Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trois Étoiles

What started out in concept as a one liner in a long list, turned into a standalone posting.  As you know, I sometimes make a story from three or four smaller snippets of possible interest to the readership.   So this was going to be nestled in between a review of the “new” Mexican restaurant in Callaway (Tacos Hacienda), a cooking episode of crabs and scallops (not together), and a rant or two about car commercials and that long awaited and (continued avoidance) the confessional.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to take anything away from the headliner. 

A bit of research took me back to November of 2011, and a dining experience that was second only to our Lameloise experience in France (the finest meal I’ve ever had).   The occasion was the celebration of the Feeder’s seventieth birthday, celebrated with our complete family.  It took place in this quaint little place in Virginia

After being greeted we were ushered to our table

Already set with the place’s famous truffle popcorn – take a minute to look at the table, the gleaming silver, the sparkling crystal with Champagne, the lovely charger plates all placed just so, the more to glorify the food.

And were presented a personal menu of the evening’s fare

While I do have images of all the dishes, just a couple to whet your appetite:
scallops with Shishito peppers

Lobster with Potato Gnocci

All were paired with an appropriate wine, which was explained by the dedicated sommelier
The meal was capped off by a gorgeous “birthday cake”

The reaction at the right was common around the table..
We were seated at the “chef’s” table in the kitchen where we could watch the quiet and efficient kitchen brigade go about the business of creating magic

No clanging of pots, no shouting orders, Gregorian chants in the background.  All presided over by the chef

An evening for our family to remember for life (which we have) with world famous Chef Patrick O’Connell 

at the

And circling back to the beginning, the whole reason for this trip into the past was the recent announcement that the Inn at Little Washington has earned the prestigious 3rd Star from Michelin.  A major accomplishment in the world of fine dining.

I would hope to return one day, and if you ever have the chance don’t miss it.  Worth every darn cent, no matter the amount of them..

And you could probably do a better job than did the Feeder (for some reason) in
And there would be NMMJ to be found for miles..

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Lessons Learned and a Confession

First of all, Errata:  I noticed after i posted the last edition, that spell check "helped" me by changing the title of the piece from the intended "Short and Sweet" into "Shirt and Sweet"  I was going to pull it down and change it, but figured the Feeder Nation was smart enough to figure that out.

Well, with my somewhat reduced mobility these days, I have started to get more serious about cooking (which on the surface seems impossible!) mostly in the area of refining skills and “perfecting” technique. As many alert readers know, I am fortunate enough to have a valued friendship built over many years with the chef who now runs our local Elements (Eatery and Mixology) restaurant here in Lexington Park.  He has been very kind to me in that he suffers my questions and occasionally comes over to the digs.  I have a special bottle of Woodford Reserve that is reserved for our discussions on food and culture, and cooking.  He also occasionally invites me into his domain in the commercial kitchen to observe him cooking (and trying to stay out his way!).

So with winter approaching (please!) he is looking to maybe add some Pasta Dishes to the menu and wanted to give few as a trial for some of his family and friends.  He said I could come and watch the process and take some pictures.  They tasted, “we” worked in the kitchen.

So a day when the restaurant is closed provided some time for him to prepare the dishes (chefs have no days off – like the Patriots!) and so I showed up in the kitchen, and he went to work, and I got some lessons!

Basically the fabrication process was the same for all the dishes, only variation was sauce and ingredients. So of course you start with Mise En Place

(just pretty)

 “ingredients” go into the pan with a little oil

Sautéed for a bit and then the pasta is added

Lesson 1:  you might note the pasta is “raw”, that is, not cooked by dropping into boiling water – in a restaurant setting, fabricated (raw) pasta is available.  What chef does is NOT put it in boiling water first, but actually uses the sauce in the dish to finish the pasta.

Then the sauce is added (a marinara in this case)

And after more time on heat, removed and plated with additional vegetables

Voila! And put on the pass to serve the guests (in this case the “taste testers”)

images while preparing other dishes with different sauces, maybe cream based

Lesson 2:  what is common to all these?   It’s always over HIGH heat, full bore on restaurant grade burners.  How many times have you heard it said chefs have one setting:  HIGH

Typical results:

Lesson 3: it is hot as hell (not profane, a statement of fact) in that kitchen.  The grill station was also on (for later dishes), producing its own heat (for later dishes).  With only one burner going, it finally drove me out.  I can’t image what it’s like with 3 or more cranked up.  New respect for the people on the hot line. 

It was a great experience, even though I had to leave (heat, stamina) before all the dishes were made.

So this fall you can stop by Elements, and see what made the cut to the menu!  Thanks, chef!

Closer to home
It so happened a few weeks ago that chef stopped by the house as I was preparing dinner (hello, Woodford) of trout for MFO and I which I was trying to sear, but didn’t come out with a very good crust.  Chef chided me for not using a hot enough pan (sigh).  So the other day he stopped by to deliver some wonderful cheeses (as seen in posts lately) and he brought along some very fresh Carolina Red Fish, and said he’d cook it for us (partially, to be finished at dinner). 

My scare and reluctance, as I suspect is common with other “home cooks” is by cranking up the heat it will: a) burn, or b) stick.

So, he started with a non-stick pan, with just a little oil and put the fish in "skin" side up (seasoning the flesh side before cooking)

He then taught
Lesson 4:  DON’T TOUCH!  We all want to fiddle around poking and prying and that leads to trouble.   Let the pan do its work and allow for caramelization. Leave it alone!

After a bit, check it and gently flip if you like the color
Again note the lack of oil (Lesson 4.5)

When both are done, deglaze the pan with some white wine (scraping up the famous “brown bits”) and since you used very little oil, you don't have to worry about pouring it off

Then (eventually) plate it and drizzle with the pan sauce

believe me, it had a nice crunch and was soft on the inside

I suppose a few readers will say: “welcome to the obvious, Feeder”, which may be true, but seeing a professional do it provides confidence.   I have some scallops which may be a good candidate for that procedure (They’ll burn!  They’ll weld themselves to the pan!)  we’ll see and report.

And lastly, I can’t bring myself to confess today… next time, 

while not forgetting to
And our loud mantra of

Monday, September 3, 2018

Shirt and (very) Sweet

As I remember, the last time we talked I noted that we were going to celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary.   Well, we did!

wonderful Champagne, classic Cheese, exquisite nuts.  Life is good.

MFO had a special bouquet created with 5 peach roses (representing a decade each) and single white for half a decade.  Like birthday candles have to give up one for one after a while.  It was gorgeous
(The fifth decade is hiding toward the back)

We had a lovely quiet time, talked to both FOJ’s, and enjoyed the view framed by our window

Fortunately we didn’t get into the “remember when….?” Because these days the answer is usually “no”.   we will, however, always remember August 23, 1963.

Just like birthdays, you live your life day by day and pretty soon you realize Hey! We’ve been together 55 years!!

And days pass, the flowers fade, but the memories won’t.

I love my DMOTRWAT’s, Martinis, and wine, but nothing compares with

I had more things to talk about, but won’t; I decided to just leave it here, and future editions can get into things like

But for now
DFD and