Friday, December 26, 2008

James Beard House Dinner Menu

We have the final menu ready to go..... The dinner will be Saturday April 4th, 2009 at the James Beard House in New York City. The cost of the dinner is $150 for JBF members (become a member) & $200 for NON-members. We truly hope that we will be able to have a great turnout from all our friends and followers from the Boston area. Here is the menu for this wonderful evening!!!

James Beard House Dinner


We are proud and honored to present to the James Beard House an evening of fine contemporary cuisine inspired by the worlds finest offerings and focusing on the use of some of New Englands premium sustainable agriculture.

Passed Hors‘dourves
2007 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Soy Cured Organic Scottish Salmon/ Chive & Green Apple Slaw/Crème Fraiche
Sorrel Wrapped Vermont Ash Ripened Goat Cheese/ Red Beet “Caviar”

Foie Gras French Toast / Charred Green Onion/ Champagne & Bacon Vinaigrette
Cream Of Asparagus Soup/ Black Flying Fish Roe

Dinner Menu

Pan Seared Nantucket Bay Scallops
black truffles/meyer lemon “ceviche” dressing
2003 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Guinea Hen Loin
spring peas/lavender/chive blossoms
2005 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

House Smoked Hudson Valley Duck Ham
great hill blue cheese foam/merlot glaze/rye toast
2006 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot

Braised All Natural Veal Cheeks
artisan Vermont chevre polenta / king oyster mushroom/ natural jus
1998 Duckhorn Vineyards Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Duckhorn Vineyards Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

“Chocolate & Blackberries”
2006 Paraduxx Napa Valley Red Wine

Executive Chef Richard Garcia
Chef De Cuisine Matt Maue
Frank Barbagallo of Duckhorn Wine Company

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Meal I Will Remember Forever

As most of you that follow the blog know I was recently back in Spain for a few days last week. During my visit I had the pleasure of visiting a very unique winery, the winery of R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia has a history of making wines for over 131 years.These are tru artisan winemakers and to learn more about these wines and the vineyard (or as known in Spain "BODEGAS")click on the link and get ready to transport yourself to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
As beautiful as this vineyard tour was, it was the stop for lunch that will be embedded in my brain for the remainder of my lifetime.
About 30 minutes up the mountain side from Logrono, we stopped at a village that seemed near deserted. The small village of Brinas was were we decided to stop, and the restaurant we were looking for had no signs, no advertisements or directions to get you there, just a small menu that was pinned on a wooden slab right outside the entry way. As we entered I noticed that this place did not discriminate against social status, color, or language. A group of truck drivers sat as we walked in to our left, next to them a small group of french tourists and behind the french men a wealthy group of businessmen. All enjoying the same traditional cuisine enjoyed for 50 years at this restaurant.
As we were seated the first thing that was literally thrown on the table was a whole house cured chorizo link, a dull butter knife to cut it with and a few loafs of french bread bought from the baker down the street. Endless bottles of Rioja wine followed by a description of the "menu del dia" or menu of the day.(A 4 course pre fixe with wine included for 9 euros a person....9 euros?!?) To start your choice of chorizo and potato stew, white beans and pigs trotters or red beans and rice. We all ordered one of each and decided to share all the dishes family style. The next course consisted of braised beef tongue, oxtail and veal cheeks. All prepared in pretty much the same manner, braised in a traditional mixture of onions, peppers, tomatoes and paprika. The intermezzo...get this, a jar of pickled peppers, passed around the table and shared by all! After the peppers we had plancha seared sepia(cuttlefish), baby squid cooked in its own ink and bacalao(salt cod) braised in tomato and olives.....amazing, every last bite was just amazing, I don't know how else to describe it. Now for dessert, a 1 inch thick slice of pineapple with a fork and knife(sharper than the chorizo knife) sticking out of the core, vanilla ice cream, house made by hand cranking machine or canned peaches. They were out of flan and rice pudding, apparently you have to get there before noon time to even have a chance at one of those two desserts. Simple & rustic, traditional and classic, you could feel the love that the chef put in every dish. In fact at the end of our meal the chef came out to say hello to us, although two tables of tourists were there, the chef said it was rare that outsiders ventured into this little village often, and when they do she always comes out to say hello. Now the chef....she was 80 years old, has owned the restaurant for 50 years and has cooked every day it has been opened except for when she gave birth to her kids. Her children run the restaurant and the bar across the street, along with the husbands, cousins and nieces and nephews, a true family business that was not in it for the money, not in it for the fame, in it because they love taking care of people. they love sharing the tradition of authentic Spanish cuisine with every person that eats at this nameless location. I asked her what her secret was, I quote word for word " Mijo, only, and I will reiterate ONLY use the very best ingredients you can get your hands on, only use food that is in season and put every ounce of love that you have into your food." If I close my eyes I can hear her sweet voice telling me the secret to her success.......

(LtoR)My little brother Alex/ Mr. Rodriquez-Former Sommelier at Mugaritz in San Sebastion Spain(gave us our tour of the winery)/yours truley and my cousin Juan Manuel who is the chef and owner of Juan & Juan and Ceasar & Ceasar both restaurants located in Logrono Spain.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Invitation Of A Lifetime

As good as it gets....if your a chef! The invitation has arrived! An opportunity to cook at the James Beard House in NYC is now a reality. On Saturday April 4th 2009, I will be packing up my coolers with New England produce, proteins & seafood, my knives will find their way back into my knife roll, and I will be taking my chef de cuisine with me to cook at what many call the "Carnegie Hall" for chefs. A performance space to showcase a chefs abilities and his/her cuisine.

The James Beard House is named for the late James Beard, a cooking teacher, journalist and food consultant considered by many as the "father of American gastronomy." The James Beard Foundation has as its mission to celebrate, preserve and nurture American culinary heritage and diversity and to elevate the appreciation of culinary excellence.

We are very pleased to have a excellent partner for this dinner, Duckhorn Wine Company will be with us every step of the way. A great treat will be getting to experience wines from several of the companies wineries, including dual vintages of their Sauvignon Blanc & Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

I am humbled by the opportunity to cook and to just stand in the kitchen at the Beard House.I look forward to feeling the presence of all those who have cooked in that same kitchen before me.

Our menu is currently in the works, and as soon as we finalize it I will make sure to post it here first.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Weekly Thoughts From The Test Kitchen Debuts!

Chef Jeff Tenner debuted his blog today, "Weekly Thoughts From The Test Kitchen" will discuss how the role of the chef has evolved over the past two decades.Chef Tenners point of view is sure to raise some great points, interesting questions and fun and innovative ideas.
I had the pleasure of working under Chef Tenner twice in my career, and continue to look to him for guidance and instruction. He is by far one of the most intellectual chefs I have had the pleasure of working under. I look forward to reading his blog!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Soy Cured Salmon

I am currently fascinated by anything that can be cured. A dish that I have been doing for about a year now, and adaptation from Jean George V., is a SOY CURED SALMON w/ heirloom apple & chive slaw, creme fraiche.
If you are new to curing this is the easiest, quickest and tastiest of any curing recipe in my repertoire. This Asian version of gravlax uses soy sauce to cure the salmon in place of the more traditional salt. The result is a very rich sweet-saltiness accented by ginger, lemongrass and Thai bird chili.
I love the tanginess of a crisp granny smith apple, which can be easier to find than the right heirloom apple.
I will be serving this dish next Saturday at the CELEBRATION FOR KIDS at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. If you cant make the party next Saturday, here is a recipe for you to try at home, I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

1 cup light soy sauce
One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
One 2 inch piece of fresh lemon grass
1 fresh red Thai bird chili, thinly sliced (leave the seeds)
One 10-ounce piece of center cut salmon fillet (boneless, skinned, trimmed, and halved lengthwise )
Put the soy sauce,lemongrass, ginger, and chili in a bowl and mix until the mixture is well mixed. Transfer to a shallow bowl, submerge the salmon completely in the soy sauce mixture, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove and pat dry. Slice thinly and serve with your choice of accouterments.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reading Between The Lines

I recently received "Under Pressure" a great surprise from my wife when I walked in the door after another great inventory day at the restaurant. This book is a must have if you are even a bit interested in sous vide cooking. The charts alone that give suggested cooking times and temperatures are well worth the price. As usual the book is written in a way that just draws you into the pages, just like The French Laundry & Bouchon did for me.

I could go on about the amazing recipes or the beutiful photos, but what I have been reading over and over is the short summary that Chef Keller gives before getting into the actual recipes. He talks about consistency, the success of a great restaurant lies in how consistent the product is. Creating the same dishes day in and day out perfectly, exactly the same as it was done the day before, the week before.How simple that sentence was ,but it has had the most impact on my career than any other line I have read in any other cookbook or any book for that matter.

It has caused me to rethink the way I approach my recipes, my cooking techniques and my line set up. It has led me to rethink the way I operate in the office, my managerial skills, the way I choose my produce at the farm, the quality of my seafood and meats. It has changed the way I operate as a chef. Consistency, I have strived for it day in and day out since I can remember being a cook. But when you get into the precision that an immersion circulator can have with many different food products it woke me up to the fact that I need to have that level precision with everything in my kitchen.

I believe my staff and I are very very good at what we do, but what will it take for us to be great?? Consistency and precision. Those are the key words that will be focused on from here on out, those words are now embedded in my head, I talk to the cooks, my sous chefs and my right hand man(chef de cuisine) with one thing in mind, precision and consistency across the board. I am excited to see the changes that will be taking place in the months to come. We have 4 months to get ready for a dinner that will require those two words.......details about that dinner to follow, but first we have to get to the level we are striving for.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Ode to France

This week at Tastings we are focusing our energies at creating features that highlight classic French cuisine. Although some of us don't want to admit it, most of our basic culinary techniques come from the French. In fact we still use more French pronunciation in the kitchen than any other language.
In conjunction with the release of Beaujolais Nouveau 2008 this Thursday. We will be offering a selection of French cuisine all weekend. (click the link for a history of the third Thursday in November & the release of Beaujolais Noveau)
This week I a let some of my cooks get their feet wet and create these dishes. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a chef is to watch the forward progression that your crew makes. Being part of their evolution of young chefs is one of the most gratifying parts of this job. I am lucky to have a kitchen crew that are ALL young aspiring chefs. A great balance of young men & women, some with culinary school backgrounds, some currently attending, others with life experience, but the common ground here....they all are motivated to one day hold the title of chef.

Some of the dishes this crew has come up with for the weekend (pics to follow soon)
1. Lyonaise Salad
cage free poached egg, atop frisee salad, peppered bacon & house made croutons

2. Shrimp Beignets
sous vide carrot & cumin puree, lime & ginger chutney

3. Foie Gras French Toast
I am anxious to see what this one turns out to be, one of the Leads is taking this one on......

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Duckhorn Vineyards Wine Dinner

Last night was our first exclusive wine dinner we have done at Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro. We were very fortunate to have Duckhorn Vineyards as our partner for our first dinner. Thanks to Frank (Duckhorns East Coast Rep) for flying in from NYC to host our dinner. The dinner was for 12 people in our private wine room. We had a great time and look forward to hosting many more of these exclusive dinners in the future.

1st course
Seared Venison Carpaccio
shaved fennel/ local pickled Bartlett pears/petite beet greens/juniper berry vinaigrette
2004 Golden Eye Pinot Noir

2nd course
House Cured Duck Prosciutto
brown sugar braised black mission figs/great hill blue cheese foam/Duckhorn Merlot glaze
2005 Estate Grown Napa Valley Merlot

3rd course
Steel Head Trout "Cassoulet"
white beans/black truffled chicken sausage/chicken thigh
2006 Decoy Red Wine

4th course
American Wagyu Beef Short Ribs
aromatic 5-spice glaze/parsnip puree/daikon radish
2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

5th course
"Chocolate & Blackberries"
chocolate mousse cake/white chocolate powder/frozen blackberry/Paraduxx blackberry gelee
2006 Paraduxx Napa Valley Red Wine

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American Wagyu Beef

This week at Tastings we are lucky to have been able to get our hands on some domestic wagyu beef. Wagyu beef are intensely marbled and high in flavor. Wagyu Cattle are fed whole grain diets supplemented with beer to stimulate the animals' appetites. In addition, massage and and brushing the animals with sake (rice wine) is claimed to improve the quality of the meat.

The Wagyu breed of cattle, the breed most often used for "Kobe" beef, is actually the result of cross-breeding with a large variety of Western breeds (including Brown Swiss, Devon Shorthorns, and Holsteins) with native Japanese cattle. The breeding program was institutionalized in the early 1900's by the Japanese government. It is, in effect, a program designed specifically to increase the flavor and marbling of Japanese beef.

We will be offering the short rib this week. Take a look at the pictures and you can see the well marbled cuts of beef.

We actually took a piece of this short rib, which generally needs to be cooked low & slow to break down the muscles and make it tender enough to eat comfortably, and seared it on our jade plancha, a little salt & pepper and a quick sear and you would swear you were eating a top quality rib eye.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Cure

We have been very excited the last few weeks in the kitchen at Tastings. We seem to have discovered a new love of charcuterie. I have written about our pig head adventure and after a great "testa" we wanted more. We now have hanging in the walk in cooler our version of duck prosciutto. We took one recipe but cured the duck two different ways. The first we let cure for 24 hours, the second we let cure for 48 hours. We used .7 oz of kosher salt for every pound of duck meat( breast) fresh garlic, peppercorns, juniper berries and coriander seed. After drying them we now have them hung wrapped in cheesecloth in our walk in. We took a piece out after 7 days, very clean smelling but still "raw" looking. The taste was definitely along the lines of a slightly gamey prosciutto, but still very chewy. The next one we tried was taken out after 11 days in the walk in. What a difference! The skin had now taken on a slightly darker color, still very clean smelling but much firmer. the flesh was slightly tighter ad the flavor had deepened slightly. The last batch we will take out tomorrow, 14 days. We will freeze the breasts this will allow us to slice the duck paper thin. We will be using the duck for our first Wine Dinner taking place this Wednesday with Duckhorn Vineyards from Napa.We are using the duck prosciutto on a dish of brown sugar braised figs, great hill blue cheese foam and rye crisps.

Another project right now is making our own pancetta. We currently have a berkshire pork belly curing in the walk in, this one has to hang for 4-6 weeks. We are exploring some sausage making and hopefully soon our own salumi will follow. Ill keep you all posted.

Recipe for Duck Prosciutto

Salt/Spice Cure:

Ratio: This is an important part of any cured meat recipe. The salt ratio is especially important, the spice and garlic ratio which follows less so. Weigh you duck breasts and salt very carefully.

Per pound of Duck:

.7 OZ salt per pound of duck breast

10 juniper berries
½ bay leaf
1 tsp coriander seed (crushed)
10 black peppercorns (crushed)
1 clove garlic (crushed)

Crush to medium-fine juniper, bay leaf, coriander, peppercorns and garlic in mortar and pestle. Add salt and mix thoroughly.

Each Breast: Place large square plastic wrap on counter. Place breast on wrap and place ½ of mixture on breast, skin side, spreading so it coats evenly. Turn over and repeat with flesh side. Roll wrap up tightly and seal edges and repeat if more than 1 breast. Cure under refrigeration for 24 hours.

Air Cure:

Wipe cure off meat – do not rinse. Place breast on large square of cheesecloth and wrap cheesecloth around breast, make sure the cheesecloth fully covers meat. Place butchers twine around breast and secure breast as if it were a roast, leaving a 6” piece of twine free at one end. Hang in dry cooler at 38F for two weeks. Remove from cheesecloth, wrap in plastic and cut in paper-thin slices, freezing helps obtain paper thin cuts

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Small Is Beautiful

Small Plates? What are they? This is the question I am faced with everyday at the restaurant. I cant even begin to tell you how many conversations I have with guests who don't understand the concept of small plate dining. Some have been very upset!?
First we have to be straight forward, small plates ARE smaller than your traditional entree, a hearty appetizer is what I like to say to our guests. But small plate dining is more than dinner, its more than just getting a bite to eat to fill up your stomach. Small plate dining is an experience you can share with your friends,your family, a date, even alone at the bar at Tastings. Sharing as any small plates as you want, paired with great wines in an environment that screams "culinary experience" is what its about. What you receive is a plethora of little treats. Our Dishes run the gamut from innovative, to quite simple and rustic. On our menu they generally range in price from $4.00 to $18 a plate.
This is a great way to try nearly every dish on a menu without committing to just one, or getting mad over a pricey bad choice. When shared as a group, the dishes offer anywhere from a bite, to a slice, to your very own if you want.

Some tips for small plate virgins

Don’t overlook what seems like normal regular foods. Our Cheese selection, roasted Marcona almonds, olives, and bruschetta employ different interesting ingredients, giving classics a new taste.

If you don’t like something, don’t worry, someone your sitting with probably will! If not, order another dish. At Tastings, ordering another, and then another, wont make you the odd man out. Honestly ordering three to five dishes each is nothing.

Pace yourself.Enjoy!!!Order two or three dishes first for your group. When your done, ask your server to show you the menu again and order another round. Remember were not trying to eat until we explode, We want to enjoy and savor the experience. Think about the Spanish and Latin American cultures,(which I happen to be) we indulge in multi-hour and multi course dinners often. Take your time.

Challenge your taste buds.... by far my favorite reason to experience small plates. Go ahead... try the foie gras, the pork belly, the testa(pig head charcuterie)you just never know what you could find yourself eating..and liking!!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

A few days away....

This past week I had the great pleasure of sneaking away from the restaurant and heading down to Mohegan Sun Casino. If you've been following Chefs Daily Food Bank, I won an iron chef like cooking competition at Mohegan Sun at last years Sun Wine Festival. One of the prizes was a two day stay at the hotel and dinner at Todd Englishs' Tuscany.
My wife and I also really enjoyed the food and time we spent at another place at the casino, Lucky's Lounge. Lucky's was a true lounge with great lounge food and a great atmosphere. NY Style pizza, great salads and Strong drinks!!! Sometimes as a chef, its great to relax and have some great good ole American pub fare.
One of the highlights for me was Tuscany, This is where I think Chef Todd English is at his best, hearty refined Italian cuisine.
I started with a beef carpaccio with tomato jam, dehydrated olives and roasted garlic ice cream, this was a great start to the meal...let me back up, the great start came when we received big plate of white bean puree with the focaccia!!!!
We then had a great antipasto plate that consisted of soppressata, marinated fresh mozzarella, bread sticks, dried cranberries, walnuts and whole grain mustard. Again another great hit.
For the main courses, Nicole had a good ole bowl of spaghetti & meatballs " Brooklyn Style" & I had a braised kurobota pork shank w/ barley and salsify. Both of these were great. And to finish... a great vanilla gelato and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, I can honestly say probably some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had (sorry mom).

SO whats the point???? Im not a restaurant critic....

I feel that in the Tastings kitchen we are always trying to find a way to combine the new avant garde techniques with seasonal and classic dishes. Trying to impress with the unknown but make sure that there is some familiarity within the dishes themselves.
During our getaway, I realized tat sometimes its okay to not use "hydrocolloids" it doesn't have to be vacuum sealed or cooked sous vide. Just make sure that the ingredients are the very best you can get, you treat the ingredients with respect and the ingredients will shine on there own. Everywhere we ate during our stay there was a common ground, simple, perfectly prepared cuisine....who would of thought.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Week We've Been Waiting For

Last Week was FINALLY a week that I can say, Ive been waiting for this. 2 Patriots games in one week, two very successful wine events, a multitude of private parties and we finally got our feature program off to a great start!
Being part of a restaurant opening is a test of ones patience, a test of ones sincere commitment to this industry, and a test of just how much passion and devotion you have to the restaurant and the industry as a whole. Last week was a glimpse of what we are striving for. A very busy week and great feedback from our guests. We are hardly close to getting over the hump of a new restaurant, but the feeling of success you get when everything (even if its just a short moment) falls into place, the food is spot on, the cooks came to work every day with their game faces on, the FOH clicked and the guests left extremely impressed with what we are doing, well that's the feeling of success to me, that's why I do this day in and day out.
Here are some shots of the food this week. (sorry about the quality of the photos)

Porchetta De Testa-aka "Pigs Head Porchetta" (we seasoned the boned pigs head with rosemary, lemon & garlic, salt and pepper, added the braised tongue and pigs ears, and then cooked it sous vide at 140F for 10 hours) shaved Parmesan, lemon and extra virgin olive olive oil spritz, organic field greens, fresh ground pepper

Venison Loin Raspberry Pickled Beets, shaved fennel, juniper berry jus, cinnamon stick incense

Quail Asian Inpspiration
Marinated in orange, soy, hoisen, 5-spice & dried Tsao-Ko, stuffed with local grown Bartlett Pears and walnuts. Orange - Ginger dressed frisse

Dried Tsao-Ko - Black Cardamon(Matt lives right near Bostons China Town, he picked up some of this, first time I have used this, awesome find!!!!)

Tsaoko fruit comes from a perennial herb related to the ginger family. The plant thrives in the world's rain forests and tropical regions, with brightly colored flowers, long leaves and slender stems.
In China, tsaoko fruit is produced mainly in the Yunna, Guangxi and Guizhou provinces. The fruit is gathered in the autumn when ripe, cleaned, then dried in the sun. Once dried, the outer shell of the fruit is removed, as are the fruit's seeds.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Eating Offal & Other Parts

The tradition of eating less than desirable cuts and parts of an animal is found in almost all of the world's cultures, dating back thousands of years. Whether you are eating chickens' feet pork, tongue , fish cheeks, heck, even chitlins in the south USA, you are participating in one of the world's greatest gastronomic practices. You are celebrating the whole animal. In a sense respecting the animal as a whole being, making sure to use all parts and let nothing go to waste.
Variety Meats have been around for thousands of years, but the interesting fact of the matter is that many people began eating this way because of economical situations. The poor had no choice. If they wanted to eat they had to make use of the parts of the animal that no one wanted. What did happen was they developed some of the tastiest products that have been forgotten due to the modern world.
Today's modern world is very different from the one that gave birth to these food traditions. Having money has removed us further and further away from our food sources . And fortunatley for most of the people I know, we dont worry about how much we eat and what we eat based on our annual income. So its easy to choose to eat only what is available at the closest market, not difficult to prepare, and wont make people think you are a gross and inhumane person.
I can only say one thing, I have the right to eat what I want, and I be live that I am doing the right thing by assuring I do my part and try and use as many "other" parts as I can.I am keeping culinary heritage alive, as a chef its important to me that the history and traditions of what I do remain and continue to be taught to the sous chefs and cooks who wish to become chefs.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pig Heads Have arrived

So don't freak out, we have just received three pig heads, we will be making a few different dishes over the next few days. Probably Italian porchetta, and possibly a head cheese for the holidays. We do have a charcuterie section on our menu but we have mostly been preparing an in house duck prosciutto. We want to take this to the next level.And now I am ready after a video I watched the other day.
I was inspired by Chef Chris Cosentino a R.I. native who currently is in California at his post as executive chef at Incanto, he recently was asked to do a video demo on butchering a pigs head.
I have had to make head cheese in the past but this was years ago and truthfully as a teenager I wasn't into this. But watching the video, my matured palate and mind, I am really looking forward to getting to work tomorrow bright and early and get these heads broken down!

Food Lover's Companion Definition: charcuterie [shahr-KOO-tuhr-ee; shar-koo-tuhr-EE] Taken from the term cuiseur de chair, meaning "cooker of meat," charcuterie has been considered a French culinary art at least since the 15th century. It refers to the products, particularly (but not limited to) pork specialties such as pâtés, rillettes, galantines, crépinettes, etc., which are made and sold in a delicatessen-style shop, also called a charcuterie.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hidden Rose (Red Flesh Apple)

Ill be honest, although I had heard of this red fleshed apple, I have never eaten one, until now! What a treat, first, the hidden rose its beautiful, cutting open an apple to find a red interior is awesome. I was like a kid in a candy store, waiting for Sid Wainer to drop off the 1/2 bushel just to get a look and taste. Very firm, tart, almost like a granny smith, but sweeter. What a great addition to the apple salad on the fall menu, even the pickled apples on the pork belly Cuban are getting this apple right now. Stunning visual and great flavor.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October 12th through the 19th "Fresh From The Family Farm Benefit"

From Sunday, October 12 to Sunday, October 19 we will provide you with the freshest ingredients we can get from area family farms. We will feature 2 menu items that meet the Fresh from the Family Farm criteria and donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of that item to Farm Aid and Chefs Collaborative...and now the rebuilding effort for Verrill Farm, which recently lost their farm stand to a fire. Verrill Farm has been an important leader in the local farm community and has provided farm fresh food to Massachusetts restaurants for over a decade.

We will be featuring the following two items:

Local Apples & Beets
Heirloom Apples & Roasted Wards Berry Farm Baby Beets, Great Hill Blue Cheese

Candy Apple New England Scallops
MA Grown Spaghetti Squash, Locally Foraged Hen Of The Wood Mushrooms, Cape Cod Cranberry Salt

Farm Aid
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family-farmed food. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $30 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.

Chefs Collaborative
Founded in 1993, Chefs Collaborative is the nation’s leading network of chefs and members of the greater culinary community committed to sourcing and cooking with local, sustainable and delicious ingredients.

Founded in 1999, is an invitation-only showcase of the area's top chefs and their cuisine. Whether in search of a great restaurant or leisurely perusing the gallery of stunning color photos of chefs' signature dishes, visitors to the site find to be both a fun and functional guide to fine dining in the Boston area. In addition to the unique food photography, the site features chef bios, menus, basic restaurant information, culinary news, and upcoming events.

Edible Boston
Edible Boston is a resource for finding out what's new and what's available locally when it comes to the Boston-area food scene. Through the publication and its accompanying Website, readers learn about the people instrumental to the renaissance of food in the region. The publication includes coverage of Essex, Middlesex, Worcester, Suffolk, and Norfolk counties, as they are major contributors to our region and the food culture of Boston.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cauliflower Ice Cream

Tastings Chef De Cuisine, Matt Maue. A Buffalo NY native, (who by the way hates the cold) is off to a strong start with us. Matts culinary abilities and out side of the box avant garde thinking, really adds a depth to our food at Tastings that we would not get unless he was here.
Yesterday was inventory day, payroll day, manager meeting day and anything else that has nothing to do with actual cooking. When I was finished with a late afternoon meeting I was surprised to find a small dish of Cauliflower Ice Cream.
We just changed our late summer menu over to our fall menu and had some cauliflower left over from our stripe bass dish.
Matts description of the dish as follows:
Cauliflower cooked sous vide at 83 degrees Celsius with butter, then pureed and enriched with yogurt, cream fraiche and egg yolk a little white pepper and spun in the ice cream machine. Finished with salmon roe, crispy cauliflower, nasturtium leaves , cranberry dust, pear, and vanilla balsamic.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Making Kabocha Squash Gnocchi, one thing Matt was experimenting with today was letting the squash puree rest, after mixing roasted squash and egg , blended with a little ULTRA TEX and allowed to rest and set, Matt was able to make these gnocchi with a lot less flour than we thought we would need. The result...a light full flavored pillow of autumn flavors.

We hit the gnocchi with a cider glaze and butter, making a caramel like pan sauce before we start to plate. Another late addition to the dish was a small piece of crispy pork belly. Just the right amount of a savory protein to balance the sweetness of the dish.

Finished with egg nog froth and hazelnut crumble.

Lamb Rack ala "plancha" with cranberry honey foamed aioli( aioli put in an isi canister) and finished with cranberry salt.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Foxwoods Recap

Thanks to everyone who made it down to Foxwoods this year! We met some great people, drank some great wine and cocktails, sampled some great cuisine from the region and enjoyed great company. I saw a lot of old friends and picked up some great ideas.

The dish we served this year was a "Soy Cured Salmon, Heirloom Apples(New Hampshire Zestor Apple) Lime & Scallion Creme Fraiche,Local Grown Micro Cilantro"

Although I didn't win this year(or any other year I've played) I enjoyed playing poker again this year at the third annual celebrity chefs poker tournament. The honor to sit at the Table with some of Americas great chefs and restaurateurs is always a great experience. This year I had the pleasure of playing with David Burke,Franklin Becker, Sam Talbot , "Spike" from the latest season of Top Chef and David Rabin president of the New York Nightlife Association and owner of the former Lotus Night Club in NYC, among a few others at the table. I might practice a little for next year( not an excuse at all...)

Thanks to everyone who helped out, Justin( one of our lead line cooks) Matt & Nicole. And the JWU Students, thanks for cutting salmon and julienne apples to order for 3,000 people for 5 straight hours!! The event was a success and we look forward to next year.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall Menu

We launched the fall menu this afternoon at Tastings. Out with the summer dishes until next year, but we are excited about the local squash and pumpkins we have found in our area.

Local Long Island Cheese Pumpkin will be used for our "Curried Pumpkin Soup w/ Pear & Fennel Slaw, Caramelized Peanuts and Fennel Pollen"

We are using a Kabocha Squash for our new Gnocchi Dish, let me tell you that we were not sure how this dish would end up, but Matt found great balance, we decided after the fact that the addition of a crispy braised pork belly would finalize this dish, the "Kabocha Squash Gnocchi w/egg nog froth, hazelnut crumble and local cider glaze", gives a great sweet and sour effect to the pork belly.

We also added a comforting Local Fisherman's stew, with seafood sourced from only the waters off the New England coast, the Fisherman's Stew is cod, scallop, mussels and clams and is finished with a chorizo & saffron reduction. Think rustic rice less Paella.... No fuss here, just a tasty rendition of a classic.

We look forward to also starting to showcase some forward thinking cuisine this week with the use of our blackboard. The blackboard will change weekly and you will be able to find some experimental cuisine that we have been working on. Also be on the lookout for some new cheese selections sourced only in New England.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Upcoming Events

The last couple of weeks have been great!! We have met so many new people coming in to experience Tastings, and we are now going to take the experience on the road.
The 3rd annual Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival is taking place this weekend,We will be participating in the Grand Tasting Event on Saturday & Sunday from 1pm-5pm being held at the new MGM Grand Ballroom.
I will also be playing in the chef poker tournament on Sunday(Noon)hopefully to walk away with a check for $15,000 to benefit the "Grow Clinic for Children" at Bostons Medical Center, the money will help fight the complications that local Boston youth are facing from malnutrition. It is amazing in today's day and age that kids are still having to face not having the right things to eat or enough to eat,it is just mind boggling to me. Click on the link to find out more.
Fresh From The Family Farm
Also From Sunday, October 12 to Sunday, October 19 we will provide you with the freshest ingredients we can get from area family farms including our own Wards Berry Farm in Sharon. We will feature one menu item that only uses locally gathered ingredients and donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of that item to Farm Aid and Chefs Collaborative; two organizations that share one vision: thriving family farms growing good food for all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Matthew Demers Photography

I promised some shots of the restaurant, the food, the patio etc...We were very fortunate to have Matthew Demers be in charge of and conduct the photo shoots. His professionalism and ability to capture exactly what we were looking for shows in every shot. I hope you enjoy these, and in the future please check out the Tastings Web Site for more beautiful shots.

Patio (Gillette Stadium, the Back Drop)

Wine Room

Dining Room

Foie Gras
pickled raspberries/vanilla bean balsamic/Indian spiced pistachio granola

Plancha Seared Shrimp
minted white beans/chorizo puree/garlic air

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In Action

The nights are in full swing, the team is learning the menu and cranking out food like you wouldn't believe. As you can see from Saturday nights ticket stack( 360 covers) close to 1,000 small plates left the kitchen with not one food item returned to the kitchen.
This level of execution and volume don't usually mix, but with some very minor tweaks to station set up and prep lists, I think we have it figured out. I'm very happy with the skill level of the cooks and it shows in the work they are doing.

We are already thinking about some changes to the menu as summer begins to wind down and the fall chill is in the air.One thing we did get today is a ZESTOR Apple from New Hampshire. A sweet and tart red apple, with aprox two weeks of availability we are happy to have it grace the menu.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Win for Opening Night

After 4 long months of building, phone calls, thousands of emails and blowing through my rollover minutes on my cell phone, Arguments and on occasion the actual feeling of "what the hell am I doing" we opened to the smoothest restaurant opening I have ever been a part of. When i tell you that I have done my fair share of openings, this was by far the smoothest, most successful opening I have been a part of.
The kitchen was on fire( no pun intended) the FOH was spot on, and the bar was not missing a beat, in fact our only major complaint was that one of plates was to big. If that's the worse that can happen, well I think we did a pretty good job.
I just want to thank my team, Matt & Dione for all the hard work and hours that they have put in (and will continue to put in for the first few weeks) because with out the two of them there is no way we could have pulled it off.
My Wife also deserves a big thanks, to accept another project especially an opening project is a huge sacrifice, and it doesnt go unnoticed. The time that this business takes away from personal family time, especially since Nicole works the complete opposite schedule as I do,I really appreciate your understanding.
And also the rest of the management team Dave & Bryon and of course Mike, Bill & Patti, thanks for letting me be a part of this venture with you.

Now remember, its only been one shift, one service, one night, and with many more to come we are no where near claiming we have a huge success. But if last night is a snapshot of what to expect, all I can say is we are in a great position to do so.... real soon!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Count down to opening day

Its been over a week since the last post, and the reason why is a good one. We are 1 day away, yes 24 hours from opening our doors to the public. Its been a week and a half of non sop days and nights getting ready, training the staff, cooking the dishes!! Finally cooking the dishes in our kitchen with our team has been the most satisfying part of being in the restaurant.
The team is excited and ready to start pumping food out of the kitchen. I am ready to see all the hard work everyone has put in finally pay off. I know that those of you who have followed this blog up until this point are ready to come in and experience Tastings.
At this point the blog will begin to take a turn to focus on the cuisine. Matt and I will begin to experiment and share with you our trials and tribulations, we will share our vision on what we believe a culinary experience should be, and we hope that we can inspire and educate while having fun.
With the opening so close I will be running around like crazy for the next few weeks, but I cant wait!!! This is what its all about

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another day at the Farm

As a chef, I always want to bring the farm to the table. But more often than not I make a phone call to my sources and the next day its at my back door. It comes from a local farm, but the connection is not there. Its another delivery that is taken for granted by the cooks, waitstaff, managers and chefs. Just another day at the office.

One of the luxuries we have here at Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro, is the hidden gem, Wards Berry Farm in Sharon MA.Run by Jim Ward (who handles the farm) and his brother who runs the farm store and sandwich shop. Only 3 miles from our back door, this farm has allowed us to make a connection with the land, the hard working people getting their hands dirty day in and day out, to grow the finest produce I have experienced in a long time. My chefs and I go there to have lunch almost on a daily basis, a great sandwich, loaf of bread, wedge of cheese, raw ear of corn and a peach from the tree and we eat right at the farm no forks, no knives, no fancy dining room.

Have you ever imagined what an ear of corn tastes like right off the stalk? Or a peach that fell from its tree because it was so ripe and juicy that its own weight broke it off the branch. Heirloom cherry tomatoes that are so distinct in flavor and freshness that I will never eat another grocery store tomato again.

If you remember the movie Willy Wonka, theres a line in the movie that says the "blueberries taste like blueberries" well every thing that Jim Ward grows tastes as it should.

We had the pleasure of taking our photographer, Matt Demers to the farm. Here are some photos I would like to share with you. This same produce will grace the plates at Tastings for as long as the season remains strong. A connection between the farm and the chef is an experience that is meant to be shared with those who wish to dive into a culinary journey of pure flavor and freshness, no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors or flavors.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Look Inside

Every week Ive been posting pictures of the kitchen, the exterior of the restaurant and our sign. I'm sure by now everyone is wondering what this place is going to look like?
Lucky for you, I have a chef de cuisine that remembers to take pictures and bring his camera. Matt took these shots yesterday afternoon. It really feels like a restaurant is being built now. Everyday the place looks more and more real. Enjoy the first look at this restaurant, I will be posting one more round of pictures and then you will have to stop by to see the finished product!
Soon to come, we will actually be back in the kitchen, whites on, knives in hand and cooking. The posts will soon start to explore our menu. Its right around the corner...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


If you check out this link you can see some photos and read an article on watermelon that I contributed to. Pictures came out great! Jeff Loughlin of The Patriot Ledger and I along with my daughter Savanna had a great time preparing and shooting these pictures. Jody Feinberg did an excellent job at interpreting my recipes and thoughts on this wonderful fruit!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Menu

As we now move into finalizing the menu, I am starting to get anxious. I have been out of the kitchen for 3 months and counting, so busy that cooking at home is rare. As a cook, you begin to get anxious, nervous almost when those creative juices stop to flow due to lack of culinary engagement.

I read, and read, and read until Ive almost memorized certain books. I engage myself in thinking about pairings, visualizing and trying to taste it in my head. As I think about these things, its so frustrating to not be in whites, knife in hand and chopping, tasting, cooking, feeling the textures, trying to create the ultimate harmony of balance. Sweet, Sour, Salty, Sweet, Umami, Texture and color all of which right now are merely a vision in my head.

The menu at Tastings will focus on forward thinking, globally influenced small plates. We will incorporate modern techniques and presentations, into whenever possible locally sourced products and some of the finest products we can get our hands on from around the globe.

A sample of the opening Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro Menu

Progressive Ocean Tasting
60 degree scallop w/hazelnuts, oyster & chanterelle "cappuccino" w/porcini dust cured wild salmon tartare w/white peach & ginger sambal

Crisp Pork Belly “Cuban”
blueberry mustard, pickled green apple, melted leeks, womanchengo

Watermelon Flight
crème fraiche & salmon caviar, jalapeno & black sea salt, 3 year balsamic vinegar, feta & peppered bacon

Great Hill Blue Flatbread
fig and olive jam, rosemary

Milk & Honey
vanilla-honey soaked genoise cake, milk chocolate mousse

“Coffee & Doughnuts “
warm doughnut foam, espresso cake, cappuccino hazelnut crumble

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Update

As we approach our first official Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro "all-staff meeting" or as we all know it, orientation day, I am finally feeling like we are right around the corner. As you can see from the pictures, we have finally finished the kitchen build out, the challenge is trying to get the powers at be to let us start "stocking" the kitchen before the front of the house is complete. Will it happen? we have no idea. But what we do know is that the days are approaching, and there are not enough hours in the 24 hour cycle that we all know if as 1 day.
My team is starting to arrive from all corners of the United States.

Matt Maue, Chef De Cuisine, and my sushi chef from the good ole' Lotus days, who by the way has impressed me with his ability to compose unique innovative dishes day in and day out very rarely missing a beat, arrived from Buffalo, NY. we have had the pleasure of cleaning the kitchen together multiple times now, only to arrive the next day to find it just as dusty and dirty as we found it before we cleaned it!! Getting to know every nick and cranny our new kitchen has has really connected us to the space.

Dione Johnson arrived yesterday, our Sous chef from Atlanta, GA. was one of the first line cooks I hired when I was in the Virgin Islands. Her passion for the industry as a whole, not just food makes her an amazing addition to this kitchen, keeping all the cooks and myself in focused state of mind as well as being a strong culinary addition is truly a blessing.

3 other cooks whom I have shared line space with are arriving from the Virgin Islands in the next 2-3 weeks. The ability to have a peace of mind to know that my team is one that has worked together and worked together well, is such a luxury that it is really letting us take the menu to an another level that is usually not suited for the "opening menu".

Trusting my staff from day one to execute a complicated, fast paced, small plates menu is going to allow our cooks that are working with us for the first time to really be trained the way we want them to be. i look forward to leading an unstop able kitchen crew.

Bring On Opening day !!!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008


After weeks of not really noticing much change at the sight, things have taken a huge turn. The 5 people that would normally be there have multiplied to about 15. They are now working 12 hour days and changes are beginning to happen on a daily basis.
I walked into the spot tonight and saw a restaurant!! The kitchen is about 95% complete, Matt and I will begin the process of multiple cleanings to get the kitchen ready for inspection. The FOH has the gorgeous crown molding and decorative beams running through it, and most important the toilets are in!!!!!!!
This week water, electricity and gas will be on.....Pictures will soon follow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Quick Entry: The Perfect Meal???

What is the perfect meal?? Is it just delicious food?? I mean, I have a great meal a hundred times a year, and a small percentage of those are outstanding ones.Was it the perfect meal?? What about the addition of pleasant company??Will an o.k. meal be better with great company? Maybe....
I say, in a perfect meal, food and context conspire to reveal, to show and to instruct. There must be epiphany....

Monday, July 14, 2008


Here it is! The first picture of the hot line(ok so its the whole kitchen, but it sounds good). Double staking Vulcan Convection, 8 burner Wolf range sitting on top a victory refrigerated equipment stand, my favorite piece the Jade Plancha!!! and a Viking fryolator. Simple set up but very efficient for quick small plates to fly out all night,Its all going to start to happen more quickly now...the next couple of days will include delivery of the chefs pass, some additional sinks and tables and the utility room. Does anybody see the kitchen getting smaller?? I'm getting excited!!!I can see and smell the food now, like a kid in a candy store! More pics to come soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


As a chef, I believe the menu is the foundation of any great restaurant, I believe many areas have to come together to create a synergy, but in my world the menu has to be one of the strongest pieces holding the foundation together.
There are many parts to a successful restaurant. First there is the ultimate vision, vague at first, but with all of the collaboration between us we have a very clear vision of where we need to go.
Next is the space, and bringing the vision to life within a space that is designed to ultimately turn a profit.
And then there is the menu,this is both the easiest and most difficult part of opening a new restaurant. The first menu is never the one that makes the final opening. The draft menu allows you to focus on several areas:
1. Kitchen Setup( how many stations and pieces of equipment will we need)
2. Labor(how many people will it take to execute)
3.Food Cost( what does it cost to put the plate in front of our guest)
4.China( how much china will we need)
5.Table Turns( how long will a guest spend while dining with us)
It seems the general public only knows about a new restaurant opening when the lights are on, and the smell of fresh food is coming from the kitchen, but they likely will never fully understand just how much planning and work it takes to get there! That's why I am sharing some insights about this process as it relates to the restaurant that we are getting ready to open.
I will over time continue to post general overviews of the creative process involved in opening a new restaurant. It takes time, dedication, patience, compromise, and all around teamwork! Here are a couple of pictures, as you can see the walk in and kitchen are coming along, Mike and I also felt the need for a quick snap shot of us in our hard hats......