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.