The summer of 2019 was a blur for many reasons, many great events plus a lot of travel, but the star occasion was undoubtedly catering Ellen & Sam’s wedding celebration on the shores of Lake Michigan in August. A beautiful event with (thankfully) perfect weather, there will be many memories from that weekend, but one of my favorite images will always be the artisanal cheese cake we made in lieu of a traditional wedding cake. The bride and groom don’t have a big sweet tooth, although we made plenty of sweets for the remaining guests, so together we agreed on a tiered “cake” of assorted small batch cheeses from around the world. With the help of one of my favorite importers, Great Ciao out of Minneapolis (www.greatciao.com), we assembled a perfect array of cheeses, aged + soft rind; cow, sheep & goat’s milk, and perfectly ripe for the crowd of 150 guests. There was even cheese left for the newly weds to take with them on their honeymoon.
Kirk's Traveling Kitchen News and Blog
Besides the expectation of a lot of meat (Bison/Elk/Etc.), I had pretty low expectations when I traveled recently to the great state of Montana. I knew that it would be stunning with incredible wilderness vistas, but I don’t think it would insult any native Montanans to say it is not commonly thought of as a great“food” destination. However, I was pleasantly surprised after my first meal at Lone Mountain Ranch just outside Big Sky. A pretty remote spot with a homey lodge that served some of the most creative wilderness cuisine I can imagine. In a place where the growing months are few, the quality and variety of the produce was really impressive. If you’re looking to explore the amazing landscape of Montana, but don’t want to sacrifice your palate I highly recommend Lone Mountain Ranch.
Here’s a recipe for my Braised Bison Ragu that goes amazingly well with Gnocchi:
Recipe Card for Item: Braised Bison Ragout with Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Quantity Produced: Serves 8
Bison Chuck, Brisket or Sirloin, Trimmed/Cubed 3#
Onion, Minced 1 Medium
Garlic, Minced 4 Cloves
Carrot, Shredded 2 Large
Celery, Minced 2 Stalks
Tuscan Kale or Swiss Chard, Sliced Thin (optional) 2 Cups
For the BBQ Sauce:
Ketchup 1 Cup
Canned Tomatoes, Diced 1 Cup
Onion, Minced ½ Cup
Water ½ Cup
Chipotle Chiles in Adobo 1 Small Can, Chopped
Brown Sugar ½ Cup
Vegetable Oil 2 Tablespoons
Apple Cider Vinegar 2 Tablespoons
Worcestershire Sauce 1 Tablespoon
Garlic, Minced 2 Cloves
Celery Salt or Kosher Salt To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper To Taste
Water or Chicken Stock as needed
For the Sauce, heat oil in a sauce pan. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until soft. Stir in brown sugar, celery salt and black pepper. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce thickens. Meanwhile in a heavy bottomed pot, heat small amount of oil and brown bison thoroughly, 15 minutes or so. Add vegetables (except kale/chard) and sauté until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the BBQ sauce to the browned meat and turn the heat to simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, for 45-50 minutes or until the meat is very tender. Add kale, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Adjust consistency with water or stock and serve over pasta or gnocchi.
The times that I’ve visited the Rose City of Portland I am always blown away with the breadth of restaurants available to the residents of such a small city. I asked my Uber driver who supports all of these fine eating establishments, to which he replied “people who work at the other restaurants” and, after a short pause “visitors”. As a recent visitor I was super excited to score a table at the tiny restaurant on the Western outskirts of town: Coquine (https://www.coquinepdx.com). In a city where almost all the exciting restaurants are in neighborhoods or in unexpected spaces tucked around the corner from an airbnb (my first restaurant visited was in a retrofitted garage/car dealership), Coquine is a bit of a drive from everything. Getting to it can be part of the pleasure, it really allows you to take in the “quirk” of PDX. Bathtubs in the front yard made into planters or bungee lines between houses, it is the city that started the “Keep ____ Weird” movement now popularized in college towns. Once at Coquine however any idea for strangeness goes straight out the window. It is a restaurant with incredible restraint and finesse. One where I could easily pick out produce in the dishes featuring items from the early season Portland Farmer’s Market i’d stepped through that morning. In a city where part of the charm is controlled chaos, it is a charming place that serves delicious, simple food that looks easy to make (but is absolutely not). One of my favorite dishes was a Leek Vinaigrette Salad with Shaved Raw Cauliflower, here is my much less subtle version with roasted cauliflower with crisp prosciutto:
Little Gem Salad with Roasted Cauliflower & Crisp Prosciutto
Little Gem or Romaine Lettuce, Washed & Chopped 6 Cups
Radicchio, Washed & Chopped ½ Small Head
Crusty Bread, Cubed 2 Cups
Butter, Melted ¼ Cup
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper To Taste
Cauliflower, Cut into 1/8, Sliced ½ “ thick ½ Head
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper To Taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil As Needed
Prosciutto, Sliced (Parma or San Daniele) 2-3oz.
Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette (Makes 2 Cups, Whisk to Combine)
Balsamic Vinegar, (Good but Not Great) 1/3 Cup
Dijon Mustard 2 Tablespoons
Fresh Lemon Juice 1 Lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 ¼ Cups
Herbs, Minced (Chives, Parsley and Thyme) 2 Tablespoons
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper To Taste
Preheat oven to 375d.. Toss cubed bread with melted butter/oil and season thoroughly with salt & pepper. Spread out on sheet pan and bake on bottom rack in oven until browned and crisp, about 18-20 minutes. Toss cut cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper until just coated. Carefully wrap in thin slice of prosciutto and lay on parchment lined sheet tray. (You’ll want 2-3 pieces per person.) Bake prosciutto wrapped cauliflower until prosciutto starts to crisp and cauliflower becomes tender 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.
Arrange lettuce and radicchio on plate, top with crushed croutons (use a food processor or mortar/pestle for this) and cauliflower. Drizzle with lemon-balsamic dressing.
Had a fantastic trip down the west coast recently, it was capped by a trip to Hog Island Oyster Co. for a “Shuck Your Own” Oyster picnic. A super activity for small groups who love bivalves on the half shell or grilled (they provide grills) and a great boot camp for getting your shucking muscles fit. If you find yourself in Marin County and it’s a beautiful day, here is the pertinent info:
Recipe Card for Item: Chile-Glazed Beef Shortribs
Quantity Produced: Serves 8 as an entree
Boneless Beef Shortribs, Trimmed 5+ #
Flour 2 Cups (for dusting)
Soy Sauce 1 Cup
Beer 1 Cup
Water 1 Cup
Baby Bok Choy, cut in ½ lengthwise 8
Sweet Chile Sauce 2 Cup (See Recipe)
Braising Liquid As Needed
Crisp Pan Fried Noodles See Recipe
Scallions, Julienned 2 ea.
Preparation Procedure: Preheat Oven to 375˚.
In large dutch oven, brown dusted beef in hot oil 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from pot and set aside on sheet pan. Brown remaining beef. Return beef to pot and add braising sauce, bring to a boil. When boiling, turn off heat, making sure beef is nearly immersed in liquid. Cover and bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours, checking periodically to baste with braising liquid. When finished cooking, carefully remove beef from pot onto a sheetpan, it will be very tender. Strain braising liquid and set aside. Drizzle Sweet Chile Sauce over each short rib and place in the oven. Bake until chile sauce glazed the beef, about 10 minutes. While beef is back in the oven, heat a large skillet, sauté bok choy in a small amount of oil. Transfer to platter and top with glazed beef. As needed add additional chile sauce (thinned with braising liquid) to the sheet pan on which the beef was glazed. Serve with crispy pan fried noodles. Garnish with sliced scallions.
Recipe Card for Item: Sweet Chile Sauce
Quantity Produced: Makes 2 Cups
Chile Paste/Sambal Oelek 3 Tablespoons
Garlic, Minced 3 Large Cloves
Rice Wine Vinegar ½ Cup
Water 1/3 Cup
Sugar 2/3 Cup
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Cornstarch 1 Tablespoon dissolved in 1/3 cup water
Lime Juice 1 Lime
Cilantro, Stemmed/Chopped 4 Tablespoons
Combine everything, except cilantro, in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickens. Cool completely and add cilantro. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Graf Morillon (Chardonnay) Steiermark, Austria, 2011
It has some of the oxidized characteristics of a Chardonnay from Jura or Arbois, but is MUCH more restrained and drinkable (i.e.. you don't taste it an immediate ask yourself "is this how it's supposed to taste or is it corked?"). Would be a great wine to go with a hearty seafood dish (think fish + bacon/prosciutto).
I had it at:
Cosme (http://www.cosmenyc.com/#) 35 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010
https://sonoraresort.com). One of the best destination vacation experiences of my life.
If you like surfing or hiking rainforests (but not the Amazon variety) make sure you spin over to Tofino on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. If you do, please visit Wolf in the Fog restaurant (http://www.wolfinthefog.com) and hopefully you can get some of the locally foraged Gooseneck Barnacles:
Olamaie (http://olamaieaustin.com) My second favorite restaurant in Austin. Retrofitted small house doing exceptional "New Southern Cooking". Great environment and really creative cooking without falling into the trappings of "NSC" (ie. cooking everything in rendered fatback).
Uchiko (http://uchikoaustin.com) This place was my favorite. It had everything I look for in a contemporary restaurant: well sourced ingredients, clean/distinct flavors and an unpretentious vibe.
Launderette (http://launderetteaustin.com) Had a great lunch at this neighborhood "small plates" spot. Their take on a girl scout cookie was enlightening.
They do a wonderful job with native North Carolina oysters, here is one of my favorite oyster preparations:
Cornmeal Crusted Oysters with Bombay Dipping Sauce
Of all the restaurant meals I've had in my life, the one at Mugaritz certainly falls in the top five. Creative but classic, modern yet distinctly Spanish, and thoroughly accommodating and friendly despite being the #6 Best Restaurant in the World (according to Restaurant Magazine). It certainly warrants a trip to San Sebastian if not Spain and Europe.
I was thoroughly excited to make the long and winding trip into the hills outside San Sebastian to visit Asador Etxebarri. It is the most unique restaurant in that everything is cooked over custom build grills, but is anything but a "grill house". They serve up some of the most exquisite, subtle dishes that you wouldn't know had been anywhere near a grill (they call it "smoke kissed" cooking). That is until their signature slab of crusty, aged Basque beef is served. I won't soon forget my experience.
The annual Winston Saugatuck Summer Culinary Lab is in session. It is a time when I develop recipes while working on new cooking techniques with unique and seasonal ingredients. There are a number of new food developments, but after a short trip to Chicago where I dined at Chef Ivan Yuen's Shanghai Terrace restaurant (@ the new Peninsula Hotel) I am playing with Cantonese/Peking cooking. I visited the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong several years ago for a truly memorable experience with Peking Duck, and while I had Abalone on this occasion, it made me think about experimenting with a less intensive version of the classic (which can take 3+ days to produce). Here is what we've got so far:
I had the whole fish (among many other things) at my recent visit, here is my version of what they're doing:
We delivered an interactive culinary challenge in San Antonio recently for a great organization assisting our veterans in a multitude of ways. And while we always try to feed our Southwest BBQ-fix while in Texas, the most inspired food while in Hill Country was at a tiny taco spot only open for breakfast/lunch: TacoTaco ( http://www.tacotacosa.com). Based on the varied Food Network/Food Magazine notoriety pasted to their walls, we are clearly not the first to acknowledge their taco mastery.
Followed a fun event in Naples, Florida recently with a short (2+hours) flight to Managua, Nicaragua for a week of "Rum Research". The final destination was a 2-hour drive to the Pacific coast in an area known as San Juan del Sur and a new resort called Mukul (http://www.mukulresort.com). It is owned by the Pellas family who founded and operate the Flor de Cana rum distillery. If you find yourself in Central America I highly recommend a visit!