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Wine and Food Tour under the Tuscan Sun with EVOO

Note posted 8-24-16: This tour has been postponed until 2017. Please watch for update.

Would you like to come along?  Our itinerary is a nice blend of Tuscan Wines with Tuscan Food Culture and we are going back to the first villa we stayed in on our first trip with guests to Italy.

Click through here to read the details of the trip. 2016 Tuscany with EVOO tour lenore’s revisions


WFO Project

See a the first flame
Bob keeping good notes while he fires up the oven
Olivia was quite chatty over the new oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, finally we are getting closer to being able to use the oven. Being careful not to make any mistakes has taking longer than expected. The last hang up was waiting for help on what the chimney pipe should look like. It was days getting to the decision, another day installing and trimming the apple tree so branches didn’t get close enough to get too hot. Yes, tree branches were trimmed. So sad since is starting to look like best apple season yet for this tree. But better now than after the mature apples weigh it down till they touch the exhaust pipe. Could make for a nice apple sauce.

The first day for lighting the fires in both the oven and grill started early. Bob, Lenore and Olivia went to the back yard, gathered the fire extinguisher, some long handled tools, oven mitts, and something for notes. Have I said yet that we are happy we added a gas starter? We may have been all day instead of the 45 minutes it took to get a good flame on the wood in both apparatuses (or should that be apparati). Anyway, the oven gas jet provided a powerful flame to ignite the smaller pieces of oak inserted near it. Soon the pile was powering itself, so gas shut off, and we moved the pile to the opposite corner.

We then moved to the grill, where the wood is stacked on an iron rack inside the chimney , perched above the gas started. We turned on the gas, and it worked well enough to get the wood above it lit, but everything seemed too slow. About that time our neighbor, Dwight, popped up with a proper way to place the wood for best coverage–his stack was vertical not horizontal and more like the teepee shape we strive for making a beach fire. It worked.

We then realized that our food safety thermometer scanner keep shutting off when the surface reached a temperature it thought was hot enough! It flashed HI, we wanted to know if it was 500 yet.  Dwight again to the rescue–just happened to have an electrical scanner in his truck that demonstrated we were reaching very close to 500F on the grill itself. Just right to cook staff lunch.  A few rib eye steaks and the skilled hands of Florencio and in a few minutes the steak was done.

 


WOOD FIRED OVEN PROJECT, continued

The grill turned and put together backwards, making the chimney on the right side as desired. But...
Here is the view of the base which the oven is to be built on--this our contractor built and we haven't even opened the oven kit yet.

Okay so we bought a wood fired oven kit! It is a 2000 pound puzzle and one might think my Lego building past might come in handy with this. Sadly, we have already run into a snag–we ordered the wrong version of the wood fired companion grill. Little did we know there was a right and left side version of said grill. This is even more disturbing because we have already set the base of the oven in place and are learning the grill with left sided chimney that we purchased is not the one we wanted with a right sided chimney. After several reconfigurations we decided we could build it backwards, and access from the back instead of its proper front.  Well that was a great idea, but as soon as we realized it required cutting some of the puzzle pieces, a move that might be fatal to the project, we went back to building it the way it is intended. Alas, we will live with a left sided chimney and like it.

I defer to Lenore in design areas like this. From a usability standpoint it is functional, especially with the proposed table top prep area and under counter storage. But visually Lenore is concerned it may be visually out of balance and somewhat awkwardly lopsided with the chimney in the way. And it is entirely possible we are both overthinking this! In the end I am confident it will provide an awesome addition to our current cooking options.

Oh, and Lenore wants me to tell you that the reason we didn’t just opt to get the kit with the chimney in the desired place is that there are none available in the USA and we’d have to  order one from Italy and wait for it to be shipped. Could be months. I for one am not good at deferred gratification.


BACKYARD KITCHEN EXPANSION–THE PROJECT BEGINS

Todd is the engineer on this project
Laying concrete to hold the weight of these two monsters
2800 pounds of pieces to our oven and grill

Yes, we are finally putting in the wood fired oven I have always  wanted. It has landed, all 2800 pounds of it in our driveway, now covered to keep dry. It is in multiple pieces and goes together like a puzzle. It comes all the way from Italy via a company in Portland. What a lucky find–we saw the same ovens many places in Italy when we were there. It is not quite the biggest one, but it is large. We decided to put in its companion piece, the wood fired grill. This is the same set up we saw so many places thorough out Italy. The grill will replace our current stainless steel model gas grill, pretty typical of around here. Both new pieces are to be fired by both wood and gas. This way we conserve the wood and time it takes to fire up to the maximum temperatures we need for breads and pizza. In the process of making this all come together, I am journaling to make sure I don’t forget anything; I’ll be posting some photos as I go.

We couldn’t do this without help of a rather knowledgeable builder, and luckily we have secured services of Todd, friend and  owner of his contracting business. The first day of construction he began digging up the place that the concrete will go.

 


SOURCING OUR INGREDIENTS

It occurs to us that while there are many signs of progress in the area of using ones food dollars to vote for the more sustainable and even humane production of food ingredients, the progress is still very slow. In fact I for one have not always put my money where my mouth is, and so I am not being critical, as much as I am wishing to influence my colleagues and our customers to catch up.

The subject for this blog was prompted by a recent copy of  “Mise En Place, ” the alumni magazine from my alma mater, the Culinary institute of American, Hyde Park, NY. It makes a strong statement that chefs must lead in the effort to connect the so called farm and fork. It is a nice validation for Lenore and me because it comes from that very respected institution.   That said I see colleagues still too often choosing a “sometimes stance” rather than “all or nothing.”

I confess Lenore and I did it too in the beginning, as we began to know the local farms and vendors, we learned of people (farmers) who were changing to all sustainable practices, but didn’t have certification because of cost. After a time, we decided that organic is the only way to ensure sustainable food practices in the world, so we changed to ALL organic.

Still it wasn’t easy. And we do sympathize with chefs in more typical restaurants who try to purchase responsibly. Besides the obvious, higher cost, most restaurant menus are static, and so if a chef wanted to serve only sustainable ingredients, they end up using the unsustainable alternatives just to deliver what their menu says. That we own our business, we can be fully true to our own convictions as long as we are willing to pay more for those products, and as long as our customers are willing to pay for it, too. As a result, we are tracking pretty close to our desired sustainable, green, clean mantra. Restaurants that commit and advertise their sustainable practices have only benefited, especially now since the general public is becoming more and more aware.

Some restaurants are practicing the 100 mile radius sourcing of ingredients, which is admirable, but difficult to strictly adhere.The reality that we live in a global economy has led us to practice some latitude in our commitment, latitude that is also responsible we think. Truth is we want to participate in the world of commerce knowing we don’t want to give up bananas, coffee, or chocolate either; so our guiding principle is to stick with the 80-20 rule, meaning about 80% of our products are local and 20% global. This in no way applies to those ingredients that for us must be humanely raised and harvested, where our commitment is  “all or nothing.” Oranges in season in California is a reasonable exception, despite the shipping distance, since we most likely will not be harvesting oranges in Oregon. Would we include shipping sustainable lobster from Maine cross country for our menu, not likely, and probably not from Japan either, but we also leave it open for case by case discussion with the 80/20 rule.

Today is all about sharing our self-imposed rules for sourcing our ingredients.

Produce: First we buy in season in the PNW. We apply the belief that local in season ingredients produce the best results, besides being more sustainable. That means we have given up tomatoes out of season for good. There is simply no substitute for a tomato that is in season and grown in the earth without benefit of green house. This rule right now only applies to tomatoes for us, because we do sometimes bring in strawberries before they are in season here, but are in season in California. We argue (or rationalize) that when a bride wants strawberries on her menu, we will make that happen! So the majority of our purchases are, of course, organic, in season produce, and as for local we go to Oregon first, Washington second, Idaho, Alaska, BC Canada, California and Mexico third.

Beef: We look for pastured, antibiotic free grass only fed and finished beef. We prefer processing to be nearby the ranch so animals do not experience the trauma of long travel. It was important for us to weed out those companies that pasture for grass feeding, but who also provide grain in bins out in the field. It is like they are conflicted about why grass feeding is important not just for us, but for those animals that by nature cannot eat grain. And lastly we ask for full term cattle, in other words, those that have been raised as long as it takes to reach market weight, creating a better tasting meat.

Fish & Seafood: We frequently check what the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch recommends. This is the first organization that rated the harvesting of fish whose numbers are dangerously low or that are temporarily in short supply. They let us know which species are caught or farmed in ways that supports the health of the ocean and fish, now and for future generations. We choose “best choices” and if not available we look for “good alternatives” or eco-certified options found on their app and website.

We also know our vendors here on the north coast of Oregon. And they know us. So by now, when we ask for fresh salmon, they might just say not yet available, even though we see it in the markets. This is because we opt only for line caught fish, so fish have not been traumatized by nets that trap and hold them till they perish before pulling them in. It is obvious to me every time I see a fish caught by trolling–there are actual bruises and tears in the flesh. That also creates off taste in the meat.

Dairy:  We source pasture raised milk, antibiotic free, knowing that it is more humane and also grass translates to better nutrition for us and makes for better tasting cheeses. We prefer to choose cheese labeled  “farmsted,”  because it means the milk from which it is made comes from animals raised on the same farm. Transporting to a factory makes sanitation more challenging. It already requires enormous care making cheeses sanitary, especially for the cheeses which do not need pasteurization due to their aging process. In general, where food safety is concerned buying local and sticking close to home is one of the best ways to help prevent FBI. (food borne illness) And that is another topic for another day.

Staples:  For flours, (wheat, corn, whole wheat, rice, etc), cinnamon, sugar and chocolate, we ask for certification of GMO free and fair trade. It isn’t always possible to be sure just from a label so we ask the vendor to provide the proof. There has been lots of discussion around olive oils and other oils. We believe the Italian problem (improperly labeled as EVOO) has by now been taken care of but it is always a good idea to talk to the grocers about their products. If they cannot answer to the quality then shame on them. Most vendors want to please; they want you to return. If they don’t know something they most likely will try to find out. As customers our questions help shape what is carried in their stores. We find it difficult to find non-GMO oils. We therefore steer clear of the corn oils vegetable, and some canola oils, unless we know the brands or the label states GMO free.

 

Footnote: At EVOO we are not entirely where we would like to be on the topic of sourcing ingredients. It is not only the health of the animals, sea creatures and organic farming practices that are important to us. Yes, healthy products are healthier for people. Tastier too, and buying responsibly is the path to preserving quality and quantities for generations. We must also do what is healthy for the planet. Eating more of a plant based diet will enormously help the planet. Raising cattle and milk cows creates a very big carbon footprint; one that can be controlled by cutting the amounts we consume.

The entire world seems to have too large an appetite for beef, which means controlling farming practices alone will not be enough to lessen the impact on the environment. We all must decide to eat less beef. We would also add, that eating only the best cuts of beef is not sustainable no matter how little we eat.  We must equally consume the lesser cuts as part of our quotas. We enjoy raising awareness of our guests when we serve them grass fed/finished tenderloin of beef, but we know once we get that message across, we must show by example with menus utilizing all cuts.

And by example we hope to inspire a plant forward style of eating. Eating the true Mediterranean diet is the closest diet pyramid to this end. Making plant foods more prevalent on the plate and using animal foods under 3-4 ounce servings is going to make for good eating and reduce the demand for meat. Choosing other meats like lamb, goat, and bison is healthier for the planet, and yet they are still red meats that must be limited for human health.

Lots to consider, and yet we must consider how what we buy/eat influences our future. It is also important to be open to new technologies; ones tested enough before we jump onto the band wagon. We remain open to change, believe in education, and endeavor to make enlightened responses.


IN THE WORKS AT EVOO

With two months into the new year, we still have so much to do; things we wanted to have nailed down by now.

#1. Let’s see– our domestic tour to New Orleans. We are going most likely the first week in OCTOBER, and we are very close to finalizing all of our details. Shoot us an email at info@evoo.biz if you have the dates available and want more details.

#2–to pizza oven or not to pizza oven. That dance is finally over. Yes, Bob has finally won and there is a very good possibility this will happen by April of this year. For starters, we have purchased the oven. The important parts were all built in Italy and will need to be assembled and finished once they arrive in the backyard of the school. Looking for handipersons help for that!
#3 is to take a specialty food product to market. We already have our line of spice blends,  and our sea salt, and now we are hoping to add our Blackberry Catsup (Ketchup), as well as Bob’s Tomato Jam. Both products can be made from recipes posted on our website, but for the convenience of us all, these two items will be very useful additions to our pantries.

Bob and Lenore are all about up-scaling the pantry so that we take ordinary staple foods (i.e., rice, beans, pastas) to the next level with some very clean, green and tasty purchased ingredients.

Okay, yes, we have been going to do this for a few years now, but are learning how tough it really is to get foods to market. First to find a local manufacturer to partner with who will honor the recipe and concept is harder than one might think. Price is always a concern–even very good products can be priced out of reach and fail. It does makes sense to be as frugal as we can, but to change from a fresh garlic, for example, to a dehydrated garlic, can potentially derail a successful outcome.

Our plan is to keep the recipe the same as the “homemade” recipe. Happily we have found a co-packer who really cares about his business partners, preferring to help small companies like ours. He is willing to shop for price on our behalf. And he has good suggestions for substitutions that we can taste before deciding. Needless to say, though positive, it’s still time consuming.

 #4-– This year’s Oregon Red and White Chefs Blends are yet to be bottled. It looks like we have a date to do so in April so it should be ready by the time our 2012 runs out. It gets complicated, but we believe we can continue the “Chef’s Blend” brand with the reds for sure. Our current Chef’s Blend 2013 Oregon White is still plentiful enough we can skip a year.


THE GARDEN IS CALLING US!

Typically we do not plant our garden until after Mothers Day. This year we are experiencing so much sunshine that it is hard to believe it is still April. Longing to put in some lettuces and herbs like basil. Our little raised garden at home should be able to keep us in basil all summer. That is the plan but do not want to plant too soon.

The twelve days of EARTH DAY is being celebrated right now; 12 days before the actual event. After all Cannon Beach has too much natural bounty to appreciate in just one day; so how about 12 ending on April 22, 2015. It is the trigger for us to get our gardens ready. This is when local farms and nurseries start selling vegetable starts. It is the time when we typically over buy starts then run out of room to plant them. Regardless, we appreciate our own enthusiasm for getting the garden going because we are never sorry when the crops are ready to pick.

Meantime at our dinner shows we are already enjoying spring crops that are rarely seen in the market. This year morel mushrooms and fiddle head ferns and stinging nettles have become available; and all have been added to our menus. Also using local asparagus and snap peas, too. We are told local cherry tomatoes are not far behind and there is rumbling about Hood Strawberries being early this year. We are getting in line for those! Get ’em and eat ’em as they do not last long after picking. They are the best strawberries in the world! Meantime we do have some strawberries on our menu as rhubarb is in season and nothing compliments rhubarb like strawberries.

Here’s our strawberry rhubarb sorbet:

BOB & LENORE’s COOKBOOK
© 2011 EVOO CANNON BEACH COOKING SCHOOL

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB SORBET

By:

EVOO Cookbook

We often save leftover strawberry rhubarb sauce until we get two cups or enough to freeze into a fresh sorbet. We don’t usually start by making both recipes, but if you want to make our version follow the simple recipe for rhubarb sauce first.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds strawberries, diced
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups strawberry rhubarb sauce (see recipe)

Method:

Bring fruit and sauce to boil and remove from heat. Cool. Puree all fruit and strain through fine sieve if you prefer a finer texture. Otherwise leave chunky. Add honey, sugar and salt and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s direction. Remove and place in air tight container. Seal and freeze.

 

 


SUMMER HELP AND QUALITY OF LIFE

We recently changed our work week; Wednesday through Sunday, five days a week, for the whole year.   In the summer we have always been open Tuesdays through Sundays, or six days a week. We have done it for ten years and seemed to always manage to get through the summer. It takes focus on the day to day–no extra projects. And because summer season is really short, only about 6-8 weeks, our stamina with this schedule seemed to work. Six to eight weeks of the core business of hospitality and dinner shows. The pace is rather manic and cannot be sustained any longer than summer season. So, as we enter our eleventh year, we decided to take two days off regardless of season.

A good business decision from the standpoint that only one employee shift is needed for five days a week. That is even challenging to fill all of our summer needs.  Our business instincts that tell us our store really needs to be open every day. After all people on vacation rarely know the day of the week or date and they may not be forgiving if they happen to be here on a Tuesday and it is our day off. Needless to say, the decision to close two days is a very tough one to make.

As always we still need a few more associates to round out our summer schedule this year. We need a full time dishwasher, day time hours, from 11-5, Wed-Sun. For now Lenore and I come in on Sundays and for the most part we are alone. It has been nice. It reminds us of in the beginning. But to be honest, the quality of life index goes down when there’s more work than we two can do alone, so our reminiscing bliss is short. We also need a full time retail sales clerk for the summer season. Pay for both is above minimum making it a good opportunity for high school juniors or seniors and even retirees who want the work more than the dough.

The balancing act between work and play takes on its own rhythm.  The pace of summer yields to a slower pace once fall arrives, though regrettably we’ve have to lay off some employees each September. The core of our business, our dinner shows, goes from one extreme to another; from six nights to two nights a week, leaving us with more down time than we need. It is productive time though, because we use it to get special projects done; such as getting our spice blends to market and figuring how we can make a green/clean sea salt.  Winter is the time we look for new ways to broaden our EVOO brand and perhaps add another source of income. One of these new projects turned out to be more fun and play than work — our tours to Italy with our guests each October. Actually we should make the distinction that by “work” we mean scheduled time. Everything we do has a high element of enjoyment so that taking tours with guests turns out to be our vacation is not a surprise.

While summers have been energizing, exciting and yes, exhausting, sort of like doing a 5K run for a good cause, it is clear we cannot sustain it. We must do something to slow and most importantly, even out the pace. So not only are we cutting summers to five days and nights a week, we are also trying to bring enough business in during shoulder seasons to sustain our five day week schedule all year.

No doubt about it, meeting this all year goal may allow us to keep our full time staff and sanity at the same time! Considering all that our little town has to offer all year round, we think it is doable.


Valentine’s Day?

Lenore here. How can it be Valentine’s Day already? The weather here at the beach has been warm–high 60’s. We haven’t even experienced a freeze for a long time, and seems I am not the only thing conflicted by the weather. The flowers we usually only see in the spring are popping out everywhere, like the Camellias that are by now even nearing the end of their bloom. What?  This week I saw a commercial on TV for spring clothing that made me double check the calendar. Is everyone rushing spring like the weather is? Well that might mean changes in the menus we’ve planned, because things are going to be early; but no worries, spring brings such freshness to the culinary world.  And, regardless of the current disharmony in weather, we have truly enjoyed wearing our light jackets on the beach and picking the rosemary that is blooming beautifully right now all around our property.

It's the middle of February and yet the rosemary thinks it's spring!

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A New Year–A new Schedule on our website

 

Dear EVOO Friends: Happy New Year!

We have just completed EVOO’s 2015 Show & Class schedule and it’s already posted to our website–www.evoo.biz
But wait, before you go there read below about some of the highlights.

Our popular, The Dinner Shows, still three entrée courses paired with three wines and a great dessert are listed for each month, complete with full menu and some wines have been chosen. Go to show schedule for all twelve months.

Again throughout the year, on Saturdays, you will see our semi hands five hour ARTISAN BREAD II classes, in which you make crusty Italian bread and classic French bread, and take some home along with a bit of our “biga” starter to make more at home.

It’s not too early to decide how to enjoy VALENTINE’S DAY, as February 14 this year is on “date-night,” Saturday, and should be popular. Our special menu is not just that night but all that weekend.

Our skill building fully hands on classes, CULINARY BASICS, begins in March this year and offered as individual classes throughout the year. Each day is still six hours of instruction with a special focus. Check it out.

Sunday,  March 22, 2015-The Art & Science of Pasta, Paella, & Risotto
Sunday, April 26, 2015-Art & Science of Meat Cookery
Sunday, May 24, 2015 – Practicing Knife Skills and Art & Science of Vegetable Cookery
Sunday, September 27, 2015—The Art & Science of Cooking Seafood
Sunday, November 8, 2015- The Art & Science of Baking (without yeast)

SAVOR WINE WEEK in Cannon Beach is scheduled for March 12 – 14, 2015. This year we have entered the wine competition with our two CHEF’S BLENDS, our Oregon Red and Oregon White. That’s exciting!

The wine maker from Willamette Valley Vineyard joins us with wines paired to Chef Bob’s dinners on Thursday and Friday of that weekend.
Saturday we invite participates to our WINE BLENDING CLASS featuring the barrel samplings from J. Scott Cellars, and wine maker, Jonathan Oberlander, is coming to guide each of us as we blend and create our own wine which you take with you!

The Early Dinner Shows on Sundays (4:00-7:00) start up again in May.
Sunday, May 10th is MOTHER’S DAY and our spring inspired menu is already posted.

Then in June the Artisan Producers and Farmers Market Dinners begin again on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Recipes are still inspired by what is fresh from our local markets.
Dinners are served family style.

The Fourth of July is on Saturday this year. Pies and parade on our porch and then an early dinner show that evening is scheduled, so you may enjoy the festivities planned by the city for the evening. As always pre-order whole pies or come for a slice on parade day.

 In October we have two weeks in Italy planned.  And we still have space in both. Check out itineraries or if you cannot decide, come for both! The first week is October 10-16 to UMBRIA ; the second week is October 17-23 in SICILY. If you like the intimacy of our dinner shows, you will love our intimate tours with the foodie friends of EVOO.

For the last quarter, we have already posted our Halloween Party, Thanksgiving Dinner, Feast of Seven Fishes and New Years Eve. So click now on what you want to learn more about or just go straight to our website and look at it all!

Our bliss is teaching guests , YOU, to cook and enjoy good clean food, well-prepared and attainable by all.

Have we made you a little interested. Call us and schedule time at our table or our tour bus in the new year, 2015!

 


OUR TOURS TO ITALY OCTOBER 2015

 

Cooking lesson in Tuscany Italy 2013 with Bob and Lenore

Dear Friends: Below please find the links to the two tours we have planned for Italy 2015. They are  PDF documents that can be printed. Note that pricing is based on per person, and airfare is not included. 


Please contact us with any questions using our email: info@evoo.biz or call 503-436-8555 or 503-440-2793. To sign up follow instructions on the PDF sheet under “next steps.” 

 

Thanks! Lets go to Italy together! Bob & Lenore

 

Lenore & Bob in Italy 2013

 

Our trip to Sicily is planned for the week of October 10-16, 2015. For details, please click here:  SICILY OCTOBER 2015

 

Our trip to Umbria is planned for the week of October 17-23, 2015. For details, please click here: UMBRIA OCTOBER 2015

 

 


A FISHERMAN’S PERSPECTIVE THAT WE APPLAUD!

Toward the end of summer we had a private class with  group called the Fish Camp Company. Seems they all love to fish and had many varieties for us to cook; they came here looking for new recipes and ideas. Having been fishing in the past with folks who seemed to use “fishing” more for the excuse to drink beer, and because of past experiences when we were gifted slightly under par specimens, we were fighting our skepticism.

So imagine our delight that the seafood the Fish Camp Company brought in to us was the best we could hope for.  Why? Because their seafood was perfect examples of themselves, we learned, because they had been properly handled and cared for from catch to arrival at in our kitchen. We enjoy meeting folks that honor the circle of life that they become part of when they embark on a fishing trip, or clam dig, or go crabbing, and even the smoking of their catch.

So to close the circle on this, we asked John if he might write up his rules for fishing to ensure good results! He did and we have nothing more to add–great job, John! And thank you for sharing this information!!

This is John and his story.
“CATCH A FISH, CARE FOR A FISH, EAT A QUALITY FISH”

35-pound King Salmon caught off the Washington Coast southwest of Cape Flattery.

Just about everyone savors a freshly caught fish from the ocean.  But, too often, the fisher diminishes or destroys the superb quality of a fresh fish by failing to take proper care of it from the time it is caught until it is placed on the grill, the frying pan or in the oven.

Here is the process I follow from the moment the fish is harvested in salt water until it is consumed:

  1.  Take along a generous supply of ice.
  2. As soon as the fish is netted, stun it and bleed it.  Bleeding the fish enhances the flavor and prolongs its ability to be frozen for many months.
  3. Immediately put the stunned and bled fish on ice in a cooler or the boat’s fish box.
  4. Before returning to port or a boat launch, fill a five gallon bucket or two with fresh, clean salt water.
  5. Clean or filet the catch and rinse it immediately in the clean salt water, not fresh water.
  6. Place the cleaned or filleted fish in a waterproof food grade plastic bag.
  7. Immediately cover the fish in ice.  Do not allow water from melted ice to touch the fish flesh.
  8. Keep the fish iced or refrigerated as close to freezing as possible until consumed (if it is to be consumed within a few days of harvest).
  9. If the fish is to be frozen, cut into desired portions and wrap in several layers of food grade plastic wrap.  Then, wrap the fish again.  Essentially, double the wrapping process.  This method is much less expensive than vacuum packing and it does not fail to hold a seal like some vacuum bags.
  10. Place the wrapped fish portions on a large cookie sheet and put in the coldest part of your freezer so that each portion freezes individually as quickly as possible.
  11. Once frozen, keep frozen at -10F if possible.  (Keep a thermometer in your freezer to keep track.)
  12. When it is time to thaw and consume a meal of fish, take the frozen portion out of the freezer a day before it is to be used and let it thaw slowly in the coldest part of your refrigerator.  It will thaw sufficiently in about 24-30 hours.
  13. When ready to cook, remove the fish from its wrapper.  Cook your favorite way and enjoy.  It will be as good as it can be.

It might seem like the process outlined above is excessive, but it is not.  A freshly caught fish is a treasure in today’s world.  Special care is essential if you want to enjoy the best that fish can be.  The extra effort is rewarded.   Fish that has been cared for properly and iced from the moment of capture is unbeatable when eaten fresh.  And, if wrapped and frozen properly, and then thawed slowly under refrigeration, the thawed fish will also reward you with the exceptional taste and nutrition of one of nature’s finest meals.

John D. Hough

Bainbridge Island, Washington

 


WE’RE CELEBRATING 10 YEARS! Read about our top ten lessons, tips, strategies and food-mantras gleaned over a decade in the EVOO kitchen!

With our ten year anniversary rapidly approaching in August, we set down our whisks and Bob’s coriander mill and reflected on our top ten lessons learned. Our takeaways might surprise you, hopefully they’ll inspire you, and more than likely they’ll validate what you’ve also discovered if you’ve attended one of our dinner shows, and if you haven’t, well, there’s never been a better time to join us at the Oregon coast!.

THE 80/20 RULE – In the beginning we thought we could be totally sustainable, and soon realized 100% sustainable is perhaps an elusive pursuit for most if not all. Now we strive to be sustainable and local about 80% of the time. We subscribe to globally inspired menus that are locally acquired, and throw in some imported ingredients that we cannot live without, i.e. EVOO!

WINE IS A FOOD GROUP -that is the way it was growing up in Bob’s family, where tradition dictates that we only drink wine with food at a meal, and not as a cocktail. No wonder we have embraced the philosophy and regularly amplify the flavors on the plate by choosing complementary flavors in the glass.

USING FOOD AS A  PIVOT POINT – Not surprising wine plays a role in another important lesson repeated regularly during our shows. Pivot points are added to keep our taste buds happy longer. Often our strategy includes a purposefully placed ingredient that serves to cleanse or surprise our pallets back to consciousness. A well-chosen wine often serves as a contrast in flavor, temperature, even texture to help jog our taste buds alive once again.

ALWAYS INCLUDE RAW FOOD COMPONENTS – Despite enjoying three whole menu-courses, plus dessert, often our guests tell us they are surprised they feel so satisfied after such a full meal. That is just the validation we need to continue adding raw whole foods on the plate since they help with digestion.

IF YOU DO NOT TASTE AS YOU COOK, YOU ARE NOT COOKING – This old saying from one of Bob’s culinary mentors means that to cook well, one must taste and taste and taste. Taste the raw ingredients before you start, do it again while cooking, and once more before adding seasoning. Also remember to consider the rest of your ingredients. For example, if you will be adding a little lemon juice at the end of cooking, that might be all that is needed to bring the salt to where it should be. And ingredients containing their own salt (such as parmesan cheese) should be added before you make the final application of salt.

GROWS TOGETHER, GOES TOGETHER – You say tomato, we say basil. Even for novice home cooks, compatible flavors are easy to develop when you think about what grows together. This is a favorite tip we share with guests to help them gain confidence when building menus.

WE’RE GENERALLY ANTI-CASSEROLE: Don’t get us wrong, there’s always room for amazing lasagna at the table. But a casserole often delivers only one flavor note after the first few bites – whereas a plate featuring a balance of sweet, salty, bitter, sour (or that elusive “most savory taste” umami) more deeply engages the taste buds and the brain, increasing enjoyment.

GOOD ALONE BETTER TOGETHER – Did you know that when alcohol is added to spicy flavors, the dish may become even hotter? Alcohol and acid foods like lemon and tomato can also increase the saltiness of a dish. The cause and effect of putting some flavors together is worth consideration. We strive to season dishes well by themselves, and make sure they actually only get better when put together with other foods on the plate. When flavors are combined with this in mind, they complement each other; in other words, each flavor is balanced. Take salt for example. Wait to salt until food is at the table and you’ll just taste salt. But season while you’re cooking, you’ll bring out their flavors, set colors and give balance to the whole dish.

THE 24 HOUR RISE – Even our gluten sensitive guests are able to eat Bob’s Daily Bread without any problem. Wonder why? We think it must be because we do a 24 hour rise – giving the yeast plenty of time to transform the gluten to more tolerable form. It is after all the way bread was made from the beginning centuries ago.

WE’RE ACTIVE DINERS NOT JUST FOODIES – We coined the phrase, ACTIVE DINERS, because we think it goes beyond what defines foodies. We believe when anyone cooks with whole foods and natural ingredients they are almost always happier with the results. Being active in our dining habits also means knowing where foods come from and how they are produced, raised and processed (or not processed). An active diner makes conscientious decisions about the foods they purchase. And for some it means eating from a family garden, foraging for foods in the wild, or raising some of their own livestock. And “active diners” set an example for their children and invite them into the kitchen to cook together. 

 


What’s in season now?

I am often reminded that anyone who was born well after WW2 may have missed out on a natural process of learning what’s in season just by eating what mom fixed from what she found in the grocery store. Today agribusiness brings us everything any time of the year. It also brings comments like “remember how tomatoes used to taste?” And “remember how kids used to get oranges in their stockings at Christmas?” Some of us we remember when foods showed in seasons. We remember foods tasted better too. So what is happening? Why are guests asking us how do I know what is in season? Perhaps the fact that they have only known one season combined with their interest in joining the eat local and therefore seasonally movement is what’s behind that question. So no wonder there are websites proliferating the internet describing what we can expect in our local markets.

It is a few days away from the start of spring here and since we are on the coast we need to be more patient than in the interior of our state. Still the new potatoes are arriving;the asparagus is tuning up and, get ready for it, the morels are here as well. This means ramps, cherry tomatoes, English peas, spring onions can not be far behind.

We are leaving winter squash, citrus season and braising greens behind. Not that we won’t see them, as we will. They will just not be local. But you say, oranges are not local at all!

Good point! Our orange season is in the winter because that is when they are at peak in California our closest access. We do eat outside our food shed, meaning what grows naturally about 100 miles from where we live. Our goal is to be local about 80% of the time. That keeps our local economy strong while being realistic at the same time.

Our April and May menus reflect spring season while our march is somewhat of a transition from winter to spring. Many old cookbooks show root cellared foods in spring menus along with the new garden produce. This is a throwback to the days when it became time to use up winter stores so to make room for new crops. Every Easter my mom would combine spring lamb with rutabaga, she tells me, because her mother did and so did her mother’s mother. All a natural progression, and why is lemon part of spring menus? Citrus is a fall/winter crop in California on the left coast and in Florida on the right coast. I even remember when oranges were part of our stockings at Christmas. And though they are around all year these days, they still taste better in the season. So in the old cookbooks that give seasonal menus, you will see citrus in the winter and early spring menus so its just natural that I now also think lemon is for spring menus.


OLIVE OIL PRESSING

A beautiful day greeted us on our last full day in Tuscany 2013. We started the day right outside our rooms at our villa, harvesting olives on the villa, both mariaolo and frantoio, two major olives of the region. We received a lesson in the viticulture of olives, and learned that the mariaolo trees do not self-pollinate. We learned that pruning practices are very specific because the weather can be harsh and sometimes blow trees up by the roots. We picked or should say combed, 30 pounds of both varieties, clearly not enough for the yield we needed, but the hired field hands had already harvested nearly 10 times that much. Obviously we need more practice.

Anyway the first step in making olive oil starts in the field. Good organic farming practices not only ensures good oil but good stewardship of this beautiful country. Next we drove the short distance to the local “frantoio,” the word commonly used for “olive mill” in Italy, this one in the little town of San Polo, about 12 km south east of Florence. Here at Prunetti Frantoio, local farms arrange for an appointment to press their olives and by scheduling these, the olives are picked same day and held only a few hours before they are weighed, washed, sorted and press into the pristine oil. In some towns, we learned, the locals are not as picky and just drop off their olives to be pressed whenever they get to it. At some of these locations, olives might sit in the large tubs out in the elements for days. Each day olives sit without pressing increases the amount of acidity in the final oil. Better oils have less acidity. The older the olive before pressing, the more acid the oil becomes.  However, lower quality oils actually have the same nutritional value, and the acidity provides a higher smoke point so a virgin, oil is a good cooking oil and not a big step down for some uses. The flavor may be a bit more mild and a little smoother and since not as expensive, people may use it more frequently.

So the facility in San Polo is the best example of an olive mill one could hope to find anywhere. They are not only dedicated to making the olive oil as good as it can possibly be, they are also good stewards of the land, recycling the olive waste by composting and enriching the land. The are also perhaps one of the most architecturally well designed and state of the art facilities we visited. Very streamlined and functional, but also perfectly designed. The two brothers who run it are well educated and have divided their duties so that each has become the most proficient at the tasks they do. One is the maestro who makes the oil. He knows just when to press, how much, as he controls the perfect temperature for extracting “cold.” The other brother is the one who has learned English well enough to be the sales side of the business. He travels and sells to Europe and America. These oils are consistently receiving the highest ratings over all other oils rated from Europe and America. Click here to see the actual process at Prunetti.

Next we watched our olives get sorted and washed. Then they were then sent through the press, followed by centrifuging. It was tasted by the maestro a few times before he called to  our hosts to bring in their fusti, a stainless steal seamless milk-can-like container for catching the oil to take home. And there it was! Running very green from the spigots into the fusti, the oil delighted our hosts. Just the sight of it seemed to make them salivate with anticipation of this special oil on our menu that night. American guests who accompany us to Italy are often unfamiliar with this new oil, or olio neovo. Unless one lived near an olive grove in CA, one most likely never heard of it. Some olive growers now bottle it for sale, with an appropriate use by date of about 3-5 months only. The big difference with the nuovo oils is that they still contain the particulates from the pressing of the whole olives. There are leaves, stems and pits. These materials eventually fall to the bottom of the holding container and the oil is pulled off the top into bottles. That oil has a shelf life of a year or two, again depending upon how it is cared for. Oil in cans and dark bottles will fare better than those in clear bottles. Storing near heat or light can decrease shelf life too. So handling once it is home is also quite important. If one uses a fusti at home to hold the oil, one must invest in a canned gas product that will replace the oxygen as the oil is used and the air space above increases, more gas is needed.  Oxygen is an enemy of oil too, just like with wine, but unlike wine, even when protected from oxygen abuse, the oil quality doesn’t get any better as time goes by. So best to plan on using it up. We are committed to using more olive oil than other oils in our food preparation, so it is easy to use a typical 25o ml bottle in a couple months. If you can, taste before buying and then only buy a small quantity until you see how quickly you consume it. Then buy the large more economical bottles. But do remember, once opened that oxygen situation happens and so best to use daily.

Why is it the best thing you can do for your health today, or so some doctors will tell us? Because it is full of antioxidants and advantages over all other oils. In fact, docs say just consuming 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil daily is going to improve your health. No need to anything else but why stop there. Continue to cook for yourself in the style we use at EVOO, i.e. whole foods, mostly plant based, and you will add even more benefits to your health. Use extra virgin oil, cold pressed and only buy from reliable sources, i.e., where they know when it was bottled and how old it is before you buy it. Because you know it will not age well in the bottle–best consumed same year it is pressed and bottled, or 1-2 years when the bottling is pristine, and no oxygenation occurs. Once purchased then use daily and protect it from light, heat and oxygen while storing.


NEW ZEALAND SHOUT OUT

We just heard we are mentioned by a NZ travel writer who was in Oregon this summer and came to a farmers market dinner.
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“EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School With quips like “Garlic is a vegetable”, “Go large or go home”, and “I’m Jewish- Italian – there’s nothing subtle about what I do”, chef Bob Neroni is an entertaining guy, especially when he’s dealing with gentle verbal sparring from his wife, fellow chef Lenore Emery.

Based in relaxed Cannon Beach, around 90 minutes west of Portland, the Farmers Market Dinner Show at their EVOO Cooking School is a surprising dining experience. Seasonal produce – their culinary manifesto is “If it grows together, it goes together” – is sourced from a co-operative of Oregon farmers, and Bob and Lenore supplement ingredients from Cannon Beach’s excellent farmers’ market.”

Thank you!  Click this link to read the whole article.


LUCCA

Well we can finally say Lucca! Paola is very superstitious so up until now we could not say Lucca without poking the cosmic bear and possibly jinxing our trip to the walled city. Our day began as all do at Villa Fabroni with a traditional Italian breakfast consisting of fresh bread, croissants even, cheese and deli meats with espresso and juice. But of course we need the American version as well so Sergio whips up an egg concoction each day with eggs produced farm their ” silky” chickens. Today it was a frittata of spinach and another of Roma tomatoes.

It went from a down pour at our villa upon departure to sunny skies and about 70 degrees at the bakery where we had a lesson after which we were able to shed the rain coats, stacked the obsolete umbrellas, and peeled some layers. Our baker, Pedro, was gracious as ever, and very shy until our group show interest and he talked about what he knows very well. His wife, Petra was teaching today.
Anyway, after baking and a bread lunch we headed to Lucca.

Lucca is a great place to shop or people-watch while having a coffee, a.k.a. Espresso. We were able to work it all in for a couple hours. Bob searched for a new scarf. By the way he only wears scarfs in Italy. Smiley face!

Tonight our group is gathering for dinner of pizza by our hosts,Sergio and Stefanos. Update tomorrow.


OCT 21, Lucca

Rain! The locals reported this as very unusual this early in the season. Our plans for an early morning start to go the two hour drive to Lucca was in vain. Our tour guide half jokingly stated something about a plan “b” due to the weather report. The bus driver came without checking the weather report so we climbed a board. Before long lighting was flashing and thunder clapping instantly after. We were still in the hills but water was rushing in the ditches beside the road. Then Paola’s phone rang. It was the baker stating the river between Lucca and them was rising rapidly. Paola puts down the phone and says she thinks we will not be able to reach the bakery today. Plan “b” becomes a reality.

She begins to rearrange our activities so we won’t miss anything. Paola starts calling our artisans; what may we move to today? After several dropped calls and waiting to get a connection, Paola announced she was now up to plan “m.” Nobody could make the change to accommodate. Understandable given that all were responding to the same worsening weather. So our driver turns around and heads toward Greve. There we can shop and enjoy the cafes.

We had lunch at the butcher in town, where we tasted wines at will while eating their cheeses and prosciutto. Chianti Classico is the region’s famous varietal. Here and only here the term chianti Classico may be used on the label. The symbol for the location is a black rooster, the legend of which is another story. If a wine maker is a member of the union, they may use the rooster on their labels indicating the terroir. Only so many barrels of chianti from here each season are allowed, as designated by the state, and all extra wine may not be called Classico. With the “extra wine” they blend what are known as Super Tuscans. These are more robust and all are more expensive than a single chianti. We like the very much.

Our wonderful hosts at our villa have agreed to move their cooking class to this afternoon. We will make our own dinner. By now our guide, Paola, has figured out the rest of the week. And by now the rain has stopped. No more lightening and thunder, and even a patch of blue sky.


Savoring Italy 2013 first morning…

Each year as lenore and I prepare for Italy, it seems that the reality doesn’t kick in until we are in hour 18 or so of getting there. By that time its been long enough that our twisted muscles and lack of sleep, not to mention a real meal has rendered us spent. Our conversation turns to the reality that in a few more hours we will be in Italy, and the thought of the italian hospitality is making the any discomfort in the air transit seem insignificant.

When our connections finally land us in Milan we hear the bellowing familiar sound of our guide, “CIAO Bob and Lenore,”a sound we equate with all things Italy. We plan these trips to arrive a day or two before our guests so we may acclimate and prepare. Today we travel to Florence, an opportunity to walk the streets, hear the bells from the Duomo and sip an espresso or two, a treat we indulge in often, especially since Paola is with us. Seems she needs frequent visits to the bars in the area, espresso bars, that is!

Our welcome reception will take place this evening at the villa castle after we pick up our guests. First they will have free time to unpack and take in the enormity of the vistas from the property; get to know the mascot, Lucio, an English bulldog; and watch the silky hens that roam freely.

On the menu are chicken breast with truffle ravioli, some salad for the Americans, and tiramisu for for dessert.

Nothing like a shopping trip in Florence to make one’s day. The three of us set out late morning for a day in Florence before meeting the guests who will be gathered at a hotel to catch our bus.

But first we must have lunch. So Paola said she knows of a place where the food is like what locals eat, so that sounded like us. It was simple, and delicious.
Bob chose bacala, salt cod in tomato sauce with rice. Lenore got Tomino con verdure, grilled vegetables with melted aged soft cow’s milk cheese. Paola got one of her favorites–chicken liver pâté served warm in an earthen ware crock with crostini . We got complimentary sparkling from the owner and a glass of chianti colli florentini red wine 2011. Decadent chocolate cake split three ways completed our repast. We were now ready to shop!

Just so you don’t think we are only eating, the time after lunch was spent shopping the leather kiosks of Florence. Are three pairs of shoes too much! The thing about being in Italy is that you walk to most destinations which keeps the calories at bay. That being said let’s discuss dinner…..the wines consisted of Proseco, Strozzi Vernoccia and Tenuto la Novella reserva chianti Classico.
Antipasti of puff pastries with porcini and Torino cheese alongside ham and Brie. Fresh buffalo mozzarella, Tuscan pecorino fresco, green olive bread and what seemed to be the best bruschetta with tomatoes from the villa, fresh oregano and baby garlic, yum! Then the primi course of lemon ravioli was as stuffed with lemon zest, ricotta and a sauce of lemon juice, zest, parmigiana and reduced cream. Secondi of pan seared chicken breast with black and white truffle cream with a reduced balsamic smear, a perfect juxtaposition of acid against fat. Thankfully they included a salad of bitter greens. Finally tiramisu and espresso, dopio! No worries about sleeping after this day. Ciao!

Monday, October 20,
Morning came early since we have a long drive to Lucca today.g src=”http://evoo.biz/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/image5-230×230.jpg” alt=”” title=”Paola and Bob having wine on our arrival” width=”230″ height=”230″ class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-23554″ />


RECIPE OF SUMMER! Summer means……potato salad

SUMMER MEANS POTATO SALAD

To begin with, there are things like no others than can take me back to my childhood summers. The slam of the creaky screen door; the smell of beach fires (now, fire pits); the way the fresh air of the outdoors mixes with picnics on the porch or deck, and camping to make the food taste so much better! Yes each by themselves can bring me to a happy summer place.

Summer itself can elicit food cravings, too. Like charcoal grilled hamburgers and pickles and, of course, potato salad. I never think about potato salad in the winter, but come the 4th of July, it must be on my menu somewhere. Over the years we have a few favorite versions. All start pretty much the same way with cooking the potatoes in very salty boiling water (3 Tablespoons  salt to 1 gallon water). This salty start ensures the potatoes will not be bland. While still hot, a drizzle of sherry vinegar is a favorite trick too, also imparting flavor that if we wait till the potato gets cold, it may not penetrate the starch meat of the potato rendering it a bit bland.

Some tips for making a potato salad “wow!”
1.  Chill all ingredients before mixing; then chill again before snapping into a Tupperware- or like container to take to the picnic.  That means chill the mayo, mustard, eggs, pickles and vegetables too. It will still warm up a little during preparation, so chilling again after it is mixed is a good practice when planning to take it on an outdoor picnic in the summer. When eating it right away, mix away and serve.
2. Using commercial mayo rather than homemade is really a good idea for food safety since its pH is regulated and safely acidic.
3. Try taking the separate components of a potato salad to the picnic and let people assemble what they want. We definitely include our salty potatoes on a picnic, sometimes all by themselves; and when we let people choose what they want for their salad, we leave the dressing on the side for dipping instead of coating before leaving home. Don’t be afraid of the amount of salt we use when cooking these salty potatoes–remember the skin on the potatoes must not be broken for best results–rendering the outside salty and the inside creamy!

If you like the classic potato salad of egg, celery, pickle with mayo dressing, check out this recipe for our version of a not-so-typical classic potato salad!


TRIP ADVISOR

Well, it finally happened. Our five star run on Trip Advisor has ended. We have been holding our breath, much the way we do before we get our first scratch in the paint on a new car. Knowing it is inevitable, when it finally happens we are bummed but somewhat relived. And this one comment was a good critique! We can learn from it, and we intend to! We will react with a change in the service during our Market Dinner Show as a result. So what was the comment?

The whole review was really a good one. Our food and show was highly praised. The comment made was translated by Trip Advisor as a ding against our service. The comment was that our dinner show started at 6:00 with a plated appetizer dish, and the buffet wasn’t served until 8:00. Our intention was that the starter, a pasta cheese dish, would hold them till the buffet opened, as they watch it all come together. We have in the past done two waves of buffet and we can easily go back to that.

One of the blessing that there is such a thing as Trip Advisor is that we have many new friends coming from all over the country and the world for that matter. Our customer base has grown and we are grateful. The fact that we are not exactly a restaurant can be confusing to our new guests. They go to Trip Advisor looking for a restaurant and see us. Even though every event at EVOO includes a meal, the “show” is also part of our product. Trip Advisor doesn’t really have a category for that!

We often have a difficult time reading the reviews because they are so good, and because we know it makes us perched for a fall; it’s only a matter of time. So our position regarding our performance has always been what is known in the food business as, “you are only as good as your last banquet.” Meaning, don’t rest on your laurels. Everyday is a fresh start and we need to deliver the hospitality standard we want to be known for at EVOO every day.

So when a guest does make a comment that critiques us, (rather than criticizing), as this one did, we are grateful to learn from it and we take it to heart.

 


PERFECTING PUDDING

We really don’t eat much pudding. At least not the cornstarch variety that is in the older cookbooks. It isn’t on restaurant menus much any more unless as a mousse or pastry cream. Maybe in the South where Banana Pudding was made famous with the Nilla* Wafer cookies we might see it on a menu. But for the most part the ingredients are very simple for this a softly thickened sweet milk cold dessert.

Seems most pastry chefs never make pudding they make pastry creme. Pastry cream is a very egg yolk-y vanilla pudding. So about the same. When we were writing our version a southern favorite, banana vanilla pudding for our APRIL DINNER SHOW, we found ourselves wanting to perfect the vanilla pudding.

We started like the chef-sleuths at Cook’s Illustrated might, with our own pastry cream recipe since we know it best. We knew we wanted a rich pudding, and since pastry cream uses egg yolks exclusively, while pudding might use some whole eggs, we chose to use only yolks for the richness.

We also wanted to determine once and for all whether to use all milk (cornstarch pudding is almost always made with whole milk), or would we add a little cream, all cream, or half and half cream. One other ingredient that seems to be present pretty consistently is cornstarch, thus the old fashioned name “cornstarch pudding.” But even our pastry cream recipe includes some flour for thickener.

We first made our pudding with only cornstarch so that when/if we have a guest who cannot eat gluten, our recipe would still work. We simply were not sure until the first test whether we could convert the flour to an equal amount of cornstarch. We also were not sure if the flour also performed something other than thickening, but were willing to drop it and find out for ourselves.

Next we tackled the whole milk or part cream option. We decide the logically way is to make it with an equal amount of half and half. We liked it; still quite rich, but not heavy as all cream might be. It also still give us the option to fold in whipped cream to really light up the pudding if we wanted to.

Well in the end, our new recipe is probably not much different, but it is “vanilla” enough (no pun intended) that it will work for many different dessert variations; just like our original pastry cream recipe does.

THE PERFECT PUDDING

2 cups half and half
1/2 vanilla bean scraped into sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste mixed into 1/2 cup granulated natural sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch (level but not packed)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup more sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional

Method: Blend vanilla and 1/2 sugar and cornstarch in sauce pan. Add milk and bring to simmer over medium heat while stirring occasionally. Meantime, beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar; add small amount of the warm milk mixture to eggs to temper(warm them slowly) eggs a little, and then stir all egg mixture into warm milk whisking quickly.  Bring mixture to almost boil while stirring; it will bubble but should not go to full boil ( not over 200ºF). Hold steady there for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter if using.  Sieve through fine screen to remove any lumps. Pour out into stainless steel bowl or shallow non-reactive container Cover pudding with plastic film by resting film directly on the pudding surface; cool in the refrigerator. At service, spoon into dishes and serve. Or make one our our listed variations.

Service variations: Serve with whipped cream, Swiss meringue, or as a parfait layered with fruit and cream and graham crackers. Or spoon into individual bowls layered with vanilla wafers and bananas and for the famous southern dish that started this quest. See Banana Pudding Cups When making the south’s favorite banana pudding, after you have made the appropriate layers, they must sit in refrigerator for a minimum of four hours and even overnight. It just gets better when you let the flavors meld and soften the cookies.

Recipe Variations: Add 3 tablespoons rich bitter sweet cocoa powder to the sugar and finish with 2 teaspoons butter and 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate pieces, stirring until melted. Cool and you have a rich chocolate pudding. Add 2 teaspoons espresso powder with the vanilla to make it espresso chocolate pudding.

*Chef’s Note: Ever wonder why the wafers from Nabisco are called “NILLA” and not VANILLA? Apparently they cannot because there isn’t any vanilla in the recipe; it is artificial.


WINE BLENDING

WINE BLENDING CLASS

Our town just experienced SAVOR CANNON BEACH WEEKEND 2013. This wine and food festival started three years ago to attract folks to town for wine thinking, drinking and seeking-good wine, that is. The culinary side of the event is not yet as well developed but none the less, it is a very robust event including a wine competition, blending throw-down and opportunity for the guests in town to taste the wining wines. The event brought in forty five wineries to town for a very long wine-walk where the true wine aficionados can be picky; while wine walkers “do” as many wineries as they can in the two hours.

So we had high hopes of attracting some wine geeks, not walkers, to our wine blending class on Saturday afternoon.  We wanted our guest to experience the art of blending wine. A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of blending our very own private blend. We met Jonathan Oberlander, wine maker and owner of J. Scott Winery, half way between EVOO and the winery, at our wine distributors, Jacqueline and Stephan’s, home. Jonathan brought several of his own wine varietals and even some he bought from Washington state. We got started and had so much fun developing formulas; mixing blending tasting as we went. Some of us were spitting and some were swallowing. Shortly it became pretty obvious who was doing what. Anyway, the blend we liked was finalize a little more than an hour into the effort. Jonathan was very supportive and really let us do what we wanted to do. What we ended up with was a blend we dub, Bordeaux meets Rhone. Very French.

Before saying good-bye and heading out for a great lunch with our hosts, Jonathan agreed to bring some wines to Cannon Beach to help Bob with a wine blending class during Savor weekend, March 8 & 9. Our guests would have the opportunity blend their own and taste ours. When Jonathan came, he threw us a curve; he said he wanted to blend a little variation of the one we did, because he thought it would be even a little better. You see our wine isn’t bottled yet, and he was kind of setting up a throw down between his proposed new version using the same varietals and the one we decided on a few weeks earlier.

Our guests were to follow Jonathan’s recipe, by remove the varietals in the right proportions with a pipette and dropping it into a clean wine glass. Thus the new formulated blend. He then asked them to taste the one he brought already done and compare with the new blend. Guests definitely had a preference, though we heard votes on both sides. Everyone seemed surprised at how a little variance in the amounts made such a noticeable  difference. They told us that while the one they had blended was pretty good by itself, the other one was best with the cheese and bread, so in other words with food.

Little did they know, this was the affirmation we were hoping for. We set out to make a wine that would become a food wine. One that gets better with food and the food gets better with the wine. And so you might say, our blend won Jonathan’s challenge.

To get this wine to market we need to design a label. But first we actually have to become a new d.b.a to be compliant with Oregon wine label laws. Our new d.b.a. is called CHEF NERONI’S  WINE BLENDS. We have asked our designer to come up with a Neroni family crest as the subject of our label; we asked that ours be more personal than the ones we find on the internet that already exist for the Neroni name. So though our crest isn’t finished yet, we can tell you you will know it is ours. We’re not sure if it is the toque that replaces the traditional helmet at the top of the shield, or the poodles adorning the sides that will give it away.

Stay tuned–we will let you know when our wine is on the market. The date we are hoping for is SPRING UNVEILING 2013, which is our town’s art festival which again means art galleries hold an open house with wine and food to show off the work they have collected over the winter.  This happens May 3 and 4. So you might say we will be unveiling our winter’s work then too.

Pictures: Left-top, Jonathan removing wine from the bottle with a pipette. Right -top, Bob uses pipette like a straw to get the right amount of a varietal. Bottom-left, some of our guests; looks like Julie started blending hers already; Bottom-right, dueling pipettes!


MARCH MENU ROCKS

Pictures may tell the story but let me just describe our first course of the March menu and see if you miss the picture. Lenore says the broth and vegetables are crazy good alone, but there is so much more to the dish. Starting with the aromatics, shallots, onions, carrots and celery, I get a little sweating action going by crowding the pan and adding a bit of salt. In go the previously blanced red potatoes, skin on. Then I add the first defining flavor, that of the Navarre Spanish Sausage, which has been diced about 1/2 inch. Next more defining flavors are the white wine, about two cups, and when that is reduced a bit, the fresh halibut stock itself. For herbs, a pinch of about .5 grams saffron, oregano, parsley and chives. Then I let it simmer just long enough to pan-sear the bias cut halibut fillets to get a nice brown crust, which I then add to the simmering broth just to finish the job before placing in the bowl. By now those vegetables are to the tooth done, the broth a subtle gold from the saffron and beautiful against the white bowl. The fillets are just done and still crisp from the pan sear. But wait there’s more! While the simmer was going on, I refreshed the Dungeness crab stuffed piquillo peppers in the oven just to warm through and placed them on top of the stew, garnished with anchovy aioli and that bright red and yellow on top of the dish just pushed it over the top! Oh and sop that up with my crusty bread.

first course in March Dinner Show 2013

 

Roast lamb loin with wild rice lentil pilaf cake & Dessert of Apple soup, apple sorbet, walnut strudel & apple chip
Second course in March Dinner Show 2013

 

 

 

 


March Schedule

WHAT’S GOING ON?

There are so many good reasons to come see us in Cannon Beach. First we rarely get out so we need friends to come to us! Second and most importanly, the beach! It has been a fantastic February! Good weather and good fun to be had! Sun is warming my back through the window as I write this.

Too many events to list in our email blast. So keep reading if you want to know more about what’s going on.

MARCH DINNER SHOW MENU
SAVOR CANNON BEACH Wine & Food Festival and our SMALL PLATES WITH WINES
Raffle for a SOUS CHEF OF THE DAY & DINNER ($2 OR 3 FOR $5)
How one winemaker comes up with his BLENDS-see our blending class!
Wine maker Dinner with J. Scott Cellars
We’re going to Tuscany–again and again! Still have room for you.
EVOO on the Road again–going back to Red Ridge Farms–The Art of Risotto

Newsletter has more too.

March 1 & 2 New Menu for our DINNER SHOW
Pan-seared halibut with Dungeness crab stuffed piquillo pepper in a chorizo Navarre broth; chicory endive with vegetables and anchovy liquor; Bob’s crusty bread
Wine: David Hill Farmhouse Red

Lemon ricotta raviolis with bias cut asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted walnuts, tarragon and brown butter bread crumble topping
Wine: J. Scott 2010 Roussanne

Rack of lamb with garlic rosemary; wild and basmati rice pilaf with mint, pecans, and currants, aisins, lemon & spring onion
Wine:Punto Final 2010 Reserva Malbec

Golden Delicious unsweetened creme fraich bisque, apple sorbet; paired with walnut-strudel and five spice whipped cream
Caffee Umbria Mezzanote Decaf fresh-brewed Coffee

March 3, SUNDAY SUPPER 1:00-3:30 pm
Kale and feta filo bundles with hot leek & potato soup
Braised lamb shanks in wine olive stock; root cellar vegetables; and  creamy polenta with mint pesto

Roasted sweet potato and beet salad with frisee and arugula in light emulsified  mustard caper vinaigrette with smoked salmon and white-yellow sieved egg
Pickles, Olives, Crusty Bread & Homemade butter Bleu Cheese, sharp cheddar

Angel cake, warm ganache, fresh strawberries, stawberry rhubarb sorbet and peanut crumble

March 5 SKILLETS SUPPER 6:00-8:30 pm
Starter: Sauteed french green beans & artichokes with hazelnuts, spring onions; topped with buttery salt and pepper croutons

Entree: Beef skirt or hanger steak, wild mushroom saute,
herded buttermilk onion rings; 
Garlic mashed potatoes, pickled carrot & tomato fondue sorbet

Cheese course: Oregon bleu with apple flatbread & blackberry sauce

Dessert: Tiramisu and pistachio brittle

March 7, 8 SMALL PLATES WITH WINE 6:00-9:00 pm
Braised beef short rib ravioli with herbed butter-demi; house pickled chili’s; sautéed escarole with garlic, pistachio and balsamic currants
Wine:  Punto Final 2010 Reserva Malbec

Andalucían risotto cake and fennel crusted scallop; citrus-fennel slaw; orange-herb pesto and chive crème
Wine:  Li Veli Primitivo 2010 Orion

Albacore tuna-lemon garlic confit with baby greens, tomato puttanesca aioli, pickled shallots, and crostini
Wine:  Adelsheim 2009 Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Grilled vegetable tamale quenelle, on a chile arbol enchilada sauce, with avocado dried lime mousse and strawberry tequila sorbet
Wine:  J. Scott 2010 Petite Syrah

Tamarind sesame crusted lamb loin, cashew cream, green tomato chutney, mint micro green salad
Wine:  Tamarack Cellars Ciel du Cheval Reserve 07

Toasted coconut gelato, dark chocolate shot, assorted cookies (cardamom-pistachio biscotti, Nina’s pizzelles, bolitas de nuez), and bacon brittle
Wine:  Bernard Griffin 2010 Syrah Port



March 9, WINE BLENDING CLASS 12:30 pm-1:45 pm Tastings, of course
A recent blending collaboration between Jonathan Scott Oberlander, winemaker of J. Scott Cellars, and EVOO’s Chefs Bob Neroni and Lenore Emery resulted in our own new red wine that we are calling, CHEF’S BLEND. We invite you to learn more about the art and science behind creating a winning wine blend.  Join us for this unique SAVOR CANNON BEACH event,  as chefs and wine maker reinact the making of  CHEF’S BLEND. Tasting of individual varietals and the final blend are included, of course, as well as opportunity to buy in advance of its release, scheduled at this time for SPRING UNVEILING, May 4, 2013.

J. Scott Cellars is located in the Willamette Valley wine country and is currently producing Petite Sirah, Viognier, Roussanne, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, many of which have been featured wines in EVOO Dinner Shows.

March 9 SAVOR CANNON BEACH SMALL PLATES WITH WINES WINE MAKER DINNER WITH J. SCOTT CELLARS 7:00-10:30 pm
 This is a special wine maker dinner featuring J.Scott Cellars created to celabrate the Savor Cannon Beach FOOD & WINE festival. All plates tonight are created especially for the wines. Jonathan Oberlander, winemaker and our guest, will be at dinner to share his inspiration for each varietal.

In addition, EVOO is helping to raise funding for THE CHILDREN’S CENTER in CB. All shows this week, THU-SAT, March 7, 8, 9, 2013, will donate $20 per ticket to the CB Children’s Center, and each participant will automatically be added to our raffle drawing for SOUS CHEF OF THE DAY & DINNER . Raffle tickets are $2 each or 3 for $5 and all proceeds also go to the Children’s Center of CB.

Braised beef short rib ravioli with herbed butter-demi; house pickled chili’s; sautéed escarole with garlic, pistachio and balsamic currants
Wine:  J. Scott Grenache
Andalucían risotto cake and fennel crusted scallop; citrus-fennel slaw; orange-herb pesto and chive crème
Wine:  J. Scott Syrah
Albacore tuna-lemon garlic confit with baby greens, tomato puttanesca aioli, pickled shallots, and crostini
Wine:  J. Scott Viognier
Grilled vegetable tamale quenelle, on a chile arbol enchilada sauce, with avocado dried lime mousse and strawberry tequila sorbet
Wine:  J. Scott 2010 Petite Syrah
Tamarind sesame crusted lamb loin, cashew cream, green tomato chutney, mint micro green salad
Wine:  J. Scott Cabernet Sauvignon
Toasted coconut gelato, dark chocolate shot, assorted cookies (cardamom-pistachio biscotti, Nina’s pizzelles, bolitas de nuez), and bacon brittle
Wine:  Bernard Griffin 2010 Syrah Port

March 13 6:00-8:30 PM SKILLETS
March 15,16 6-9 PM DINNER SHOW
March 17 6:00-8:30 PM  SPECAIL SKILLETS
March 19, 20  6:00-8:30 PM SKILLETS SHOW
March 22, 23 6:00-9:00 PM DINNER SHOW

March 24, 1:00-4:30 PM at Red Ridge Farms & Oregon Olive Mill
THE ART OF RISOTTO
Once again EVOO takes to the road. We are delighted to be going back to this beautiful venue to teach a class in the ART OF RISOTTO.

We begin with an appetizer and a little splash of Durant Vineyards wine while you watch our demonstration before you begin to cook your own batch. Then in teams of two you make your own version of risotto, choosing the stock, seasonings, sofrito and finishes.The finished risottos will be tasted by all with light salad, Bob’s bread, Olive Mill EVOO, and more Durant wine. And of course we won’t send you home without a sweet taste!

March 27, 6-8:30 SKILLETS
March 29, 30, 6:00-9:00 DINNER SHOW

March 31 EASTER 1:00-3:30 pm
Our Easter Sunday Buffet reflects a bit of spring with dishes the whole family will like. Wines may be chosen at our shelf pricing if desired.
Lamb two ways: lamb lollipop and fried lame sausage with pan peppers and onions, mint-pine nut pesto
Salmon coulibiac torta – oven roasted wild king salmon, wild rice-bulgur salad, Bob’s creamed spinach wrapped in puff pastry
Winter green salad, orange blossom honey champagne vinaigrette dressing and caramelized cherries
Pickles, Olives, Crusty Bread & Homemade butter
Strawberry Angel roll, fresh strawberries, rhurbarb strawberry sorbet, almond crumble
Caffe Umbria Coffee  &   Steven Smith Teamaker Tea



SAVORING ITALY TOUR in TUSCANY

2013  EVOO TOURS  After our first visit years ago we became charmed by Italy.  The allure of the scenery, the history, the rich culture, especially the food and wine culture, and the famous Italian hospitality was so seductive that we  dreamed of sharing the experience with our customers. In 2010 an energetic enthusiastic vivacious woman knocked on our door at EVOO. Paola Roselli turns out to be a tour guide who studied languages and who has hosted many tours throughout Europe and especially her beloved Italy. She is now living with her American husband in Portland! We all hit it off and immediately began to put together our first EVOO tour to Tuscany.

In the beginning Paola asked us to describe the perfect tour. We told her we are not interested in seeing traditional tourist attractions. We wished she would concentrate on immersing our group into the artisan food and wine culture of the regions we visit. We wanted to see real people who are living out their passions, just like we do at EVOO.

We asked for a single villa or agriturismo from which to base for the week. Our day trips should include some cooking lessons, visits to artisan producers of local products from cheeses, pasta, salumi (Italian sausage/hard salami making) to wines, followed by tastings and sometimes lunch or dinner with our artisan hosts. And most importantly, our tours should be small–small enough to fit onto the smallest tour bus in Italy so we keep our numbers including us under 20 guests.

Paola has always delivered and is as involved during the trip as she was before the trip, when she visits many vendors and artisans to made plans for our group.

Now on our third year and fifth and sixth tours, we once again invite EVOO Encore Members and friends to join us for a culinary journey through Tuscany.  Each week is €2680 per person, paid in US dollars applying current exchange rate. This does not include airfare. Exact details are forthcoming to guests who inquire.

October 20-26  2013TUSCANY COOKING, EATING, WINE TASTING CULINARY TOUR

Etruscan castle in rural Tuscan where we call home for the week:

Travel the rural back roads with us to learn why Tuscany is world renowned for its food and food products. From exquisite olive oil to Florentine steaks, we explore the farms and the artisan producers who give us the real Tuscan  experience.

Off the tourist track, we stop at an olive mill near our villa  where we watch the pressing of the olives we have picked. You learn all  you need to know about olive oil! Shipping product home is available.

We  enjoy several artisan workshops in meat and meat products, cheese, gnocchi and Tuscan breads and bakery products. And there’s wine, of course; we visit three wine producers of Chianti and other wines of the area.  We visit the villages of Greve, Castellina, and Lucca.

The villa where we will call home for the week is a former castle located along an old Roman road  deep in the country side. Quiet, spacious grounds and vista views define its ambiance. The chef-owners of the property give us a cooking lesson in how to make many Tuscan favorites as well as to cook breakfast daily and dinners for opening night and for our farewell.

The rustic dining room at our Tuscan villa
Bob in a Greve cheese shop

 

 


DEMYSTIFYING RISOTTO (written for the Gazette in October 2012)

We just returned from our culinary immersion Italy tours, one leg in the Southern Campania, specifically in Sorrento, region, and one in the Northern Piedmont region where we tasted that frequent alternative to pasta—risotto. Early October was still very warm by our standards in both regions, but still clearly fall in Italy, like here, so seems the flavors of risotto we saw there are very suited to the fall flavors of our own area; pumpkin, squash, and kales and cabbages. Yes, cabbage in risotto was one of our favorites, but before we share that recipe, we want to describe how we like to make all risotto.

Over time risotto has developed somewhat of a mystique, surrounded by “truisms” and “hype” relating to how to cook it; one must do this and never do that to be “true” risotto. Seems it isn’t just Americans who are confounded, as we heard such contradictory rules from our Italian encounters, too.  So we have decided to extrapolate the techniques that work for many recipes and adapt for ingredients that are in season and available any time of the year. To that end let’s start by describing the characteristics that define what we are looking for in a well-made risotto. Note: we consider “risotto” a method, not just a recipe; it can be applied to other grains like barley and cracked wheat, but for today our focus is risotto made with rice.

“Risotto is creamy, smooth and rich even without the addition of butter or cheese; the grain texture is still “to the tooth” firm; it is thick enough for the spoon to stand up alone when finished; and the flavors of the individual ingredients are clearly discernible and fresh.”

The main components then for a risotto are (1) the rice (grain), (2) the sofrito, the Italian word for aromatics, always onions and, perhaps, garlic, and typically, the addition of wine, and (3) the stock; and, lastly, often but not required, (4) fatty, creamy additions like cheese, butter or olive oil, and cream.  

(1)    The rice itself must be short grain to achieve the creaminess without adding cream or cheese, accomplished by continuous or frequent stirring with a wooden or silicon spoon helping the rice to give up its starch resulting in creamy texture. Only short grain rice is said to have this quality, and many of us believe the best varietals come from Italy, right from the Vercelli region of Piedmont, where we visited a rice farm on our tour. There are a few different short grain rice varietals and the most well-known and easiest to find in the states is Arborio.  

(2)    The second prominent ingredient in risotto is the stock or liquid. We consider the stock carefully since it plays such an important role in the flavor outcome. It can easily overpower the rice and the rest of the ingredients if it is too strong, and likewise, it may get lost if not flavorful enough. Our guiding rule to choose homemade versus store purchased stock rests on how prominent the stock is in a dish. When the stock will dominant, we typically choose to make our own; or when the quantity of stock is small, we may choose a quality low sodium store bought stock.

Chicken stock is often the first choice for risotto; with our own vegetable stock a frequent second. In Italy, we saw vegetable stock, flavored with cured meat as an economical option. Seafood or fish stock is appropriate for a seafood risotto and we always prefer homemade there, too. Whether or not we roast the bones and meat for a stock or just simmer without roasting is another consideration. Roasted stocks produce a very much more pronounced flavors in the finish product, and may mask the more delicate flavors in the risotto. For example, when making a traditional Milanese saffron risotto, where a small amount of saffron is added to the stock, a roasted stock would be too strong, so we would opt for the lighter homemade unroasted version or to water down the roasted stock when making this dish from Milan.

(3)    The sofrito or the flavorful aromatic ingredients seem to always including onion; other aromatics such as garlic, sausage, and tomato are added in this step. In addition, the rice goes the pot here, followed by wine or other acidic liquid. If the ingredients in a sofrito cover the bottom of the pot before the rice is added, they can be removed while the rice is being warmed for about 3-7 minutes depending on amount.

When using watery vegetables ingredients such as cabbage, squash and pumpkin, they would typically not be part of the sofrito, but rather cooked separately and held to the side and then added to the pot when the rice is about half done, so as not to absorb too much stock or add too much of their own liquid watering down the stock.

We saw an exception that was almost bazaar to us at the rice farm where we watched the local  risotto cook (hired by the farm just for our visit) make a large batch of risotto, called Panissa, in a caldron over portable stove on the outdoor patio. The stock itself was a mixture of cabbage, beans, carrots and more onion. Then solid parts of this stock were also added to the rice with each new addition.  

So here are the A, B, C steps for making risotto; it is going to take about 25-30 minutes to make and your attention will be required for the duration. Having everything ready is a requisite for success.

  1. A.     In a wide heavy bottomed pan, sauté the onion and other sofrito ingredients until they are translucent. Add rice and continue to stir while rice begins to polish and a few become slightly translucent about 4-6 minutes. Add the wine or acid liquid, while stirring until it is evaporated dry. Usually the wine is a white, but red wine is used when the dish includes tomato and a meat. Also tomato juice or other acid fruit juice may be used.

  2. B.     It is time to move on from this wine step when all of it is absorbed and evaporated, at which point you start adding the hot stock a little at a time. Note: the stock needs to be hot in order to properly release the starch from the rice. Add stock, one half cup at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula, as a metal implement may break the rice kernels; as we perpetuate one of those risotto truisms.

    If adding a cooked vegetable, such as previously cooked pumpkin or squash, add it about 12 minutes or half way into the addition of the stock. Be sure it is hot when adding it. At this point continue to add stock until the rice is very creamy and almost fully cooked, but still al dente or firm to the tooth when tasted.

    You will want start to tasting for doneness about 20 minutes into the process. When the risotto is creamy and your spatula/spoon stands straight up by itself; the grain is “to the tooth,” or, still slightly firm in the center of the kernel, you are ready to adjust seasoning and/or add any finishing ingredients, step C; or, if not adding more ingredients, cover 2-3 minutes before serving.

  3. C.     The finish is known to increase the rice’s own creaminess as well as richness and flavor.  Cream, butter, and cheese are common ingredients used in this Italian called, “mantecatura,” step. Here are some popular combinations.
  • ·   Most common is to add grated Parmesan cheese or other hard cheese to plain risotto or even meaty wild mushroom flavored risottos;
  • ·   For seafood risottos, the fat of choice is rarely (Italians would say, never) hard cheese, and often no cheese, but some soft cheeses such as triple cream, soft mascarpone we think totally tasty for seafood risotto.
  • ·   A gorgonzola cheese is popular in risotto simply prepared with roasted walnuts, as gorgonzola wants to be the star in whatever it is in. It is also a prominent ingredient in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Today’s recipe, PANISSA RISOTTO, is a cured sausage risotto from Vercelli (Piedmont) area in Italy where most of the rice for Europe is grown. This recipe is made with a cabbage-bean cooked stock and is shared here with our best “reenactment” of the dish, as we didn’t received a written copy of the recipe from the farm.

  1. Ingredients for the sofrito:
    3 Tablespoons lard or EVOO
    1 onion, rough chopped
    4 ounces dry cured Italian salami, skin removed and broken up or whirled in food processor
    2 1 /2 cup Arborio rice
    4 ounces red wine
    2 ounces tomato sauce, strained
    6 cups, approximately, cooked stock (see recipe)
    Method: As described above, create the flavorful sofrito, cook the rice, add and evaporate the wine and tomato, then add the stock, stirring after each addition.
  2.  Ingredients for the stock: (have this ready before making the risotto, of course)
    1 gallon cold water
    1 large yellow onion, minced
    1 head green cabbage, rough chopped
    4 carrots, peeled, left whole so they can be removed
    3 cups cooked pinto beans; if canned, drained and rinsed well
    2 teaspoons sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Method: Combine all stock ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes. Vegetables and beans should be tender; remove carrots before adding stock to risotto along with vegetables and beans. (no carrots are in the served portion of the recipe; they are there for stock flavor)
  3. Ingredients for the Mantecatura, or finishing step:
    2 ounces unsalted butter
    1-2 cups freshly grated dry aged Grana Pandano cheese, if you can get it; or Parmigiano Reggiano, is a good second or first choice
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper only if needed for taste
    Method: Remove risotto from the heat; add butter and cheese and fold into the rice. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.

WELCOME TO SORRENTO, ITALY Sep 2012

We’re back from Italy, where we enjoyed our two tours with our EVOO guests. We had so many food and wine experience that we should have lots of material for our blogs going forward. For now it was easy to see that Bob would rather be on the other side of these activites because he did the dinner show last night, first in two weeks, and he was pumped! He belongs in the kichen at EVOO.

Our welcome dinner in Sorrento was our first night together. Almost everyone arrived at the hotel in time to freshen up, maybe even take a swim. They dressed up a litte and we went by bus to a local family restaurant, barely six months old. The entire family was involved. Mom and daughter were the chefs and dad and son, Giavanni, were in the diningroom. They have very high standards, ones that they won’t compromise, even for local customers. For example, they told us they once had pizza on the menu and a local family really liked it. When they returned it was no longer on the menu and the customers insisted. They owners told us that they will not make a static menu like so many other restaurants in the area, because they know that the quality of the dishes they serve depends upon the freshest and best ingredients that are available. Giavanni and Bob went to the fish market the next day, a routine that Giavanni makes daily. That way he has only the best.   Sound familiar? Bob won’t compromise on the quality of ingredients either!

More to come soon, Lenore

Bob and Lenore with the family at our first local family restaurant for our welcome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antipasti of fried mozzarella; croquette of lemon & potato; fried pumpkin fritter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lori, Michele and Nancy in fore ground enjoying apparitif at our welcome dinner, on their terrace overlooking the terraine of the Sorrento area.
Bob and Giovanni went to the fish market together the next day.

HOOKED ON FISH

As it appeared in the CB Gazette, 8/30/12

Running a cooking school on the coast, it is just a natural expectation that we do a fair amount of fish. And we do.

Let’s start at the beginning. Perfection is what is needed to convert a fish skeptic or to change the minds of those who “have had a bad fish experience.” We believe starting with our local varieties is the first step, since they are bound to be freshest. Then give fish the respect it deserves by keeping it as fresh as possible while holding or in preparation, and lastly, cooking “au point.” We think it is a special skill to cook fish to the point of perfection. The goal is “to the point” or perfectly done! In other words, the point at which both flavor and texture are just right!

So I will do my best to describe cooking a first class fillet using a couple different techniques.

To begin with, success is a bit easier when we start with a fatty fish with very flavorful fat, such as salmon. The catch from the pacific and in the Northwest waters is unique due to the water temperature and currents. We can usually count on more fat of the native species to allow more aggressive cooking preparations. And they may be served with highly flavored condiments such as chutneys and paired with more earthy wines, than a more delicate fish.

So before you decide what cooking method and accompaniments to put on the menu, find out exactly what is available. Shop! It is amazing how quickly the catch of the day turns over. The waters are being regulated and everything isn’t always available when you need it. If it is, ask questions to learn when it was caught and/or if previously frozen. Take along a way to bring home your choice from the grocery. You must know that fish and seafood demand proper handling once they are caught. The fishers do their job, and so do the grocers. So why not take along an insulated pack to carry your purchase home in. Every minute left in temperatures above 32˚F diminishes quality. Once home, continue the 32˚F atmosphere by packing in ice while holding in the fridge. Again, put over ice while you work in preparation at room temperature, and finally, when marinating or holding for later cooking, keep ice nearby to help lower the refrigerator’s average temp, typically, 38˚F.

If you choose salmon, you might ask for a block cut when it is caught prior to taking the long journey back to their birthplace to spawn. You see they eat ravenously to build fat. This will enable them to make the long journey. They get much leaner closer to their destination.  By catching them just before they enter the river, you can cut them straight down the middle of each side, then into blocks of 4-6 ounces, and know that both the belly and back pieces will taste and cook the same.

These fish are prime for the two step method of cooking. We start by skinning the fish or not, but season the skin side generously with salt, pepper and coriander (my personal favorite for salmon). The first step is to get a heavy bottom skillet up to temperature, as high as you can before adding the cooking oil. Then add a little grape seed oil, our pick for the qualities of high smoke point, neutral flavor, and its healthy benefit of omega 3’s. Fish goes in as the oil lightly shimmers, placing one at the handle of the pan and going clockwise around the pan until filled but fish is not touching each other. This way you know what went in first second, third, etc.

Don’t try to move or manipulate the fillets for the first 30-50 seconds. Give the fish a chance to crust up on the cooking side. All food is pretty wet and when placed into a hot pan, it will stick until it is crusty and the water on the surface has evaporated. Then it will release itself allowing you to remove it without tearing the flesh. Out of the pan, placing it crispy side up on a waiting cooking sheet, and you are ready for the second cook-step.  Using the oven actually helps you manage the process as you strive to cook it to “the point.” You now have a little window of time to finish cooking other menu items. Clearly to cook fish properly, you need to focus only on the fish; no distractions. Just before needed then, place the pan of fish into a 400˚- 450˚ F oven, for about 3-5 minutes. For the record, you will know after doing this a few times with the same species and same size fillet, your own pans and your oven, just how long it will take. It is prudent to set your timer lower than you think it will take; you can always add on. The goal, of course, is to pull the fish a little before it reaches “the point,” so that you can allow it to continue to cook, but not over-cook, on the serving plate.

So what to look for in a perfectly cooked fillet? Along with timing and temping, I go by feel. The center of the fish will respond to my pressure with a little push back, while pinching the sides and thinner edges, it will begin to break along the natural layers of the muscle. The temperature for done fish is about 140-145˚F. I would pull it before that, hoping for a good 60-90 seconds of further cooking after I pull from the oven. A couple signs of going past this point are the appearance of a white milky secretion and a fishy smell. This is the protein in the fish rising to the surface as it gets too hot. Pull it out before this point whenever possible. Over cooking is one sure fire way to achieve a fishy result. We tend to believe fish that smells fishy is old, but it could just be overcooked.

Planking is a traditional Northwest-style of cooking fish, utilizing a variety of aromatic woods, usually cedar, alder or fruit wood. These are untreated pieces of hard woods, cut into any shape that will support the size of the item to be cooked. Most cooks recommend soaking the planks for approximately 30 minutes or longer in water so that the wood absorbs enough water to inhibit the plank from catching fire, while on the outdoor grill over direct flames. Water soaked wood will smoke rather than catch fire. We don’t soak planks for those 4-6 ounce fillets we cook in our oven, because they won’t be in the oven long enough to catch fire, and the wood aromatics are greater with dry wood. We generally brush a little cooking oil on the wood before placing the fish on top and season with sea salt, ground coriander and other aromatics.

For grilling outdoors, place the water soaked plank with fish directly on the preheated grill and cover. Check after 10 minutes. The fish should be opaque throughout before removing. Use the same touch and visual as before.

As I said, because the wood plank is water soaked before cooking it generates a small amount of smoke that imparts a subtle but rich flavor, that with the fat from the fish, gives a great mouth feel. You can see why this might create a nice foundation for introducing other flavors and interesting condiments such as salsas, chutneys, not to mention full bodied wines. We have enjoyed other planked creations using dark meat chicken or turkey, lamb and pork. Always the key to success is working with foods that have a fatty background to support the smoke-flavor.

Another popular Northwest fish preparation is to brine and smoke the fish. We do this then finish in the oven. The outcome is a smokier flavor than the planking method gives, and more caramelization from the sweet soy brine I use. I cannot describe this process without recalling the origin of the recipe and the first time I did this.

One summer I took a job in Alaska at a fishing lodge. It was at a high end fishing experience for the likes of the owner of Cabela’s sporting goods stores, who was there. The lodge itself was minimal and rustic! It was located on the Alagnak River, where one has to float plane in and out. I should have known right away I was in for a summer adventure that I would be talking about for a long time, when I could only call Lenore from a two-way radio phone, before cell phones and no wires. At the time, I also taught at North Community College in Seattle, and Sheldon, one of my students, former lumberjack retraining to be a chef, decided to come along to help. And turns out good for me that he did! Sheldon’s presence helped me get past some bumpy times when the guests and staffers started razing me and my way too citified demeanor for the rugged conditions of the lodge and tundra. After all, Sheldon, a 6’6’ native of Alaska, could not only speak the “language” of the area, he also gave anyone pause just by his presence.

So Sheldon and I fell into a routine of cooking starting around 4 in the morning after a night in our sleeping bags on a slab of cedar planks—in our guest rooms. It was never dark so I just plain lost track of time, but had to crank up the propane stove early enough to have scones and coffee cakes for breakfast. In no time, the guests were grooving on the food. So my confidence in my safety rose. Often we would meet the guests for their lunch break at the river’s edge and prepared fresh caught fish over the open fires, while the guides watched for bear with riffles.

Like the bears, I was in salmon heaven! So many in fact, you could almost reach in the river and pull one out with your bare hands, just like the bears. And so much fish that we put the smoke house to work on a daily basis. Sheldon shared his family recipe for brining then smoking the fish. It was very good. The way I like smoked fish. Not so strong that you don’t know what species of fish you started with, so smoky that smoke is all you taste. His recipe had the salmon in the brine about an hour before it was smoked slowly in the smokehouse. After a while I notice he would disappear every afternoon. I wondered if he was doing something he wanted to keep secret, so I followed him. There he was in the smokehouse with his tongue in the fish! I called out, “Sheldon, what are you doing?”

Then, quite like this gentle giant of a man, he said, “You know, Bob, we sense salt on the tip of our tongue and I was just trying to gauge whether the fish had enough salt yet before I take it out of the brine.” This was the way he had always done it, and his dad and grandfather before him. I asked if he thought he might “time it,” so we didn’t have to put our tongue on it, you know in favor of public food safety? We did and it was exactly 70 minutes in the brine.

That summer gave me the recipe I still use, with time in the brine only 70 minutes. But without a smoke house, I learned that I could smoke, indoors, top of the stove, (smoke detectors disabled for a while), and get the exact smokiness needed in just 4 minutes. I create a homemade smoker using dry hard wood chips in the bottom of a disposable foil pan, cover the chips with a cooking grate, place the fish on the grate, cover the pan with foil and place over high heat. When it starts smoking, time 2 minutes; turn off heat, time 2 more minutes. Remove to the back yard and take off foil lid. That is all the smoke needed to impart smoke without destroying the fresh salmon flavor. The fish is placed uncovered in the fridge for about an hour before I cook it, so that the wood residue has a chance to dissipate. You will see a coating of brown sticky residue on the foil lid, which I believe to be on the fish as well, so I let it rest uncovered to air it out before cooking and locking in the bitter wood residue.

Again, I like to use the stove top and oven method to finish the cooking. I sear one side of the smoked salmon in a hot sauté pan with a little grape seed oil. The caramelization forms quickly because of the sugar and soy in the brine. Into a 400˚F oven for about 4 minutes for 4 ounce fillet and it is cooked to perfection! I can almost taste it now.

Here is the recipe for brining salmon from that summer adventure in the Alaskan tundra so many years ago.

BRINE FOR SALMON TO BE SMOKED
1 quarts water
8 ounces soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar (light)
2 tablespoons sea salt
4 – 6 each six ounce portions of salmon fillets, block cut, bones removed

Method: Combine water, soy, sugar and salt in zip locking baggie. Mix to dissolve. Place salmon fillets into brine and close top of back, carefully removing air. Place onto pan of ice and refrigerate 70 minutes, no more, no less. Remove fish from brine and pat dry.

To Cold-Smoke:
1-2 cups dry hard wood chips (cherry, hickory, apple, etc)
Salt, pepper, coriander–to taste

Method: Prepare smoker pan using desired dry wood chips on bottom under cooking rack. Place salmon onto rack. Place over heated outdoor grill, or on high heat indoors. When chips begin to smoke, cover pan tightly and start timing for 2 minutes. Turn off heat–walk outdoors if not already outside, and time for 2 additional minutes before removing cover. Remove salmon and place onto clean plate and refrigerate uncovered until needed, or at least for 30 minutes to allow bitter wood resins to dissipate.
To cook:
Pan-sear in pre-heated fry pan with small amount of grape seed oil or other high smoke point oil. Over high heat, add salmon for about 2 minutes or until starts to caramelize and lifts out of pan without tearing. Place seared side up on cookie sheet and bake in 400ºF -425 ºF oven for 4-7 minutes. Always check in 4–looking for the salmon to be about 140ºF in the center and starting to flake when sides are lightly pinched together. Fish will continue to “carry-over cook” a few more degrees. Season if needed and serve.

Suggested serving accompaniments: Bob’s Blackberry Ketchup; Stone fruit chutney
Suggested wines: Capitello Sauvignon Blanc, Durant Vineyard Pinot Noir Rose, J. Scott Petite Syrah, Sineann Abondante.


SUMMER COOKING

As it appeared in CB Gazette  8-2-12

Today I am reminded why I love the business I am in so much. I have chosen to be a cook for my life’s work and that never sounds as good to me as it does in the summer. Suddenly I think of my craft as “the art of cooking” and my medium dramatically rich with colorful, full flavored abundant varieties of plant based foods. Markets are now so full of the best examples of the plant world that it is almost frustrating that I must limit my urge to make everything in sight. The good news is there will be another market next week.

So this time I am writing about some of the tastiest recipes I make with vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruits. Lenore and I have dedicated the last eight years to teaching the craft of cooking, and we have developed guidelines for the recipes we make in our dinner shows. First our recipes must be attainable to every cook. We limit our use of exotic and hard to find ingredients. We pretty much stick to the belief that simply prepared ingredients that are chosen close to home and seasonally are going to propel the end result without trying very hard. And when we combine ingredients our mantra guide is “what grows together goes together.” That alone gives us so many successful combinations.

The summer seems to start at our place with cherry tomato season. They are the first tomatoes to hit the scene and we incorporate them into our menus early. After all, we have waited a long time for fresh tomatoes as we stick to our promise to eat them in our local season.  One recipe we have served this month gives us lots to talk about in our classes. It is what we call SUMMER RATATOUILLE.

To the French I suppose it is just ratatouille, a vegetable stew, but adding the word summer changes it for me. We don’t stew it at all. When we roast the vegetables and we use only fresh tomatoes, it is a new experience. In addition I like to use Japanese eggplant instead of the Italian globe eggplant because its prep is so much easier and the results, creamy and sweet. There’s no need to peel salt or drain out the bitterness. Just wash, cut, and cook Japanese eggplant. Keeping it simple, we also add roasted zucchini and red peppers. Then when the tomato skins have just blistered and started to brown, we blend the roasted veggies all together, juice and all. Before we even get the mixture on the plate, the natural pectin seems to go to work and thicken the juice into a sauce that lightly coats a spoon. This recipe makes a great topping for pasta, gnocchi and polenta. We have also used it to top zucchini “spaghetti” made by stripping zucchini into long spaghetti like pieces and just giving them a quick dunk into very salty water before draining and plating for the base of this ratatouille sauce.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The recipe isn’t finished. Let’s talk about the garlic. It’s no secret I use a lot of garlic. I am Italian, after all. But I think in the beginning of my relationship with my wife I almost blew it by over using the garlic. You see my family used garlic by the head not the clove. When I would make a salad for Lenore and me in those days, I would use 3-5 cloves (very modest, I thought) in the dressing for the two of us. She was polite at first, but soon she volunteered to make the salads, and now she tells me she did so in self-defense. A half clove was her limit in those days, she said. Today she might be up to two cloves in a salad for two people, she explained. Anyway I digress. We both think of garlic as a good addition to our recipes. Not only is it healthful; like Lenore says it has every “anti” reason in the nutrition book to include it in our meals; (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, etc.).

Garlic at EVOO is both a vegetable and a seasoning. For example we add a whole head of sliced garlic per bunch of broccoli for a great combo, (see full recipe below) and by the time it is on the plate it is very mellow and no sting is left in the cloves. In contrast, when we want the sharp taste and heat of the garlic, we use it minced or pasted and typically add it at the end of the cooking.  You might say then, the smaller the chop the more pungent garlic is. And, of course, the longer the cook, the less strong it is.

One more tip, maybe an idiosyncrasy of mine, is to remove the sprout of the garlic clove. If when split open we can see the sprout, green or white, we remove it. It is because the sprout may be the bitterness that some people find offensive; and it may be the source of the sensitivity to garlic that people say they have. You know, when it repeats on you long after the meal?  We don’t know for a fact that is true but we practice the removal of sprouts in garlic and it seems to work for us.

This of course means that oven roasting whole heads of garlic is “out” in our kitchen. Our version of roasted garlic is done on the stove top. Just peel and split the cloves of about 3 heads garlic, remove the sprouts, place in a small pot;  cover with EVOO, then slowly tenderized and slightly caramelize over low heat about 20-30 minutes, yielding the same tenderness and sweet flavor of the traditional roasted whole heads of garlic. We add roasted garlic and its oil made this way to the summer ratatouille and we finish with a little fresh minced garlic, too.

So to sum up I really enjoy cooking with plant ingredients!  I enjoy eating plant based, too, but I don’t want to sound like I don’t like animal foods. I do. How dull would cooking be without eggs, for example? It is just that meat in general can be one dimensional; vegetables fruits and grains make a big difference when they hold a strong position on the plate alongside animal foods. Here are a few vegetable recipes that have been popular for us.

Summer Ratatouille

Preparing the vegetables:
EVOO as needed
2 large Japanese eggplant, (no need to peel or salt) 1 inch diced
1 red or green pepper, 1 inch dice
1 zucchini, 1 inch diced
5-8 cloves garlic, sliced, roasted with the tomatoes
4 cups cherry tomatoes, left whole
To finish:
½ to 1 clove garlic, minced or pasted
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 – 5 sprigs fresh Greek oregano, stems removed
1/2 cup basil, fresh, chiffonade
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Add sea salt, pepper and coriander to taste
more EVOO to taste if needed

Method:

Prepare vegetables by coating with EVOO and seasoning with salt, pepper, coriander and place onto separate shallow baking pans.  Place into 400 °F oven using convection if you have it. Roast uncovered for 10-15 minutes, depending on vegetable. Remove from oven. Place vegetables together in a bowl and lightly toss to mix.  Add minced garlic, parsley, and oregano. Adjust seasoning. Add basil chiffonade on top for garnish.  Serve hot over fried polenta, gnocchi, or top pizza or pasta.

Broccoli Garlic Sauté

1 bunch broccoli
1 head garlic
EVOO, as needed
1/4-1/2 cup roasted chicken stock (or water)
1/3 cup dry aged parmesan reggiano, fine
Season to taste with salt and coriander

Method:

Prepare broccoli by removing florets from stems. Boil a pot of water and drop in the whole unpeeled stems for about 3-4 minutes to blanch. Remove and shock in a bowl of ice water until easy to handle. Carefully peel off their tough outer layer; this should be easier than peeling the raw stem. Slice into smaller pieces on a bias. Set aside.
Continue blanching the broccoli florets 1-2 minutes and shock /cool in bowl of ice water. Remove and set aside.
Prepare whole head of garlic. Split each clove, peel and remove sprout; slice each into 2-3 pieces. At service, place wide bottom pan on high heat. Add EVOO and immediately add garlic; keep moving it to prevent browning. Add broccoli stems and roasted chicken stock; cook till garlic is tender and stems are heated through. Lastly add florets and cook to just to heat. Pour onto heated platter and coat with good aged parmesan reggiano cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Bulgur, Beet & Bleu Salad with walnuts and preserved lemon

To prepare the bulgur:
1 cup toasted cracked wheat (we use Bob’s Red Mill)
2 cups water
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Bob’s Flavors of Middle East spice blend (purchase or see recipe)
Salt to taste
To finish the salad:
1 cup fresh raw beets, julienne slice
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
1-2 tablespoon preserved lemon, rinsed and minced (optional)
2-4 tablespoons EVOO, as desired
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese for garnish

Method:

Toast bulgur /cracked wheat in dry hot pan until you smell its nuttiness. Add the water, a little salt and spice and bring up to boil over high heat. When it boils, cover and shut off heat. Let pot stand for15-25 minutes. Before making this salad cool bulgur completely by spreading out onto cookie sheet and placing into refrigerator, uncovered, until it drops to 40°F or less. To finish, toss bulgur with beets, preserved lemon, mint, parsley and chive. Garnish with crumbled bleu cheese.

 


AUGUST DINNER SHOW takes unusual twists and turns

Just served three nights of the new August dinner show menu and to our surprise our guests are getting it. Couldn’t be more of a mixed blend of concepts and flavors but in the end our guests are encouraging us to continue the madness.

We start with a curry lemon marinated piece of fresh seared / oven finished,  pacific halibut caught just few miles off Cannon Beach shore; with that some Umbrian lentils (but a Northwest lentil works too, if you can get the grade A’s even better). These lentils with Tilda basmati rice from India made pilaf style with aromatics and herbs and toasted almonds. On this plate is a stack of minted mango chutney that I made a few days earlier to give time for the flavors to meld and we serve a creamy pineapple juice pan sauce over the fish. So there you see the blend of far and near to create this easy to duplicate course.

We could align it to the Northwest a bit more using rice a bit closer to home (almost every continent grows rice). Lenore would always prefer brown rice, but for me, it is Tilda basmati all the way.  As I said before we can certainly find a NW lentil, knowing that our farms export out the best grade A, and so what I usually can get are not as perfect as the Italian Umbrian. I like the lentils that hold their shape and don’t become mush. We could bring the chutney closer to home, too, by using fresh peaches  instead of the mango; NW peaches are in season right now.  The fish could be mahi mahi from Hawaii to match the mango as well as bringing the pineapple cream sauce in line.

I’ve never been opposed to blending concepts, and it seems, according to Lenore that it is a trend with many chefs turning to blending  ethnicities on a plate. Jury is still out but since I’ve been doing it awhile now, I guess it is less of a trend and more my  style. My Italian roots cannot help but show up even when I am trying to cook a full on Northwest menu, or Thia or Mexican concept. So looks like there will be more of the same before they hall me away.

But wait, I haven’t even finished describing the rest of the meal. Second course is a stacked tostado with the usual suspects (guak, salsa, and some crumbly fresh cheese) and topped with my citrus braised pork belly.

The final course is a quick charred tenderloin steak coated with flavors of Spain spices served with a tamale stuffed poblano peppers . That sounds compatible, but here’s the finish you might not be expecting. On a wedge of fresh seedless watermelon I am putting lime, EVOO, jalapeno, feta cheese, and red onion; topping with cumin whipped cream and strawberry tequila sorbet, dotted with crunchy sea salt flakes.

See what I mean? I told Lenore I am going to tie the whole dish together tonight by adding a quick grilled veg medley after I grill the steaks so I don’t waist those meat flavors left on my flattop (Mongolian style ) grill. The veg should pick up the spice and beef flavors. I think they will compliment both the steak and watermelon.

This morning, I received a text from a frequent flyer at EVOO who said dinner last night was the  bomb!  Thanks, Lisa, but you may not want to encourage too much of this type flavor explosion. Seriously I couldn’t be happier that after eight years at EVOO I am being trusted with whatever goes onto the plate.   No worries, though, I plan to continue  listening to our guests.


Lenore just got back from WASH DC FANCY FOOD SHOW

In Search of Fancy Foods

Having a small corner of our store dedicated to foods like imported olives and oils, vinegars made with local honey and berries and a few of the many specialty salts, was the impetus to send Lenore to the FANCY FOOD SHOW, summer version. Of course the fact that it was located in Washington DC, where we met almost twenty-six years ago, solidified the idea for Lenore. She said she felt guilty leaving town when our season here would just be kicking in, but in the end, seeing a good friend who just had her first child helped ease the guilt. “After all, he (baby, Seth) would be in school before you know it and I would have missed it,” she said.

Summer version of the show was to be smaller than the winter, but some show is better than no show, so off she went. It was at the Washington Convention Center, on all levels—took her and another friend, Alice, three days to do it justice. First day they went was a Sunday and the search for parking was the first challenge, even with the parking goddess, Alice, in the car. Seems many churches are in the same area and to accommodate their parking, they are allowed to park perpendicular to the curb. It really seemed to help, but still nothing was available. The convention center itself must have planned for the Metro (rail) to be the exclusive mode of transportation; it seems there is no convention center parking at all. They finally found the Radisson Hotel a short distance away that had plenty of parking.

Equipped with a list of what we want to carry or expand in our store, Lenore and Alice started on the first level. Luckily there was a large show case display of all the products that had won this year’s accolades for most innovative and creative. Among them a retail pack for fennel pollen, at the top of Lenore’s list. They tell me they spent the next two days trying to find this product on the grand floor of the show. So I soon got the picture that this smaller version of the show was bigger than they needed.

There was another motivation for this venture for me. It was for Lenore to scope out how to become a fancy food exhibitor. We do have some nice spice blends and soon to have more, and we are thinking big. It certainly would be great to be on the exhibitor side of the aisle at these shows. So I waited anxiously for her report.

When Lenore arrived home she announced that the “box” of samples and pamphlets she had collected over three days would not arrive until the next Thursday. As I am writing this now I am going off of her memory.

Seems Lenore finally found the location of the fennel pollen; a small display with other vendors who also “forage” for their products. Beautiful! I am intrigued. Lenore actually met the founder of the line of products called Wineforest Wild Foods, who is also the author of a book I was familiar with, “The Wild Table” by Connie Green. Who is known in California as the foraging goddess. The forward of the book is written by a personal favorite chef of ours, Thomas Keller.  Green is now taking some of her wild finds to market for those of us too busy to go foraging. Look for her products to sit on one of our shelves soon.

We really enjoy filling our shelves with local products so when we find some that tastes good and are produced in the USA, we are very inclined to add them to our shelves. A new product of interest is the organic estate grown olive oil from ENZO out of California. It is made in the Italian tradition of four generations of farmers, and it fits the very smooth buttery flavor description that Lenore says will round out our many other EVOO choices in the shop.

We have been looking for some specialty Mexican products to carry, both for local Hispanic families and for the cooks who enjoy making authentic Mexican recipes that have become so popular in our American mainstream cooking. The fancy food show had two large aisles of Mexican products, some of which we hope to carry as long as our in-house expert agrees. That would be Florencio Lopez, our cook and server who enjoys teaching us his native cuisine.

Of course, we simply cannot compete with the big boys, so a perpetual goal of ours has been to find tasty and good products that have not yet hit the shelves at big box stores. Luckily there was an aisle dedicated to new vendors—first timers who are at the beginning of this food manufacturing journey. Lenore found really good cookies with exotic flavors that would be perfect to add to the selections we carry for beach picnics. In addition, there were s’more options, one of which, we will buy—especially since they are made by a company in Seattle. Imagine up-classing the s’more with a handmade marshmallow stuffed with nuts and caramel! Put that between your graham crackers!

My nightly phone calls from Lenore left me with my mouth watering. She seemed to taste everything in sight. She didn’t just taste what was on the list, for example, but she spent some time explaining why she needed to taste the many lines of chocolates designed to pair with wines.  She stopped at a chocolate vendor whose display was designed to demonstrate how soil and the resulting cocoa bean were related. Alice, she said, was very good at identifying the flavors and even where in the world they had been grown. Just like wine, she said.

On the second day of the show Lenore called with the answer to two questions we are asked frequently. The first discussion occurred at a French truffle vendor’s booth. A gentleman took time to expound on the virtue of truffle oil even though it is a chemically induce product and not the real thing, a controversy we hear mentioned frequently on cooking shows as well as in cooking periodicals. Seems to the French it is simply a matter of what is available. When truffles are fresh, but of course slices of the real thing are preferred, but when out of season, infused oil helps bridge the gap. Simply, Lenore said, the issue doesn’t seem exist for the French, who developed the craving for truffles very early in culinary history. And besides if we didn’t use infusion to extend the truffle flavors past their season, then we would miss the product she described as “pretty amazzzing.” Truffle flavored cashew nuts! I can hardly wait to get those into the store.

The second insight Lenore said was from a Canadian maple syrup vendor. Why do we in the USA grade maple syrup? And why do most consumers prefer grade B to grade A? The simple answer here was that in Canada, they don’t grade the syrup, because grading implies quality. The USA grade A stayed in the tree longer and was harvested later than grade B. The Canadian display showing vials of syrups from pure clear in color to very dark brown conveyed this well, because the later the syrup was harvested the darker it became. He also said Canada and the US are in dialog about changing the grading system so as not to portray one better than the other, just longer in the tree, which determines flavor but doesn’t become necessarily better. This allows the consumer to pick by their personal taste preferences.

Another reason Lenore was so captured by the Canadian maple syrup display was that they were touting the discovery of four new antioxidants, often considered the most powerful food defense we know to fight diseases. At least for now, these new ones are found exclusively in pure maple syrup, A nutrition angle is always good for adding ingredients to our pantry, especially when the pure stuff tastes so much  better than the imitation.

Let me sum it up with some specialty “fancy” food trends. Look for more designer cookies, specifically brownie “crackers,” and others a little more sophisticated “SLIMS” that were made from traditional loaf cakes like banana bread, cut thinly and twice baked and packaged like a biscotti. Then there were cookie “chips,” a sweet version of the salted snacks with the same texture that also challenges us to “eat just one.” Famous southern recipes for sauces are now packaged for upscale convenience. For example, a popular southern treat, banana pudding sauce, first made famous by vanilla wafers, is now in ready to use format.  The manufacturer now has a spinoff product made by adding a little bourbon to the pudding for a banana-bourbon pudding shooter? Said shooters also are conveniently prepackaged for any buyer over 21.

More innovative thirst quenching drinks, such as the Q-tonic and Q-Kola, have been revamped with clean ingredients that one can pronounce and with nothing artificial added. Of course, any product with clever marketing seemed to catch Lenore’s attention, too. Like one cereal product that was first designed as a shelf stable product loaded with healthy stuff especially slow burning chia seeds and hemp hearts. This was developed first for emergency food kits to use following natural disasters such as tornadoes (and tsunamis, maybe.) After test marketing in grocery stores the founder of the product named it for the most frequent comment taste-testers made, “Holy crap, this is good!” Thus its name, HOLY CRAP. Gets my attention, too.

 

A green disposable tasting spoon used by most vendors at the show won an award for innovation.We might be carrying this organic estate grown olive oil because of its buttery flavor.

 

 

Someday our private label spices might be exhibited at the Fancy Food Show
Is it good marketing if it catches your attention by the name? Maybe
Show case of many different fancy sweet dairy products, a definite trend at the show
Fresh food is always considered "fancy"
tasty well preserved dehydrated tomatoes and peppers from Turkey
Food trucks are a trend that some exhibitors took full advantage to get our attention at there display

THE GREEN PROJECT–volumn 3

This experiment has led to some deep musings (is that an oxymoron?):

  1. You may be able to teach an old dog new tricks. But it’s really hard to teach a tired dog new tricks!
  2. We modern women may ‘have it all,’ but we’re also really tired doing it all, and may not be doing it all really well!

Like many women today, I have the superwoman complex – I must have it all and do it all – marriage, kids, career, hobbies and, of course, enlightenment and improvement in all possible areas. Thus this experiment – to introduce my family to local, seasonal, organically grown produce, good for our bodies and our planet. But in the process, I have learned that my culinary skills are very, very limited! I know how to cook what I grew up eating, and I’m really good at the semi-homemade approach to cooking using some prepared foods and some fresh. But when it comes to trying new ingredients and cooking from scratch, I am doubly challenged because there are so many techniques I’m not very familiar with. And when you have young kids you’re trying to feed and get into bed after you get off work and before their 8:00 bed time, trying to teach yourself new recipes and  new techniques can cause a Type-A, first-born, perfectionist Super Woman like myself to nearly go catatonic.

 

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Which leaves me scratching my head and asking a lot of questions: What is the new model going to be with moms not staying at home to slow cook all day and gradually passing their skills on to the next generation of little women? More dads are staying home with the kids, but are they doing the slow-food-from-scratch thing which they’ll then pass on? Probably not. And with so little time and energy on my hands, when do I teach my kids the little bit that I know? And when do I learn more myself? I am lucky enough to observe Bob and Lenore in action throughout my work day, but that’s while running the store and manning the reservation line. So my learning is taking placing very slowly.

 

The only conclusion I have to come to is that I have to “lighten up,” as my mother told me often in my youth. When I get my CSA basket, rather than pressuring myself to do something new and different every night, I may have to deem one night a week New Recipe Night and get in the kitchen early armed with a recipe from Bob and Lenore’s cookbook which I can faithfully follow rather than rushing and improvising.

 

Here’s what has most recently appeared on the Bonn table with ingredients from the CSA basket:

  • Fried ham, steamed broccoli, Bob’s handmade papparadelle noodles drizzled with basil-infused olive oil and garnished with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese
  • Turkey-spinach burgers and potato hash with onions and carrots
  • Pan fried pork chops, apple-beet slaw, fried rice with onions, carrots and bok choy
  • Bratwurst, mixed greens salad, lightly sautéed zucchini and mushrooms finished with Bob’s Tomato Jam
  • Italian turkey meatballs, boiled cabbage, potatoes and carrots with onions and garlic shoots

 

The biggest hit was, of course, the burgers and hash. The kids were intrigued by the beets, and we talked about how beet juice has been used as a natural coloring agent throughout the ages. Unfortunately, these beets were small and young and not quite as sweet as others I’ve had, so they didn’t go over well. I wonder if they’d like those pickled beets from a can I hated as a kid?! The boiled potatoes and carrots would have been well-received had I not included the cabbage. I chopped it up real fine so they couldn’t avoid which just made them mad! I do have a wee bit of knowledge and saved the stock from the boiled vegetables for another night to use when cooking rice.

 

And that brings me to the end of another week in the life of the Green Project. I welcome your comments on our Facebook page.


THE GREEN PROJECT-volume 2

When a CSA basket arrives with some recognizable ingredients like broccoli and sugar snap peas, I breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, something my kids will eat without a fuss, though it doesn’t exactly accomplish the goal of this experiment. When I arrive home at the end of a long work week, to my kids’ daily tribal chant, “Hungry – feed me – hungry feed – me” I toss them the bag of peas to munch on, then get started on dinner. I create a one-dish meal I’ve dubbed Pizza-roni: Italian sausage, elbow macaroni, tomatoes and lots of cheese. To that I add some chopped spinach from the CSA basket and we’re good to go. I set aside some of the spinach leaves, which are quite large, and set them on the dinner table to use as wraps. I introduce the concept of stuffing the leaves with the Pizza-roni as a filling hoping the kids will think this is “fun” and thus consume some more green goodness. But alas, they do not go for it. I do not press the issue. They’ve gotten a good dose of green already.

 

My next endeavor is a cannellini bean soup. Chicken broth, cannellini beans, elbow macaroni, onions, tomatoes and a bunch of leafy greens thrown in at the end – chard, kale, black kale (a.k.a. Tuscan kale) and some spinach. It’s an easy way to get some greens into the family’s tummies since they like beans (although the boys did try, unsuccessfully to get spoonfuls of soup with no greens). My only misstep was not realizing how tender cannelini beans are and how little cook time they require! They are a bit on the soft side, but luckily no one complains!

 

With each CSA basket comes a nice big bag of mixed salad greens, a welcome change from green salads made strictly with Romaine lettuce. The kids are afraid of the purple leaves and feathery sprigs whose names I don’t even know. But they soldier on. I also use this opportunity to try to get two of my Ranch-dressing addicted kiddos to appreciate a simple dressing of blood orange olive oil, sea salt and coriander. Jacob is not having it! He is a Ranch man all the way! But little Joe is working is way towards a sophisticated palate and enjoys it.

 

With the most recent basket I decide to tackle another first for me: cole slaw. I am not at all a fan of traditional slaw as one eats alongside fried chicken, with it’s sopping mayonnaise and harsh vinegar bite. But Bob schools me on how to make a slaw from the basket ingredients – garlic shoots, sweet onions, green cabbage, carrots and black kale. I try my hand at doing a “chiffonade” which I realize I don’t have a clue how do to do. So I wing it then throw in a spoonful of mayo, a splash of honey vinegar and a sprinkle of salt. I really like it. But not one other person at the dinner table does. I’m starting to think my family is a hopeless cause!

 

Well, next on the menu are turkey burgers (will lightning strike twice?) and potato hash. And maybe I’ll get brave again and try out some more bok choy, radishes and turnips. I keep giving them to Bob and Lenore after the first unsuccessful go around, but really, we’ve got to give them another chance!

Till next time, Shanda


THE GREEN PROJECT: volume 1

Arugula greens and flower salad
Pan fried baby bok choy

 

 

 

 

 

first time tasting radish and turnips-so I thought I best keep it simple

When Bob and Lenore decided to offer EVOO as a drop-off point for the weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) vegetable baskets from R-evolution Gardens, they also thought it would be fun to do a little experiment with me, their Sales Manager, who has had zero formal culinary training. Like many a working Mom, I come home to kids screaming, “What’s for dinner?” or “When will dinner be ready?” and I have to scramble together a quick meal that consists of the holy trinity of the dinner plate: a meat, a starch and a vegetable. And many times, the produce I use is far from being local, organic or seasonal. We all know it’s healthier for our bodies, our environment and our local economy if we eat seasonal foods from within our own food shed. But knowing that and doing it are two different things. So my task this summer is to make something new each week for my family from ingredients found in my CSA basket which will by and large be entirely new to my family.

First, let me introduce you to the cast of this “reality show”:

Mamma Shanda: I’m not an adventurous eater, but my Dad is from Alabama, so I did grow up eating strange, exotic foods like collard greens, black eyed peas, ho cake and grits! And growing up in southern California, I had a healthy dose of Mexican-American food.

Daddy Rick: From a small town in the Pacific Northwest, he grew up eating a typical Middle American diet and had very little contact with ethnic cuisine or vegetables other than the standard fare like broccoli, carrots, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and, like me, yucky canned veggies.

Fiona: 12 years old and willing to try almost anything and to say something kind even if she doesn’t like it.

Jacob: 7 years old and not at all eager to try new things except under pain of punishment.

Joe: 5 years old, also reticent to try new things, and highly addicted to sugar and processed foods.

Like most American kids, mine like pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese, hot dogs, simple veggies either steamed or sauteed, and a green salad made with Romaine lettuce.

Day 1: I’ve come home with so much produce that I know won’t keep long so I decide to use the baby bok choy and the arugula and arugula blossoms. Before prepping them, I corral all the kids to show them what they will shortly be consuming. They are dubious. If I were a really good Mom, I would make them stay and help, but I have to work at break neck speed because to hear them tell it, they are so hungry they are about to start eating each other! So I send them away and commence the experiment. Bob said that the bok choy would be easiest done just sliced down the center, root cut out, gently washed, then placed in a heated pan with olive oil and garlic. Well, as soon as I slice the bok choy down the center and attempt to cut out the inner root, the entire thing falls apart in my hands. Then I realize I have no garlic as I have just moved and not yet restocked the pantry. Drat. I go forward placing individual pieces in the olive oil. It comes out saturated and the greens wilted. The white stalk is hard to chew. The sea salt I finish it with makes it only somewhat edible. Dad and Joe kind of like the greens, but this is not a big hit at all. The arugula and arugula blossoms become a salad with olive oil, wild honey vinegar and sea salt. The boys both spit it out, “Blech!” Fiona just says, “Hmm, interesting.” Rick eats it without comment.

Day 2: A few days later, somewhat gun shy now, I plunge ahead. Today I’m going to attempt to use up the radish, Japanese turnip and mixed salad greens. I decide to simply cut the bulb of the turnip and radish into coins and let everyone try them fresh and plain. I do, however, saute the turnip greens and radish greens together in a bit of olive oil and finish with sea salt. The mixed salad greens I reserve for Mommy and Daddy, having tasted them and knowing full well they’ll be wasted on the kids. So we go around the table tasting off the plate of turnip and radish coins and their sauteed greens. It’s quite funny to see everyone’s faces as they pucker and wince. None of us likes the coins. And the boys declare the sauteed greens horrible. Daddy grosses everyone out by eating sauteed greens sandwiched between two turnip slices. He’s actually enjoying the variety of vegetables being introduced even if he doesn’t necessarily like all of them.

Day 3: Many days have now passed. I figure the troops will revolt if I do this to them too often. And I have evening commitments that leave no time for experimentation. A new basket has now arrived and Bob figures a pound of bacon and a head of garlic will do the trick. Tonight I will chop up the bacon, cook till crispy, throw in garlic till aromatic and throw in the greens: kale, bok choy,  and chard . It smells great and I am quite optimistic (even though I was in such a hurry the bacon did not get totally crispy). But what do I get? Two yuck votes from the boys, an “it’s okay” from Fiona, and Dad and I end up eating it all. We like it. But for the kids, this experiment is not going well. Tomorrow it’s going to be steamed broccoli again. My ego can’t take this!

Day 4: At the bottom of the produce drawer is a bunch of limp spinach from the first week’s basket. Bob calls it variegated because it’s bumpy. Lenore says variegated means something else entirely (mufti-colored?). So I don’t know what this stuff is exactly but I like it better than the typical spinach you find in the grocery store. It’s much less bitter. Tonight turkey burgers are on the Bonn family menu. I decide to blanch the spinach then chop it real small and hide it in the burgers. Well, there’s no hiding the spinach, so it takes some prodding to get the kids to dig in. But I will say, I make a pretty mean turkey burger to begin with so I feel confident I may have a winner on my hands. To the ground turkey I have added a generous supply of dried herbs and spices: garlic, onion, parsley, coriander and sea salt. Plus two tablespoons of olive oil. Into that mixture goes the spinach blanched in salted water, squeezed “dry” and chopped. And voila! They WILL eat their greens, so help me. I fully expect riotous outbursts for messing with one of their favorite meals. But no such thing occurs. Instead the table is quiet as they munch away. And Jacob and Fiona ask for seconds. VICTORY!

Jacob enjoying his turkey burger (stuffed with fresh spinach)–he’s likes it! he likes it!

And now I get a break until the next basket arrives . ….


My how time flies when you’re having fun….

Just three months ago I was embarking on a new adventure here at beautiful Cannon Beach.  Wide eyed and white knuckled I ventured into the kitchen at EVOO.  Now 12 weeks later I feel there is much I still want to experience but I am no longer the fledgling learning to fly.  It would be a daunting task to surmise all I have learned here to date.  It has been an amazing and almost overwhelming amount of culinary staples as well as a surprising amount of small details overlooked by the home cooking I have been used to.  I really feel that I have been welcomed in to an almost underground society here; the scene behind the curtain of a great meal or a good night out.  Memories created on a first date, a birthday celebration, or just a fabulous dinner with close friends usually start with the when and where to eat. The people in the background who you may never see, work like madmen to ensure their guests’ good time out. Remember to be kind and tip them well as they deserve it, believe me!

When I first decided to come to the coast I was on the fence about whether attending a culinary school was the direction I wanted to take. I have always loved learning but the heavy price tag of admission, coupled with some of my chef friends advice to just work your way up the ranks had me questioning what to do. This experience seemed to be the perfect chance to test the waters. For me the dynamic here has been exceptional. The standards are high as are the expectations of mental and physical stamina.  Thinking in a proactive way so you can anticipate and delegate the best of your time is the key. It was a chance for me to test what my grandparents used to call “the stuff you were made of.”  In my family we pride ourselves on some pretty tough stuff. And here, everyday technique, cleanliness and speed are questioned.

I have been reading a great book in my down time called “Beaten, Seared & Sauced” that has closely resembled my day to day activities here in this little kitchen.  It’s about a man changing direction late in life and attending the CIA in NY.  Let’s just say I can relate. One of the similarities is that encouragements are given but even the most subtle of compliments are reserved only for when the job is done correctly.  In my mind that makes it much more meaningful and heartfelt.  The recognition gives me a good sense of pride for my accomplishments.  Actually the ultimate compliment from Bob is when he stops mid stride, leans in to check my work with a discerning eye, pretends to wipe away a tear and says “they grow up so fast ” before continuing on his way.  In return when I stop with inquisitive looks, my questions of the how and why have always been answered with a scientific background and a practical approach.  It has really helped me to connect with what I am doing.

Which brings me to the question of what I am doing next? Culinary school still looms in the background after seeing my mentor in action.  I have also been in touch with a select catering company and looking at the possibility of going back to school in the food writing realm.  Anything is possible, right?  I am happy to say that for now, I have been asked to stay here at EVOO and continue learning through the summer.  I plan to become a jack of all trades, handling the retail, service, and still doing my favorite time, prepping in the kitchen.

These past months I feel like I have found little pieces of myself and my passions again.   I am excited every day to be cooking in the kitchen, and sharing my very first blog has rekindled my affinity for writing.  I feel lucky to be surrounded by a supportive community and amazing group of people that have made me feel like family after such a short amount of time.

Thanks to everyone for reading and following me on my journey so far, and thank you, Bob and Lenore, for all you have done to help me on my way.  I’m looking forward to an amazing summer full of new experiences and the chance to follow my heart.  Signing off but not going far…. Kate

 

P/S: Watch for Shanda’s blog, “The Green Project”–coming this summer as she tells us how her family responds to eating “green,” i.e., more vegetables from her CSA basket.


GOOD FOOD TAKES TIME (Good Cooks take the time needed)

Hooray hooray for the month of May!

Its time for a new menu and new learning’s.  I have a good feeling that this month will be an appreciation of patience.  The best things in life take a bit of time.  In the past couple of months things like pasting garlic have tested my time table.  First you must peel each clove, remove the innermost sprout, mince it and then you can finally draw the flat of your blade over it again and again until an aromatic paste is formed.  At first it sounds simple enough but in the midst of  the 5th clove, with more garlic sticking to the knife and my fingers than actually turning into the beautiful smooth texture I envisioned, I realize the clock is against me. I am pretty sure I was given this laborious task for a few reasons.  Either Bob wants to be sure I’m not able to attract ANY eligible men and therefore keep my mind in the kitchen, or he is protecting me from potential vampire attacks.

I feel this month will continue to challenge me to remember to breathe in times of frustration and to persevere toward the amazing meal.  Take shucking peas for example.  In my mind I have lofty ideas that a whole box of English peas should take oh…45 minutes to get done.  I have the water on and heating so it will be ready to blanch them when I am ready.  Of course, I should have known by my mentor’s slight head shake and Cheshire cat smile that my time-line was more around the 1 1/2 hour mark.  In the end the whole huge box only yielded about 3 1/2 cups of shucked sweet little green peas. I call them ” escapeas ” because half of them take flight – in no particular direction except away from the bowl they are meant for!  And let’s not forget these little gems are just one component for the risotto on our first course of the May Dinner Show.

This Italian rice dish is one that must be nurtured itself as well.  A good risotto must be tended to constantly for about 25 minutes and when it is done it must be served right away to impart the creamy texture intended.  It waits for no one!  Arborio rice is most commonly used, sauteed in butter or olive oil first and then adding a ladle of stock one at a time, stirring to distribute the liquid evenly and prevent any burning. When the stock is absorbed you repeat the process. It can be mixed with a variety of ingredients, mushroom leek and lemon has worked well for my dinner parties in the past.  Whatever you add the goal is to have a dish that is hands down one of my favorite comfort foods.

I was so excited to see Osso Bucco on the menu this month as well!  I had seen plenty an Iron Chef make it while totally geeking out on the Food Network, wishing that I did not have to live vicariously through the judges on the flat screen.  The first time I was able to order it for myself was at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo on my birthday trip to NYC.  Truth be told he was always my favorite Iron Chef anyway so this was my little dream come true.  Lets just say I was not disappointed…the marrow from the bone gave the slow cooked braised veal a velvet mouth feel.  The meat was so tender it almost melted.

It is made with lamb on our menu, but the effect is the same.  I have seen it turn even the most skeptic of palates into lamb lovers.  I truly believe it has to do not only with the painstaking preparation, but also with the quality and freshness of the lamb itself.  Bob has it delivered within the week the lambs are harvested, and they are only harvested when ordered. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I now know the time and work involved in each little step takes my enjoyment of a meal to a whole new place.  Every component in the menu has a purpose on the tongue.  It can be light and sweet like my peas or full of richness and depth like the lamb.  A bright gremolata balances any heavy notes and a thick nutty cream sauce can smooth out delicate potatoes. It is truly the little things, the sometimes frustrating, time sucking, minute details, that really do make all the difference in a dish. So this week I am in great appreciation of the symphony of food I help to create as I embrace every task I am given!

Here is the Lamb dish with rutabaga and gremolata. Melts in your mouth.

 


WHEN THE MOON HITS YOR EYE LIKE A BIG PIZZA PIE….

Pizza, originally from Naples Italy, is practically an American pastime.  I consider it an important part of my right of passage into the working world.  It was a given that in those days all of my clothes be covered in flour. I perpetually smelled of garlic and could wield a pizza cutter like a ninja!

It was Friday night staple for our busy family, tired after a long week.  Pizza is also synonymous with sporting events, and growing up in my world watching all the big games was a given. I have probably eaten pizza as often cold as piping hot out of the oven.  It is great for a late night snack or breakfast the next day.

Pizza can be piled high as the sky like my friend Mike does it or eaten with the bare minimum of toppings.  In New York, folding it over before eating is the way. In Chicago, you need a knife and fork to enjoy the deep dish style that they claim.  With as much as we indulge in this versatile food, it’s a staggering surprise to me how little we actually make it at home. Instead we wait, sometimes for hours for a driver to deliver a cardboard box that incidentally by the time it reaches your door ends up holding half the cheese hostage anyway. And to think we prefer picking up a frozen one to making it ourselves seems funny to me.

Everyone already knows what THEY want on the pizza. Wars have been waged over what a good pie is supposed to be. Staple toppings like pepperoni or Canadian bacon, mushrooms or olives, peppers or pineapple; do you want thick or thin crust; square or round, and the debate goes on! Obviously there are infinite possibilities creating these pizza masterpieces.  Yet it seems that half the time I order out, the pizza is pretty unmemorable in general. I feel like there is a little romance in the whole process of making a perfect pizza that has somehow been lost in the western world.  What if we tried to bring it back to life? Make it from scratch just the way you envision it. What would that taste like to you and how hard could it possibly be? Have we gotten so spoiled that we choose convenience over quality?
I think that truth be told, it’s the dough that scares people away from the doing it themselves. At least that’s what it was for me.  Most of the time, I would just get a pre-made crust and go from there. Then I thought if I was already going half the distance for a “home- made” meal, why wasn’t I all in? Looks like it time to channel my inner baker.

So let’s focus on the dough; it is really only 6 little ingredients, water, yeast, flour, salt, oil, and “biga” if you have it (a natural fermented, living starter, that is easy to make)  That’s it. Not nearly as scary as I was thinking. For some reason breads and doughs have always been a mystery to me. It is more of a fun science experiment than anything.  It does take a little bit of time when you commit to it.  It makes me think about how long it must have taken my grandmother, or her mother, to put together some of our elaborate meals.  These days I have a trusty Kitchen aid that does all the mixing and the kneading in mere minutes.  Aren’t we the lucky ones?!  I realize that you just have to do a little prioritizing before you hit the kitchen. Put the more complex task at the top of your list and then fill in the gaps with the quicker side work. So you make the dough first. You have to let it rest and then come back to it.  Knead it a bit more and let it rest a second time. This makes the dough surprisingly soft and delicate, like a pillow of goodness.  Suddenly I was thinking of other amazing things this dough could do.  It could be used for so much more than just pizza. Calzones, pot pie toppings, cheesy filled breadsticks. There are options to grill it and make healthy wraps, or fry it for sinful desserts.  Are you feeling the endless creative exploits?  Even if you are just doing pizza though, the best part is that you can do whatever you want!   There are no rules.  You can make a basil pesto, do a spicy Thai chicken or a BBQ pie just to name a few.  This week feels like goat cheese, spinach and olives to me.

The best part of this whole process is when you sit to eat.  Somehow this all too familiar food tastes totally different to me.  The crunch of the crust and the simple flavors on top all seem to shine through in separate ways and yet they merry together so well.  I didn’t order this off a menu.  I made it from start to finish just the way I wanted it.  And it is the best pizza I have had in ages. So this weekend I say you can make, MAKING the pizza, the best part about dinner.  Involve all your senses, all your friends, family and yes, probably all of the kitchen for a night.  Turn off the TV, open the wine and enjoy the time and the process with all the people you love. Now that’s amore!

Ciao, Katie


EUREKA

Its official…I finally like octopus!!  I wasn’t sure this day would ever come despite my efforts to order it at every authentic Greek, Italian, and sushi restaurant that boasted the best of the best of these intelligent eight legged sea creatures.  I had come to the unfortunate conclusion that it just may be the “ocean’s bubble gum” for me.  Maybe it was just one of the things my palate and I did not agree on.  Don’t get me wrong, I have had a good deep fried calamari from time to time but I find it hard not to love something battered and submerged in grease.  And then it happened…

“I’d like to be, under the sea, in an octopus garden in the shade”plays in my head as I pull from the oven a dark Stuab cauldron filled to the brim with olive oil, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, juice and itty bitty squid and tiny octopi.  The texture of this dish is perfect.  If I didn’t know what I was eating I would equate it to, well, chicken, I guess but only in texture.  The colors have turned from translucent and white to a beautiful lavender/mauve mix.  The taste is rich, bright and has the hint of sea in the background.

Pan-seared Chinook with squid octopi salad with white beans & microgreens

With the change of our April menu comes the beautiful Springer Chinook salmon. This may be the most amazing fish on the planet.  They are caught coming in from the ocean this time of year as they head back upstream to their original spawning grounds. I can’t even find my keys half the time! Fish instinct is amazing! The bright, pink-red flesh is tender and full of good fatty oils for their long journey home.  Salmon has long been revered as a spiritual creature in the Pacific Northwest having sustained cultural civilizations for centuries. So with this amazing fillet in front of us, just a little less than 24 hours old, Bob and I pause and with intention and all seriousness, take a moment to honor and thank this fish for its life and sacrifice. There’s not much more that needs to be done with a fish of this caliber. It can be eaten raw, pan seared and lightly smoked.  I have a feeling we will be cooking it all these ways before the season ends. I am loving spring!

This week I was also set loose with the pasta machine…. (mwahhahahahhahhah!); the goal being fresh pappardelle noodles and, of course, to make my mentor nervous. That would be, Bob, who watches with eagle eyes as I take on this task. The snowfall of flour took me back to one of my favorite jobs, working in the cooking classes of a local natural health food store.  I have a newspaper clipping of myself, all of 19 years old, bleach blonde pigtails and arms filled with what seemed like miles of flat golden dough.  I had to stop to laugh at the cyclic nature of life.  Somehow, years later, I am here again in a quaint kitchen, covered in flour with a smile on my face, creating plates of happy, edible memories for the masses.  Katie B


INTROSPECTION

It has recently come to my attention that I may no longer be the “spring chicken” I once was.  Not that I am that far out of the woods mind you, but my new venture has proven a bit more of a challenge both physically and mentally than I had previously envisioned.  Along with my first month of learning’s came sore feet, sweaty palms, and a surprising amount of blushing! Thankfully my digits are all still accounted for, but I have had a couple minor burns and a fight with the edging on the foil box that sadly I lost.

Further, I have had occasion to stutter as well as be at a total loss for words when asked simple kitchen questions. And yes if truth be told there may have been a tear or two shed in the walk in cooler.  Learning something new every day isn’t as easy as it once was. As kids we can make mistakes and bounce back without missing a beat. Still, I have had such an amazing ride already; makes it hard to wipe the silly grin from my face.  New techniques, kitchen tricks and a good friendly banter between co-workers is a great day in my book.

The conversations I have in my head often start something like, “Whatever you do, don’t screw things up”.  Which, of course, inevitably means I will do just that.  It’s ironic the pressure you can put on yourself to achieve some sort of instant perfection; as if that were possible to begin with. The words “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” come to mind.  Isn’t that why I came here in the first place?  To learn, have some fun, broaden my horizons and yes, possibly screw up once in a while? Well, OK maybe once a day! That is why we call it learning after all.  And there’s a well known euphemism that says we learn best from our mistakes.  So maybe we go ahead, throw caution to the wind and try a new approach. And if I muck it up, hopefully its not beyond repair or salvage but even so c’est la vie right?

Wisdom, after all, comes with time and experience.  It is obviously time for me to step out of the way, well, of myself. Stop over thinking and just trust the process.  Its funny how things can flow so much better when you stop fighting so bloody hard.  So to you, my previous all knowing spring chicken, I say this. You would be delicious rubbed with a Tuscan salt blend, stuffed with fresh rosemary and roasted to a crispy, golden perfection.  Bon appétit!!

Katie B, Sent from my Kindle Fire


KATIE B’s POST, who doesn’t love a field trip?

Who doesn’t love a field trip???  Getting out on the open road to see and do new exciting things.  My destination this week was Red Ridge Farms-Oregon Olive Mill, a trifecta of fun!  Not only is it home of the beautiful Durant vineyard, ( FYI you must try the Pinot Gris) and a sprawling olive grove of 13,000 trees, it also has an amazing Zen like nursery. These being a few of my favorite things- insert Sound of Music tune here- I am a happy girl.

Somehow the inclement weather made it all the better to be near the old stove stirring a robust Ribollita (Italian bread soup) to perfection; pancetta with a mirepoix, 3 varieties of beans, Italian black kale, cabbage and zucchini all swimming in a bubbling tomato and chicken stock bath.  The first time I had this dish, I was in Sienna Italy, staying in a huge villa built in the1500’s.  It also had olive trees for miles and I was lucky enough to be there in November for the first pressing.  The oil was green, cloudy and spicy, like pepper at the back of the throat.  We made this traditional soup in a HUGE pot inside a massive fireplace.  It is one of those kinds of dishes you literally have to make yourself walk away from after the second helping.

RIBOLITTA: Hearty from the three varieties of beans,  light from clear stock,  fresh from the kale and ribbons of fresh basil

I learned the proper way to taste olive oil from the experts at the Oregon Olive Mill.  Take a bit of the oil, aerate 3 times across the tongue, before coating the roof of the mouth, and finally swallowing toward the back of the throat.  This allows all areas of the palate to taste and weigh in equally.

I also have a new found respect for micro greens, tiny freshly sprouted plants that are cultivated about 4 days after they are planted.  Not only are they beautiful for presentation, they have an incredible concentration of flavors that add a fresh component to the dish; and come in many different varieties or a blend of plants or micro herbs.

When we see the connection from Earth to farm, and farm to table, it transports us. It is a time before IPADS and emails, TV or twitter.  When people relied on the sun and the soil, their hard work and intuition to know the perfect time to pick the grape, harvest the olives, or plant the seed.  All of these things come together at just the right time to feed our friends, our families and our souls.
Sent from my Kindle Fire–KB


KATIE HERE, WEEK 3

Katie in the EVOO kitchen

Have you ever wondered why they call cooking,  “a labor of love?” Well now that I am privy to the inner sanctum of the EVOO kitchen, let me tell you, it is nothing short of a hurricane of tasks; all of which are equally important, but much like the weather here, the urgency can change at any moment.  And just when you feel like you are close to reaching the end of your list, a timer buzzes, or a vendor phones to tell us the catch of the day didn’t make it to shore; or the guest list just jumped from 12 to 20. (doesn’t sound like a big deal but if we didn’t have two tenderloins in house we’d be going shopping, for example.) At this point the menu reaches out for our creativity to adapt, adapt, adapt, without straying from the course originally set to please the palate.

When we DO finally get to sit and taste the fruits of our labors, we realize that all the sweat, hard work and the standing (my goodness the STANDING) is well worth it.  So you might say, we love the results and the “labor” is just a necessary element of cooking for the public.

Here’s a few of the dishes we cooked this week:

Pasta fagioli- a playful rendition of a pasta primavera is a combination of 3 beans, a splash of colorful asparagus, red bell pepper and zucchini all mingling together in an amazingly flavorful broth.  Fresh escarole gives the dish a light crunch, but the fresh pecorino and perfectly crisped prosciutto chip seals the deal. This bowl of goodness is like a hug from the inside!

Oh wait, there is so much more…how about freshly made ravioli filled with mushrooms and duck confit?? By the way, the answer to that question is YES!  These little pillows of love are rich from the duck cooked in its own fat, earthy from the mushrooms that were quickly sauteed, and the bitter arugula pesto sauce finishes with a fresh component that balances the dish.

This was also my first time making fresh tamales! Masa harina, a fine ground cornmeal, is mixed with grilled squash, jack cheese, cumin, cayenne, paprika, and the filling is tucked sweetly into its little corn husk bed for steaming.  Serve that with a fresh tomatillo and avocado salsa, and bittersweet chocolate mole and let the happiness ensue!!! Our guests seem to really enjoy the texture of these tamales, saying they are more tender than ones they have had, and a bonus, Bob makes them vegetarian.

I am running a little behind–this menu was last weekend SAVOR CANNON BEACH menu, and so next week you’ll see the menu we are really working on this week. Till then.


SO BEGINS KATIE’S BLOG

We have all heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  Well lets just say last year, my glass was never empty.  Then I got to thinking about those wonderful words.  I realized that I was always happiest in the kitchen, creating, cooking and making a general mess of things!!  There is nothing better than the smell of onions sizzling in a hot pan or the smell of bacon permeating every nook of the house.  Às fate would have it, this newfound knowledge was quickly put into culinary motion.   For my birthday, my best friend booked us for a dinner show at EVOO at Cannon Beach.  I was hooked.
Low and behold they just happen to have an internship program as well.  Needless to say,  I quit my job,  packed my things and was beachward bound.
Now to the important things….the food!!!!!

So apparently drooling around the food is not acceptable…so the challenge begins.  Braising large legs of grass fed lamb, de-glazing the pan with white wine and tucking bright green stems of rosemary and thyme around perfectly seared meat is just the start of my day.  Into the oven it goes & then its on to a 12 layer lasagna.  Fresh rolled pasts, Basil pesto and a creamy bechamel sauce.  If you have never attempted this staple sauce- get ready.  You make a roux of butter and flour, onion and milk and you stir- CONSTANTLY- until you have either a thick creamy sauce or a beautiful new arm muscle!!!

The Basil pesto is a vibrant green & the smell of garlic, herb and pine nuts is transcendent. Suddenly I am cooking with my grandma Gilda in her kitchen, laughing and speaking our half Italian, half English dialect. We also put together spring rolls in a zen like fashion.  The bright colors of the freshly julienne vegetables displayed neatly in a translucent rice paper gave me a simple pause.  There is bread to make, mussels to clean, fish to de-bone…an organized chaos ensues.  The bread pudding??To die for.  Cubed bread tossed with chocolate chips, cream anglaise and LOVE, emerges from the oven in a warm melty goodness.  Perch it atop a orange wedge and top it with Godiva chocolate gelato and freshly whipped cream….NIRVANA.

Bread pudding with chocolate pieces; brulee banana; Godiva chocolate gelato; salted peanut brittle

All in a days work.  Welcome to my bliss friends!!! Katie


INTRODUCING OUR NEW INTERN, KATIE B

This past week started a three month internship with Katie B. Katie is not coming to us out of culinary school. She is instead a highly motivated interested and passionate home cook who wants to see if the culinary business is for her. Typically it is not our first choice to take an intern without some formal training or even restaurant experience, but we were very impressed with Katie’s desire. Heck, one must start someplace and all that enthusiasm might as well be here! So we said yes to three months worth of dedicated hands-on learning, doing whatever is needed or assigned.

In exchange she gets room (that comes with a bicycle) and board in a small quaint most desirable beach town! Our little studio is as small as can be, but handy to work—she comes up stairs! Board consists of whatever we have. Her room has a coffee maker, small dorm room fridge and a microwave oven, so not much cooking can happen there, but then she really has cooked all day and gets first pick for her meals. Then of course she just brings her dirty dishes upstairs.   She is free to come up after class at night and forage in our walk in refrigerator for fresh made dinner show remnants.  We don’t anticipate a lack of choices.

An EVOO internship requires homework; usually in the form of looking at the culinary origins,  definitions and even seasonality /availability of  different ingredients or methods. Sometimes they are asked to read a book, such as the Art of War, or The making of a chef, etc. We require interns to start the day with a note pad for their “list” one-on-one with me, and then we talk again at the end of the day.  In our daily debrief, I want to know what three things they learned; and they must keep of journal of these items. At first interns have no problem with this, but as time goes by, I really see some creative thinking by the end of their tenure with us. Because they do this five times a week on a daily basis usually totaling 180 new learnings, and because I require full sentences, well articulated and documented, they get pretty good by the end without repeating a single learning. Of course when they go back to their professional school they have lots of things to say when the counselor asks, “what did you learn?”

As for Katie B, we have ask for one more duty since she is not reporting back to a culinary school. We’ve asked her to “blog” with us her experiences. And the jury is still out whether or not she will return to her former occupation, that of massage therapist.


CREATING SALT FROM THE SEA

During the winter we are getting busier and busier trying to get some traction on the many balls we have in the air. One of those is our salt project. We’ve been interested in getting a salt product made from our ocean water for several years now.

Making sea salt from ocean water is not as simple as it sounds. But we are finally moving through some of the roadblocks that came up early on in the project. Like how do we get water off the shore of a publicly owned beach? How do we ensure the salt is being produced from clean water? Our local health department told us to write the regulation and they will evaluate it because right now they don’t have such a regulation. And if we copy the lowest fossil fuel method of extracting salt from sea water, that of evaporation, where do we do it and is there enough sun in the NW to get the job done?

Encouragement came a few years ago when we discovered a small salt company in Maine. After all their weather pattern is similar-being on the same parallel as Washington state. And they are willing to share details of their method. Lucky for them, they get their water off a privately owned beach. And they do not test for safety. My guess not many seasalt makers do. Recently when posing that question to a seasalt maker in Hawaii it was clear they thought  this was an incredulous question; afterall the waters of Hawaii are pristine!

By now we are working closely with OSU college of engineering and OHSU research. We have found our location. We are close to knowing our process. And we know where our water will come from. We even know how to collect water only when the purity levels are safe. And we can do it all, we believe, without using much in the way of fossil fuel. We may even have a by product that will be put to excellent use. The technology is something we want to share with other coastal towns. So stay tuned. More to come.


BUSINESS BLISS

It is trite but true. Being in business for oneself means there is never enough hours in the day. It means we’re always doing something for the business, and it means we sometimes over commit.

Don’t get me wrong we have never been happier. Our path these past seven plus years has been a steady climb, at times steep, but mostly on the level. We see our growth as a reward that we want to enjoy fully. The progress we have made inspires us to dream some more. What happens is just when we start to coast a little bit, some new idea or project comes along that takes us on a new course; a new road with more learning curves as well as exhilarating high-points as we make traction toward our destination.

All this to say we believe this road we’re on to be the most fulfilling and enjoyable we’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling. We wonder if we’ll know what to do if it ever comes to a dead end and stops being fun.

So what the heck am I talking about? The road less taken? The road to riches? The fork in the road? For sure I am speaking metaphorically; I’m just saying our business is evolving in a way that we never expected. We thought we knew so much about business until we actually had one of our own. We don’t have all the answers and we actually have learned to appreciate not having all the answers. We’d love to find a navigational app that when we plug in our location it tells us where we will wind up if we stay on this road. But for now, we are just making our way down the road we believe we want to go. What doesn’t seem to work, we stop doing; what does work becomes our mainstay, or as my chef head thinks, the main course. The gravy or the frosting is that we can always add gravy or frosting!

What works so far is that every evening we meet new people and about 50% of them have been here before. These people are not just customers to us; we break bread together. We enjoy the nightly affirmation that we get,  so much so that it feels like one gigantic vitamin infusion for our psyche! Our dinner shows are the mainstay of this business. The fact that we are getting involved in this community in a way neither of us has done in the past feels good too. Call it the gravy. And a brand new project getting our attention has been a few years in the making and just now getting some traction–the making of Cannon Beach sea salt; it is definitely the frosting for now.

 

 

 


JANUARY STARTED THE BALL ROLLING AGIAN

Anymore we don’t need reminding that following the celebrations of the holidays & ending another year brings opportunity to reinvent, renew, refurbish an refresh in the New Year. The media lets us know that with the turning of the calendar year it is the logical time to assess our activities, business practices, and how we feel. This is especially true for weight loss tips and hints.

So like sheep, we too do our serious planning for the year in January. And this year we started with our health. Both of us know what to eat and what is good for us. What we tend to do is forget to limit the amount or up the output in the form of exercise. We are reminded of the old days when getting ready for a beach vacation meant a little more effort at the gym and a few less mash potatoes. Not anymore.  So on the personal planning sheet we are upping our output–even getting up earlier to get the personal stuff done first; I sort of think of it as paying the “piggy bank” first, saving first, before paying the rest of the bills.

 


Feast of the Seven Fishes 2011

I have just watch the Feast of Fishes on the food network for the second year. It is a Bobby Flay Throw-down repeat. I have already prepared and posted our menu for this year, but now I am wondering if I should make a couple changes. Cod cakes are on our menu. Bobby Flay did them too, and sauced them with clams and lobster. As good as that sounds, the judges actually thought the sauce over powered the cod-cakes. And the steamed sea bass with capers and olives is very similar to my version. But hey, Bobby lost the throw-down and probably because the chef-judges were looking for traditional dishes. That is not where I usually go–always looking to make them my own and sometimes they just end up outside the box. So all I am saying is I like my menu and will stack it up against any.

Be sure to join us. This is a seafood-lover’s night and a night for those who love seafood lovers! Hope we see you there. Click through to see the menu.


BACK HOME AGAIN

Olivia, left, and Taylor are looking as though they don't really believe we are home! Halloween scarves for today!

Our good friend (our “adopted” daughter) has a birthday today, on Halloween, and so after a good rest in our own bed last night, we called to sing to her and to catch up the last two weeks on both sides. She is pregnant and we are all expecting “little Holly or Jorge” to make an entrance in March. (they want to be surprised) Anyway, we hung up and promptly got a text from her; everyone under 40 seems to use this as the perferred method of communication these days! Anyway she said we sounded relaxed and very happy, more so than she’d heard for awhile. Well, that’s what it’s all about! We have much to be happy about and we are happy it shows! It was wonderful to arrive home 27 hours after leaving Florence yesterday!

Our bus ride to the Florence airport started around 4 AM from our villa and a majority of our guests left with us. Once at the airport, after saying “arivederci” (till we meet again) with hugs and Italian kisses on each side, we all scattered to our check in gates, promising to stay in touch. We knew our bag to check would be overweight after adding 5 kilos of cheeses, but gee, every bag needed attention as we stood in the check in lane. They were actually weighing our carry-on! I lighten the carryon by distributing to three bags which would be checked. And guess what, our main purchases are yet to be shipped directly. Anyway, a few souvenirs and some tasty cheeses and a few good chianti’s are here now!!

This morning we unpacked the seven, yep, 7, suitcases. We normally pack so light we each get by with a couple carry-ons, but not this trip. The souvenirs ranging from olive-wood kitchen gadgets to tee-shirts actually fills our diningroom table (it serves 12). Nice loot, I told Lenore! She, of course, arranged them into piles for who gets what! A by-product of a vacation of this nature is the opportunity to re-live it over and over as we hand out our little momentoes.


FAREWELL DINNER

OCTOBER 29, 2011 First let me tell you that we have just completed two incredible weeks in Italy. Contributing were the incrediblly unseasonal weather; our wonderful tour guide, Paola; our hosts, Stefano and Sergio, at the castle-villa Fabbroni; the artisans who welcomed us into their worlds and in some cases their homes; and lastly our guests and fellow travelers. One more mention is our guide’s mother, who hand embroidered an EVOO logo in yarn on a “memory tote bag,” that she first sewed together! Paola’s mom is in her 80’s and she was already asking Paola what she might do for our next culinary tour. The totes were presented on our first night together and used daily by our guests. Every aspect of our tour here has been greater than we imagined.

Our farewell dinners served to reinforce our opinions because each person holding the olive branch had to share something they were thinking. But perhaps I should start from the beginning. Our little group of 17, including Paola, our guide, and us, were called to breakfast daily around 8 AM. We would be greeted with American coffee, assorted fresh bakery pastries, a veggie omelet, sliced or baked tomatoes, fresh whole fruit, choice of three cereals, yogurt, salami, ham, and orange juice. The bus would arrive about 8:45 and we were to be aboard by 9 or 9:30. Anyone late to board was to supply the group with gelato! (Lenore was a few minutes late one morning herself–and she paid up with chocolates at the farewell dinner.) Typically we would drive to our destination for a tour, lesson, and before long, lunch, after which we would purchase products made by our hosts. Back at the villa we would enjoy about an hour of free time to explore, nap, or refresh for dinner. We had two dinner classes in which we prepared recipes under our chef-hosts’guidance; or it was a dinner prepared for us by them. Only once were we on our own for dinner, and that night Lenore and I prepared the sausages we made during our visit with a butcher as well as some steaks and burgers. Food was ample and “typical” the entire week.

On our last night, after a full day in Lucca, shopping and having a bakery lesson and lunch, we got back to the villa about 5PM. It was enough time to refresh for the farewell dinner that our hosts prepared for us. Without going into detail, let me just say that our guests and I really wanted to see some veggies by the end of the week, so we asked for a vegetarian menu. Eggplant parmesan fried stuffed celery, artichokes, salad, ricotta pie, and a fruit salad dessert. Just right. Since our farewell dinner was on Saturday, our villa happened to be hosting several other groups, so we shared the dining room with them. But they were amenable or at least tolerant with our olive branch game.

You see after each dinner at the villa, Lenore would place the olive branch (plucked from the orchards on the first day) over a guest’s head. She then asked a question or requested some information about themselves or what they were thinking. Each person then shared their thoughts. On the last day each week, we passed the branch around so that each guest could tell us one “take away” from the trip. This is when Lenore and I truly knew we had a successful tour. Our guests shared that the greatest part of this tour is that it is one of a kind. We went where tourists do not go. We were told that the passion exhibited by our hosting artisan vendors was priceless. That the friendships forged during our time together were unexpected. And that we as a group of people going through this life have a shared a one of a kind experience during this our first culinary tour of Italy.


COOKING CLASS

Our day in the town of Greve in Chianti began yesterday after another night of power dining; it was our last class at the villa and we cooked several items including dessert, and went to bed after a long evening of food and wine. Of course we had to begin the new day with a cappuccino when we arrived in Greve, even though we had a huge breakfast with coffee Americana already.

Some of you know that what we mean by power dining is experiencing as many dishes as we can in a small period of time in an area we want to know better. Our plan for this trip was to immerse ourselves into the Italian cuisine culture as deeply as we could, and we are doing a pretty good job so far. Let me put it this way, no one has been “starved” before sitting down to the next meal. Or perhaps better said no one has been even mildly hungry. That said let’s talk about the food.

From the appetizer spreads for bruschetta to the tiramisu, we have savored every morsel. The Tuscan way is what we signed up for and it is what we are getting in every venue. We hear the words, “this is the typical way of the region.” Or we may hear, “the north makes their tiramisu this way, no alcohol!” Only in the south will you find it with alcohol. So after 150 years of a united Italy, they still do battle on the plate. The competition between the regions can be seen in the way the different areas produce the same dishes.

Osso Bucco was the star of our cooking class last night. We enjoyed the gentle braise with some veal stock and a little tomato sauce finished with a gremolata, which was also put back on the heat to warm it. Chicken liver on our bruschetta was prepared in class last night as well, and the story around why it is so popular here in Tuscany also begins with, we don’t waste anything. And of course, since Paola loves chicken liver, we did see it a few more times on the menu, too!

Despite the wonderful abundance of food our Italian hosts are lean and fit and we are trying to put great dining together with that. (maybe running a villa, giving cooking classes, attending an olive orchard and grape vines and full culinary garden with chickens and turkeys might answer this mystery) Our hope is to learn more than just how to cook while we are here in this proud deeply rooted culinary country.
Images: top:Bob, chef hosts, Sergio, Stefano, and Lenore; right: one of the castle’s many courtyards overlooking the country side; bottom: a typical cookie platter


Savoring Tuscany

We arrived into Florence airport and were greeted by sunshine and our guide met us with her sunny smile as well. It was a wonderful flight over Greenland into Amsterdam and then a short trip to Florence on a connecting plane. After driving to our villa we were invited to go to the vineyard we are visiting in a few days with our guests. We said sure, knowing we had not slept a minute yet and it was just morning in Italy the next day. We thought we could make it back by 5:30 and get plenty of rest for the next day. We didn’t arrive back to our room until 9:30 and finally got to go to bed—this was about 30 hours of being up starting in Portland.

After a very quiet night, we woke refreshed and ready to go to Paola’s prearranged appointments. She is looking already for our next tour. We visited the Butcher, a small business that has taken off—he now operates a full restaurant with his meats. He is famous for his McDario hamburger was a half-pound of well-seasoned ground beef with a quick sear and served on a pile of lightly sauted onions, some fresh tomato slices, and some Tuscan bread and fried potatoes. He dubbed the “Mc” prefix to emphasize it is not a McDonald burger. He is not fast and doesn’t want anyone to eat it fast either! He and his wife, Kim, an American, have become one of the most sought after tourist locations. We walked into the butcher shop to be greeted with wine and bread and olive oil and their salty-peppery blend. They through in some wine and it was almost as good as a lunch—but it was just their way of saying welcome and let me show you what you can enjoy in our restaurant upstairs. Of course the first time we went it was too busy and we were to leave after our tastings disappointed, but happy this passionate man and his wife have carved out a very successful lifestyle while making a living. Sound familiar? Lenore and I are seeing allot of this. People have told us they first made wine for a hobby and finally decided to go into the wine business. There was the pasta lady, Willma, Tavernelle, who told us she just made pasta and sold it until one day a visitor asked if she would teach her how to make the pasta. She did and then it was the beginning of her newfound business of cooking classes. She handed me an apron and I got to work making her Chianti style pasta.

Our guests finally arrived in Florence on Monday October 17, 2011; we met and boarded our 20 seat bus and took off for our Castle in the Tuscany Hills. It was a little like taking a ride through a wormhole and back to the middle ages as we went from the skinny paved roads to the dirt and dusty Roman road that leads to the Castle. Our guests commented on the scenery and fresh cool air as they filed off the bus. Next they were shown to their rooms in this thick stone walled building that has been home to many before but perhaps none who loved it more than its current owners. Sergio and Stefano are chefs from a former life, but now the proud hosts in this beautiful place. Our rooms are furnished typical of the country side homes in Tuscany. Furniture is not new but rather handed down from generation to generation. Each room has an old armoire and two twin beds under one double headboard, pretending to be just one bed. Every room but ours has its own bath, and our bathe is just a short distance outside in the hallway. There are two common areas—one for three bedrooms (where ours is) and the other for five bedrooms. All rooms are spacious and clean with the sheets and towels smelling of fresh air. Dryers are not used in the country side of Tuscany.

Dinner tonight was long and lovely. To watch our hosts in their element and treat us to their beloved recipes of a black cabbage soup, made with white beans, and bread—one of the many ways Tuscan’s


THE BAKERY

October 29, 2011 Another stunningly beautiful day in Italy! We are off to some free time in Lucca, the completely walled city slightly north of Florence. Paola, our guide, said she thinks it is the best place to experience shopping because it is slightly out of the way for tourists. The drive was a couple hours from our villa. The freeway was thick with traffic and they all seemed to be going to Lucca.

Today is Saturday, the start to a long weekend for Italians to celebrate “All Saints Day.” So the traffic was noticeably more than last week the same time. Our guide was saying that cannot be the reason we see so many cars pouring into the city, though, and she called a friend who explained that there is a comic book convention in town. Seems attendees dress up in their favorite comic book characters. Some are recognizable but many just seem to be characters one might see back home for Halloween; renaissance characters and TV/movie personalities seem popular. So we, of course, picked one of the best days to see local color without knowing in advance. We took many pictures of the characters as they passed. All we needed to do is to raise our camera, poised to take their picture, and they would stop to pose!

As we sat drinking coffee watching the parade of sorts, I jumped out in front of a small child dressed like a knight of the round table; when he saw me his posture straightened proudly taking on the persona for the picture. After an espresso and gelato and a couple hours of people watching and shopping, our group gathered at the meeting place to board the bus for our lesson at a family owned bakery located in the outskirts of Lucca in a small neighborhood.

We assumed the family of bakers provides the bread for this small area.
But first there was a lovely buffet table set outside under one of those large umbrellas we have seen everywhere here in Italy. The centerpiece of ornamental corn and fresh roses for a Tuscan fall arrangement with platters of many of the “usual suspects” on our visits, included the mortadella ham, Tuscan salami, four kinds of breads, and even pizza and sort of a focaccia sandwich of “lardo,” which was soon declared a favorite. Of course there always seems to be wine, too, and after antipasti, the pasta comes to the table, this time called “macaroni” that looked like uneven pieces of thick flat pasta with a fresh tomato and garlic sauce, topped with parmesan regianno.

After lunch as each of us “aproned-up” and washed hands we headed into the small kitchen behind the even smaller retail store front. Italian store fronts, especially for food, seem to be only a garage door wide. The head baker had already prepped a batch of whole grain dough and shaped them into rounds, baguettes and some round loaves with sunflower imprints. All were placed onto a canvas conveyor belt that with one complete turn landed the 10-12 loaves on the deck of the large wide deck oven. They would bake about 30 minutes; just time enough to produce a second batch of Tuscan sour dough with his “biga” starter.

Divided into two groups, we each shaped bread and made some biscuits (also known as cookies). Lenore’s favorite cookie was the one coated in corn flakes before baking, with raisins and a dusting of powdered sugar when cool. For our guide, Paola, our baker hosts made her favorite dessert, a tart made with chestnut flour, rosemary, pine nuts and lemon zest. But for me, I was intrigued by the amaretto tart made with a wonderful shortbread crust rolled and cut in a way I had not seen before, and I will definitely be doing this one when I get home. We were rewarded for our work with a large pastry assortment of their specialties: almond paste crescent, cornflake cookies, chocolate pie, and amaretto tart. We finished production by bagging up all the baked goods to take with us!

We left with more than we came in with, that’s for sure. We each received a cookie bag tied in a bow along with a hand written recipe book, which we will need to translate after we get home. Obviously, this is not the type of activity they do regularly, but judging from the “polish” and enthusiasm of our second week, we think these artisans may like the opportunity to “teach” more often. The organization of the second lesson was noticeably improved and the shy demeanor of the bakers noticeably more relaxed and talkative.

That we are actually meeting the people who create the breads, cheeses, salami of the Tuscany region, is the core of this trip. Producers who welcomed us into their homes, in some cases, wouldn’t give us a lesson without feeding us too! The hospitality of the Italians continues to delight us.


thirteen days and counting down

The "girls" ready for rainy beach days.

The excitement of our trip to Tuscany is beginning to take over the usual excitement our new menu that starts today provides. Typically we change the menu the first weekend of the new month and after a whole month, we are ready to say good-bye to the old recipes, and say hello to the new ones. But this week, our attention is diverted to the suitcases at home in our living room and the pile of clothing we are sorting to pack. I used to travel allot with my past jobs, and it was pretty routine. Now it is never quite as smooth as that. No matter how early we start packing, the two of us are competing for space and you know who usually wins. This time the suitcases have been out for weeks to help desensitize our poodles since they get a little anxious when they see the bags come out. Their worries seem to melt the instant our dog sitter arrives. They do tend to get more attention when we are gone, so much of the wagging and licking we get when we get home is really just to be polite. Spoiled is a pretty good description of what we will find when we return. It is such a comfort to Lenore and me that we have good care for them while we are gone thanks to Donna and daughter, Dom. This will be the longest time we have been away, but I am guessing they won’t even notice.

So in the next 13 days we must finish packing and get done all the errands and list of details we need to do before we leave. One thing we must do is get flu and a tetanus shots. Lenore isn’t happy about this but agrees it’s best to be prepared.

There are many final details to getting the store ready for our absence. We’ve lined up guest chefs to do classes on the Saturdays we are gone. Shanda, our third arm, is the best comfort for our anxiety while away. She will hold it all together while we’re gone, and continue to take calls and schedule our shows.  Note to self, bring back Shanda a great souvenir from Tuscany.

No matter how many details we have covered we are pretty sure there will be some we have forgotten. I guess it is good to give ourselves a break, and just take it in stride when it comes. Once we get this trip under out belt, our first one as the hosts, we hope we can schedule two next year.

Right now I have kitchen duties calling, but one more thing. Please check out our blogs from Italy while we are away.


PRELUDE TO ITALY

We are leaving in a few weeks to host our first culinary journey, and I am getting excited. It has been in the works about a year, I think, and in October we will be on Italian soil picking olives and eating everything Tuscan! I am longing to repeat the flavors that are burned into my food memories. Like gelato, the perfect example of why the Italians do it right. Italians are most approachable and proud. They remind us of Americans only with a longer history. I remember the discussions Lenore and I were having on the way home from our last trip in Italy. Lenore telling me she could absolutely live there and feel right at home. I’m reminded of the hospitality in every restaurant and bar that we went into. The kind of hospitality that probably rivals American southern hospitality, because everywhere we went we felt like family.

Lenore and a group of fifteen girlfriends took a trip to Tuscany a few years back. Husbands were allowed to join them after they spent a couple weeks on their own. On the first night we husbands got into Florence, we all went out to dinner together, to a restaurant suggested by our hotel just a short cab ride away. At the moment I am not remembering the name. We were ushered into a back room that housed the longest communal table ever, and where we could see into the kitchen as the waiters pushed in and out of the swinging door. Our group filled the table, and when we were all settled in, Alice seated across the room from me, pointed above my head. “Look who’s sitting under his own family crest!” Sure enough there it was, the Neroni crest above my head, at head of the long table. Alice isn’t shy, and she announced the coincidence to our waiters. After they checked my passport to be sure, it seemed our party was instantly raised to VIP status. Wine was free flowing and in fact there was a bottle placed at the seat of every man at the table! Foods we didn’t order arrive and we were spoiled like that the entire evening! Wow, my ancestors must have been important. All I could think of was the times my dad would talk about the Neronis as having been royalty, and I remember thinking there goes my dad, exaggerating again, a habit I had grown to love/hate over the years.

Home again in Seattle, we learned via an internet search that indeed a Neroni served as council to the Medici Family, the richest family in Florence during the renaissance. I wonder now if any Neronis cooked for the Medicis. In culinary school we learned that Caterina de’ Medici married Henry II of France in 1533 and brought her own Italian cooks to France and, history records, that incident alone elevated the gastronomy of the Renaissance.

That we will be there again soaking up the history of the place, as we sip and dine on the traditional flavors that distinguishes Tuscan cuisine, it is enough to start my mouth watering for those Tuscan specialties: wild boar and its salami, sausage and prosciutto, liquid gold olive oil, porcini mushrooms, dishes made with dried white beans, toscanelli and cannellini, and the flat-bread like schiacciata.


Time to reflect on Summer, already?

It seems things are just beginning to “heat up” this summer, and it’s already time to expect visitor traffic to recede. Our inclination is to say, “no, don’t go!” We’re just warming up. (Literally, that is true!) We want to say, “what’s the hurry, you just got here.” Seems everyone falls for Fall! With the new fall lineup of TV and the ads for Back To School, we can already see the reservations the week after Labor day shrinking. We want to shout out that the weather here still feels like summer and the though the days are shorter, it’s still daylight after dinner. Time to enjoy more sand, sea air and all that Cannon Beach has to offer. Even the Farmers Market goes till the end of September!

We have already said good-bye to some of our summer help, and Shanda is composing our Fall newsletter. Wish we didn’t have to be so calendar controlled, especially when the weather is still so favorable and we have the energy to entertain with our dinner shows. But the pattern is becoming familiar now as we go into our eighth year. Before everyone leaves I just want to say thanks to our visitors this summer. I may forget your names but most often remember faces and places. Some of you come from quite a distance. We’ve seen first time to Oregon guests from Nebraska, lots of folks from Texas this year, and many from Canada–even as far as Nova Scotia and Manitoba. We know the people from Texas and other southern US places come here to escape the heat. When we go around the room with introductions we heard how wonderful our CB weather is. While those of us who live here year round were thinking our summer has only just begun. Anyway we want to say thanks to so many guests this summer, especially those who make an annual trip to Cannon Beach (& to EVOO).

The fact that many of our new guests referenced Trip Adviser has not escaped our notice, and we are so grateful for the great reviews from those who took time to write. We do so appreciate the power of such a tool, and we also know that the pressure is on every night we serve. Our posture has always been that whether or not it’s a guest’s first time or an encore, our show must be our best! I am driven by the very old and tired but true kitchen saying, “we’re only as good as our last meal.” Every meal tells the story and for me it better be my best. I am not saying I am a control freak, though one might, but I really don’t want to serve my food without being here myself. I admire places that can do it, but if we had to be open seven days a week in a restaurant, I couldn’t do it. My staff is good, and I respect them, but when my name is on it, I need to have the final say. This is actually why Lenore and I prefer to offer a licensed agreement to open a second EVOO; the chefs would also own it!

It is not that my food is so intricate that no one else can do it. No, I want every one of our guests to do these recipes so they better be easy enough. No, for me it is about putting in the same amount of care that I put in every time. That is a tough thing to teach. A standard is a standard, but when life happens, who but the owner can rise above personal issues that road block the way to perfection? It is just a concept based upon repeated observations that has taken me years to formulate. Ownership is best cultivate when you are indeed the owner. Some can do it, but it is rare. Anyway that explains why I only schedule my dinner shows when I can execute them myself.

It is a different story when a guest chef comes to present a piece of themselves. I find those times very educational for our guests and me. I do see their ownership and I like that they are willing to share with us. Teaching is a way to show one’s ownership. When we are away this October we have scheduled guest chefs to be here on Saturdays. One guest is Italian chef, Andre Pianucci, from Portland, who shares many of my food philosophies. The class is hands-on and focused on authentic gnocchi. Kate Koo is a sushi chef who is coming for a hands on class as well. Kate is currently working at Zilla Sake House in Portland. And finally we have Josh Archibald, our hometown guest chef, who will be doing his Northwest ciapino as an encore performance. Many people have said it is the best version of ciappino they have every tasted! Good to know, since I make one myself.

So summer’s been good. A bit short, but definitely good. I will FALL into step real soon with the change of weather, the fall food bounty, wearing fleece again, the anticipation of stormy weather arts festival and finally, the holidays. Oh yeah, and our trip to Tuscany in October. How could I forget that!


HAPPY 7th YEAR, TO US!

Today is our seventh year anniversary! And very happy about that! On the one hand it seems quick, really seven years? On the other like dog-years! Opening a small business and becoming “it” is daunting and humbling at once. It is the hardest and yet the most rewarding work I have ever done. It is like what I love to do on a plate–a total contrast in flavors–or juxtaposition of flavors–it is like the yin yang of running a business. Can’t really have one without the other.

Some of our customers tell us we work too hard. How hard is too hard? We don’t do anything we don’t think needs to be done. We think we are working as hard as we need to. That said we are always refresh, re-energized and renewed every night we do a show. It is as if the energy comes from our guests. Hard to explain, but make no mistake about it, our work is rewarded by the response we get from our guests.

We learned long time ago when we were training for our corporate employers, that human beings are pretty simple creatures when it comes to motivation. We all work best when we are appreciated. One of our HR exercises was to put someone in a circle and just give them applause. Applause! Free unadulterated hand-clapping to say–you are appreciated! Better than tips, I think. Yes, when the applause or appreciation is given spontaneously and in a public place it cannot be beat.

Speaking of that, we cannot thank our fans enough for publicly telling others of our work. Social media has been very kind to us and Trip Adviser, a definite asset to us.  For that we put our hands together and acknowledge our customers who have made us who we are today. Thank you very very much!

 


FIRST NIGHT

Tonight we are entering our second week of the August menu. After five full weeks in July we are pretty ready for the change. You see we eat the leftovers all month long. All good, just happy to see the new variety of leftovers that the new menu brings. And  our cooks are happy to move on from stuffing corn husks with our tamale mixture to now making buckets of falafel and shaping them into our oval patties.

As a chef, I find it energizing to start fresh and work on new stuff. I guess it is why I always gravitated toward catering in my former career life, because menus are new, at least more variety than typical restaurant menus, except for the daily specials which I always enjoyed, too.

We refer to the beginning of our new month menu as FIRST NIGHT. We expect to make “tweaks” as a result of seeing it altogether the first time and listening to the feed back from our first night guests. This month our first nighters were very generous in letting us know what they thought. So much so, we have changed some of our recipes, though our menu remains pretty much the same.

First up, “too much smoke on the beef course,” they told us, so we reduced the time in the smoke for the beef. “Hard to eat the first course,” a meze salad atop a grilled flatbread (my pizza dough). We responded by increasing the flat bread to fill the entire plate, piled the meze ingredients on top,  and encourage guests to roll it up and pick up the entire entree in their hands. That first night Lenore even suggest we change the first course completely, or maybe add our house made sausage, but our guests responded that they wouldn’t change the flavors. It is good as is, just a little hard to eat.

Guests also liked the sturgeon course as is, but Lenore and I thought a “remoulade” addition was needed. It is sort of a homemade tartar sauce. It is just a good summer plate featuring a delicious local fish.

And lastly, dessert. We served a graham cracker cake with warm ganache on top then; we then planted a giant home made marshmallow on the chocolate, scattered some toasted almond slices around, and lastly, torched each marshmallow before serving! As you might imagine the evening ran overtime as we attempted to roast all those marshmallows! They were so big that their outside was toasted before their inside was melted. Needless to say, the giant marshmallow project gave way to toasted marshmallow meringue, instead. It does still resemble a s’more, which is what we were going for.

At this point, we are grateful for all the help our FIRST NIGHT guests gave us this month. So much so, that they will receive a special invitation to come back to EVOO with a 20% discount. In fact we intend to officially make it our practice for every FIRST NIGHT. Maybe we’ll see you some first night.

falafel meze salad on flatbread first course
falafel meze salad on flatbread first course
sturgeon with chipotle biscuit and corn salad

 

 

smoked tenderloin on cheddar polenta and watermelon salsa
Plate up for dessert is more manageable with Swiss meringue replacing giant marshmallow.
Plate up for dessert is more manageable with Swiss meringue replacing giant marshmallow
Toasty!
Giant toasted marshmallow--delicious but had to go!

A cathartic rambling…

First and foremost our goal at EVOO is to provide a good dining experience that also inspires our guests to make the recipes at home. We know that our approach with ingredients and techniques has to be attainable for them. No molecular gastronomy for us! I admit I enjoy the concept and do follow it to a degree because cooking has always been science to me. But the way to inspire home cooking is not going to happen if our guests have to first buy a kitchen chemistry set.  We even apologize when our recipes are longer than five or six ingredients. We encourage our customers to be free spirits when it comes to recipes—using what is available instead of following a recipe to the letter.

That is the easiest part of my job. What I find continually challenging, is sticking to our commitment to sustainability. In the beginning of our business here in Cannon Beach, we described our desire to use local sustainable and organic ingredients in every class. And in the beginning we had to define what those words meant. Fast forward to today, defining the words has been all but dropped in our nightly discussions of food, a good sign that more people are learning about the practice. Still the sustainability mantra that we profess continues, and seems even more challenging. We have had to insert the words, “we strive to be” sustainable when speaking about our policies, because the more we learn the more we know how much farther we need to go. It’s humbling. If we were closer to the city (Portland) and maybe a bigger name or deeper pockets, we might be better able to get the ingredients we want.

Lenore and I are taking a day off, so this morning slept in and actually had a cooked breakfast of eggs instead of our typical shredded wheat and fruit. Day off just means I don’t have to go in to the school, but do need to place orders. I just got off the phone with some of my vendors for tomorrow’s market dinner and Lenore turned to me and said, wow, you really go to allot of trouble to get the products that you want. “Are salmon available?” “Where are they coming from?” “How are they caught?” Yes, they are available, gill net out of nearby Young’s Bay. Anything, line caught, I ask next? He tells me only troll caught out of the Rogue River, pretty smallish but still fat and good eating, so I ordered one for tomorrow’s dinner. This call came after already checking with the local market vendors first. I always give Linda Brand Crab, for example, first right of refusal, so to speak.

Finding naturally raised and finished beef is also a roller coaster ride for us. For a short time we worked with a small ranch in Oregon and enjoyed totally natural beef. Then they were forced to close for financial reasons when the recession hit and we could no longer get grass fed beef. Finally found another farm, but had to forgo the natural finishing because this farm trucked the steers to be processed in California, requiring them to eat grain/not grass for several weeks at the end of their lives. For now we are still searching, though I am considering dropping beef from my menus until I can find a completely grass fed and finished local product.

Naturally grass fed/finished cattle are available for the retail consumer. Of course these come frozen and in all varieties of meat cuts. I could go that route, though consumer perception is that frozen product is inferior to fresh. And least we forget there’s a big hit to our carbon foot print by keeping it in a freezer. And our clientele may not be ready for eating all that a whole carcass has to offer. Still it appeals to us to see if they are. After all, it is our mission to provide inspiration for home cooks to make our recipes at home. That said, by demonstrating how to use whole or sides of beef we might be giving them what they want. It means using all the lesser known cuts, and even the offal. It would demonstrate more sustainability because even using a freezer would be better than the fact that this summer I am requiring tenderloins from three animals per weekend to serve tenderloin on the menu just the month of July. Five weeks in July, and that is 15 steers just for one month on my menu. Really makes me stop and think about using that mantra of sustainable ingredients!

I will keep examining my practices and keep searching for the products I respect.  I appreciate them that much more when they show up at my door. Often I am the one to prepare them, too. It is a long way from my days as an executive chef—code for never touching food. I am the one who sees to it that the fish is well iced; that the herbs are in fresh water standing up under a cheesecloth umbrella; that the garlic and onions, and all staples, are rotated so they don’t begin to sprout or worse. When the fish arrives less than 24 hours from catch I can’t help feel exhilarated and grateful. On the flip side, I feel rotten whenever I find something well past prime in my refrigerator that I cannot use and must discard.

Right now, I am going to work on another form of sustainability; that of balancing Lenore and my work life with dinner and a movie with friends. Till next time….


My day off

We had been asked for a date to serve a small group described as foster kids, who were meeting from all over the country in Seaside, Oregon’s headquarters for the foster club, and who their director believed would gain allot from one of our dining experiences. We finally settled on a lunch experience on my day off, this past Monday. It was two years in the making already so we felt it was worth it to give up one day off.

So we put together a four course luncheon for who we pictured was our audience. We served fresh veggie and Oregon pink shrimp spring rolls with a gazpacho shooter to start, followed by a tenderloin kabob with Koren spices and a vegetable fried rice; next a fresh salad with strawberries and blue cheese and last a double chocolate cup cake with graham cracker crust and a whipped marshmallow meringue on top. It sounded like foods “kids” might like and we came in will no other expectation.

We were anxious to hear more about the Foster Club organization, but waited until we had served a couple courses before we took time to go around and hear from them. Lenore asked each to tell us their name, where they were from and what they hoped to accomplish in their lives. After the first two took their turns, we were hooked and almost fixated on their every word. Our emotions were stirring up and kept us fully attending till the last story was told. It took only about 15 minutes. I was stunned by their poise and articulation in telling what seemed like deep personal insights that I imagined the average person coming to sometime in their thirties. Each told how long they had been in foster care and one expanded saying that during their time in foster care that they had attended 17 different schools before graduating from high school. One said she was 21 and a senior at Stanford but that she had been in foster care for several years and found that she had grown to appreciate that her experience with Foster Club now was certainly helping her meet her goals as an adult. Every story hit us in such a way that we were instantly changed on the spot.  Our own attitudes and understanding of the foster care system were coming into focus and would be changed forever by this day.

Lenore was too choked up by the time the last person spoke, so I rescued her and pulled our attention back to the food. All the time I was aware now that my job was not nearly as important or meaningful as what these kids were going to accomplish with their lives. A few of them were going to leave the next morning to testify on Capitol hill, in Washington DC about foster care. To say we were humbled is an understatement.

We were changed. The rest of the meal we laughed and talked about food and Harry Potter, hoping no one would say too much as Lenore and I were planning to see the movie that evening.

Upon saying goodbye everyone came to each of us and shook our hands, often giving us tight hugs as well, again with that unexpected self-confidence and poise of a much older person. They each expressed their enjoyment and appreciation for the day. One woman said she never met anyone like my wife who had only known them for 2o minutes, yet who understood and she could see how much she cared.

Lenore’s tears were from joy for the most part. A faith in the character and leadership of these individuals. It was exhilarating. It was a good day off!


Cool

Ah, summer has arrived. The summer heat beating down onto our thin black asphalt roof coupled with no insulation is enough to melt our computers in our attic office; consequently it is the only room that has AC. Our dogs are sequestered in the air conditioned room; Lenore is up there too. When she comes down stairs she marvels at how cool it is down here. Really? She says it is hard to regulate the temperature up stairs–she is either freezing from AC or sweating after tuning it down. She cannot hear our music playing during the summer, because the AC is humming intermittently. She welcomes the chance to spend time downstairs.

Downstairs every screened window is opened and some floor fans blowing the fresh ocean air around. But make no mistake we still feel the heat of the stove and ovens as we prepare for tonight’s dinner. Our lunch guests are filling up the tables outside on our deck while they partake of fresh bowls of my pasta and sauce. Some customers still prefer to gather around my stove inside, and I enjoy their company while I am cooking.

As in past seasons we serve European-style Cheese Boards–we are calling them BOB’S BOARDS because I am choosing great bulk cheeses we’ve never carried before and matching them up with some of the new dry aged cured sausages we do carry now (soon to be our very own recipes). Some of our guests say they really enjoy the leisure atmosphere here, long enough to enjoy a full bottle of wine and some good food. Some say “healthy” food; I think I know that they mean “whole foods” prepared fresh on premise. We gladly fulfill that niche for them. It is what we do best. Start from scratch and create dishes we love to eat too. Summer is heating up, but for me it is cool.


WEBSITE GETS REMODELED

June 1st, we launched our remolded website. Our goal was to simplify. I guess we won’t know for sure until more of our guests have a chance to use it, but from Lenore’s perspective, if it is as easy for our user as it is for her to update it, we accomplished our goal. By emphasizing our mainstay, THE DINNER SHOW,  first time users can find a show quickly that corresponds to the date(s) they’ll be in town. Our guest survey revealed that hands-on classes are searched out after first coming to the dinner show, so we put all of those “backstage,” as if to say, go backstage with our crew to get your hands dirty.

If you are back to check out the pictures taken during your show, our gallery lives in the ABOUT navigation button.  And if you are back to try one of the recipes you had while at the show, BOB & LENORE’S COOKBOOK is on the right hand side of home page.

The cookbook features new chapters and the most visual changes. All of the chapters are titled for their place in the Mediterranean food pyramid. Odd that it sounds, we do use at least 80 % Northwest ingredients, but we follow the healthy Mediterranean cuisines in our menu planning. Our chapters are listed in order of dominance for balance in a healthy eating style. First we list the chapter on grains, followed by vegetables and fruits, legumes, and beans, followed by fish and so forth to the items which we use more moderately.

Two new chapters in our cookbook are TECHNIQUES & METHODS  and INGREDIENTS, where you’ll find lists of “how-to-dos” we frequently speak about during our shows. We are able to explained a bit more in depth in these new chapters than in the recipe itself.  For example, you can review how to choose a wine that matches with the other ingredients on the menu. You can find out about keeping foods safe from food borne illness and proper cooking temperatures.  And down the line, we will be adding quick videos capturing techniques and methods we do before our guests arrive.

We invite you to explore and give feedback, but do give Lenore time for learning curve and to catch up with some of the changes that didn’t transfer well. Gallery pictures,  for example, are now under the ABOUT nav-button, and some of the pictures are just too small for this new format. Some of the groups didn’t transfer well either and we may need to actually start over.

Just a quick word of appreciation for our web designers, Jonathan & Amy, Grow-Creative, for this re-do as well as all they have done the past seven years.

 


TASTE OF TUSCANY

“Bedrooms in Italy are narrower than they are in America or Canada. They are very nice by Italian standards, just not so wide,” Paola Roselli, our tour guide said to the group. “Further,” she said, “They don’t name the beds in Italy,” referring to queen, king, and standard. Seems Italian beds come for one or two people; and often, beds for two, are two beds designed for one simply pushed together. “You are going to rural Italy. There may not be Wi-Fi or even cell service,” she suggested, “you’re going to do allot of resting and relaxing and enjoying the beautiful countryside of Tuscany.”  As for exercise, sounds like no problem, as we will be picking olives in the adjacent orchard the first day! And if you still want more, Paola recommends we walk the Roman road (yes, that’s right—it is the original genuine article) outside our villa; it is 4 Kilometers to the nearest town where you can get a coffee!

We invited guests who will be traveling with us to attend this preview TASTE OF TUSCANY dinner at EVOO to put us all in the mood for the trip. Our plan was to bring the group together to get to know each other as well to provide time to ask questions about our itinerary. Paola and her husband came to dinner too, and she came prepared to tell us like it is. After she spoke/gestured for an hour I decided her goal must have been to make sure no one going  on this trip would have any unrealistic expectations.

“Bathrooms in Italy are the most unusual. You see, in Italy we don’t tear down and rebuild; too expensive. We just repair and add on and make the existing structures better. Don’t expect every restroom to be the same. Most of the time, rest rooms were added into small spaces; it is something that will make you laugh when you report back to the group,” she said placing her hands together and looking up to the ceiling as if requesting divine help in getting her point across. Lenore looked around the room wondering how well our guests were accepting the news. Smiles, even laughs, and many nods of approval! Whew!

Paola told the group the itinerary came from the wish-list that we gave her in the beginning when she asked us what an ideal culinary tour in Tuscany would be. She said she was so happy to put together this personal tour and gave us almost everything, leaving out our interest in fishing. That she doesn’t care for fish had nothing to do with it she explained! She said she appreciates the opportunity to put together such a unique tour and being together on this day so everyone can know what to expect in October. She told us we need to be flexible with the itinerary as she may need to switch a few things around—like the day we visit the cattle farm, she said, they are butchering fresh just for us, so when they are ready we go!

Our arrival day needs coordination in that everyone needs to let Paola know when they are arriving so she and the bus company can arrange pick up. All this will be decided of course before we leave for Italy in October. She asked our guests to be sure to tell me and Lenore their flight information so that we can send it all at once to her. Then she will give times, stating the times are more or less accurate, as “we may run into an accident on the road and that slows everyone down.”

Lenore  took video of a portion of  Paola explaining what we can expect on our tour. It is too large to post here so we are burning to CD.  Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of the day.  [Pictures top-bottom:Bob at his amazing Taste of Tuscany buffet; Paola speaking (Italian style); a delicious combination of fresh pasta, bread crumbs, garlic & anchovies aioli; roasted peppers; fritatta with fried eggplant & tomatoes; fennel stuffed porkloin & rosemary potatoes.]






After

After our very successful Thursday night dinner show, I returned home about 11 PM and Lenore said she had a plan. A plan for what? First we will pack our van with the Tsunami kits, extra jackets and blow up mattress. We’ll drive up to Haystack Heights and park it. Then we’ll come home, try to get some sleep, but know that we will be evacuating by 7 AM. That is when the waves could potentially reach the Oregon shoreline. We live just four houses from the beach–almost at sea level. We have lots of pictures saved in boxes as high as they could be in the garage and we thought that would do. Anyway, as I was fighting a cold, Lenore insisted I get some sleep. She slept on and off with the tv on, not knowing if their predictions and timing were accurate. What if we couldn’t hear the alarm, and so on it went through her mind. About 4 AM, as the East coast started to wake up and get the news, our good friend in Maryland called. Lenore told her she was ready. Alice insisted on doing more–she said do you have clothing, your important papers, etc? Well we didn’t. We just planned for our personal safety. Plus we  went into school to wake up our intern, who is here from the Oregon Culinary Institute for his externship, and who is staying in our studio at the school. He was sleepy but quickly packed his stuff and came along. By now the authorities were telling us to get to high ground before 6 AM and that was an hour away.

What strikes me looking back is that nothing mattered as much as our personal safety. It felt hopeless to begin to gather important possessions. Not enough time, not sure where everything is anyway, and not organized enough to do it well. Note to self, get organize for the next time. And next time is probable as long as we live on the coast. The planning and efforts by the authorities to educate us and prepare us is appreciated and our consciousness is awakened. We have had our tsunami kits prepared since the last time, but now we are questioning if  high ground is high enough. After watching the destruction in Japan we think there is going to be so much debris (our house included) pushing up the hill that maybe we need to reassess the distance required.

All this said, we must do our due diligence and make sure our emergency plans are more solid than this time, but we also must relegate the potential for such an event to the same place we put getting hit by lightening, which I guess, odds are better that will happen than a tsunami. We must go back to work and play in this delightful community, knowing that ours is probably safer than most. After all Californians go back to their homes after fires and earthquakes. Gratefully the filters in our minds keep us from going obsessive. We can move on and get back to day to day. Day to day, that for me keeps me mindful of the present and getting the most from it.

While we were in our safe place with friends up in Haystack Heights, we were surprised to see our Thusday night guests on the news as they were being evacuated from their hotel in Cannon Beach. By noon, when our town was declared safe to return, we once again saw the same customers walking through town. They came back! And so did our guests for Friday night, and Saturday too. In fact, it was a busy Savor Cannon Beach weekend! Our salt tasting was very well attended and I had a great time doing it. We will be doing that again! And the winter wine tour seemed to be quite successful too. So good was the weekend in fact by Sunday we slept till noon, forgetting we were to “spring forward,” and being completely rested we took the entire day to ourselves.


Trippin’ out to Tuscany

Who knew our culinary tour to Tuscany this coming October would be so popular. We decided  quite spontaneously to add a second week since our first filled so quickly. And then the second filled too! So off we go to Tuscany with two groups back to back, the second repeating the itinerary of the first. It has been slightly daunting to be the hosts of a party, so to speak, that we are putting together over such a long distance. We already have a high degree of confidence in our contacts in Italy and so we must have faith in them to deliver the goods. They have after all, the experience of organizing such tours that we do not. Our guide grew up in the area and knows the proprietors personally. Between now and our departure the plan is to nail down even more details of each experience. For example, Lenore and I will help to pick out our dinner menus at the Villa; both the hands-on classes as well as the others. Our guide has already checked with the two chef-hosts at the Villa who encouraged us  to plan the menus with them. Mind you we are asking for authentic seasonal Tuscan meals. Without knowing anyone, we should have a certain level of faith in the results, since after-all, it is Italy!  At this rate we will have plenty to report when our travel companions get together with us in May at EVOO for our Taste of Tuscany dinner. At that time we should know more about the weather picture in October and what to pack, and if the men need jackets/ties, because Lenore tells me the women will know how they should dress just knowing that. We do know good walking shoes and even boots might be in order for one of our day trips into the olive orchards. Hopefully we can do it all with one bag. So stay tuned as we continue our ramp up to Tuscany!


Recipe Testing

Recipe testing can be time consuming but I couldn’t do this job without it. Luckily between Lenore and I we can usually make the time. Lenore made up a batch of dumplings the other day to add to our basic minestrone soup! A little off the mainstream of chicken and dumplings, but  why not. She decided to add some crispy fried prosciutto and some ground dry aged parmesan cheese to the virgin dumpling batter. It really added allot of interest to a minestrone soup without the traditional elbow pasta the way my family makes it. It all started because the local newspaper, Gazette, ask for our take on eating healthy for their annual “Healthy Outlook” edition. So we did the article and included our minestrone soup with these dumplings. Recipes are in our online cookbook. Enjoy!

Minestrone with Prosciutto chive Dumplings
feature

Mid January and counting

Sometimes it seems the most exciting part about January is the planning we do for the rest of year. We are mid-Jan and counting the days for faster times in town!  So much water!  Even our little get away plan was dampened by so much wind and rain. But I get ahead of myself. Lenore and I decided to take a short road trip. Motivated by the fact that last January we had build a bed that fits perfectly into our van for sleeping and storage of clothing, dog paraphernalia, and  food. It was allot fun last year building it with friends in Seattle in their garage–while it rained outside. The best laid plans to use it during the year for short road trips never happened. Now with the impending expiration of the lease on the van it was now or never to try out our “turtle” as Lenore has dubbed the van-bed. So it was the morning of a trip down the coast to visit our friends in Yachats; the turtle was ready, all packed, dogs eager.  But the van was not going anywhere. Battery had died as I discovered later due to the cabin lights on all night. So I jumped using Lenore’s cables and car–but when they started smoking, I unhitched before any damage to either battery and called AAA. How embarrassing to have our local tow truck pull into our drive. Anyway, once on the road, we drove to our local Les Schwab and stopped the van. If it didn’t start there we could at least buy a new battery. First thing the attendant said was, wow you could use a couple new tires! He assumed that was why we were there. So knowing I am turning in the van in a couple months, I reluctantly put on two new tires thinking of the safety of my family in the turtle! By now it is several hours later, but we can still make our dinner date before dark. The real upshot of the entire trip is that we did stay in the turtle that night. Parked in the driveway of our friends with a perfectly available guest room at the ready. They kindly left the door open in case we changed our minds during the night. Once we were all inside for the night all seemed pretty good. The poodles were assigned to their beds that were on the front seats of the van. Only one went willingly so the other scrunched in on my side–we all settled down. I immediately felt the blood rush to my head and realized we were parked with the nose of the van on a downward slant. Hoping Lenore wouldn’t notice, I didn’t speak of it. By morning, after each of us separately woke up to make a trip to the bathroom inside, the van-bed was in total disarray and Lenore was wedged between the front seats with one poodle, while our other one had the entire foot of the bed to herself. We walked out most of our kinks with the dogs–ignoring the wind and rain as best we could.  Afterward our friends prepared a great breakfast–having had a restaurant in Tuscan–you know it was wonderful, and we went to Newport aquarium to meet another friend who happened to be in town. Love going there, but by the time we were done it was already 4:00, and we could sure use a shower. We stayed the night at the Newport Hallmark where our friend was and thawed out in a spa room for dogs!

Here is the recipe of sorts for the breakfast tostada our friends made. Start with corn tortilla and cover with grated sharp cheddar. Bake to melt. Add layer of spicy sausage and rice and beans. Top with sliced avocado and two fried eggs. Serve with variety of prepared hot salsa–all of which were delicious.


Happy New Year!

It is amazing how good it feels to say so long to the old and ring in the new! Besides being thankful for a good year past, we find ourselves hopeful for this one. It is clear we are doing what we love and our plan is to keep doing it in 2011.  We had 25 guests at our dinner show last evening who made it a party! We say thanks because without planning it this way, our new way of life here in Cannon Beach seems to fulfill our need for social life too. Now I ask, how many jobs out there do that? Maybe more than I think but for sure this is the one that does it for me. Lenore too, enjoys the hospitality of our experiences here at EVOO.  She actually put together foodie games that to my surprise our guests  really seemed to enjoy. When they arrived they were given a portion of a silly food riddle and a glass of sparkling Proseco wine. They were then tasked with finding the other half of the riddle. When they found each other they were to learn as much as possible about each other that they could, then introduce each other to the rest of the guests. Nice icebreaker, as we called it in my corporate days. Then there were the guests who showed their competitive side. Dana, why we didn’t know you enjoyed winning so much! And as the games continued I was cooking. I loved the menu–we started with ahi tuna & hazelnut tartar on a toasted sesame wonton served with a hot chestnut soup shooter. My favorite course was the truffle papparadelle pasta with truffle butter and black truffle slices. We topped that with a poached duck egg and frizzled speck. Next course, we did seared scallops and marinated shrimp with potato-cauliflower hash with a hint of curry. And finally we had prime rib with a roasted vegetable pot pie. It was not a typically pot pie—no, no. It seemed to morph as we did it. Started with roasting six different vegetables separately. When we saw how beautiful these were we didn’t want to cover them up with the rich beautifully flavored veloute sauce and then pasty–how could we see these colorful roasted veggies? That is what I mean about morphing. We put the veloute on the bottom of a shallow ramekin; then veggies on the veloute; baked 15 minutes to bring up to temperature for serving and then we added a prebaked pastry top! Fun! Lots of work but resulted in a “do again” dish for me. Of course we had a great dessert finale too. Chocolate sour cream cake with toasted Swiss meringue icing sitting in a pool of warm chocolate ganache. But wait, there’s more. A scoop of chocolate cherry gelato and salted candied hazelnut. Okay! Lots of love in this menu and so appropriate for the night, because we were expressing our appreciation of where we have been and anticipating the possibilities of the new year all in one experience. May the love continue for us all and may the new year bring it for us all!


Gift Certificate Holiday Promotion

It is that time of year when we are hoping to express our appreciation to those of our customers who keep coming back! Since our gift certificate promotion of last season was so successful we decided to repeat it. The number we can offer is limited, of course, and we have more members this year so we had to limit purchases to two per email address. That way more people can participate.  Anyone not on the Encore list must wait for next year for this particular promotion. To sign up for encore, you must have attended at least one class already. Then click the ENCORE link to sign up and fill in your information. Simple!  And when you recieve the email to make sure it is your desire to sign up, just click yes and you “opt-in.”

This offer in no way is equal to the amount of our appreciation to our returning customers and to those who send new guests our way. Whenever we can we will reach out to you and send you first for any and all of our invitations, incentives and promotions.

My days right now are full of baking, and holiday catering, so this must be short. You can also read short notes from me on Facebook and Twitter (when I can get on), so please look there as well.

Many thanks from Lenore and me for your continued support, and heartfelt wishes for a wonderful winter and holiday season.

Ciao, Bob


DC power dining

A couple weeks ago now Lenore and I were in Wash DC for the first time in a long time (15 plus years) and we took full advantage of our time there. Truly the trip was  arranged to attend a very important wedding for a very special friend of ours. We managed to pack every other minute with shear indulgence. Lenore had a mani, pedi, and facial, while I shopped spice shops and markets. Everyday we went into town or at least as far as Bethesda to eat lunch and often made a point to see two or three new places each trip. We did enjoy the time spent with friends of course, and certainly enjoyed seeing the changes in the area. Bethesda was hard to recognize for example. And of course the choice of spending an anniversary dinner with close friends, John and Alice, at the Inn at Little Washington was a definite favorite.

We had always wanted to go to this Micheline star property. It wasn’t the expense so much as the distance. Now that we live and work on the coast of Oregon, 1 1/2 hours from Portland and 4 hours from Seattle, we didn’t think an hour to Washington, VA was long at all. Besides with old friends the drive affords face time together! Anyway we arrived early, better than the opposite. We strolled the town and realized that the “INN” is the town! Not a whole lot going on there. But then there is Warrenton VA just a little distance away.

Sometimes it is just better to imagine how wonderful a place is to avoid the let down. We knew over the years we may have even inflated our expectation of the INN. We had attended a series of lectures by chefs at the Smithsonian, years before, and when Chef Patrick O’Connel spoke of his restaurant and the quality standards they demand, we were hooked. Could it possible be as good as we thought all these years?

Well, except for a few minor service blips, our time spent was absolutely worth the wait. Of course our dinner company helped. It is great to share the experience with friends with whom we have a long history and who share our love of fine dining. So to begin with, nothing had to be better than that! 

We opted out of the prix fix menu because it meant we all had the same foods. We are so used to sharing at the table with this couple that we ordered every choice. We even call our sharing , the wave—to the right or left—we pass our whole plate until it makes its way back to us. Luckily we were seated in a private-ish area and didn’t look too bourgeois.

Everything was so good.  It was as if flavor and ability to relate to the food was the goal as much as creativity and something new.  I like real relatable foods. This meal was both relateable and ample. We had some favorites and I am already planning to recreate some in our place.  More on that later.

The rest of the week we found some other favorites. 1804 in Bethesda is a little office building space–mostly for lunch that was serving  homemade charterie platters along with everything from scratch incorporating the whole animal.  Another lunch, downtown on H street, was at Potenza for Italian. Loved the cocktails and must say the service was a highlight. My favorite lunch spot in DC was Zaytinya, one of Jose Andres’s places. I had seen an interview with him on 60 Minutes, and really related to his effort to almost apply the food science of flavor to each item he fixes. All of his places in DC represent the antithesis of the more typical over sized portions in that he serves only small plates in all his restaurants. Zaytinya is Greek, Leanese, and Serian. Everything was extraordinary.

I am glad I have taken time to recap our experience. I can almost taste it all again. Lenore and I feel totally re-energized and renewed. This is an exciting time for culinary in our country and we enjoy being apart of it.


Best of summer

It’s too cool weather-wise this summer especially for those of us who live here year round, and who’s business relies on visitors coming to the beach! It seems to our surprise, visitors actually like the cool since many are coming from an unusually HOT summer in their home towns. It is all a matter of perspective. Anyway it started me thinking about the fun we have in the summer whatever the weather story. We enjoy the blend of places from which our dinner guests come: Florida, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Edmonton, Nova Scotia, and even Mexico City. A group from Mexico joined us at lunch one day, after having viewed “Oregon Uncovered” on their local Travel channel. That’s the one in which we were fortunate enough to be featured.

We are doing more cheese boards on the deck this summer, despite the clouds. We get some great comments about how having our cheese boards on the deck with wine and good bread reminds them of being in Europe.

We like summer because the high school and college kids are back to help. It reminds Lenore of her days teaching culinary arts to high school students in Maryland. And their enthusiasm is very energizing for me. I do enjoy watching the activity of our team moving with the purpose to make the guests happy–the hum of the hospitality business you might say.


SUMMER

For most people summer is a time to take long walks on the beach, sip wine on the deck and enjoy being outdoors. For Lenore and me those activities are more for the shoulder season, as they say. Summer kicks off the busiest time of year in our little town when you are a business owner. Visitors are now coming not just from Portland and Seattle but also all over Europe and points down under. So as we get started on this roller coaster we call high season, I hope you’ll stop in and say hi from time to time, remind me what day of the week it is, and join us for lunch. In fact, that is why we opened our family meal, as we call it, to the public. We are pretty busy seven days a week now, so it is the best way we know to do some socializing. Come for coffee, a great bowl of soup, bottle of OR wine paired with some artisan cheeses and our crusty bread, but come on in. One thing for sure, we’ll be here all season


FAMILY MEAL GETS COMPETITIVE!

The concept of a family meal is not new. Staff members eating together prior to dinner service is part of the kitchen culture. It bonds us and gives the opportunity to discuss service, new ideas and just get caught up on each others lives. The menus have been a great chance to try new recipes out, re-working leftovers into something completely different and of course getting competitive! The latter of this gets really going in the summer at EVOO. Since we offer twelve seats up to the general public it is no surprise that we put our best foot forward to make sure the experience is as good as any other we provide. In the past, Lenore and I have come to head and towards the end of last year I cheated more a than a little. (You would have to come in to hear that tale.) This time out, every staff member is having a go at it. This week is Paco’s turn and his eagerness is contagious. Between his fathers hand made tortilla press to the groceries he procured from Portland, he is determined to make the first week the bar for others to aspire. I plan on keeping this posting up to date with a play by play of our success but for now I leave with our first menu.

Chicken Soffritos – Dark meat chicken braised in chipolte, jalapeno, garlic, onion and tomato. Fresh tortillas lightly fried and served with shredded lettuce, feta cheese, creme, tomatillo salsa and salsa Rojas. The dish was vibrant with hits of appropriate spice and tangy turns. Each bite offered a new experience but the simplicity made it all cohesive. A great beginning to what should be a phenomenal summer of family meals!


FRONT PAGE OF THE TRAVEL SECTION OF SUNDAY’S OREGONIAN

Not sure why EVOO got front page of the Travel section, but grateful all the same. It has been an interesting afterglow to say the least. Every now an then I am told by new guests that they just happen to see that picture of me in the Oregonian and it made them want to check us out! Some people have just said something like they have been reading about us and that picture finally made them pick up the phone and make a reservation. Lately too, we get calls from people who are sure they cannot get in for the following weekend because we are so popular. Let me reassure, we have sometimes only filled up the day of the class just hours before it starts! And this year particularly, we see lots more last minute reservations than past years; spontaneous beach trips where people are waiting till the last minute even to make hotel accommodations. So don’t hesitate to ask if we have space–most likely we do. If we don’t, we will try our best to talk you into something else real soon. Read article: http://evoo.biz/press


HAPPY EASTER!

Spring Break brings families to our town. We know it is all about the children, so don’t really expect the families to attend our classes. So today when I saw four teenage girls walk in at 9:00 for the ARTISAN BREAD class, I was wondering if they really understood that this was a 5 hour class. Then their mom came in and made me a bit more comfortable, and finally the last attendee, a customer who had been in before, was the only guy. Nice size class but still wondering if I will keep their attention, I got started. It had not yet occurred to me that this was the day before Easter Sunday. It wasn’t until one of the girls said “happy Easter” to someone that I decided to add a little holiday relevance to the class. We were shaping dinner rolls and cinnamon buns from the sweet roll dough, the very same I use for the Italian (and Greek) style breads for Easter. So I asked one of my cooks to make some eggs and dye them–so we could demonstrate yet another example of what can be done with this versatile dough. RECIPE


A Productive Day

I finally feel like I am getting traction with our goal to get some products to market. I found a local chef / manufacturer today who has similar ideals and philosophy. He will take a look at our spice blends, and with his current client list and product placement this could propel our project ahead of our expectations. Lenore and I have been focusing on other products to manufacture, too, and it is by accident that we have these spice blends. We developed them to promote the Savor Cannon Beach weekend in a joint promotion with the Hallmark Hotel in March. Now that the formulas are blended we can take the next steps.

We sampled the blends this past month on our menus and we had great positive response that only encourages us more. What makes these spice blends different is that SALT is not our primary ingredient. I like the idea that home cooks can control the salt. It is okay to use these blends without salt, though sometimes it is best to add salt. Putting the choice in the hands of the consumer is important to us. We currently have a Madras style curry blend, an Andalusian Basque style spice mix, and a Coriander sea salt, where salt is the secondary ingredient. Since I use coriander and salt in combination almost always anyway, it just seemed a natural combo for my blends, especially since when I use coriander I tend to use less salt.


TAKING A BREAK

I know it sounds weird that we take a break exactly when Portland schools are on break–presuming lots of people will migrate to the beach, and that’s good for business. Actually we had planned to go a week earlier but our business community group got together to drum up business on this historically slow week before Spring breaks begin. In addition they talked the children’s center into doing their fund raiser wine walk that weekend, and of course, we all felt the need to support this important effort. So the timing was unavoidable this year. Savor Cannon Beach weekend and the Children’s Center Winter Wine Walk was a big hit. Our Zerba wine dinner was one of our best– both well attended and received. We now believe if you build a wine dinner around ZERBA they will come!

And taking a break? Make no mistake as difficult as it is for us to break away from the never ending “to-do” list, Lenore and I really needed the opportunity for sunshine, good friends, great food and drink, and a chance for business out of sight and out of mind. Makes me better now. Always good to be home, play with the poodles, and cook in our kitchen again.


words

I am writing tonight even as late as it is to capture a discussion at dinner tonight before I forget.  It was the first night of our March Dinner Show menu. We had a full house with three birthday guests and one anniversary couple in to celebrate. Being a new menu I guess I am a little edgy about the execution. We have been testing the recipes for a couple weeks but until the first night it really doesn’t seem to matter. It’s opening night and it has to go off without a hick up. This evening was going very well until I described the  fish I was about to cook up as Rockfish, or aka, snapper. I was so focused I barely notice when one of the birthday guests shyly raised her hand and said, “I don’t mean to be disputatious, but I believe Rock fish is striped bass and not snapper.”  She said she is quite sure they are different and she should know being from Maryland where Chesapeake Bay Rockfish is the state fish. I explained that the West coast species is more like snapper and of course that was the conversation I had had with my fish perveyor who described the Pacific Rockfish species to a tee and said we also call it snapper out here. When I got home, did a google search and found we are both right because we were dealing with a varied species all around. The Maryland species is definitely different, and depending on origin, Rockfish come with different flavor profiles. As much Rockfish as I cooked in Maryland when I was there, you think I would be more confident. The guest making the point was really anything but disputatious. She was persistent and yet ate my fish offering with gusto. She said it was her favorite course of the night. Further she said it wasn’t a big deal, and told us it was kind of like the time she told her husband that dinner was spaghetti with red sauce. When he came to the table the spaghetti was spaghetti squash and he really had a taste for the pasta kind. In other words, her point of reference was Maryland rockfish and that is what she expected when the name rockfish was use. It all shook out just fine with laughter all around and we had a great time with the word “disputatious” the rest of the evening.   “dis put ta’ tion,” noun- the act of disputing or debating; verbal controversy; discussion or debate.


new beginnings

Lenore used to teach high school. She told me how each year meant a new beginning because the student were new, of course, and her curriculum could be rewritten for a fresh start. She’d keep what worked and dreaming up new stuff. She would tell me that she enjoyed thinking up ways to motivate students when Sept rolled around. Her classes were called “culinary arts” and they were for students aspiring to be chefs.  Her inspiration for lesson plans often came from current events and movies. This was all before the food network, though, and I have a feeling it might be pretty different for her today. In any event, it occurs to me that she was doing then what she does now for our business. She didn’t call it marketing then, but it was similar–trying to inspire the students and to attract more of them at the same time. As we are in a slow season right now, we too are planning marketing strategies to bring our customers back again and to inspire new ones to come for the first time. I can now relate to what she was talking about back in those years, because doing business here in CB is really like starting over each year, and dreaming up a new beginning of sorts as we get closer to another busy summer is very motivating for me.

As of yet, our plans are to focus on getting done what we’ve already dreamed up–like getting some of our products to market and maybe having them ready by farmers market.  We are bringing back FAMILY MEAL for the summer. This is the one that we invite customers to come on a first come first serve basis and they eat what we make for the staff meal. Only once we start inviting guests, we don’t depend so much on the leftovers, but rather actually plan the menus. The criteria for a family meal is that it be like the old diner blue plate special or what my mom calls comfort food.  It  is fun for us to do it, but more importantly our guests seemed to enjoy it too.

We are happily looking forward to the new summer season  approaching.


It’s busy but slow here

Just realized it has been long since I wrote in this blog. I promised Lenore I would write at least once a week. Then she got me signed up for Facebook and while she was there we did a page for EVOO. So that makes three places to post and I am not yet routinely doing any of them.

But for today there is a sense that time is speeding by and keeping in touch socially is supposedly ensures people’s mental healthiness! So to testify that I am mentally sound, I am making contact to those who care to read this and admittedly it gives me pleasure knowing that someone might care to read this.

Lenore and I are busy because it is slow here!  That is, it is a “shoulder season” in Cannon Beach. Visitors come weekends only and only about a tenth the number we see during season. We are used to such a feast and famine existence because that is the way it is in the restaurant world. We are busy or slow–it’s just the way it is! It doesn’t mean we like it–because as the owner of a business being slow directly impacts the bank account. We know how to deal with the manic times of the dinner rush in a restaurant and then the decompression in the down time, but when you are the owner there isn’t down time. That is when we dream up ways to drum up business! This is when we must do the jobs that in the summer we have employees doing. Things like filing, recycle, dusting, laundry, yard work, sweeping and washing windows. And on the home front, we do our own housework instead of farming it out. And while all this is going on we still exist under the delusion that we have extra time now to get together with friends and take a few days away now and then. So that is why we are busy during the slow time.


Found some inspiration on our vacation

Just returning from a little sunshine respite. Lenore has family in sunny Brea CA where we spent a few nights at their very comfortable CA home. It was nice for Lenore to catch up with her aunt and uncle while I played in the kitchen with her cousin, Mary, quite an accomplished cook. Never done it commercially but even if I had never enjoyed her cooking, her ability to cook certainly shows in her kitchen.

She has everything any cook could want and a place for everything. She has one of the newest drip coffee makers, one cup at a time, and uses her tiniest Tupperware to set up her own coffee “pods.” There are so many drawers that I finally asked how they found this home with the biggest kitchen on the block, and she explained that David, her husband, is very handy and just kept expanding the kitchen. So right away the experience of cooking with her was going to be great.

I think Mary was a little surprised that I wanted to make her famous shortbread that she mails to us every Christmas, ours just one of 125 that she sends out. Her shortbread molds are collector’s items as well, and we picked out a couple since one batch makes two. I was amazed that she actually broke every so-called rule for baking by making this tender delight in a giant Cuisinart–didn’t even know they make them so large! She started with a pound of frozen salted butter (I get that) and proceeded to blend until I could feel the heat off the blade. Asking if she was going to chill the dough, she said no, and in fact she heated the molds before filling with dough. She let me play with the second half of the batch. To it, I added a few spices that I found in her cupboard (anything you could imagine was there). I made a little curry mix and yes, added some coriander to it. Both went into the oven and out in about 30 minutes. I guess that even with her giant Cuisinart and several molds, she can only bake 4 at a time in her double ovens, so it must take close to 36 hours to make all 125. The addition of curry was interesting and Lenore liked it, but I was not satisfied, so plan to improve it a bit next time. Mary, of course, is sharing her recipe and I intend to post it once I do it again in my kitchen. No doubt about it, Mary makes the best shortbread I ever tasted.

Mid week our cousins drove us to Palm Springs, a short 90 minute drive, to meet up with friends from Seattle who were there for a whole month! Mutual friends from Maryland were already there. In fact, almost the entire group from our French Laundry experience were together again. Being foodies, we did as much eating as talking. First day we went to the local Farmers Market–it was all organic foods, no crafts, and they had cut flowers!

Anyway, it was tough to shop the market when we only had two days for cooking! The couple we were visiting had a full fridge and tangerine, orange & lime trees outside their door. We had to use restraint. Lenore found a new fruit, to me anyway, called ‘Yellow Sapote’ from Mexico, also known as Canistell or “egg-fruit.” The farm stand attendant didn’t speak allot of English, so we didn’t really know what we were buying. She cut one up for tastes. It was sweet like very ripe persimmons but had the texture of a ripe avocado, to us anyway. Researching it on the internet, I found the texture described as a hard boiled egg since it doesn’t produce much juice. In any case, I included it in the breakfast watermelon salad I made the next morning. It was pretty good and I will be looking for that fruit again if I ever get to Florida where they are grown commercially. For now I am happy that it happened to be grown by a little farm in southeastern California and brought to market that day.

If I were to make the salad again, here is a recipe subbing avocado for the Sapote.

WATERMELON SALAD
1 small seedless Watermelon (or Crenshaw melon, would be good too)
2 avocado, 1/2 dice or 2 “sapote” if you can get it
6 fresh figs, quartered
2 fresh sweet persimmons, core and cut 1/2″ dice
juice of 1 large lime
1 bunch Basil, rough chop
1 serrano pepper, seed, devein, mince
1/4 cup EVOO, just to coat fruit
To Taste Sea salt Pepper Coriander (SPC)

Method: Prepare fruit; gently toss with lime juice and EVOO. Add pepper, basil and toss and taste. Season to taste with SPC.We served this with Marty’s eggs with an Armenian sliced cured meat.This recipe is worth knowing but first I need to find a local source for the cured meat. Marty gets it shipped from the East coast from an Armenian butcher. Stay tuned, because Marty and I may just be making it on the west coast.


Appetizers bring spice to my life…

It is official. I admit I do usually enjoy the classes Lenore dreams up! This one featuring appetizers was scheduled for noon on a Saturday. I really pushed back at first. After all I am preparing for dinner every Saturday night and when you add 10 plus recipes for a lunch class, my little kitchen and crew are really cranking. But when I actually do the class I really enjoy myself.

I love what I do. The variety is endless and it truly gives the spice to a sometimes too familiar routine. The impetus for the class was “WOW weekend.” That is, Women Only Weekend. Dreamed up by one of the hotels in town, The Ocean Lodge, for the purpose of encouraging women to come to town, start their holiday shopping early, while they “pamper” themselves with spa treatments, and a variety of classes such as flower arranging, quilt making, and of course, a slow-food lunch around my stove. Women around my stove, what is not to like about that! And I did.

Then off to the Ocean lodge after dessert at our Dinner Show because there was one more WOW assignment for me. All I had to do is show up with my “Devilish Hot Chocolate” and whipped cream and serve at hotel’s pajama party. Forty servings I was told and please wear pajamas! So just another one of those things my wife insists that I do. 40 women at a pajama party –okay if I must.

HOT CHOCOLATE LACED WITH DARK RUM
8 oz heavy cream
10 oz whole milk
2 oz butter
2 oz sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz good bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 oz sweetened whipped cream
2 tsp dark rum
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Method: place all ingredients except chocolate into heavy bottom sauce pan; bring to simmer. Add chocolate until completely melted and absorbed. Ladle into cups; garnish as desired. Suggested size serving: 4 oz as this is very rich
To Garnish: (pick one or a couple)
1.Float whipped cream on top with a hint of cayenne
2.Add splash of dark rum or Kaluha
Sprinkle of nutmeg, cocoa powder, or cinnamon.


YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU ARE SERVING

For me, every day is the first day of a menu! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the stress relief of knowing a menu so well I can sail through the prep without much thought. And of course, I can make two or three days worth of prep together, but unless I start fresh everyday, it is harder for me to maintain my edge. You see you never know who you may be serving!

What we do know is that our business depends on repeat customers. So every day has to be fresh or we potentially loose first time customers who dine with us. Lenore and I help each other to get in the game on days that we aren’t. We leave at least 30 minutes before a class just to clear our heads and get excited about the recipes we are doing. And even when it is hard to do, when the first guests arrive, new or not, we almost instantly get into the game as if we were some how plugged into110 current!

The potential for bad press can spread pretty far with one underwhelmed person. Cultivating good buzz one customer at a time is what we strive to do, and when the customer is an unidentified food writer dining with us, it can pay off in a big way. Arriving to work after two days away this past week, our voice mail was extra full! It seems an article about us was in the Sunday Nov 1,2009 Oregonian Travel section. We had no idea! Many people called wanting to learn more and even to sign up.

So when I tell my interns that “you are only as good as your last banquet or meal,” I mean, do not become too complacent or comfortable. Keeping an edge is the best way to demand the most from yourself. Don’t rest on your laurels. Demand more from yourself.

After all the years I have been cooking, I am still working on my self esteem. When customers come back over and over again, it is the best affirmation I can get. Knowing they trust us, often coming even when they don’t know what we’re serving, makes me more determined than ever to work on that “edge.”


Marathon behind my stove

It was a long day yesterday! We started actually a few weeks ago to prepare for yesterday. Didn’t matter, we were still pushing to get everything done before the guests arrived. We did 20 bites for 45 guests at our “A Nightmare Before Christmas” Halloween Party. Our intent besides saying thanks to our loyal customers (ENCORE CLUB) was to showcase some interesting appetizers for holiday party giving. When we got to appetizer #12, couples were “sharing” bites. By #13 they flatly refused to take any more. So we omitted two apps (the scallops and the white bean crepes) and went on to desserts. Even eliminated one of those too, the big caramel apple slices. But all in all it was rewarding because I actually did this marathon behind my stove without missing a beat, in full costume! The crew was phenomenal and worked their “mmm’s” off. We could have had an after party with all the leftovers from the leftovers after the crew refreshed on them, but we were just too tired. Guests were great and seemed to enjoy themselves–staying to the feeding frenzy end! Guest voted and the winning appetizers of the evening were the “Wild Mushroom Strudel with Crab salad” and “Baked Muffalatta.” And of course, the hot chocolate with chipotle cream was a big hit. All the recipes are to be posted ASAP! (Or, as soon as Lenore gets to it) 🙂 Ciao, Bob


Time is flying by

Once again I can barely keep up with my work and once again I cannot remember what happened to September. We are experiencing a warm and wonderful Indian summer and that means that our usual down turn day after Labor Day didn’t happen. That is good in itself, but we had anticipated the slow down, so made plans for a brief respite–a short trip to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington. We went with friends, also in the hospitality biz, so they too were needing restoration. And that is what we found–easy beautiful Friday Harbor. We ate well as you might expect and even had some mini-power dine experiences where we got everything on the menu before we left. Whale watching was good too, and for the first time we saw them really close. Yes, there is something about catching the ferry to an island that really helps one feel “away.” Ah, it might mean a return trip is needed again soon.


THE-DINNER-SHOW:-


NEW MENU

Here is our new August menu with a quick DNA analysis, or as Lenore says, what made you think of putting these together.
(more…)


QUICK SUMMER UPDATE

Our longing for the summer is long past and a dim memory by now. Summer is here going by so fast we feel we are missing it! For sure we have missed staying in touch. Just to let you know it wasn’t by choice. Our website “face-lift” included a new “admin tool” and we are just getting that up and running. So now everything is running including us! Before it all gets away, here’s a quick update.

We are happy to report the Cannon Beach Farmers Market is going very well withover 2500 participants last week. For those of you who may have forgotten, the CBFM is 2-6 every TUESDAY June through September. And we are offering a MARKET DINNER after every market at 7, where we bring in what’s fresh at the market and make up an “ad hoc” dinner. Aside from being a little nerve racking, the results have been very well received! And we are doing our bit to ensure the CBFM continues because we give back 5% of the tuition. Restaurant of the week at the market has been implemented this year, where one restaurant from town comes to sell some ready to eat foods and beverages. Look for EVOO on Sept 1 for our next turn at ROW at the market.There are more vendors, more volunteers, and more music this year making this a great community event. Click CBFM for market pictures and details.

The main thing occupying our minds right now is that this is actually our fifth summer in operation. We are very proud to be celebrating our 5thanniversary on August 14. It was that very date in 2004 that we first opened our doors. It seems both fast and long, but for sure it surprises us how despite some refining and additions, we are still doing what we did the very first day we opened our doors. The “Small Plates with Wines” concept is still what our guests want, and though we now call it “THE DINNER SHOW,” the format is still as it was five summers ago. We do three full entree plates paired with selected wines and still finish with a great dessert and sometimes two desserts on the same plate. We have added a self-serve coffee station with CAFFE UMBRIA decaf coffee, which our guests have really appreciated.  And we appreciate working with the Caffe Umbria brand and the personal attention we receive from owner, Pasquale. We are small potatoes in the world of coffee but are treated like we are their only! Gotta love that!

For our special celebration in August we invited Michael Sebastiani to join us with his very special wines. He is coming with the Sonoma valley wines that he makes using Oregon styles. He will explain more about that during the class. It couldn’t be a better time for a wine dinner since so many great food products are in season. Between the two, Chef Bob and Michael, the wine and food talk promises to be quite celebratory, educational and entertaining. Please note if you are a returning guest to EVOO you may sign up for ENCORE CLUB and receive a 5% discount for this event. Please indicate you are a club member at the time you register for either class, August 14 and August 15.

That is a quick update for now. Watch for more real soon. Ciao!


Sand Castle Day

Building sand castles on cake---the great Haystack Rock and sea creatures at low tide.

Today was a busy one here in CANNON BEACH. The annual sand castle building contest took place starting at low tide at 8 am this morning and continuing until the last one was judged at 2:00 pm. The crowds were bigger this year and the quality of the entries very high. From the beach to the town, everyone in CB seemed to have the sand castle spirit. Our sand-cake for the children was a hit. We had a step stool up to it as children “shoveled” a large portion onto their plate. No end to the fun here at EVOO.

DIRT & SAND CASTLE CAKE Makes one 5 quart size or four 1 qt size
16 oz pkg Oreo cookies for dirt cake
16 oz pkg pecan Sandies for sand cake
4 pkg instant chocolate or butterscotch pudding
12 oz cream cheese
6 TBS butter
4 ¾ cup milk
4 cups whipped cream

Gummy worms, marshmallows, gumdrop flowers Method: 1. If using a flowerpot with a drainage hole, reserve 1 cookie to place over hole to prevent leaking. Place remaining cookies in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixture resembles dirt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter, and stir until creamy. Set aside.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together instant-pudding mixes and milk; stir until well blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold pudding mixture into cream-cheese mixture. Fold in whipped cream.
4. In a flowerpot or bucket with a 5-quart capacity, alternate layers of cookie “dirt” and pudding mixture, starting and ending with cookie “dirt.” Chill at least 4 hours or overnight before serving. Garnish with candy. To make beach scene: crush peacan sandies and/or Lorna Doone’s shortbread cookies. Press into children’s sand toys and unmold on sand of your beach cake.


New Website

Hello and welcome to our new look! It has been in the making for several weeks and we certainly want to thank our web designers, Amy and Jonathan of www.grow-creative.com They have been patient and helpful dealing with Lenore especially since she does more of the updating than I do. At any rate, please don’t hesitate to weigh in on the new looks and features. But at the same time give us a few more days or so to get everying fully functional, like the recipes and pictures.