Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Placer Grown Dinner...

From the moment I drive down the driveway to the Neft house, and observed the amazing gardens that grow in abundance, I knew it would be a great dinner party. It would be easy for me to be very inspired and creative in such a magnificent environment! The entire place is full of life and earth, giving one a vibrant feeling of freedom while on the grounds. When I stepped inside, the artwork immediately overwhelmed me, and I knew this was the place I wanted my dinner to be!
I first contacted Joanne a few months back to inform her of my latest undertaking. Now if she understood the caliber of which I was giving these dinner parties at, I do not know. I was insistent on having her attend my next dinner party, and even went as far as changing the date 3 times to assure her a seat! The date was set and the dinner was on. She gladly joined, and I tried to of course, display as much as possible of my creativity and craft; many may think of myself as not a chef, perhaps because I have not attended a formal school, or have not put my "kudos" in at a restaurant and earn my stripes; I think what I am doing is courageous, unique, creative and inspiring. I give myself credit to go full speed ahead and 110% into a brand new field, with true passion and love for the craft and art of cooking, it comes from deep within my soul. I will be a great chef one day, and this is only the beginning.
Anyhow, I fed everyone for 5 hours, plate after plate of well thought out, extensively planned and highly executed food. Joanne's advice to me; please do not serve so much food! She was absolutely correct! I was kicking my own rear end, working so hard, trying to pull of a meal that normally would take a brigade of more than 5 "trained" chefs! I also was way over budget on food cost, and under charging my customers whom attended, just so I could get a name for myself, and stand out. I am a rather obsessively motivated person.
Immediately I thought it a great idea to have Joanne collaborate with me on my next menu. She again willingly agreed and I was again off and running. She volunteered her house, her guests, to no rebuttal from myself. She did put one stipulation on myself; everything must be Placer Grown and from the local Farmers Markets. What a great idea, and exciting challenge I thought, and immediately the thoughts were flowing.
I started planning my menu, and this was the funnest part of it all. On a normal dinner, I could think up any dish I wanted, and go to great lengths to acquire such rare ingredients as Kobe Beef, Kurobuta pork belly, Maine lobster, Rare fruits not in season, white truffles from alba, and more. But for this dinner, I had to go out and introduce myself, explain what I am doing, and meet the farmers and producers of our local ingredients. I had to find out what was in season, and what Placer County was all about. And best of all, I had the opportunity to show the potential of what our local produce and products could be turned into; a fine dining experience.
My various trips to the markets introduced me to the farmers, which then in turn led me to the farms themselves. I was able to go direct to many farms, and spent many hours actually picking my own ingredients, such as blackberries, strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini and more. This was the first dinner in which I actually felt connected to the "community", and that is very very important as a chef. It was such an excellent opportunity! My goals were to educate the diners about Placer grown products, and inspire them to use placer grown products in their daily meals. We have so many great products coming out of our wonderful region. I found myself to be the one most inspired and newly educated about Placer ingredients. It truly changed my ways of thinking, and opened myself up to many new ideas. This dinner has truly changed me!
I put together a menu using all local ingredients, coming from the farmers market or from the farms themselves. I cooked local, I cooked in season! It was fresh and hopefully very delicious!
I would like to thank Joanne Neft and Jerry Burns for their continued support, and for truly seeing my passion and vision. Thank you both for hosting this magnificent dinner party, offering your house, and inviting such amazing guests, with educated palates whom truly appreciated the food. My thanks to all who attended and for listening and caring, you are what this is all about, the people whom I serve and entertain! Thank you!
You will find photos below, with descriptions of each one! Enjoy!
The Chef!
The table, prior to dinner!

One of the amazing fresh flower arrangements that came from the Neft Garden!

Another beautiful floral arrangement done by Joanne..

I very inspiring piece of artwork, I love it!

On to the diners, and the food, table view 1

Table view 2

Looks like it tastes goood!

Explaining the Scallop Plate

We ate our first 2 courses on the patio, over looking the amazing view of the river. It was so beautiful outside. Here I am giving a little introduction speech.

Prior to the dessert demolition!

"Ueki Farms" Diva cucumber juice, gingered cream, tiger melon icicle, pickled red radish and tiger melon rind, and some "raz el hanout" spice for some kick!

Angie did a fabulous job plating these drinks, they looked amazing!

Placer County Gazpacho, homegrown tomatoes, Ueki farms vegetables, all put in 8-ball squash. Basil infused oil, homemade brioche with spanish valdeon blue cheese, balsamic reduction, tomato compote with basil oil and balsamic

Close up of Gazpacho Plate

Another close up

This was the preparation for the peas - what I forgot to mention to the dinner party was the fact that I purchased fresh snap peas from the farmers market. Now this meant that every pod had to be opened and the the peas taken out of each one! What a job, thanks to Mom and Angie, they handled it with no complaints, but very laborious! This is the saffron nage that the peas were cooked in. It is a reduction of shallots, garlic, white wine, chicken stock (I make all of my own chicken, vegetable and veal stocks from scratch!), butter and lemon.

A black and white of the scallops cooking

Plating the scallop dish
Market fresh scallops with a carrot-ginger reduction topped with a pea shoot salad with bacon vinaigrette, in the middle of the plate their is a sauce of polenta, risotto, marscapone cheese and fresh white corn that was juiced. The left is the carrot wrapped peas salad cooked in a saffron nage.

more scallop photos

Here we have a local lamb dish.
Flying mule ranch Spring lamb chops, sat overnight in rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Frenched the chops myself, and pan crisped and roasted in oven. Rosemary infused oil, the green. A sauce reduction of port wine and blackberry with red onion. Lamb jus seasoned with lamb bones, onions carrots garlic leeks, etc, and reduced. Kumquat relish with charred jalapenos. Panisse, a chickpea cake, topped with braised cippolini onions. Rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes. Lastly, horseradish "air" or foam, made by using a hand immersion blender and skimming the top of the boiling liquid to create a foamy air with light flavor and texture.

more lamb

The dessert creation. Dessert is my favorite course to any meal. I have been know to serve 3 different desserts in one dinner. My wife thinks I am nuts, but dinner is not complete to me without a fabulous and sweet ending.
Here is my creation of display of what is in season in Placer County; Berries!
Neft garden Rhubarb sorbet and blackberry sorbet. I do not sweeten these too much, I like their natural flavor, and there is plenty of sweetness elsewhere on the dish to balance.
Buttermilk biscuits. Blueberry creme anglaise. Strawberry creamed yogurt. Raspberry coulis. Mint infused oil. Fresh yellow and red raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Under it all, as a little surprise toward the end of the dish, a very bitter valrhona chocolate sauce, mmm good!