncooked…  Meat lover’s dream…  I used some closed cell foam tape attached to the bag to get an internal temperature reading of the meat without compromising the vacuum seal.

Signs of Spring, A New Beginning.

As I go through my front door at home and start walking to my Jeep to depart for work, something catches my eye.  A small cluster of brightly colored yellow flowers. 

Although it’s the middle of February, it’s been sunny and a little warm.  Looks like the nice weather is helping coax the spring flowers from their sleepy winter slumber.  Will it be an early spring?  Will springtime culinary delights be early this year? 

Thrive.

I think it’s time we join THRIVE (THe Rogue Initiative For A Vital Economy).  This organization does many, MANY things.  But, to over simplify it, it works to promote local products and businesses keeping dollars in the valley.  This is a natural for farmers and cooks (Note-Farmers and cooks working together for a sustainable future…)  Mr. and Mrs. Smith come to visit us at the Jacksonville Inn (A local, independent Hotel).  They stay, and dine.  The pay for the goods and services and leave having a wonderful experience.  The revenue that they gave us is used to pay for produce I purchase from Farmer Joe about 5 miles down the road.  This way, the money stays in circulation here in the valley and creates a stable, THRIVING local economy.  Okay, this is way over simplified.  If you are not familiar with THRIVE, I recommend checking out the site.

www.thriveoregon.org

Great stuff.

The Whole is Greater then the Sum of it’s Parts

Read that again.  The whole is greater then the sum of it’s parts.  What does this mean to you? 

For me, it means creating a combination of flavors/textures/aromas, that when put together in the right combination, yield a product that is extraordinary.  You may have 1+1+1 = 3 most of the time which is normal, but when that sum equals 4 or more, then you really have something.  For me, it’s magical.  This has happened few times for me in my career.  I can count them on one hand.  I like to focus on making really good, tasty, solid food that people can relate to.  My sum is mostly 3’s.  I prefer to use local ingredients (preferably coming from someone in the business I know and can relate to) and let these ingredients speak for themselves.  However, if you take something as common as ketchup (yes ketchup) and think of all it’s flavor components, you begin to realize that this pedestrian ingredient is actually a distillation of several different flavor compounds brought together in exacting proportions to create a taste sensation that it truly greater then the sum of it’s parts.    Back in the early 90’s, chefs were creating ketchups out of everything.  All you needed was a sweet element (perhaps tropical fruit) with a sour ingredient (perhaps cane vinegar or a very tart citrus juice) and pair that with some garlic, onion, cinnamon and clove and there you have Chef Bill’s Tropical Mango Ketchup.  The ketchup tasted familiar (with the same flavor profile as Heinz) but had a strong uniqueness about it.  It would hit all the flavor preceptors on the tongue and wake up the palate.  Sweet-Savory-Spicy. 

Ketchup, simply put, is an ingredient that truly is greater then the sum of it’s parts.

Is Fine Dining Dead?

Taken from Studio Kitchen’s Blog….  How do you feel??

New Rule #52.

Fine Dining is not Dead.

It is just being reconfigured, the usual bullshit trappings like fish forks, 12 kinds of bread options, American Waiters from Brooklyn with fake French inflected accents, table chargers, gratuitous floral arrangements, Michelin stars, table-side plating, flambeing anything anywhere on the premises especially the dining room, ad-nauseum celebrity chef restaurant type pre-dining instructions on how to consume dishes, the use of any phrase by waiters that starts with “chef prefers……”, solicitous eye contact, among several others.

Think on a case by case basis, a $125 tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park may be a better value than multiple small sharing plates at your “small plates tapas venue” after you factor in the 2 pizzas and couple of hot dogs you eat at Grey’s Papaya on your way home.

Fine Dining was and always will be about Fine Food.

What is happening is we are dispensing with the draperies, no more window dressing.

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