Here are a few current favorites of mine on our menu:
Soup -When the weather turns cold my thoughts drift towards warming comfort foods like stews & braises, and I am always asking our chefs to make some cozy soups. The other day I asked our Executive Chef Aaron Valimont, to make lentil soup. It was absolutely delicious [I had two bowls for lunch and another for dinner!]
But my favorite from the last few weeks was when I asked for Beef & Barley Soup. Aaron cooked the barley in a rich stock and for the beef used roast prime rib. There were lots of diced vegetables, and the broth was redolent of Italian parsley & fresh thyme. A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and lots of fresh cracked pepper was a great finishing touch. I called my Dad [a lover of great soups] and had him stop by to get some of this delicious soup, and Dad [a tough customer he] loved it.
Dale Chihuly came in for Lunch that day, and ordered a quart of the Beef & Barley Soup to-go [before he had even tasted it].
After he had a bowl for lunch he ordered another 2 quarts of soup To-Go! How gratifying a compliment to Aaron's great touch with soups!
"Fork & Knife Sloppy Joe" -from the Bar Menu--this is a variation on my mother's fantastic pasta sauce she would cook for 2 days before we headed up to our Mt cabin in Packwood to go skiing at White Pass--Mom would make a great "spaghetti sauce" and then brown off some thick-cut meaty Country-style Pork Spare Ribs. Then she would finish cooking the ribs in the pasta sauce. We would ride to the cabin with those ribs in a casserole pot on the floor of the car. I couldn't wait to come in from a long day skiing and have a big plate of spaghetti with the marinara sauce and those delicious ribsmeat falling from the bone, so tender and flavorful! The Sloppy Joe is a variation on her sauce from my childhood--but now we make it with pulled pork shoulder cooked in our Winter marinara sauce, and served over thick-cut rustic grilled sourdough bread, showered with shaved reggiano cheese. A great comfort food dish for these chilly nights, and an homage to mom's great cooking!
Crudo -the first dish I ever made that was written about [in the Los Angeles Times] when I was Chef of Michael's restaurant in Santa Monica was described in the article as "the earth meets the sea". We had received some exceedingly dark red ahi tuna--it reminded me of good beef it was so red-- so I decided to serve it simply, and treat it like beef carpaccio: fresh raw Ahi, some julienned black truffles, a sprinkle of sea salt, extra-virgin olive oil, shaved reggiano, and some Italian parsley leaves scattered over the top with a crack of fresh pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Astonishingly simple & delicious.
That was back in 1981 but the dish is as delicious now as it was then. I was so excited to be written up in the LA TIMES. And their description rang really truethe dusky earthy truffles up against the pristine freshness of the sea as embodied by the tuna, with a sweet & salty touch from the reggiano. Back then Italians considered it heresy to serve fish with cheese [and still do]. But the raw fish trend right now on menus all across the country-- called Crudo in Italian-- blends Mediterranean flavors with raw fish, instead of using Asian or Japanese flavors.
I remember when I first did this dish at Michael's that a customer asked for soy sauce to dip the raw tuna in. I lied and told the waiter to tell the guest that we were out of soy sauce as I didn't want them to ruin the fresh black truffles. [Thank God he enjoyed the dish!]