Friday, December 5, 2008

Differance in Quality

Choosing a caterer in Sacramento for some people is a challenging task. First of all you are subjecting yourself and your home to a stranger. Then you must find common ground with your culinary likes and dislikes. Often times most caterers have a menu to choose from. This menu has been calculated for cost and expense, has a fixed price per item and is easily quoted. They do not bend the rules.

What I find is that most caterers in Sacramento will use sub par ingredients, take short cuts, or sacrifice quality for the sake of profit. Last night for instance we attended an event at an undisclosed location. It is an absolutely amazing place. My point however is they had it catered. The food was very basic, a ham croissant sandwich, a veggie platter consisting of previously frozen veggies, oxidized carrots, dried up ingredients. They finished off the line with some boxed desserts, well they were not in a box, I mean they were purchased frozen, and placed on pretty little trays to appear to the untrained eye as if some care went into their production on the caterers end.

Reality is that the food was not good. It did not look good and did not taste good. The quality of ingredients was very poor. This is what a lot of caterers specialize in. I suggest that someone looking for a caterer in Sacramento consider their goals and what they are trying to accomplish from an event they are hosting.

If it is important to you to have good food with nice presentation, or if you want your guests to be in awe, or really treat your guests to a treat. Perhaps you just want to have that casual sub par quality because no one will notice. Last night there were people lining up for the food, more than likely because it was free. Happens all the time, and people love something to snack on.

My suggestion is to find a caterer that will coach you through your journey to reach your destinations or goals for your event. I cater each event specially, individually. I do not have a fixed menu and certainly do not jeopardize my food or myself as a chef by using sub par ingredients to decrease the price of an event.

The old saying pays true, "you get what you pay for". I offer a service unlike most in the area. Actually my service is very, very unique. I offer a personalized, truly personalized opportunity to experience extremely high end food, that tastes amazing, with the highest quality ingredients from local suppliers, that are true to our seasons.

This all does not come without a price however. Again, you get what you pay for. I expect my clients to require and expect a lot from me. I expect to wow them and surpass their expectations, and I strive to do so using the best quality ingredients and using all the skills in my arsenal. I do not cut corners or become lazy to make money. I truly enjoy what I do and it is reflected in my food.

I have had to turn many clients away because they have asked me to jeopardize my core beliefs, my code as a Chef that I follow. I do not go against my style and against what I believe should be when it comes to serving clients. I will not serve something if it will not be better than you can expect. The people I have refused to work with have asked to me dumb it down, go against my style, be simple, be plain. I can cook like that every day of the week. We often eat like that ourselves. If I am charging a client for my services I will not do that. I expect to be paid well for what I do and I do not expect to be lazy and offer food that I do not feel like their money is worth. I want to give them their moneys worth every time.

To close, if you are looking for catering, consider your goals. Think about the service you will get. What I do is all homemade. My desserts are made by hand, with heart. They are not from Costco out of a box. I make my stocks from scratch using true bones and aromatics. My sauces are true reductions. Often I will brine my meat to ensure a better end result, a process that takes an extra day to accomplish. Point is that I take many extra steps to ensure that the food is better than just being traditionaly and quickly cooked. It is a process that I follow to make each ingredient better than normal. To enhance the ingredient. Nothing comes from a box!

My cuisine is specialized in that it is refined and extremely laborious in nature. I look for inspiration from the best Chefs in the world; Thomas Keller, Corey Lee of The French Laundry; Jonathan Benno of Per Se; Grant Achatz of Alinea; Local Chefs like Douglas Keene of Cyrus, Chef Kris Kostow of Meadowood, Chef David Kinch of Manressa and many more. Chefs Courtney & Eric of Carpe Vino have played a huge role in my inspiration as what they do is amazing with their restrictions and limitations. All of these Chefs are cutting edge people doing amazing cuisine and people I strive to follow. Passionate and devoted people to a craft they love. I pride myself in that!

I look forward to catering your next event. I cater to the Sacramento region, greater Sacramento area including, Roseville, Rocklin, Granite Bay, Lincoln, Auburn and much more. Please call for a personalized menu.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Cocktail Party

Friday night marked the execution of the Hansen cocktail party. As mentioned previously I developed their menu and executed the food as planned. Everything turned out great.

The Hansens are truly kind people. Not only were they extremely welcoming, they were kind and gracious as well. They own a beautiful home with an amazing kitchen! It was a pleasure, more like a pleasant dream to get to cook in such an equipped kitchen.

Throughout dinner people raved about the food. The butternut and apple soup was a huge hit, as were many others!

I prepped extremely long and hard for this event. I wanted everything to be my best work, and really wanted to exceed what the Hansens expected from me. Being that I have not made a name for myself yet, I am always striving to demonstrate my talents to my clients. That will hopefully ensure word of mouth advertising and repeat customers. What better advertising could you do then be at your very best? This is a picture of Irma, Myself and Jessica plating. Irma is a great friend of mine and a passionate cook. She always lends a helping hand when I do an event. Jessica is a culinary student of the Institute of Tech, so it was great to show and inspire such a young cook.
Brenda, standing gaurd next to the beautiful cheese plates.

Plating the course. I did the first and everyone then followed one job each to finish the remaining.
These above were olive oil shortbread, olive oil jam, nicoise olive puree, dried cherries and saffron. Absolutely amazing, salty up front and left a lingering sweet flavor of cherries on the end.
Pumpkin Consomme, Roasted Dates, Creme Fraiche

Brie Mousse, Beet Reduction, Baby Beets Sous Vide, Red Beets sous vide, Candied Apples Sous Vide, Garlic Crostini, apple fennel compote, arugula pudding, micro arugula, olive oil.

They look a little busy but I was happy with the execution and flavors of this dish. I found that each individual component eaten with the cheese alone was very good. All of them together a little bit much, so advised to each one bite at a time individually.

Chilean Sea Bass, Artichokes sous vide, pearl onions sous vide, agnolotti, barigoule, basil, lemon-Parmesan foam, Parmesan tuile.

Not my favorite plating execution. Could have been much cleaner and tighter, but we were rushed at this stage for this dish. There were a lot of components, too many in my opinion. Next time I will simplify. This is pan seared and roasted poussin that had been brined, chantrelle mushrooms, sous vide baby carrots, sous vide cippolini, pomegranate reduction, bordelaise, vanilla potato essence, candied glazed garlic. Carrot oil and powder. Whew... too many things. Sometimes a dish sounds good until you go to execute. Everyone loved this course however, so I believe it was liked. The bird came back with barely even any bones left on the plates! A good sign!

One of my favorite dishes of the night. A true pineapple consomme, infused with saffron, black peppercorns and lemon thyme. Coconut sorbet, caramelized bananas. Delicious!

Highland Farms lamb Sliders, Roasted Garlic Aioli, 4 hours caramelized onions, goat cheese, hand cut fries and Spicy Ketchup.

Milk chocolate creme brulee, chocolate truffles, brioche doughnuts, salted caramel, port poached figs, dark chocolate sorbet. MMmmmmm... good! Perfect doughnuts!

6 lbs of chilean sea bass, extremely fresh!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My next venue

I recently was offered a job for a client to do a dinner party for 24 people. It is a cocktail party that they wanted to serve food with. Well I cannot help myself whenever I cook for clients so I try to create a menu that will help the food to shine. I tried to develop a menu that would pair well with their choice of cocktails as well. I do not drink a lot of martinis, flavored or not, but have a good idea and a great source in Mom. The martini expert.


~Olive Oil Shortbread, Olive Jam, Nicoise Puree, Cherry, Saffron
~Butternut Squash, Apple & Vanilla Shooters
~Bread, Lucero Olive Oil, Balsamic Reduction
~Spiced Pumpkin Consommé, Roasted Medjool Dates

Brie Mousse
Candied Apples, Arugula Pudding, Apple-Fennel Compote,
Garlic Crostini, Red Beet Reduction, Micro Arugula
"French 75"

Chilean Sea Bass
Artichoke "Agnolotti al Plin", Barigoule Reduction, Basil Oil,
Parmesan Tuile, Pearl Onion, Lemon Essence
"Lemon Drop "

Roasted Poussin
Pomegranate Gastrique, Cippolini, Candied Carrots, Carrot Oil,
Caramelized Garlic, Pomegranate Pearls, Vanilla-Potato Essence
"Pomegranate Martini"

Coconut Sorbet, Caramelized Banana, Pineapple Consommé
“Siberian Princess”

Lamb Sliders
Highland Farms Local Lamb, Caramelized Onions,
Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic Aioli, Pommes Frites, Spicy Ketchup
"Cabernet Sauvignon"

Dessert Trio
Milk Chocolate Crème Brulée, Brioche Doughnuts & Salted Caramel, strawberry oil,
Dark Chocolate Sorbet & Port Poached Figs


Chocolate Truffles, Blackberry Tobacco
These will be all small plates. The clients chose what they wanted and I think they did excellent. This is sure to be a fabulous event. I will keep the pictures posted after this Friday.
My biggest challenge with this event was finding a chef to assist me. Considering this is such a large event for myself to handle alone, I decided it a good idea to ask for some help. But where? To who? Ughh,,, I found a girl still in culinary school to assist with plating and prep and whatnot, but I need some good back up. Something I need to take care of if I keep getting gigs like this.
For this dinner I am introducing quite a few sous vide techinques, and a few other interesting ones. I am using Methocel F50 to create a vanilla or vadouvan flavored marshallow that will be dehydrated and become crispy and floated in the butternut squash soup shooter atop an apple brunoise.
Sous vide will be applied to baby artichokes, carrots, pearl onions, cippolini, all veggies basically. I will be able to cook them ahead at a very controlled temperature to achieve the perfect texture. Then I will glaze them to finish at service. I am also using my vac machine to infuse certain flavors, like marinated olives with garlic, citrus, coriander and herbs.
I am playing with dried ingredients as well, such as carrot and beet powder, marshmallows, cherries, and some others. This should be a lot of fun to get some new practice on techniques. Let you all know how it turns out! I am taking pics along the way......

Carpe Vino Gets 4 stars From Mike Dunne

This past weekend Mike Dunne finally released his review of Carpe Vino in Old Town Auburn. I was waiting to read this because not only are Courtney, Eric and Drew good friends of mine, I have also had the great opportunity to cook their under their direction. They are amazing Chefs, and I have stated before on this blog, in my opinion the best in all of Placer County.

Take a look at the review and don't forget to give them a try before Courtney leaves and the format changes in the dining room....

Carpe Vino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chili for the Cold Weather

Ok, so today it is not so cold; actually it is quite hot with temps reaching the low 80's. So you are asking yourself, what the heck is he writing about Chili for? Well over the weekend we had our first rain. Oh how great it was! As soon as the temperature dropped our inclination was to get something warm on the stove. Angie mentioned chili and I thought it was a great idea. Simple and delicious, such comfort food! So I got started on my way.

At the risk of somebody stealing my recipe, and finding it on the local menu at some joint, which I will mention has been something similar to what has happened to me recently, I will indeed post this recipe. I would like to share this with those who will appreciate this at home!

This is a really great and simple recipe for a good chili! Sorry, I do not have any pics!

1 pack ground beef, good quality
2 onions diced
8 cloves garlic minced
1 red bell pepper diced
1 ½ - 2 cups shredded carrots
12 tomatoes, cut 1/2" dice
16 oz tomato puree, (I use an imported Italian brand that is fabulous! So something good quality!)
1 can kidney beans or 1/2 bag beans, soaked overnight
1 can white navy beans or 1/2 bag beans, soaked overnight
1 bottle dark beer
1 jalapeno

2 T fresh chopped thyme

all the following to taste (start small and add more as you go to taste)
sugar or honey, about 1/4 cup max
garlic salt
grandmas chili powder, gives color and flavor
hot paprika
onion powder

chicken stock
top with fresh cheddar and red onions

Saute onions, garlic, peppers, carrots in olive oil. Remove and set aside. Saute in same pan beef, seasoning along the way with the seasonings. Once cooked, drain all oil out of pan and out of beef. Add pan to high heat and add beer to deglaze pan. Add the beef and onion mix back to pan. Add remaining ingredients and cook for 2-3 hours over simmer, adjusting consistency with tomato puree or chicken stock. Serve with fresh cornbread topped with crème fraiche and chives!

So delicious and simple. It will thicken quite a bit if done correctly, the tomato puree I use is very high quality, so look for something with some flavor. This chili is a bit sweet, a bit spicy but very good! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Cookbooks

So it has been quite some time since I have found a really good cookbook that I have gotten excited about. Releasing this month is what appears to be lining up as something worth talking about, and definitely something to get excited over.

Below are a list of the cookbooks that I have already pre-ordered and cannot wait to receive. Finally some new material to inspire me!

1) Alinea Cookbook

Famed Chef Grant Aschatz releases his first ever cookbook and look inside the famed Alinea Restaurant of Chicago. Grant is known for his revolutionary approach to food and the manipulation of food and flavors. He pairs uncommon flavors in uncommon ways giving his diners new food memories along the way. An example of his style is the reversal of classic combinations, such as a piece of crunchy bacon and soft pineapple. Grant instead reverses the textural role each plays by pureeing pineapple, adding a modified food starch, drying it paper thin and wrapping it around a piece of softened bacon fat thickened to a marshmallow like texture with tapioca maltodextrin. He then pops the bite size pieces in a dehydrator to further enhance the crisp of the pineapple! This book is going to provide some excellent insight to textural manipulation for sure! Only the strong need purchase, as the recipes are definitely lengthy and the ingredients difficult to find. I special ordered a limited edition copy personally signed by the team of Chefs which will come with a special jacket not available in stores. It also came with full access to a discussion forum on technique and recipes months ago! Check it out if you dare.

2) Under Pressure

Finally after many years another Thomas Keller invention. Yes! Just when I think I have exhausted the possibilities of the French Laundry and Bouchon cookbooks I will set them aside for a month, come back to them and find something brilliant which I overlooked previously. I have been waiting for something new from Keller for many years and later this month it finally arrives. This book focuses on the cooking technique "sous vide", a French term literally translating to under pressure. It is a method by which food is vacuum sealed to remove oxygen, and cooked in a water bath at very low and extremely controlled temperatures for lenghty periods of time, up to 48 hours! Removal of oxygen and the slow cooking enables the products to retain their own juices and nutrients rather than leaking them out and losing them. The result in flavor is incredible! Particular proteins like meats benefit tremendously due to the low cooking temperatures which allows the protein strands to stay in tact rather than break and release their juicy goodness! Due out later this month!

3) Fat Duck

Heston Blumenthal owns a little place in London called "The Fat Duck". The little place also fights every year for the #1 restaurant in the world spot with the infamous El Bulli of Rosas Spain. This is the most pricey of the books costing a whopping $150+! Heston has almost solely transformed the culinary world into kitchen laboratories, looking more like science labs than kitchens. He brought cooking with liquid nitrogen to the table, instantly making ice cream table side; deep freezing eggs and bacon until a crispy texture appears, and more out of this world type gimmicks! His cookbook is rumored to be the same exact recipes as the restaurant uses, which translates to me as being almost impossible to duplicate in a home kitchen. I mean with the equipment the recipes will call for, it would be much cheaper to actually hop a plane and spend a week eating in his famed restaurant. But I am sure there will be some great ideas in there that I can put to excellent use, and cannot wait to receive it!

4) On The Line

Eric Repeirt is the famed Chef of Le Bernadain, 3 star Michelin rated New York Restaurant with a great history. This Fall he releases his cookbook "On The Line" and I am not sure what this will offer in terms of recipes. If I am correct in my assumptions, it will not fall short of excellent due to his reputation in the kitchen. He is known for being brilliant and creative, along with extremely meticulous with his preparations! There should be some worthy recipes for inspiration in this book, so pick it up! Definitely something to add to your Christmas list if nothing else! Its on mine! Hint Hint!

5) The Complete Robuchon

Need I say more? The title pretty much says it all. Joel Robuchon, Famed French Culinary God? Holder of more Michelin stars than any other Chef, all restaurants combined. Anyone heard of him? Well he owns many restaurants around the world, 12 to be exact, just google his name. Tokyo? Japan? Paris? Las Vegas? Where else? His avant garde approach is extremely modern to French classic preparations and this book should lend a hand in inspiring a modern way of thinking. This cookbook assures us some classical French dishes from the famed Chef that I believe will follow through. I hope I am correct because I am looking forward to receiving my copy soon! A steal at $25 apx online!

6) Dessert Four Play

Johnny Iuzzini is the Pastry Chef of Jean Georges in New York, oh yeah it also has 3 Michelin stars. Does anyone listen to those French "star givers"? I wonder, but it has to mean something, I mean there are only 4 in the entire city of New York with 3 stars. Perhaps the Chefs are buddies of the French... Either way, Johnny's creations in the pastry kitchen are well known world wide! He is cutting edge in his use of technique and flavor combinations.

If I may steal a quote from Harold McGee, “The first time I tasted Johnny’s creations, the profusion of delicious flavors in familiar and unfamiliar forms was like nothing I'd ever experienced in a dessert course. In this long-awaited book, Johnny shares the thinking, the cutting-edge techniques, and the flexible recipes that make his approach to the end of the meal so fresh and engaging.” —Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking

This book due out December 30th is a steal for the price and something you should run to grab, a good pastry book is hard to come by and something to cherish!

Well I hope you all enjoy the above if you choose to follow through! I will add, there are a long list of others hitting the shelves this Fall, so keep your eyes posted for anything that keeps your attention!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

So I wanted to give everyone a little recipes which is very simple and delicious. It is a fresh vanilla bean ice cream. It is so good and everyone who eats it cannot go back. My suggestion, if you don't already have an ice cream maker run out and grab one! Even a cheap one at walmart, something to get your cream churning!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

2.5 Cups Heavy Cream
1.5 Cups Whole Milk
8 egg yolks, organic
3/4 cup sugar
2 fresh vanilla beans

Slit each vanilla bean lengthwise down the center. Open each side up and scrape the beans from the pods with the back of a pairing knife. Combine the seeds and the pods of the vanilla beans, the cream, milk and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Cover with a lid and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour for maximum flavor. (You can bypass this step if you are in a bind).

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring the cream mixture back to a boil, then slowly whisk in about 1/2 of the hot mixture into the eggs. Mix fast as to not scramble the eggs. This will temper the eggs and prevent them from scrambling and ruining your batch! Add remaining cream, then strain mixture into clean sauce pan, about 10" round 2" tall apx or something about that size. Cook over medium low heat stirring consistantly with a wooden spoon. You are looking to thicken the custard to coat the back of the spoon. Should be done slowly not quickly. If you have a thermometer you are aiming for a cooking temp of about 165-180 degrees. Some people prefer different temperatures.

Once the custard is properly thickened, strain the mixture through a chinois into a stainless bowl. Place the stainless bowl in an ice bath (place the bowl in a larger bowl or sink filled with a good amount of ice and water) to ensure a proper cooling. You can either cool over ice for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally or place in refrigerator overnight prior to churning.

Once the custard is completely cooled, process in ice cream machine according to requirements. I will advise not to overchurn or your texture will be like that of butter. Texture of proper ice cream depends on the cooking procedure, the ingredients, the churning procedure and the freezer temperature or temperature of ice cream once served. Best to let sit a room temperature 20 minutes or so prior to scooping a great heap out of the dish! Enjoy!

I made this last night with a perfect apple tart tatin... delicious!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Ransome Wedding....

Yesterday was the big day for John and Judy... the day really was pretty special! It was an intimate gathering of friends and Family to celebrate their 25th year of marriage! Congrats to such dedication!

Of course my job for the day was the food. As I am exhausted today after 20+ hours of hard work, I will be brief in my blog.

The menu can be seen below on the next post entry.

Here are the mini caesar salads....

Of course the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were bought fresh and poached in a secret bouillon to add depth and flavor to the dish.

The cocktail sauce was of course made from scratch, tomatoes, horseradish, garlic, lemon, worchestor?, sriracha, and a few secret ingredients.

Thats Mom helping with the flow from Kitchen to table!

Thanks goodness she lent a hand, because we needed it!

The table turned out really beautiful. Irma, Mom and I set up the table initially. I organized the placement of dishes on the table. I had envisioned a fancy "buffet" if you will, I really hate that word. However, John and Judy wanted simple, but I wanted individual portions of everything, this worked pretty good with all the vehicles I provided.

caesar salad

Fresh Dungeness Crab salad - From Brand Little Fish Co.

Cucumber/Apple Gelee, Diced apple and asian pear, sweet white corn succotash with bell pepper and cilantro and passion fruit vinaigrette, pickled cherry tomatoes and jalapenos, crab tossed with olive oil, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, garlic, lemongrass, shallot, red jalapeno and some spices. Topped with micro cilantro.

Orzo salad, scallion, red and yellow bell pepper, carrots, pine nuts, golden raisins, sesame seed vinaigrette.

Roasted tomato and bell pepper bruschetta, micro basil.

Basil and Arugula pesto with cherry tomato.

Marinated Peaches and Nectarines grilled, then wrapped with arugula and prociutto.

Shrimp cocktail.

The table.

The menu, I framed it to look nice for the event!

Kay, Alex and wifey Angie! oh, and the one on the way in the oven!

Lemon Tart, candied lime, raspberry, mint.

Both tarts were eaten! They were delicious!

"Pave" of Chocolate Ganache with buttery flaky crust. Topped with raspberry. Went perfect with red wine!

Overall, the food was a huge hit, everyone had raving comments! Hopefully it tasted as good as it looked! There was no leftovers! The only thing that was left was a sinlge tray of prociutto wrapped peaches, and that is because it never got taken out of the fridge. At the end of the evening, when I left the party, 3 crab salads remained, some lemon tart pieces, a little bruschetta and that was all!

I had a really good time, but I am so tired, I think I will go take a little rest until next weekend, when I am back to the kitchen and on my feet for hours!