Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I know I just posted but I couldn't resist this, I was scrolling through Rhulmans Blog and he had posted this video called "the milk & water rant".... just a quick warning: if your not into seriously foul mouthed comedians this video may not be for you

Criticizing the Critic

Robert Courtine, author and the former restaurant critic for the French newspaper Le Monde for many years, had the habit of visiting prestigious restaurants in France and setting traps for them. During one period of time he visited each of the three-star restaurants in Paris. He would order a tomato salad and then give a bad review if the tomatoes had not been peeled and seeded or if he had not been asked what type of oil he wanted in the dressing. Another occasion, Robert was dining at the Chantecler in Nice, he made a scene when his crepes Suzettes had been made with orange peel and not, as they should have been, with tangerine peel.

These types of critics has made the critic the enemy in many establishments. Although deep down inside every owner and chef wants the critics there, but I feel the hate comes from their own knowledge of flaws within their establishments that could be exposed.

I don't think that critics are the restaurant enemies. Being critical is one of the factors that makes us who we are. Restaurants, like a concert, the movies or any other public artistic endeavor, are open to being criticized. Think about the art or music critic that loves paintings or the symphony, I believe most restaurant critics adore food and have happily devoted large portions of their lives to consuming good meals.

For me the ultimate critic of the restaurant,is the public, for the public are the people who will eventually determine whether a restaurant thrives or eventually goes out of business.

This mornings edition of the Boston Globe gave us a 2.5 out of 4 stars. I'm very happy with this and it was a very positive review with criticism that I completely agree with, in fact certain criticism that I will be doing some serious work on to improve that particular fault. It is this criticism that helps me be a better chef and restaurateur, that helps me to realize certain faults that may be overlooked in the day to day rush of the restaurant business.

Follow the Link to read the review.....

Boston Globe Review

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rhode Island Monthly Review Of Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro

follow the link to check out the review
Click Here

A Night On The Line

As the chef at Tastings you very rarely get a chance to work the line, on a single station very often, especially a Friday or Saturday night.

I arrive in the AM begin to prep proteins, sauces, finish stocks, place my orders, check yesterdays orders in,go to the bakery or the farm in season, write schedules, develop new menus for events that are still weeks away. I might have some time to sit with the chef de cuisine and think about the next seasons menu or call my sources to check on availability or discuss the quality of an item that didn't meet my standards. I'll probably be in the middle of catching up on emails or trying to input my invoices into inventory management when the call comes in that one of the cooks cant make it, oh S%$&! we still need an amuse bouche for the evening, 200 of them!!

But when the opportunity is available to jump on the line on the busiest day of the week, set up & prep your station from start to finish, fold your towels that one particular way you want them (with the folded edge facing away from me), sharpen my knives, and just cook.It reminds me of why I have never wanted to do anything else in my career.

Last night both Matt(Chef de Cuisine) and I did just that, one of the busier Saturday nights we have had in a while, working side by side while our crew took a turn at running the kitchen. What a blast we had. And its great to know and for the crew to know, no matter how long in between working the line on a Saturday night it is for me, I still got it...But believe me when I tell you that my kitchen crew in awesome! Most of them work another job before they get into my kitchen, by the time they are done with breaking down the kitchen have been in the grind for 18 hours. They will go home sleep for a few hours and get up the next day and do it all over again.
I love this job!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


We have been testing and testing AND testing several different recipes for churros over the past few weeks. Most of them were OK, but none of them had that classic traditional taste & texture that I remember so well. The majority of the recipes were a variation of a classic pate a choux dough, but the results were usually a gummy interior with a over done exterior, and on top of that the shelf life was extremely limited.
We received our churrera (churro maker) in the mail the other day. Its a traditional device made in Spain to extrude the perfect churro, we purchased it from La Tienda, by far one of the best importer of Spanish products to the USA. (Also bought our traditional Paella pans from them as well)As we were reading through the instructions, we came across what was a "traditional churro" recipe. The ingredients,
250 grams of all natural wheat flour
250cc of plain good ole' water
a pinch of salt
Could it be that the simplest recipe you could find, no flavor or added ingredients could result in the tastiest churro we have made in our kitchen? You obviously know that I'm going to say yes! It took me right back to the churro stand in Spain instantly, texture was crispy on the out side and a warm dense almost creamy interior. Perfect!
At Tastings, We are serving our churros with a non traditional twist, green cardamom cinnamon sugar & hot white chocolate.Very, very tasty let me tell you....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Answer: What happened to the classics?

A friend & talented chef recently posted on his blog, Chef Tenner Weekly a request to go on strike with him, a strike against the new & innovative. A question was posed, What happened to the classics?? Why does everything have to be new & innovative? I suggest you read the interesting post before you continue and then make a decision that reflects who you are as a foodie, chef or serious home cook.

I am the first to tell you that my menu at Tastings is by far new & innovative,no where near what restaurants like Alinea & WD-50 are doing, but we do use new and innovative techniques and products that we feel help to enhance our cuisine and give our guests a new and innovative dining experience if they choose to eat that particular dish.

Using products like ultra tex 3 to thicken a liquid(that otherwise would need heavy reduction or flavor changing agents) with no change in flavor whatsoever, soy lethicin to produce a lighter & healthier and what I believe is a more attractive alternative to a traditional sauce, agar agar to make hot gels, tapioca maltodextrin to give oils and other fat based products a new texture and visual appeal(and these are just some of the more popular and easy to use products). These new & innovative products give me a much broader range of possibilities when I am trying to develop a dish, it gives me another layer of flavor and texture to further enhance the dishes my team & I create, including new renditions of the classics. Take our very traditional Berkshire Braised Pork Shank over house cured pancetta and butter beans with Almond Milk Air. Many would say without trying the dish, that the almond Milk is not needed, but after experiencing the dish it is apparent that the almond Milk(made in house) is aerated and produces a very appealing look and added layer of flavor to bring the dish to the next level.

I understand and respect Chef Tenners reasoning and argument,and he is one of the most intellectual chefs I know. I also see a culinary world that is changing right before our eyes. A culinary world that wants to experience food in a new & non traditional manner.A culinary world that is using the classic building blocks to combine the old & the new and create a new form of art.

Believe me, I could eat amazing cheese on a freshly baked baguette with a bottle of red wine all day, to me a perfect meal. I could also take that cheese and create a liquid filled cheese sphere with dehydrated crostini and a film of red wine gel and experience a new,exciting, fun and refined rendition of a very traditional French lunch.

I honestly believe it is a serious part of my job as a chef to make sure that the classic and the traditional is not forgotten, it is where all my knowledge comes from, it is how I got to be in the position where I am today. But I also feel that my job as a chef is to continue to learn and explore the new possibilities, try and take food to the next level and teach these new techniques to young chefs who have proven their ability to preserve the tradition of classic international gastronomy.

First and foremost the product has to be the finest product that you can get your hands on, then if you can support your local farmers and fisherman do it....utilize your traditional training and combine it with innovative, new and fun techniques and products that still tastes amazing.....Ill be making a reservation at your place.

I will not be joining the strike........

Monday, January 19, 2009

And the results are in.....

Saturday I competed in the 6th annual Chef Showdown at Mohegan Suns annual Sun Wine Festival. After what seemed to be one long 30 minutes, I had completed my dish for the 3 judges...Elizabeth Faulkner, chef and owner of citizen cake in San Francisco, Walter Potenza, chef and owner of Spiga Tratorria and Pichet Ong, former pastry chef at Spice Market. The final dish....Shrimp Carpaccio, Pulled Pork Relish & Spanish Olive Oil Powder. Great day, great competition. Being forced to create a dish in under 30 minutes from scratch, to impress fellow colleagues, who we all know are the worst critics to have, is a challenge, and to do it 2 years in a row and come out on top is a humbling thing to accomplish. Looking forward to next year.....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chef Showdown At Sun Wine Fest Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino

If you have been reading the blog long enough you will know that I won last years Chef Showdown at the Sun Wine Festival. The Chef showdown is an iron chef like competition, on stage at the Grand Tasting event of the festival. Last year the format of the competition was a two day single elimination contest creating a dish using two mandatory ingredients. Round 1 had four chefs going up against each other, the top 2 winners moved on to round 2 and had a mystery box and 1/2 hour to create a dish for a panel of celebrity judges. Last years judges were, Roberto Donna, the Ambassador of Italian Cuisine , Chef Johnny Vinczencz "Johnny V" & Michael Aeyal Ginor who is co-founder, co-owner, and President of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and New York State Foie Gras, and what I believe is the best foie gras produced in the world.
Last Years Wining dish:
Contessa Poached Shrimp
spaghetti squash, wild mushroom, hatfield pork sausage hash
apple cider 2 ways: gel & air

I have been invited back this year!! January 17th,2009 to defend my title. This years required products are: Contessa Shrimp, and Hatfield Pork. Come by the Sun Wine Festival next Saturday for a fun filled day of food, wine and of course at 1:45pm the competition begins. This year its a one day, one round contest. Only one chance to come home the Chef Showdown winner this year!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winter 2009 Menu Release

This winter season we wanted to showcase simple flavors, cooked in a creative fashion with our unique spin on some winter comfort foods.
One of the themes that you will see is the use of some of Spains best ingredients. Our Serrano ham, piquillo peppers, olive oil and much more to list are some of the best products that Spain has to offer. We have decided to also put on this winters menu, Paella. We will cooking two traditional paellas that are intended to be shared by two people. Our first is the traditional Paella Valenciana ( Chicken,green beans)and our second option will be the world famous Seafood Paella. We are cooking these from scratch and should take 30-40 minutes to prepare, but I assure you the wait is well worth it!
Some of our other additions this winter are American Kobe Beef from Strube Ranch in Texas, Berkshire Pork from a family co-op of farms in Missouri, and as always we are sourcing as much seafood as possible from the New England waters. The cod that we bring in is all hook and line caught on local day boats, our current oyster selection is Watch hill oysters from Southern Rhode Island, and the Fishing Vessel Java-Rose out of Mattapoissett Bay is out catching our "live" bay scallops.

All of your favorites will remain on the menu, wild boar meatballs, black truffle mac & cheese and point judith calamari to name a few. Some of the great but very seasonal items will have to retire this season. But I assure you that these new taste sensations will have you warming up your appetite this winter!

Sample Winter 2009 Menu

Braised Berkshire Pork Shank
almond milk air/butter beans/sweet vermouth/orange gremolata

Bruschetta Tasting
Serrano Ham & Black Trumpet/ Goat Cheese "Beignet" & Piquillo Pepper marmalade/ marinated artichoke hearts

Winter Root Vegetable Hash
poached farm egg

Sous Vide Beet Salad
raspberry fluid gel/ shaved fennel/ Vermont goat milk feta

All Natural Roasted 1/2 Chicken
roasted winter vegetables

Chestnut Soup
candied apple/house made pancetta/buttered crouton

Fried Chickpeas
sage/spanish pimenton/Maine sea salt

American Wagyu (Kobe) Hanger Steak
Plancha seared fingerlings/ Rioja reduction

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Goodbye 2008

Its hard to believe that 2008 is gone, I have been writing for about a year now, Tastings opened in September and we have not even noticed the past 4 months go by. Thank you to my staff & co- workers, who most of are away from there homes to be here to make Tastings a success. And thanks to all of our supporters,our wonderful guests, those who have written about us, and those who make it possible to operate Tastings on a daily basis.
We are looking forward to continued success in 2009 and cant wait to share our love of food and wine with new guests, make new friends and continue to spread the "Tastings" bug.


1st course

Lobster Pot Stickers
green apple & chive/ citrus creme fraiche/ tomato powder
Domaine Talmard Macon-Chardonnay

2nd course

Chicken Drum Confit
8 hour cure / duck fat confit/ sous vide beets/ celery leaf/ natural jus
Domaine Pichot Vouvray

3rd course

All Natural Flat Iron Steak
roasted red bliss/ almond pesto/ mache
Isole e Olena Chianti Classico

4th course

Chocolate Mousse Cake & Blackberries
Rosenblum Zinfandel Port