Archive for May, 2010

Clover Food Lab Snags Chef Rolando Robledo

Posted 26 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category On-Site Dining, Quick Service

Rolando Robledo, a Chef Instructor at Johnson & Wales University for nearly a decade before departing last month, has joined Clover Food Labs of Cambridge Massachusetts as executive chef. Robledo refined his skill and earned his street “cred” at The French Laundry under Tom Keller and Grant Achatz, and during a stint a Charlie Trotters and the Waldorf. He has an enviable personal network in the culinary profession (Chris Cosentino was once Robledo’s roommate) and was a popular and highly appreciated faculty member during his time at JWU. Having been named the named 2010 postsecondary educator of the year by the Foodservice Educators Network International, Robledo leaves JWU at the top of his game. That he departs to invest his time in Clover makes perfect sense.

Clover was started in 2008 by Ayr Muir (CEO). Prior to starting Clover Muir worked at McKinsey & Co advising the world’s top consumer and retail companies and in marketing at Patagonia. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS and MS from MIT. Muir hired Robledo, who has a BS and MAT from JWU, part-time in 2008 to develop menu items that matched his vegetarian, healthy, locally sourced, and eco-friendly food philosophy. Robledo added touches of his own during the development of Clover including an approach to food that is simple, honest, and hand-crafted, stating “we focus on ingredients, recipes, and hard work, but avoid mystery.” For those of you who don’t know Rolando, he has stayed true to this philosophy his whole career. During a visit to Clover he was working hard but seemed to be having the time of his life. With more than 30 people lined up to sample his fare, he had much to celebrate.

Clover Food Truck is not what you would expect; it’s better. Of the food trucks I have visited during my travels, Clover has to be the cleanest, most efficient and well designed of all. Robledo’s simple, high-integrity approach to food shines through from the lavender laced fresh lemonade to French fries that started as whole potatoes just minutes prior to being cut and cooked. The day I visited, the fries were scented with fresh rosemary (fries, rosemary, salt!) and absolutely delicious.

 

Clover cranks out a variety of vegetarian soups, salads, sandwiches and beverages including outstanding quality coffee. While visiting I also tried a wonderful egg and eggplant sandwich with herbed, diced, tomato, cucumber, and onion with garlic mayonnaise. The eggplant was perfectly cooked with notes of olive oil and fresh herbs and stuffed into a huge pita pocket. At $5.00 the sandwich was a great value.

 

Ayr and Rolando have several new Clover line extensions in development including a second food truck and a new outlet in the multimillion dollar MIT media lab building. If you want to check out Clover, try the original food truck. It is located on Carleton Street behind MIT Medical and the Kendall Square inbound MBTA stop. Operating hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Read more about the development of Clover on Muir’s blog, www.cloverfoodlab.com

Food For Thought at TEDx Cambridge Today

Posted 16 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

For some reason, I found out about TEDx Cambridge’s “How Do You Eat?” event a bit late. It was too late in fact to get a ticket, but early enough to coordinate a trip to Boston for a visit anyway. With a good friend’s business partner presenting and another culinary contact presenting as well, it made sense to attend even if just to observe from the edges.

MIT Stata Center

TEDx events are locally hosted and loosely linked to the highly regarded TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference held annuallysince 1984  in Long Beach, CA. Today’s event was held at the stunning Stata Center on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA. “How Do You Eat?” was coordinated by a team of volunteers led by Jennifer Bréa, a Ph.D. student at Harvard University. Bréa knows TED well; she was a TED fellow in 2007 and 2009.

According to the TEDx Cambridge website, ““How do you eat?” is a question meant to be interpreted broadly.” In the spirit of TED, the question is meant to cultivate “ideas worth sharing.” More than two dozen speakers wrestled with the question and presented findings from disciplines as varied as neuroscience, economics, community farming, and of course, culinary and pastry arts. The program came in short twenty minute bursts or quick five-minute bites of content provided by each of the speakers. One of the main reasons I enjoy this type of program is the opportunity to hear from a wide array of presenters across disciples and then synthesize and draw conclusions from the overlap in concentric circles of thought that each speaker yields.

With such a variety of talented individuals presenting, at times it can be hard to find a connection from one speaker or thought to the next. However, there are always connections and today was no different. Here are the patterns I noticed:

 1: Food and Eating are Cool: The topics continue to gain respect in the academy, and they are topics that attract really smart and talented people!

 2: Elegant Simplicity is a continuing refrain: From fixing food systems, to creating new dishes, to fixing the earth itself, elegant simplicity is the holy grail. Less is more. Natural is better. Less harm yields more good. (Fancisco Migoya, Dan Barber, Jennifer Hashley)

3: Eating Related Behaviors aren’t caused by what you think: For some reason the misconceptions associated with food and eating are extensive. From food related decision making and taste preferences to wine purchases, the force behind the decisions we make and the behaviors we engage in are not the ones you think ( Dan Ariely, Don Katz and Coco Krumme).

4: Science and technology are intertwined with Food and Eating. Like it or not the overlap between science, technology and food are here to stay. Chefs are becoming scientists and scientists, chefs.  (David Gracer, Kenji Alt, Chandler Burr, Wylie Dufresne)

5: Community is Important: Eating is a social activity and we need to focus on authentically engaging each other when joined around a table. Food and beverage aren’t the main event, the people with you while eating are. (Vanessa German, John Gersten, David Waters, Glynn Llyod, Richard Chisolm)

A Vision of Health & Wellness for Kids

Posted 11 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

If you read this blog you know I am addicted to fine food and beverage. One thing you won’t discern from this blog is that I am also into wellness and health and, for years, have maintained an extremely healthy diet accompanied by moderate exercise. However, satedepicure.com is about fine food but not necessarily about nutrition, health, and wellness. This is my first major entry about these topics although I have significant experience working with kids to improve wellness and health while reducing obesity. I also choose not to use this blog to promote any sort of political view and remain generally neutral in such matters. So it may come as a surprise that I am willing to offer an endorsement of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

My support solidified today after reading Melody Barnes report to the President “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation.” Barnes is Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Chair of the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council. The report was released today on the Let’s Move web site. A summary posted on the site lists the following broad goals:

  1. Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
  2. Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
  3. Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall school environment. 
  4. Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity. 
  5. Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities

We invest in many things in this country but there is no better investment than our children. The obesity epidemic is so extensive and has penetrated our youth to such an extent that it must be addressed. Failing to address the epidemic could pose serious harm to the food and beverage industry in the form of increased regulation and declining public trust. If we fail to act we will fail our children and lose control of our destiny.

If we act, we could turn this thing around. I can envision a day when a broad coalition composed of families, educators, food and beverage professionals and governmental agencies come together in pursuit of resolution. Ms. Obama appears to be making progress to this end.

Early in my career I completed a college level nutrition course which required an analysis of thirty days of dietary intake. It was an eye opener. Over the years I have learned to balance a declining metabolism with a reasonable amount of exercise gradual reduction in daily calories. In return I have been rewarded with reasonably good health. This basic knowledge inspired me, when the opportunity arose, to join a couple of nationally known research scientists to conduct a major study of the benefits of teaching elementary school children about food, nutrition and exercise in an effort to reduce adolescent obesity and diabetes. My role was to assemble a working team of chefs and nutritionists who could help build curricula and deliver programs to the children on location in their schools. We received funding for the project from the National Institutes of Health and spent five years working with several school districts conducting a weekly food, nutrition and cooking program with the kids. The results were significant. We can turn this epidemic around.

My comments above do not represent any sort of political endorsement but I do endorse helping our children. Kids need to be taught where food comes from, how to select the right foods, how to eat well, and the value of activity and exercise. Such knowledge is fundamental to long term health and wellness and kids should acquire these skills and knowledge early in their lives. Whether you support the current administration or not, I hope you support “Let’s Move.”

Pine Ridge Winery Cabernet: 2005 Fortis vs 2006 Stags Leap District

Posted 09 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Wine Notes

 

On a sunny afternoon recently I joined two other chefs for a casual drive in Napa California. The three of us wandered our way through the Stags Leap district on a lark after stopping by the Whole Foods in Napa for some beef and other provisions. In preparation for a night of cooking beef, we had Cabernet Sauvignon on our minds. One of the stops on our sojourn was Pine Ridge vineyards. Pulling into the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was that the tasting house at Pine Ridge is small compared to the other major vineyards in the area. The main building is surrounded on three sides by steep terraced hills overflowing with vines. Walking the well organized and maintained vineyard, it appears that Pine Ridge, like most of Stags Leap, has chalky volcanic soil. This is cabernet country! We tasted 10 wines during our visit but, for the sake of time, I will share my notes on just two of them. 

The 2006 Stags leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is a reasonable value at $80.00 per bottle. Our host described how Pine Ridge allows the grapes used to produce this wine extended hang-time allowing a richer, deeper flavor. This extended hang-time paired with the obsessive approach to production used by the vineyard including a hand cleaning and inspecting process for every berry prior to being pressed is probably why this wine has scored so well with Wine Spectator (WS91) and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (91). Like many good cabernets, this one has an intense initial flavor of ripe dark cherry, blueberry and chocolate followed by a mellow punch of dried blueberry, tobacco and hints of cedar and smoke. The tannins are complimentary and mild in my opinion and it is suggested that the wine be decanted 30-60 minutes prior to serving. This is an outstanding cabernet for the price.

Of all the wines we tasted the most expensive was the 2005 Fortis at $140 per bottle. Fortis is a Bordeaux Blend style cuvee consisting of grapes from different regions (52% Stags Leap District, 28% Oakville, 11% Rutherford and 9% Carneros.) Fragrant notes of dried cherry, currants, toffee and oak combine with a creamy texture and the silky tannins that Stags Leap is known for. This wine has rich and regal start with a smooth and sweet finish that ends with chewy notes of dark chocolate and oolong tea. It is strongly suggested that this wine be double decanted to aerate the flavors.

If you ask me to decide which of the two I like better my answer is “it depends.”  The Fortis is regal and refined and would marry well with a good roasted venison, swiss chard, rosemary roasted potatoes and any dessert that is primarily chocolate. The Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, after decanting and opening for a bit, is less refined and becomes lighter than the Fortis. It would pair well with beef tenderloin with bacon, a lighter cut of lamb or even a richly braised pork dish.  Dont think too much about it, you need both in your wine cellar!

Food Alert: Almonds Are Everywhere

Posted 06 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

Almonds are appearing on menus all over the country. If they were there all along, I must not have noticed. Perhaps my interest in them started when I enjoyed the “La Quercia” prosciutto with honeycomb, orange zest, Marcona almonds and black peppercorn vinaigrette at Avec in Chicago two months ago. The dish was fantastic and the almonds were a major factor in making it so perfect. They added great texture, richness and flavor while enhancing the overall presentation. Eating them forced me to research the origins and qualities of Marcona almonds and this, in turn, further raised my awareness. Since then I have noticed at least one dish that includes almonds on nearly every menu I encounter including the menu at Clio last weekend. Chefs are using smoked almonds, green almonds, regular dried almonds, salted almonds, ground almonds and any other form you can think of. Almonds are finding their way into appetizers, entrees and, of course, desserts. Here’s a sampling of menu descriptions that include almonds from restaurants around the country. By the way, I am not a paid blogger (yet, anyway) and this is not an entry that is funded by the almond board or anyone else. It just seems cool to me to report on a food trend that is happening in real time. There are several other food trends I am noticing that I will report on soon!

_____________________________________

 At The French Laundry in Yountville California, Chef de Cuisine Tim Hollingsworth offers a dish with Marcona Almonds.

 Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster “Mitts”

Arrowleaf Spinach, Sunchokes, Marcona Almonds and Navel Orange

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At per se in New York Eli Kaimeh and his team prepare several items that include almonds. Here are the actual menu descriptions from per se as posted on May 5th.

White Asparagus “Amandine”

Ramp Top “Subric,” Oregon Morel Mushrooms, “Emincee” of Green Almonds and Roquette

 

Sautéed Fillet of Australian Hiramasa

Romanesco Cauliflower, Thompson Grapes, Green Almonds

and Cilantro Shoots with Madras Curry Emulsion

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Wyle Dufresne of WD~50 in New York offers up an almond laden appetizer. You can see the photo of this dish here

Hanger tartare, smoked almonds, banana, hibiscus

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Grant Achatz has them on the menu at Alinea in Chicago too. They show up as the 13th course on the “Tour” menu in the form of

Green Almond, yuzu, wasabi, basil flower

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And, finally, Clio in Boston offers a wonderful foie gras dish with Marcona almonds that I blogged about yesterday (see below)

Foie Gras “Terrine”

Marcona Almond Crème, Rhubarb, Violet Artichokes, Nasturtium

Clio Restaurant ~ Boston

Posted 05 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

When I travel through Boston, there are a few restaurants I like to visit even if it’s just for an appetizer or dessert. Clio, owned by Chef Ken Oringer is one of these restaurants and I have eaten there many times over the years. Ken is one of the leading chefs in New England and his restaurants, all of which are in Boston, include Clio, Uni, Toro, KO Prime, La Verdad. Of these, Clio is my favorite.

The first time I met Ken Oringer from Clio restaurant was at Charlie Trotters in Chicago. The two of us wound up at the bar just inside the restaurants entryway at the end of a gala dinner Trotter hosted for his foundation. It was a great meal and even nicer to hang back at the end of the meal after everyone had left to have a few drinks with Ken, Charlie and a group of other chefs and industry veterans. Ken, as a guest chef, had prepared one of the courses served that night to raving acclaim. It was a good night for him. However, his intensity was still quite high while we chatted at the bar. I found this unusual particularly at the end of what must have been a very busy day. Most chefs would have settled in, enjoyed a few drinks and laughs and lightened up a bit. Curious, I asked him about his background, where he had trained (he’s a CIA grad, worked for David Burke, Joanne and George at Al Forno and with Jean Georges Vongerichten) and what inspired him. Ken started to provide some details when Charlie, who was listening at the time, interrupted and stated that Ken was the leading American avant garde chef of his generation. Ken smiled with approval and at that moment I got it. Oringer as a person and as a chef occupies the edge rather than the center. He’s inventive, creative and travels his own path, a path of his own choosing and inspiration. He’s a chef to be reckoned with, as bold as the flavors he creates. Follow or get out of his way.   

Bold, however, is not the first word I would use to describe Clio. Oringer’s flagship restaurant is refined, comfortable and smoothly running. The flavors of some dishes are bold, on others subtle and refined. The service matches the food. Ken selects his service staff wisely, after a dozen meals I have never had bad service. When I arrived this past weekend it was 6:00PM on a busy Saturday night. Within a couple of minutes my table was ready and I was seated. My favorite place to sit is along the windows on the Massachusetts Avenue side of the dining room. The windows provide adequate natural lighting for my camera (I rarely use flash) and I like being able to see the entire dining room.

Once seated my first surprise wasn’t food related it was the water. My server proudly announced that the restaurant was serving Poland Spring water due to a major water main rupture west of the city. There was a mandatory boil water order issued by the department of health yet the restaurant didn’t miss a beat. It takes a well oiled restaurant to run “business as usual” when the unexpected happens. It was also reassuring to know that the commercial dish machine in the place was properly working!

And then the food started to arrive!

 

Foie Gras “Terrine”

Marcona Almond Crème, Rhubarb, Violet Artichokes, Nasturtium ($20) 

I love a good foie gras dish and this was memorable. This was served with a crispy eggplan, cocoa nibs, parisienne of apple and a mini frizee salad on the side.

 

Cassolette of Sea Urchin and Lobster

Parsnip Emulsion, Crispy Shallots, Candied Lemon ($17)

This was an outstanding dish loaded with generous portions of lobster and sea urchin. The urchin was cooked perfectly and melted into the dish when split with a spoon. Notes of lemon and chive finish this dish as the lobster and urchin linger. Garnishes included spicy dried chili threads and minced chives. I love the “O” Luna bowl this is served in although the bowl looks a bit like a commode.

 

 Wild Alaskan Ivory King Salmon Confit

Sun chokes, Mandarin Orange, Black Gnocchi, Pain D’ Epice Emulsion ($38)

This dish was excellent. The fish is as ivory as the description in color and buttery smooth due to the sous vide cooking method used. Although the mandarin orange was a bit overpowering, in moderation it complimented the overall dish.

 

Seared Diver Scallops

Artichoke Chutney, Black Bean Sprouts, Thai Brown Butter, Young Coconut Jus ($35)

This dish was deep in umami and wonderfully complex in flavor. Rich but balanced and totally free of dairy, the flavors were outstanding. Good balance of salt, sweet, acid and umami.

 

Miso Dark Chocolate Cremeux

with Banana Ice Cream, Golden Miso & Cashew Butter ($11)

The Asian inspiration continued with this item. This dark chocolate cream was more of a dense ganache with mild notes of miso. The flavor combination worked very well (the salt of the miso complimented the chocolate).

 

A Taste of Summer

with Coconut Tapioca, Guava Sorbet, Peanuts & Fresh Passion Fruit ($11)

Another dairy free item of wonderful proportions and excellent flavor. The coconut tapioca was wrapped in a paper thin white chocolate cylinder, it oozed out when cut with a spoon.

Clio

370A Commonwealth Ave

Boston, Massachusetts 02215

617-536-7200

Achatz “Next Restaurant” A New Meal Ticket Model?

Posted 04 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

Alinea

Last night while tracking the James Beard Awards I picked up a twitter from Grant Achatz (2010 winner for Outstanding Service) about his two newest ventures: Next Restaurant and Aviary. Achatz, in my opinion, is a culinary genius and a real survivor. His story is so compelling; one of great triumph in the face of potential tragedy. Any new venture he is involved with is destined for success. It appears, based solely on my experience viewing the website for Next that he isn’t going to disappoint us with these new ventures.

The concept behind Next is fascinating. Diners will buy tickets to “attend” a meal as if the experience is equivalent to going to the theater, a concert, or other event. Meal tickets? Yes, meal tickets. Achatz will offer four heavily researched and tested prix fixe menus per year featuring food from great moments in culinary history and the future (yes, the future).  This is going to be interesting. Prices for tickets will vary according to the date and time you attend. I wonder if Next Restaurant will usher in a global meal ticket based, food concert model. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Achatz and his creative team. Watch for Next sometime in the near future, it will open this year (2010).

I also want to mention Aviary, Achatz’s new bar concept. Aviary is a bar without bartenders. Chefs will prepare drinks from a kitchen. Like Alinea, it is likely that Aviary will feature a high degree of thought and refinement, from the food and beverage, to service ware, interior design and other details. A bar without bartenders featuring chefs who prepare both food and beverage from the kitchen, count me in.

One of the reasons I love tracking events like the James Beard Awards is the peripheral news that surfaces as a byproduct of the event itself. Achatz’s announcement of his two new concepts is an example. If you haven’t visited the Next Restaurant web site, go there. The website itself is an experience. Once both places are up and running, I will visit and follow with another post. Until then, keep an eye on Grant and his crew, once again they are on the verge of shaking up convention.

Oil Spill Could be Disaster for Chefs

Posted 03 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

French Quarter

Watching the news about the oil spill inching its way closer to the delicate New Orleans coast leaves me worried about the various food and tourism related industries that are life support to Louisiana. The impact this spill could have on the marine and terrestrial life so woven into the culture of the state is unprecedented. That Louisiana faces another potential environmental blow after hurricane Katrina is a tragedy.

I was in New Orleans last September for a wedding held at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. Paul Prudhomme doesn’t often close his restaurant for a wedding but he was excited to do so for a mutual friend who has a deep love for the city. Ironically, Jean Michel Cousteau was one of the guests and I spent some time speaking with him and Chef Paul about the recovery of the city of New Orleans and the Louisiana coast after hurricane Katrina. Both Prudhomme and Cousteau were hopeful about the future of the coastline and Paul stated that things were slowly returning to a level of reasonable stability I the city. However, Prudhomme was pensive about the toll Katrina took on members of the working culinary community in New Orleans.

Prudhomme & Cousteau

Chef Paul made clear that in addition to the physical and environmental damage, an unexpected consequence of the Katrina disaster was the loss of a large number of foodservice employees who had been with him for years if not decades. When the hurricane hit, many of Paul’s employees were evacuated to other parts of the country (Houston, Atlanta, Denver etc) and they never returned. The loss of institutional history and overall culinary capacity at K-Paul’s (as well as other restaurants) was nearly crippling. These weren’t the celebrity chefs or owners that we often read about. These were the working class cooks, utility personnel and servers that make up the backbone of the culinary community both here and throughout the U.S. Paul had retained a reasonable percentage of his crew, enough to start over with, but it took him months to get food and service back to where it was prior to Katrina due to the lost personnel and shortage of supply. Paul’s business was directly connected to the whims of both human and Mother Nature in a way that I had never thought about. And now this oil spill!

Various news agencies are projecting that the impact the oil will have on the seafood industry will be devastating. It is estimated that twenty percent of U.S. seafood originates from the Gulf of Mexico. Further, there are reports of potential risks associated with the consumption of seafood contaminated by the oil that will surely have an impact on consumer purchasing patterns. Restaurant sales throughout the gulf coast could be as threatened as the shoreline ecosystems themselves. What a disaster. I wonder what Jean Michel Cousteau must be thinking, or Paul for that matter.

Cousteau’s mission in life, as shared with me during our conversation (and on his website) is to educate people throughout the world to act responsibly for the protection of our global ocean while also documenting the connection between humanity and nature. Prudhomme echoed Cousteau’s view while exhibiting a deep sense of personal history and connectivity with all of Louisiana. It’s a shame that Cousteau has to have this sort of life mission but the current crisis proves his point. My thoughts and prayers are once again with the Gulf Coast communities that are threatened. Hopefully this time they will be spared.

Restaurant Charlie Post Mortem

Posted 02 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Food Alert Trends

On March 19th Charlie Trotter closed Restaurant Charlie and Bar Charlie at the Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas when restaurant traffic, like a Las Vegas rain, dried to dust. Restaurant Charlie was closed at the top if its game because there wasn’t enough traffic to sustain ongoing operations. Another great restaurant killed by a bad economy! The 120 seat restaurant, including a wonderful kitchen table perched on a private balcony above the hot line, and 18 seat Kaiseki bar was nothing short of spectacular and, more important, employed some really nice and talented people. Although seeing Charlie struggle makes me sad (he’s a great guy), the effect this closure had on people like Chef Vanessa Garcia and Kaiseki Chef Hiro Nagahara is even sadder. Restaurant Charlie was just starting to gain momentum when it closed.

Hagar and Trotter

I would never have been to Restaurant Charlie if it wasn’t for Trotter himself. When I bumped into Charlie Trotter at the Venetian late last year, he was chatting with rocker Sammy Hagar. Charlie was as energized as ever with a big smile on his face and asked if I had eaten at Restaurant Charlie yet. I hadn’t and my response was disappointing to him. Hagar rolled his eyes. Wrong answer I guess. Trotter paused for a moment, asked if I was willing to endure a quick 5 course Kaiseki, (I was), and within 10 minutes I was on my way across the casino floor to the restaurant.

Chef Hiro

Alone and feeling a bit off guard, I sat at the end of the Kaiseki bar which was half full. After a minute or two my waitress stopped over and introduced herself (her name was Penny). I told Penny to guide me through the five course menu with wines. She smiled and departed to key in my order. A few minutes later Kaiseki chef Hiro Nagahara approached me and said hello. Hiro and I spent the next two hours chatting about his background, his love of Japanese cooking, global food, blending the traditional with the modern and the wonderful freedom he has to be creative at Bar Charlie.

Although I have more I could write about the way Nagahara waltzes his way through the kitchen while conversing with customers, I will save that story for another entry. Instead, I offer you the photos below with a feeling of loss that Restaurant Charlie is gone along with an enduring sense of privilege that I got to eat there before it closed. Keep your eye’s peeled for Chefs Vanessa Garcia and Hiro Nagahara in the coming months, both  have bright futures. In particular, watch for Garcia. Fresh from receiving one Michelin star in 2009, and nominated for best new chef for 2010 by The James Beard Foundation, it will be interesting to see where she winds up.

 Five Course Kaiseki Menu

1st Course

Hirame, Black Grapes & Celery

Champagne Paul Goerg Blanc de Blanc Brut, France

 

2nd Course

Spanish Blue Fin Tuna, Umeboshi & Seawater

The Southeast Cocktail

3rd Course

Tasmanian Ocean Trout, Cauliflower & Tapioca

2007 Riesling Kabinett “Maximin Brunhauser Herrenberg” von Schubert, Mosel, Germany

 

Pork Belly

4th Course

Kurobuta Pork Belly, Herbed Cream & Baby Carrots

2007 Ken Wright “Abbot Claim” Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District

 

5th Course

Simple Coconut and Passionfruit Sorbet

6th Course

Black Plum with Red Shiso & Charred Cinnamon Ice Cream

2006 Hauth Kerpen “Wehlener Sonnenuhr” Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel German

 

Friandise