Aplomb About Plum

Lemon Plums have hit the market. A bright, happy version of the classic plum; this will put a twist into any springtime fruit situation you’ve got goin’ on.

Same relative size as a red or black plum

I’m a bit of a sucker for new flashy fruits or cute veggies of unusually small size. Plum cobbler is my favorite of all fruit cobblers. Coming across this stone fruit made my dessert planning an easy decision. Ingredients like this plum are a prime example of why planning menu details can be counter productive. Planning food around known ingredients can spoil the opportunity for surprise, creation and invention. Which in turn create excitement, which triggers emotion and helps us hold onto a memory.

While the base of this recipe is old, tried, true, and simple. As in all food, It still has to be done properly. This properly cooked cobbler was course 6 of 6. Served with butter roasted, salted cashews and brown sugar/vanilla whipped cream. It was a lovely end to an awesome dinner.

Perfect cobbler waiting for 6 lucky dinner guests

Life’s Just Beachy

A small group of friends at a Mission beach rental are in full vacation mode. Appetizers, with a beautiful sunset at cocktail hour are nice wherever you are. But there’s something special about beach sunsets that you just feel.

A good time was had by all this night; with the guests all interested in the goings on of the kitchen more then most. Cooking demo style, we worked through 4 courses and 2 appetizers. One of the client requests was crab cakes. I enjoy crab cakes but haven’t made ’em in awhile…which is great. I enjoy cooking requests and favorites.

The crab cakes where made simply, without much added flavor. Mirepoix with fresh thyme and garlic were there. But a crab cakes magic lies in being moist on the inside and crispy on the outside with minimal, to no bread crumb in the mixture. This version of crab was set with celery root slaw, citrus salad, turmeric oil, pickled Armenian cucumber and edible flowers. However, it took a keen eye and a lust for perfection, for the group to decide which plate up design was the best.

We have a winner!

Hunting Good BBQ

Wedding trip to Raleigh North Carolina took me to parts unknown. Alone in another city with nothing to do but explore and eat? Yes please.

Fried chicken, sausage gravy and pickled okra from Mecca

What to do with time to kill

Eating in any downtown can be fun, especially after walking 15 miles of it. There are always options for fun and food, the only question is: What do you want? Most people are satisfied with trendy places that have fancy whiskey drinks and a large assortment of craft beers. I veer toward history and proof of quality. On my recent trip to Raleigh I wanted ethereal BBQ and fried chicken. Most other things would take a side seat to finding those. Of course I branched out here and there. But nothing ever blew my mind, and I failed on some documentation.

The classics are what I seek

I referenced some life changing fried chicken here. With that in mind, I kept ordering fried chicken at places trying to chase that crispy tender dream. I also pride myself on a top quality biscuit, so when someone boasts best biscuit in the city…I gotta check it out. With all the food in Raleigh I had, nothing made me close my eyes and sigh…except the BBQ. This Eastern style whole hog BBQ chopped pork sandwich was everything I needed and wanted. This sandwich alone allowed me to get on my plane at peace with myself and the world. I ordered another one to-go before I left :-)

Almost perfect pickles…

The biggest ordering mistake I made were these fried pickles. I needed a salad at that point, but didn’t realize it till after I ordered. They were overly salty because the flour dredge was heavily seasoned for other items. With the salty pickles it was too much. However. I still got my answer to the quality of the place and the dish. Yes, over salting was a mistake, but the pickles themselves were either home made, or of very high quality and the cut was great. So overall they told me the place cared about small things. If I were to return and order the pickles. I would be very disappointed if they were salty again.

Overall, Raleigh was clean, safe, friendly and delicious. Cheers to a great town.

Summer Lovin’

Seared Alaskan halibut with sweet onion soubise, fresh corn polenta and peeled tomatoes and favas.

A party is a party. If you’re not having a good time…you’re at a lame party. Is it your fault? Maybe, but probably not. Everyone has a recipe for a good party. I like; great food, music and drinks. Add on some cool people and a tidy place, light some candles if the sun is down and good times are afoot. One thing I have found to be true over the years doing dinner parties everywhere in the county. Parties on the direct beach coastline, like Mission Beach, parts of PB and La Jolla. The hour before sunset is absolutley intoxicating, equaled only by grand mountain views.

Although my food is always moisture rich, I have been efforting sauces lately for photography’s sake. And while I am efforting sauce for pictures…what do I do? A brown sauce, with no shiney counterpoint…Oh well, I’ll keep working on it and will get a new camera soon :-)

Prime tri-tip with avocado mashed potatoes, smokey babaganoush, grilled carrots and parsley roasted broccolini

Vacation Is Medicine…If Taken Properly.

Ahhhh, the Pacific Northwest. Maybe I’m just always on vacation, doing what I love, with who I love; but it always feels right. My wife and I visited Seattle over Labor Day. A although we’ve been there a few times, we still keep missing Pikes Place Market for some reason. I guess that means another trip is in the future :-)

When traveling, I’m usually doing what I can to somehow “taste the region”. That could involve one bite at one place, or many bites at many places. Last time I went to Colorado, I was doing everything I could to find cool game meat. Which was great tearing down on some elk and rattlesnake. This year, I had a craving for NW mollusks that aren’t common in other areas. That meant NW oysters and geoduck. Not having had geoduck in years, it was a treat. But I wasn’t loving the salmon eggs scattered over everything. They dominated rather then played with the flavor. The turmeric oil was lovely and the clam was perfectly prepared.

Oysters can be frustrating because I don’t have them often enough to remember the correct names. There are distinct differences between oyster flavors, so it really matters what you order. We carefully enjoyed and articulated our oysters at Taylor Shellfish,. But alas, I forgot which were which, even though we took this reminder pic.

Working from the fatties on the right, to the left in pairs. The oyster selection was great, great, not good, ok, and amazing. Although I’m sure there are local favorites that Seattleites go to for seafood. I found Taylors searching online for geoduck and they had great Yelp reviews. Enjoyed ourselves so much that we ruined our time table to see Pikes Place. Oh well, at least there was time to blow my taste buds open with some salami from Salumi.

Back to Batalli’s

What used to be famous for being Mario Batalli’s Dad’s joint This place is now just a great old Seattle staple that doesn’t disappoint. As I’m typing this, I’m gnawing on a slice of the whole grain mustard salami pictured below that is just….drool. Although my current (and very temporary) diet disallows me chile flake. I still ordered the chile rolled coppa because I have a hard time controlling myself :-|

Summertime Parties

A 50th birthday, a 25th reunion and a vacationing big family BBQ were all wonderful parties this summer. Two at gorgeous Airbnb rentals and another on Mt Helix in La mesa; there was, as usual, an abundance of good laughs, great food and awesome people. This summer has me all around the county, from Chula Vista and Jamul, to The Elfin Forest in Escondido.

Celery root salad with pickled strawberries, cilantro and opal basil flowers for a party of 12
Happy 50th birthday cake

Fresh Mid-Summer Flavors

My wife and I honeymooned in Greece, and I’ll never forget the dry desert breeze against the brundly ocean. I felt at home in Greece because it’s weather was very much like our local deserts, where my family vacationed often in my youth. So I often refer to San Diego as the American Mediterranean because our irrigated desert has an almost continuous dry breeze that can put you in vacation mode faster then you can say Margarita. Recently I prepared a big family style buffet for a happy family from Austin, Texas that were enjoying all the bounty the American Mediterranean has to offer.

Butter browned brussels with rhubarb and sweet onion
Pickled Guaco Taco
Duck breast wrapped cotton candy grape with chile arbol and cinnamon    

Grilled prime tri-tip
Seared yellowtail with grilled shrimp and soy dipping sauce 
Artichoke mashed potatoes
Blackend chile corn and fresh fava beans
Grilled purple cauliflower and peeled broccolini stems
Marinated kale and celery root salad with roasted butternut brunoise and pepitas
Tomato salad with pickled cucumber, jicima and radish
Roasted plum over white velvet cream draped butter cake

Bird Rock, Is Not For The Birds

Smokey grilled pork tenderloin with grilled shrimp chimichurri, broccolini and fresh made and browned gnocchi.

Three beautiful and kind families descended on La Jolla last week. All three had different requests and different situations, but all three had at least one great night.

My work makes me happy because I like taking care of people. I like it when I can help people stay relaxed and in vacation mode. When I’m on vacation, I don’t like things that take me out of vacation mode; traffic, poor customer service and rigamorole to name a few. Having me cook dinner while you spend time with your kids and grand kids is what vacation is about. Use that 3-4 hours before dinner to relax to fullest and take the time to breathe and be present with those closest to you. Instead of the usual… getting gussied up and running out the door to sit in traffic, then wait to be seated, deal with conversations going left and right in a loud space, then waiting for the bill so you can finally leave and drive home. It’s all a lot easier to pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of wine and let me have your kitchen for an evening :-)

Good Times and Great Food In East San Diego

For most around the county, Jamul is a bit of a trek. Being in Spring Valley keeps me close to a burgeoning San Diego market. Great for people looking toward affordable housing, and a bit of separation in an ever growing city. My children’s school was recently granted farmland in Jamul to do with as we please. We are excited about the possibility of creating our own ongoing CSA for our school families. But right now we are only getting going, with about 200 pumpkins. Pumpkins are pretty easy and will produce fun results by mid October. Hopefully a productive simple crop will wet our appetites for something more complicated.

The same weekend I was planting pumpkins. I also had a small family dinner party at a really amazing air bnb deep in Jamul, (pictured above). Twas a casual party with a loving family. A perfect last job before my July 4th vacation to Pismo beach…

Italian Night In La Jolla

Tuscan sausage and bean salad over iceberg

Once again I found myself in a lovely La Jolla rental property, cooking for a vacationing family. Multi generational dinners are my favorite and this family was no exception. I cooked for them twice during the week and they requested Mexican and Italian. These pictures from Italian night show my version of an Italian wedge salad. Mixed with the comfort of Tuscan stew and the vibrant crunch of fresh giardiniera. As part of an appetizer, we had some opal basil flowers. Adding the basil flavor on a mini roasted caprese bite.

Renting a nice place along the coast is great. It allows you to be on vacation and not have to leave your area for entertainment. Bringing me in to handle dinner makes things even better. You get a night of memorably delicious food without the rigmarole of taking a group out to dinner. I serve all areas of the county with fresh, vibrant Farmers Market based food.