Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chef's Tasting Menu

Here at Pacific Grill, I frequently get asked to donate an item to help raise money for a school or another worthy cause.

Sometimes we donate a cake to be auctioned.

Sometimes we donate a cooking class or food demonstration whereby a group of 6-10 people will purchase at auction a multi-course meal demonstration where they come to Pacific Grill and watch us cook an entire meal as we discuss technique, and give out recipes. This is always a fun class and you get to eat each course after we cook it!

Other times we donate an entire Chef's Tasting meal, pull out all the stops, and really get creative.

My Executive Chef, Aaron Valimont, and myself then collaborate on a special Chef’s Tasting Menu oftentimes paired with a unique wine served with each course.

Recently we served such a meal in our Private Dining Room, which is located in the excavated vault beneath the 15th street sidewalk.

The Menu was as follows:


Tate’s Ahi Poke

Grilled Grape Salad
house-made ricotta, grilled grapes, roasted golden beets, arugula,
& white balsamic vinaigrette

alaskan halibut, stewed cannellini beans, apple-smoked bacon & basil
Kobe Tri-Tip
idaho snake river farms kobe tri-tip, papas bravas, romesco & chimichuri sauces
Leg of Lamb Brochette
harissa, grilled bread salad, cucumbers, olives, feta & oregano vinaigrette
Goat Cheesecake
pinenut crust, grilled honey-glazed apricot, apricot sauce

Our apprentice this summer, Tate Edwards was put in charge of the “Amuse Bouche” [amusing bite] to get the meal started. Being that Tate is from Honolulu, he decided to make a small taste of Ahi Poke, which was served on a small round of jasmine rice.

Here Tate can be seen putting his final touches on the amuse Bouche just before it was served.

The activity in the kitchen is electric as the dishes are generally ones not found on our menu, and several of the chefs gather in frantic activity to make sure each course is executed precisely. The choreography between the waiter and the kitchen is essential so that the previous course is cleared away, dishes and silverware re-set, and the next wine gets poured before the next course is prepared to order--all the while we are doing maybe 200 other dinners in our main dining room!

For the salad course we served grilled grapes with delicious house-made ricotta cheese, wonderful earthy golden beets, a tangle of pungent arugula, and a vinaigrette made with white balsamic vinegar and vanilla bean

Next up was the fish course. We sauteed fresh Alaskan halibut with buttered crumbs, and made a little stew of cannellini beans with some Nueske's apple-smoked bacon. Nueske's makes the best bacon in the United States [from Wisconsin]. This bacon costs almost $9/lb wholesale! And worth it--if you can find it! I love the way beans taste with bacon, and they way the texture of the beans plays against the texture of the fish, and the smokiness the bacon adds. A little fresh Italian parsley and a squeeze of lemon, was the only garnish the dish needed.

For summer I love to grill tri-tip and the weather here was finally starting to actually feel like summer so we brought in some Kobe tri-tip from Snake River Farms in Idaho. This is not true kobe beef--but is cross-bred with Black Angus, and is delicious. Aaron made a great dry-rub, we grilled the meat medium rare and sliced it thinly across the grain. We served it with a famous Spanish tapas I had all over Barcelona "papas bravas" [brave potatoes] as the potatoes are quite spicy. We used an heirloom fingerling potato, and tossed them in a spicy chile sauce. This course was served with an Argentinian wine so we fittingly chose a chimichuri sauce to go with this simple grilled meat. We garnished with charred rosemary needles, that we stripped from the branches after roasting, sprinkling them over the sliced meat. Charring then roasting the rosemary gives it an appealing crunchy texture.

The brochette of leg of lamb was a boneless sirloin cut, very tender and charred rare to medium rare. We made a Greek-styled panzanella [bread salad] with Kalamata olives, rustic grilled La Brea Bakery ciabatta, feta cheese, cucumber, sweet Walla Walla onion and a spicy lemony oregano vinaigrette that we had also marinated the lamb in. And garnished the plate with a smear of harissa.

The dessert course lined up and waiting for the waiters to carry them into the dining room...

For dessert we chose to do a robust goat-cheesecake, made with a French Montrachet. The crust was a combination of pine nuts and almonds [which goes particularly well with apricots] which made a very delicate crust. The apricots were glazed with honey and grilled which added another dimension of sweetness, the sweet flesh caramelizing and adding depth of flavor that could stand up to the more pungent goat cheese. We also ran a blow torch lightly over the top of the cheesecake like we do a crème brûlée.

We offer our Private Dining Room and our special Chef's Tasting Menus to all our guests who wish to create a wonderful memory. Leave the menu up to us, come hungry, and be prepared for a culinary adventure! Please call our General Manager Chip Venzone to make a reservation.

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