Archive for April, 2011

Bistro C.V., Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Posted 26 Apr 2011 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Food Alert Trends

Last month during a trip to Steamboat Springs Colorado I had an incredible meal at a fantastic restaurant called Bistro CV. I know its spring now and that pictures of mountains with snow are out of favor but I have to write about this place. Steamboat is known for its spectacular blue skies (see above!), winter Olympian Billy Kidd, and some of the best skiing in all of Colorado but food hasn’t been one of Steamboat’s strong suits until now. And Bistro CV holds up. I hope after the end of the mud season when summer truly kicks in, that the restaurant generates enough volume to survive and thrive in the years and seasons to come. It’s well worth the lengthy drive up from Denver.

Chef Brian Vaughn, a professional chef who has found his niche in Northwestern Colorado, studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University and met his lovely wife Katy in 2001 while she was a server at a restaurant they both worked at. Along the way Chef Vaughn worked in Coral Gables, FL with Chef Norman Van Aken and migrated to Chicago to work with Chef Charlie Trotter (one of Van Aken’s best friends). His food has a Chicago feel with modernist influences and I sense a bit of aesthetic from Avec, the fantastic earthy Chicago bistro, in the Marcona Almonds and La Quercia prosciutto, both of which are featured on the menu there.  Imagine, a bit of Chicago in Steamboat. Some will be shocked but I love it! You know the culinary arts are alive and well in America when a resort town like Steamboat starts to shift toward world class cuisine.

When I arrive at the restaurant it’s quiet with only one table of two seated. My first impression as I look around the dining room is that Bistro CV is a high-end husband and wife dream of a restaurant and the kind of place that every culinary student and young cook dreams of owning. It has a contemporary design, enough seating (more than 60) to make the place profitable in season, and a charming spirit that fills the high-end needs of a great mountain resort community. It doesn’t take long for the restaurant to begin filling up.

Half an hour later the restaurant is nearly full and my food starts to arrive. Perfect small plates of well prepared food find their way to my table. A fantastic chicken-chorizo pot pie in a small Staub cast iron container; a perfect pork belly with sous-vide egg, and an absolutely delicious Steelhead trout with sweet potato. Steamboat is more than 3 hours from Denver but if you hike, bike, fish, or ski, head to Steamboat and Bistro C.V.

Morgan Farms Lamb Carpaccio, Preserved Lemon-Truffle Relish, Pickled Maitake, Baby Herbs, Marcona Almonds

Grilled Romaine, Truffle-Garlic Dressing, Parmesan Custard, White Anchovy, Benton’s Ham

Chicken-Chorizo Pot Pie, Savory Corn Crust

Quinault RiverSteelhead Trout, Mashed Sweet Potato, Baby Turnips, La Quercia Prosciutto, Baby Radish, Lemon Vinaigrette

Molten Chocolate Cake with Fresh Marshmallow

Bostro C.V.

345 Loncoln Ave

Steamboat Springs, CO



The Slanted Door, San Francisco

Posted 23 Apr 2011 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

It’s lunch-time at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and The Slanted Door is jamming. As a professional chef, I love a busy well run restaurant and Slanted Door is a perfect case study. I arrive without a reservation curious about the culinary arts offered and am escorted to the bar and given a perfect seat from which to view the entire restaurant. Servers are on the run, the bar is packed, and everyone is eating. The Slanted Door is pulsating with energy and I can see everything.

The wall of glass that serves as the north-east facing side of the restaurant looks out over the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. It is a beautiful sunny day and the telephone operator who sits just opposite the window at a booth by the main entrance is constantly busy taking calls while the host at the front door steadily seats arriving guests. Boy, this place is busy. At one table of four there’s a group of “business types” in suits wrapping up a late lunch. Two tables over there’s a group of three moms and kids in carriages deep in discussion and multiple two-tops with couples of all types scattered about.

The bartender approaches, I order an Anchor Porter and the Uni appetizer to get things started. She smiles and floats away returning with my cold beer and a glass just a few seconds later. Service is crisp, friendly, and professional. This is a big restaurant in a fantastic location. There are roughly 150 seats in the main dining room plus additional seating at the bar and patio. What a perfect size for a successful restaurant.  Slanted Door must be a gold-mine.

Chef Charles Phan, the mind behind The Slanted Door’s modern Vietnamese cuisine, owns several other restaurants in San Francisco. Phan was recognized as a James Beard Award Outstanding Chef finalist in 2010 and is a semi-finalist for the same award this year. His approach to Vietnamese flavors with an American sensibility paired with pristine ingredients and a knack for simple, homes style presentations has allowed his reputation in the bay area to grow along with his business fortunes.

The Uni arrives and my mouth starts to water. Fresh from the Monterey bay, the bright orange roe is sushi fresh with a sweet lightly salty aroma. I can’t wait for the first bite.


Wild California Uni with Avocado, Cucumber, and Black Tobiko Roe.

Absolutely perfect, Sushi fresh, rich and sweet with a wonderful complimentary fattiness from the avocado, a crisp snap from the cucumber and a well composed contrast in color and flavor from the granular and salty Tobiko roe.


 Wood Oven Roasted Manila Clams with Thai Basil, Crispy Pork Belly and Fresh Chilies

 Excellent flavor, the Clams are perfectly cooked and served steaming hot in an earthenware dish. The Pork belly is crisp but would have been better if it was braised or cooked sous vide prior to crisping (it wasn’t cooked to the point of falling apart like I prefer).


Caramelized Catfish Claypot with Cilantro, Ginger and Thai Chilies

Although this dish doesn’t look as nice as the others, it was fantastic. Catfish and Basa are key fish species in Vietnam and Phan handles this dish masterfully. He uses skin-on catfish steaks in this dish and steams them with the cilantro, ginger, chilies.

Grass Fed Anderson Ranch Lamb Sirloin with Spring Onions and Red Chilies

When I ordered this item, I thought that the Lamb Sirloin would come out whole in a 3-5 ounce portion but the lamb was cut into strips and stir-fried instead. It was a very good dish but not as nice as the catfish.

The Slanted Door

1 Ferry Building #3

San Francisco, CA 94111   

tel 415.861.8032

Mother’s Restaurant New Orleans

Posted 19 Apr 2011 — by S.E.
Category Warms My Heart

It’s the middle of April, the bulbs in my garden are blooming and for some reason I am craving a taste of real Louisiana gumbo (don’t ask why). Ever since learning to make gumbo from a group of culinary friends from Louisiana back in the early 1990’s I have experienced periodic cycles of intense interest in this dish and tonight my mind and memory wander to the most recent gumbo event in my life: a steaming cup at Mother’s restaurant in New Orleans.

Mother’s Kitchen Counter

In 1994 Chef John Folse took me to Mother’s restaurant for the very first time. I was visiting John up in Baton Rouge for a week and he decided it was time for a quick run to New Orleans for a meal. We sped down the highway from Baton Rouge to the city in his big bad-ass BMW 5 series talking about food the entire way (his license plate reads “ICOOK4U”). He described Mothers with a religious style of reverence and it wasn’t long before I realized that he was taking me there to introduce me to the food and to fulfill his own craving for gumbo (John is a gumbo addict too). Since then I have craved Mothers from time to time and always make a trip there when in New Orleans. Some folks claim the food was better prior to Hurricane Katrina and others say Mother’s quality is as good as ever.

Fancy Dining Room

Established in 1938, the sign out front reads “Mother’s world’s best baked ham”. Who the hell eats ham when visiting mothers (they sell 175,000 pounds of ham and beef each year)? It’s funny how things evolve. Anyway, I arrive at Mother’s and, as usual, there’s a line out the door and it’s raining. The line moves quickly and I am inside within 5 minutes. The interior of Mother’s is decorated with all sorts of ephemera like old photos of guests from the 1950’s. Lots of pictures of soldiers and military veterans line the walls along with intermittent photos of celebrities and sports figures, many eating at a table in the restaurant. Tables are Formica topped and the chairs are metal with vinyl padding. The restaurant is not fancy nor is the food.

Condiments and Coke

Customers cue up along a metal counter adjacent to the kitchen and place their order at a cash register at the end of the line. While waiting, you can watch menu items being prepared right in front of you and I am sure cuing the line along the kitchen counter was intentional as a way of increasing sales. Once the order is placed, you take your ticket and sit down and wait. It takes about ten minutes to receive your food. My server was an older gentleman with a classic New Orleans drawl and heart of hospitality. He was fantastic and provided a real sense of the city in his service. My order: Shrimp PoBoy, cup of gumbo and a scoop of potato salad. Craving satisfied.


Seafood Gumbo: The real deal with a nice dark roux, rich fresh seafood flavor and sausage punch


Shrimp PoBoy: Fresh shrimp, shredded lettuce, mayo


Mother’s Restaurant

401 Poydras

New Orleans, LA 70130

504) 523-9656

Crush Seattle

Posted 16 Apr 2011 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

It’s spring in Seattle and, like so many of my evenings, I have two hours to have dinner before heading to another commitment. For an hour I vacillate between heading out to Crush or staying in to rest. Life is too short to sit around so I head out. It’s early and the sun hasn’t set yet. Before long I am driving west on the Evergreen Point Bridge toward the city, exiting at the Washington Park arboretum. The east side of the city is turning a beautiful spring-time green.  A few minutes later and I’m on East Madison Street heading southwest toward the restaurant.

Crush is located inside a light brown two storey clapboard clad building that looks like it was a private residence before being repurposed as a restaurant by Jason and Nicole Wilson. Chef Jason Wilson has received plenty of press since being recognized in 2006 by Food & Wine Magazine as a “Top Ten New Chef” along with other top names like Mary Dumont, David Chang, Cathal Armstrong, and Jonathan Benno.  My culinary friends in Seattle suggested that Crush had settled into a steady presence of consistent great food with a bit less energy compared to 2006-2008. That Wilson earned the 2010 Best Chef Northwest award from the James Beard foundation may have been lost in the conversation.

When I enter Crush the place is completely empty. As I said, it’s early, around 5:30 and I don’t have a reservation. I am greeted warmly if not a bit awkwardly as I catch a few front-of-the-house staff just finishing up their prep. Without any discomfort I am offered a table for two by the front window facing the street and handed a menu. The staff is warm and the interior design is just a nice as Crush’s website suggested: “Shelley Buurman’s interior design combines the crisp Verner Panton furniture with the warmth of chocolate trim. The room is at once a blank canvas for the kitchen’s creations and a rich enclosure for intimate dining.”

My server asks if I am a local or just visiting town and, after some small talk, recognizes that I am into food and suggests that he have Chef Wilson prepare a multi-course tasting menu. Service is crisp and comforting and the food is progressively outstanding until the dessert which was very good but not on the same level as the prior courses (a problem I am finding more and more these days). Crush has settled into the forefront of the Seattle dining scene and the restaurant is still producing outstanding cuisine on par with the food at any great restaurant in the country. The use of local ingredients and the weaving of flavors from the Northwest like Blackmouth King Salmon and Douglas Fir draw me into the region while providing a tremendous sensory effect. Crush, to me, is inspired and full of steady positive energy. The next time I visit Seattle I am coming back.


“Bacon & Eggs”

Smoked Salmon Roe, Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup, Parsnip Flan


“Crudo of Hamachi”

Hamachi, Trio of Celery, Black Fermented Garlic, Pickled Kumquat


“Potato Gnocchi”

Brown Butter, Black Trumpet Mushroom, Verjus Compressed Apple, Smoked Foie Gras Powder


“Blackmouth King Salmon”

Hear of Palm Puree, Red Endive, Vanilla


“Foie Gras Steak”

Marcona Almond, Rosemary Financier, Endive, Cava Vinegar, Meyer Lemon



Douglas Fir Sorbet, Cranberry Meringue Dust


“Rabbit Roulade”

Rabbit Loin & Mousse, Herbs Confit, Trio of Salsify Root


“Valrhona Chocolate Coulant”

Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel, Cherries and Salted Caramel Ice Cream



2319 E. Madison Street

Seattle, Washington 98112


MIT Food + Agriculture Collaborative: Local Haddock Brandade Tart with MSC Certified Red Crab

Posted 01 Apr 2011 — by S.E.
Category Uncategorized, Warms My Heart


Haddock Brandade Tart with Red Crab, Pea Sprouts, Lemon Rind, Salmon Roe, and Pickled Red Onion Brunoise

I had the pleasure of demonstrating this item at the MIT Food + Agriculture Collaborative today. As a professional chef, my concern for food integrity and sustainability is deeply rooted as is the case with most chefs worth their salt. Of the many food issues associated with sustainability, sustainable seafood is my passion and I had sustainable seafood in mind when I created this item (a riff on an item orignally created by Charlie Trotter).

The recovery of haddock due to expanded use of the Eliminator net, a net that reduces by-catch when harvesting haddock off shore, is an amazing story. Fisherman and net designers in association with the Rhode Island Sea Grant Institute figured out that haddock, while being caught, tend to swim up toward the surface while codfish in similar circumstances swim down. The Eliminator is a net with not bottom and a tightly designed top. Haddock get caught in the top, cod and flounder escape through the bottom. The numbers are staggering. Cod by-catch is reduced by 81% and flounder by-catch by 95%. What a success story; one that chefs and others need to celebrate. Now professional chefs have a much more sustainable source of haddock in the Gulf of Maine than ever and cod stocks are actually recovering.  

Let’s also celebrate the sustainable fishery that Red Crab has become in the northeast as certified by the Marine Stewardship council (MSC). The folks at the Atlantic Red Crab company spent the time and resources to properly certify though the MSC their sustainable approach to harvesting red crab, a species that can live up to 15 years at depths of up to 2000 feet. Slow growing deep water species like red crab require and deserve careful handling and harevsting and MSC has validated that this is the case (at least for now).

The recipe below, supplemented by line-caught Norwegian salt cod, is a celebration of sustainable seafood done right! The recipe follows:


Local Haddock Brandade Tart with MSC Certified Red Crab and Leek Emulsion

 Ingredients: Brandade

1          Cup     Salt Cod (line caught, Norwegian)

6          Ea        A.P. Potato (PEI, Organic, peeled, cooked*)

2          Ea        Eggs

¼         Cup     Shallots (roasted whole, pureed)

¼         Cup     EV Olive Oil

Ingredients: Haddock Puree

1          Lb        Haddock, Gulf of Maine (MSC Certified)

2          Ea        Eggs

¼         Cup     Heavy Cream (steeped in Red Crab shells, strained)

1          Cup     Red Crab (MSC Certified, cooked)

¼         Cup     Dill, Fresh Chopped

Salt & Pepper

 *Cut 3 whole potatoes into 1/8 inch slices and reserve to line the tart. Use trim pieces in brandade.

Method: Brandade

Soak the salt cod for 24 hours, changing the water every 4-6 hours. Place the salt cod in a sauce pan and cover with cold water. Simmer for 10 minutes until fish is tender. Lightly simmer fish, don’t boil. While warm, place the cod in a small mixer fitted with a paddle and slowly beat it on medium speed until it starts to fluff. Add the warm A.P. Potato bit by bit until fully incorporated. Add eggs, shallots, olive oil. The mixture should be light and fluffy while holding together when scooped. If mixture is too thin, add a bit more potato. Add roasted shallots. Drizzle in the olive oil and mix until smooth.

Method: Haddock Puree

Cut the haddock into 2 inch chunks and chill. Place the haddock into a food processor and pulse, add the eggs, heavy cream and puree until smooth. Keep chilled.

Tart Dough:

1          C         All Purpose Flour

½         C         Whole Wheat Flour

1          t           Kosher Salt

1          C         Butter, cold, diced

1/3       C         Water

Place the flour, salt and butter in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until fine in texture. Add the ice water and mix until combined. Form dough into a ball and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for one hour.

For the Tart:

Dust a ½ sheet pan with oil and flour and line pan with 1/8 inch of tart dough. Place an even layer of sliced cooked potatoes on the tart dough. Fill in gaps in potatoes with a small amount of haddock puree. Top the potatoes with a ½ inch layer of brandade. Add a layer of haddock puree. Seal with a layer of dough, glaze with egg yolk and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done. Cool, slice and serve.

Oil & Flour a 1/2 Sheet Pan (cookie sheet)

Line Pan with Whole Wheat Dough



Add a layer of sliced cooked potatoes

Fill in teh gaps between the potatoes with Crab and Haddock puree. Smooth it out with a spatula.

Spread a 1/2 inch layer of brandade onto the potatoes, be sure it is even.

Add the final layer of red crab and haddock puree. Be sure to spread it evenly.

Add the final layer of dough.

Oven ready tart. This is a rustic dish, it doesn’t haev to be perfect. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, cool and serve.