Thursday, December 18, 2008

National Truffle Fest

We are really lucky to live with in close proximity of so many farms. But we are even luckier to be 30 miles from the oldest truffle orchard in the US. Garland Farms Truffles is right down the road in Hillsborough, NC. We are featuring their truffles in our New Year's eve menu but even more exciting they have started the First Annual National Truffle Fest to take place in March of 2009. At the Biltmore of all places! And they have asked me to be one of the chefs to participate. This is a huge honor for me and I am truly thankful and excited. For those of you who love truffles, you should definetly come. The website has all the details. And please stop by and see me if you decide to check out the event.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Right now I can't get enough of our Harissa aioli or our harissa in general. I put it on a lot of things I eat for meals. A staff favorite is our harissa aioli with our french fries. While it traditionally is very spicy, ours is not. We try not to kill our guests with heat. Anyway, I hadn't posted any recipes in a while so I hought I'd share ours. Make this at home and it will keep for a good while. you will find endless uses for it. Burgers, Chicken, fish etc.


Piquillo pepper150 G
Tomato Paste100 G
Cumin50 g
Coriander50 g
Carraway50 g
Crushed Red Pepper15 G
Salt20 G
Smoked paprika20 G
Lime Juice3 ea
Olive Oil300ml

Toast cumin, coriander, and carraway. Grind in the spice grinder until powder. Grind Crushed Red pepper until powder. Place all ingredients in the food processor and puree until super smooth.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Year's Eve 2008

I wanted to post our New Year's Eve Menu. We are offering a 4 course menu for $55 a person. Reservations are filling up some make yours' early. Feel free to contact me through the Blog with any questions.

Amuse Bouche
Beluga Caviar, Caramelized White Chocolate

First Course
Chicken and Wild Mushroom Consommé Royal
Truffled Custard and Garland Farms Shaved Truffle
House Made Salmon Gravlax Salad
Arugula, Pommery Mustard, Red Onion, Dill, and Crème Fraiche

Second Course
Caprese Terrine
Overnight Tomatoes, Chapel Hill Creamery Mozzarella, Basil, and Reggio Emilia 100 Year Balsamic
Scallop Coquille St. Jacques
Chantrelles and Grana Padano

Third Course
Prime Ribeye Filet Wellington
Truffled Mousse Pate, Spinach, Puff Pastry, Tellicherry Peppercorn and Brandy
Atlantic Day Boat Grouper
Sweet Potato Crust, Raspberry Compote, Japanese Forbidden Rice,
Haricot Vert
Pan Roasted Pheasant
Calvados, Mascarpone Polenta, Creamed Watercress
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Caramelized Shallot, Sherry-Cider Broth, Beech Mushrooms and
Green Apple Reduction

Fourth Course
Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart
Mascarpone, Grand Marnier Syrup, and Candied Orange
Caramelized White Chocolate and Key Lime Parfait

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Today is my wife's birthday. No I won't reveal how young she is but we have a pretty long running tradition. Due to my chosen profession it is hard for me to be at home on a regular basis. Especially for birthday's. So every year I cook my beautiful wife a delicious french toast breakfast. I use nice crusty bread and dry it out overnight. My french toast batter is similar to a crepe batter allowing for a slightly thicker crust. Instead of maple syrup I top it with vanilla creme anglaise and mixed berry coulis.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Long Time, No Blog

Despite a "poor economy" and an election I have been really busy. So, I haven't been posting much and I apologize. We have been working on some pretty fun stuff. A quick update our dinner menu is updated on our website so please check it out. I would have to say our pheasant is probably or best seller of the new items.

Striped bass out of Virginia is gorgeous. I am a big fan of striped bass and I pretty much always serve it skin on. We press the fish into the pan skin side down to get the best and most even crispy skin. If you really want to learn great techinique for this read The French Laundry. Here we are serving it with a blood orange sauce, slow roasted sweet potatoes and haricot vert. The blood orange sauce is a variation on Alinea's yuzu pudding. You really get a straight flavor of blood orange.
We have had a lot of success with our small plate features and we have continued running most of our specials as small plates. I think it's funny what we call small plates in America. The majority of the world eats small plates as their main course but in the States we tend to eat much larger portions. So small plates have a much different meaning here than in other countries. But I love this style of cooking. It's a lot easier to get creative and really adapt your dishes when you aren't having to load so much food on the plate.

This is another small plate salmon dish. can you tell I like seafood. This is sweet spiced salmon with pomegranate red onion marmalade and roasted root vegetables.
We usually sear our scallops at the restaurant. The caramel richness you get from a seared scallop is pretty much unsurpassed by any other seafood. But this time we strayed away from that. Mainly because duck fat is delicious. I know that may sound like an absurd comment but it is true. get some duck fat and cook just about anything with. So we opted to poach our scallops for a small plate in duck fat. We have large amounts of rendered duck fat on hand because of our duck confit. To cut to the chase: Duck fat poached scallops with black currant sauce and wilted baby arugula:
I thought it was kind of cool how the currants actually look like caviar.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fall Menu

We have been running a lot of special items which are sooon to appear on our Fall Menu. Coq au Vin, butternut squash risotto, etc. The new menu begins this wednsday. I'll post the final version here.

Tart Tatin and the Economy

I haven't posted in a while, but we have a new dessert menu and one of the things we keep looking at is how to keep up with the fears of the economy. Se we came up with a small version of a tart tatin. I love apples in fall, I love deep rich caramel, and I love hot cinnamon. It works. Here is our petite tart tatin.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Amuse Bouche and The Pantry Hammer

We produce an amuse bouche every night for every table. And while some are more thought out than others I am always happy with what we serve. This past weekend we went to an old pairing of fruit and cheese. Almost like a sample of our cheese plate. We paired our house made fig jam with Mahon cheese and almonds. Pretty simple but delicious none the less.

I took these pictures mainly because of our garde manger or pantry chef Chino. I told him what the bouche was and that was pretty much it. He took the amuse bouche and made it his own. I wanted to show all of you the care he took with something we give away to every table. We charge nothing for the bouche and Chino still took this much love with it. Chino was actually making quenelles of the fig jam like he does for the cheese plate but in miniature. This is pretty time consuming especially when you are making 125 of these in a night. Hence this is why we call Chino a hammer. He drives everything home no matter what we give him. Chino also makes all of the salads and all of the desserts for the restaurant.

Here are some of the nicknames we through around the kitchen on a regular basis. These change frequently.
Chino, pepito, tortuga, chepe, salsa face, salsa pants, polvo, jefe, marica, chucky, torita, scary.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Roasted Chicken"

I love roast chicken. But all too often roasted chicken is dry in the breast or chewy in the thigh and leg. How does one get away from these problems in chicken or any other game bird? We get around it by using a method called the triple sear. The name is a little misleading. We do not thrice sear this chicken but we do twice sear. Here's how it works: we break our whole chickens down into quarters. Then we brown the chicken in a saute pan on all sides. Then we take the seared chicken quarters place them in a vaccum seal bag with shallots, garlic, white wine, chicken stock, and lemon verbena. We seal the bag and slow cook the chickens poaching until our chicken is cooked. (we take a little more exact approach than what I am describing but I don't want to bore) When the chicken is done we shock the bags in ice water which helps the breast meat reabsorb moisture. Then we bring the chicken back up to hot and when we go to serve the chicken we re-sear the skin in butter making it nice and crisp. The end result is juicy, tender cooked chicken.

We have mimiced roasting a chicken and the results are great. We serve the half bird with lemon verbena scented chicken jus and pommes frites. You may notice we cook sous vide a lot but it really gets great results everytime.

If you are interested there is a new show in England which has a great bit on sous vide steak. They also go into a lot more detail on the chemistry of sous vide. It's called Kamazie Cookery and these guys are smart and funny.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Swoosh Off

This is a good old fashioned swoosh, whatever that means. So John and I have swooshed red pepper coulis on two different plates and we'd like you, the people to vote. Which plate is more pleasing aesthetically. Forget Iron Chef, this means so much more. So please vote no matter who or where you are. For those of you who do know us personally please leave a name so we can poll the jury so to say.

Picture A:

Picture B
We will check the status in a couple of days. Please vote in the comments section, and Good Luck John your going to need it.

Coming soon: Dueling Specials.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fried Ravioli and love

Why not. Fried ravioli has been on many menus. Who doesn't like fried raviolis. Well, I guess when it's made in foreign countries and has a ton of food additives, well then yea you might not like fried ravioli. But still the bar food hound in all of us loves fried ravioli.
And this is one way chef's come up with ideas. We love fried foods and especially fried raviolis. Yea it may sound a little base but when you make fresh pasta, fill it with crab meat, blanch the raviolis, and batter them all in house you have shown a lot of love to a fried ravioli. And that is exactly what we did. John being from St. Louis told me fried ravioli were on every menu. So why not.
So here us what we came up with.
Fried Crab Ravioli- corn nage an red pepper coulis.
It sound so simple but there really is a lot of love here. The raviolis alone are a four step process. The crab filling has marscapone cheese, sour cream, cilantro, pimenton, cayenne, and lemon juice. The corn nage is simple, corn, onions, garlic, and chicken stock. The red pepper coulis is great. We took local red bell peppers and roasted, seeded and peeled them. The we took shallots, Garlic and chicken stock and cooked the mixture until liquid reduced by half. Then we pureed the mixture in a blender adding EVOO as neede and the strauned the red pepper puree through a fine mesh chinois. That is love for a fried ravioli.

Farmers Market Caprese

We are really luck to have such a great farmer's market and group of farmer's around the Chapel Hill area. We buy a lot from local farmers but I usually only go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday's with the family. Most of the farmer's here do deliver which is amazing considering the gas prices these days.

These days we have been seeing some great tomatoes coming in. We have featured a lot of tomatoes over the summer, but I hit a chef's writer's block so to say. Sometimes I over think too much and fail to look at the simple beauty of the local products we get. This past Wednesday one of my line cooks John and I went to farmer's market to see what was available. While we were there John suggested mozzarella caprese. I was quick to dismiss the idea as seen all too often and on far to many menus. Luckily John convinced me otherwise and we bought almost everything for the salad at the market.
The Shopping List:
Chapel Hill Creamery fresh Mozz- Chapel Hill creamery uses whole milk Jersey cows to make all their cheeses. Their mozzarella is some of the best i have ever had. They also make some other great cheese from hard too soft.

Lyon Farms sungold, brown roma and grape tomatoes. A great selection of sweet and meaty tomatoes grown in Creedmore, NC.

Perry-winkle Farms Basil- fresh farmer's market basil is always so much more intense.

The rest of the ingridients were silver DOP 15 year Aged Balsamic. Dop extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel and elephant garlic

Mozzarella Caprese is so simple and so great but only if you let the quality of great ingredients shine through. The Farmer's did all the work on this dish. We just presented it on a plate. And thanks to John for helping break down my Chef's Block.
On a side note our garde manger chef got waxed on this all weekend. Chino (this means chinese in spanish, and chino is a latino) did a great job with these.


We usually leave the camera lying around the kitchen just in case we deem something picture worthy. Of course I find a lot more pictures like the one above, not involving food, usually something vile. But I liked this picture of my 2 nighttime dishwashers. Both great employees, good workers, and really funny.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rib Eyes

We keep coming back to serving ribeye caps. Mainly because they are delicious, and probably the most tender cut of meat. But what else do you do with the cleaned center cut ribeye? Cut into steaks similar to filet mignon, or ribeye filets. Here are our two servings of each.
First we deconstructed a beef wellington and looked at all the components and put it back together like this:
Layers of ribeye "filet" with mushroom duxelle, puff pastry, and truffled mousse pate. Served over sauteed spinach. This was our first run and our sauteed spinach bled out immediately. So for service we blanch off our spinach and pressed it dry. This kept our plates lookng much prettier.
Here we do a take on steak and eggs with the cap. Poached egg sous vide, "tater tot" truffled red wine demi. I liked this dish a lot. But today we started a deconstructed pot roast using the cap. It is awesome.


One of the guys just introduced me to quinoa. Having never cooked or tasted the grain I was really intrigued at the possibilities. For those of you who don't know quinoa is an ancient grain originally eaten by the Incas in Peru. Quinoa has a flavor and texture all it's own. Sort of like cous cous but it is a grain. We decided to stick with latin american flavors for the dish and we wanted to use fish. Mahi Mahi came to mind and we were off running.
Our Final dish: Plantain crusted Mahi Mahi with cold quinoa salad and banana ketchup.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wild Striped Bass "Provencal"

I have made many different versions of a Provencal sauce but this has to be my favorite. We seared the striped bass on both sides and the then we deglaze the pan with our Provencal sauce. we topped the fish with a lavender panade (thanks Jeffery) and then finish baking the fish in the oven. We served it over roasted poblano polenta with a fried basil leaf for garnish.

Short Rib Ravioli

We have been working on our ravioli dough recipe for a while and really trying to get it down to a science. Now, ravioli dough has been around for a long time and many many people make great ravioli. This shouldn't seem like something hard to make. But when we looked at compressing the dough for tenderness we ran into a slew of visual problems. After lots of experimentation we have finally put our compressed pasta dough to bed and we can move on. Here we took shots of our local grass fed short rib raviolis from start to finished plate. The finished dish:
Local Grass Fed Beef Short Rib Ravioli with Shitake Ragout, Edamame, and Red Wine Syrup.

A lot of goat cheese and marscapone went into the mix

Saturday, August 30, 2008

En Crepinette

To wrap something in caul fat is something I have never done before. It looks like something out of a horror movie but has a crazy ability to transform the flavor and texture of meat. When you cook the thin fat membrane it melts and turns into a crispy wrapped package of deliciousness. It works almost like cooking sous vide and really helps to keep the moisture in the meat.

Caul fat is really inexpensive and totally worth buying. We are serving lamb chops en crepinette with tarragon, roasted fingerlings, a spaghetti of carrots and tarragon jus. I'll get a picture of the finished dish up later.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Makin' Bacon 2

Here we are smoking our cured bacon.MMMMMM BACON!

Turn Over

All too often we talk about turn over in the restaurant business. A lot of people come and go from restaurants like a flash of light. Often people leave for another job and make a small impression on the place of work. Then there are others. We recently lost a newly hired line cook to one of the best places possible: school. He decided to go back to school to study food science. What a great outlet from his former choosen career. And while he was a great employee one can't be upset at the loss of an employee to return to school.
This employee had been working on a bunch of homemade vinegars one of which included a beer vinegar. On his last day he brought us some of the mother from his beer vinegar so we could start our own. Here it is and we thank and wish good luck to Jeffery.

Lobster Lasagna

It is always strange where inspiration can come from. While down in the USVI my sister in-law made us lasagna one night for dinner on the boat. The lasagna was great filled with great Italian sausage, cheese and a great tomato sauce. The thing that set of the light bulb was the fact that my sister in-law rolled the lasagna instead of making a traditional layered lasagna. What a great way to present a uniform dish. Here is my thanks to Leigh.

We took her idea and ran with it. Lobster hit ur minds and trying to use all parts as always. We used our base pasta dough recipe and added the coral from the lobsters.

The lobster coral makes the dough bright green when it is raw but when cooked the dough turns a light a red. We rolled out the sheets and blanched thm. We then mixed the lobster meat with ricotta and marscapone and rolled it in the pasta sheets. Using the shells of the lobster we made lobster stock which we used to make a rich tomato sauce. Here is the finished product. While the sauce is running a little with the basil oil I can't help but love these imperfections.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Makin' Bacon

During our tour of Cane Creek Farms, our tour guide , after watching pigs trying to copulate, told us about making bacon. He told us every time a tour came through the pigs always seemed to get a bit randy. We got quite a kick out of that.

Here in the restaurant, we are "makin bacon"
Besides great pig and grass fed beef, Cane Creek has some awesome produce including yellow watermelon. These are small and sweet and really good. Here we are pickling the rinds.

Farm/Wine Dinner Menu

Here Is the menu for our wine Dinner. Specific Details can be found on the restaurants website.

First Course

Lobster Ceviche, pickled jalapeno, Mango gelee, and avocado mousse

Second Course

Beet Root “Carpaccio”, Valdeon cheese, watercress, and Cane Creek Farms Ossabaw Bacon

Third Course

Miso Braised Cane Creek Farms Ossabaw pork belly, pickled watermelon, and daikon salad

Fourth Course

Braeburn Farms grass fed short rib ravioli, Fava beans, wild mushroom ragout and cabernet reduction

Fifth Course

Roasted Local figs and cinnamon marscapone

Saturday, August 2, 2008

USVI update

I'll be back very soon and wanted to update when I had the chance. I have a ton of pictures and I have had a great time. Ironically, not thinking about food has helped me think about food. Some great ideas have been brought to the forefront and I can't wait to bring them to the restaurant.

This a picture of Waterlemon cay on St. John. There is an old sugar mill here. The weather down here is hot but great. 

Friday, July 25, 2008


I am taking off for a weeks vaction to the US Virgin Islands. St. John to be exact. I will try and post while away. I hope to play with some different ingredients. Of course I'll probably spend most of time catching up with my wife, playing with my kids, and drinking rum.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Farm to Table Dinner

We are putting together a wine/farm to table dinner featuring Cane Creek Farms. Cane creek is raising Ossabaw pigs. These are Iberian pigs which the Spanish brought to Georgia 400 years ago. I can't wait to get this menu done. When the date is confirmed by all parties I'll be sure to post it here. As well as the menu.

Tender Ravioli Dough

We are working on a spur of the moment VIP amuse bouche. Something we could have on hand for surprise VIPs. Then we had one of those light bulb moments. Ideas in Food had written an article on the perfect chocolate chip cookie dough. Most people rest their cookie dough for 36 hours for the flavors to fully combine and for the flour to be fully absorbed. Aki and Alex figured out that by compressing the dough it seemed as if the dough had been rested, but with out the lapse in time. Pretty Cool.
Next, Michael Ruhlman wrote about a dinner he had with Symon in which Symon kneads his ravioli dough very little. Almost like he was kneading biscuit dough so as not to develop large gluten strands. We put these two ideas together to make or new ravioli dough. We put our ingredients together as one usually does with pasta. Eggs and oil in the middle and flour around the outside. We slowly draw the flour in and when the dough just starts to come together and it becomes like a shaggy biscuit mix we stop and compress the down for 50 seconds. Our dough was finished. It couldn't have been an easier pasta recipe. We have also used this method for tart shells and we will probably use it for biscuits as well. We have made a bouche ravioli of red wine braised oyster mushrooms with chevre.

Here is our recipe:

All Purpose Flour 1200 grams
Kosher Salt 15 grams
Whole Eggs 5 ea
Egg Yolks 25 ea
EVOO 100 milliliters
Whole Milk 100 milliliters

Mix flour and salt together and put on a large work surface and create a well in the center large enough to hold eggs and oil. Put eggs and oil in the center and slowly stir, gradually drawing in the flour. When you have a fairly solid dough work in the rest of the flour until just barely combined. Compress for 50 seconds and refrigerate.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Miso Butter

Marco Pierre White uses soy sauce in a buerre blanc in his book White Heat. I have heard accolades on miso and Butter and boy does it work. We have also played around with miso and caramel which goes together really well. So we put all these components together and made a miso/vanilla butter. We sous vide shrimp with the miso-vanilla butter at 60C. Holy tender shrimp. The vanilla almost fools your taste buds into tasting sweet even though there is no sweet component added to the shrimp.
Our final dish:
Miso butter poached shrimp on coconut rice cake, sweet soy glazed sugar snap peas and leeks with peanuts and grilled pineapple

Hazelnut Crusted Trout

Hazel nut crusted NC Trout with orange compote, white balsamic gastrique, hazelnut oil sautéed spinach, and sweet parsnip puree
I wanted to do a twist on Trout Amandine. I love hazel nuts, and I am on a kick of using ingredients at different levels. Oranges and Hazelnuts go together really. So all in all this dish kinda created itself. We have sourced Ruby trout from the NC mountains and this stuff is awesome.
As far as utilizing ingredients on different levels, we have crusted the trout with hazelnuts and we sautéed spinach with hazelnut oil. We make an orange compote using orange supremes and we save the zest and candy them for garnish. I really like this dish.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Foie Bacon

We are working on our Foie Gras Bacon. I am thinking lentil salad, purple cherokee tomatoes and foie bacon. I can almost taste it.

Summer Menu

Our summer menu comes out today. You can check out the update on our website. We have been really busy getting ready for the new menu. I will post some pictures soon. Sorry for being away for so long.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Tuna has become a love hate relationship with me. I really love cooking, or not cooking, tuna and eating great quality tuna, but the market on tuna has become so short and the demand is so large that the price of tuna has risen above what we can pay. The picture above is from around 1950 and it is a 300 pounder. Tuna this large is becoming increasingly rare because of over fishing. Tuna is no longer allowed to mature before being caught. So in an effort to be more conscious of our limited resources we will not be serving tuna for some time. While this is unfortunate, and I will miss sashimi, I feel t it is important to work towards sustainability.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Duck fat Poached Cod

Here are some pictures of our final dish.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Duck Fat Poaching

We are going to poach cod in duck fat. We figured if we can poach in water, olive oil, and you can fry in canola etc, then why not duck fat. Tomorrow:

Duck fat poached cod, summer vegetable medley, celeriac puree, and snow pea tendrils with star anise-red wine reduction.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Foie Gras

Foie Gras can be quite the controversial menu item. Ben Barker in Durham has been serving it for a long time as have many other reputable chefs. On the flip side many reputable chefs won't serve it because of the controversy. Well, I love Foie Gras, but I am mixed about the treatment of these animals. A lot has been written on this and one can make a decision for themselves. 2 things to remember about Foie Gras; 1.poorly treated animals make really bad meat; 2. We should never fail to utilize an entire animal. Hudson Valley Fois Gras is a cage free and humanely treated product and that is what we serve. It is pricey but well worth the peace of mind. My peace being said on Foie Gras here is our new appetizer.

Seared cage free Hudson Valley Foie Gras, with pickled NC blackberries, port-blackberry syrup, and toasted brioche

Lobster Paella

I love Paella. My Mom made a killer paella for me after returning from Spain. Well, we took a method I'd seen on Ideas in Food in which Aki and Alex cook risotto in cheese cloth as a par cooking method. We figured if it worked for risotto it should work for Calaspara the traditional rice for Paella. We found out that cooking the Calaspara for the same time as the risotto gave us mushy garbage. So we dropped the time from 30 minutes to 25 and we had the perfect consitancy.

That's part one. Part two were the lobster. We ordered in whole 1 1/4 pound lobsters and blanched them all to remove the meat. We really wanted to use every part of these lobsters seeing as they perished for our consumption. So each plate received claw and tail meat. We used the coral or innards to make a lobster and saffron aioli. The bodies went into stock with which we finished the Paella rice. Then the tail shell and tenticle were used for garnish.


We use Tanglewood Farms Chicken out of Winston-Salem, my home town. It's a great chicken and local. We have worked towards a summer style chicken to get a lot lighter than the one we have had on the menu.

The finished dish: Lemon thyme pesto stuffed chicken, yuzu beurre blanc, marscapone polenta cake, and Serrano ham and artichoke sautée. This is a really good example of how I like to pull from different types of cuisine and really searching for what tastes good regardless of boundaries.

Our New Toy

Thanks to the owners for we finally got our vacuum sealer. I love this machine and although we are using it in many ways, compressing strawberries to poaching fish, I thought this was a pretty cool use. We made rye croutons for a gazpacho shooter. But I wasn't sure how to cut the croutons small enough to fit in the shot glass without mangling them. Well, we took the marbled rye and cut off the crust and compressed it in the vacuum sealer. Then sliced it and diced it thin because the bread was so compact already. We then foamed butter in a saute and added the rye, and to our surprise it popped right back into shape. Here is the finished product.