Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In the Garden (2009) and A God Within (1974)

This is one of my favorite blogs written in Napa Valley in 2009, and it returns in 2012 at a time of spring (early spring in Colorado) renewal.  I am rediscovering the importance of the garden.  The rich and pastoral gardens that Americans tended in the 18th and 19th centuries, Victory Gardens of the 1940's, the tenement gardens in city brownstones, the 21st century poly-cultural rooftop gardens in Germany and Scandanavia and the plots of local and organic tilled earth that sustain myself and 12Seasons...  Enjoy the garden.  Btw, I apologize for the different background color.  Hey, I'm a chef not a magazine editor...   What follow In the Garden is of special note to those who are intrigued by the human existance... -R

59 – In the Garden

“Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration”. ~ Lou Erickson

My Sunday evening ended on Monday morning at 1:30 a.m.  One hour drive to Santa Rosa in the rain, fog and dark. I realized then, at 2:30 a.m., that I wasn't going to make a scheduled 7:30 a.m. shift in The French Laundry garden. In bed at 3:00, I "slept" until 6:30 a.m.  Refreshed (!) from my 3 ½ hours of REM-deprived horizontal-ness, I showered, packed for my weekend (Angel's Camp, California - home to the "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Samuel L. Clemens - with my mother, brother and sister-in-law) trip and hustled into Napa Valley, arriving at TFL at 8:00 a.m.. Yes, I was late. I knew I had to atone for my belated start. My apologies were accepted and I went to work. My day consisted of: trimming and scissor-snipping the green onions, removing the brown withered tops and giving them a "spikey-funky" haircut...; weed all the newly-sprouted fennel seedlings; tend the beds of micro-greens and weed them accordingly; spread the thyme, cabbage and greens beds with new straw bale for the expected weekend crowds during the Taste of Yountville; rake and keep the grassy areas between the plots clean and orderly; tend, hoe and weed the Spring Onion bed...

“What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it”. ~ Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871

Ouch. I begrudgingly tended gardens as a child in Sutton, Massachusetts and have home-gardened at various places that I have lived. The difference is - now I'm 50, and this is no home garden I tend...  However, I went at my tasks with new-found excitement. I really enjoyed the elements and the work. The stretching every 15 minutes or so was necessary, and saw others doing the same... "Tonight is going to be a four-Ibuprophen night", I remember thinking...and, it was. Especially after the five hours I spent night-driving south to Angels' camp. That's another story...

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling”. ~ Mirabel Osler

I found myself outdoors for more than eight hours. Eight hours of driving rain, sunshine, wind, drizzle and a continuous flow of passers-by who were eager to walk among the well-manicured plots and stop to, like Ferdinand The Bull, "smell the flowers (or herbs)", take pictures of their loved ones or aimlessly stroll from one end of the garden to the other - all with smiles on their faces. I smiled, too.

“Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to It”. ~                                       Unknown

I respect those that grow things. It fulfills their soul and takes all their time. Time to do it well. It takes passion. Think of the possibilities. Heirlooms. Flowers. Seeds. Earth and soil. Water. Sun and natural fertilizers. Earthworms, ladybugs and the micro-geography of the garden. The quiet solitude in the garden belies the physical effort it takes to till the earth with bare or gloved hands and toil under sun or clouds to grow the flowers, tubers, herbs, roots and plants that we use as food. My day was just a small contribution to the efforts that are put forth by TFL Head Gardener and staff. Lovely to look at, the sundry plots of vegetables and herbs are a necessary part-of-the-whole-experience that is, The French Laundry.

It was, in spite of my back pain - a great day.


If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.
 - E.O. Wilson

Man, an Unexpressed God (This is a 1974 review of a book written by Rene Dubos titled 'A God Within'.  As an Anthropology student I was deeply moved by the tome and have referred to it often.  Buy it, read it and then lay out in a hay field gazing at the clouds overhead and you too might become a chef...) -R

By Michael Cosser

Human life should grow, not quantitatively through the conquest of nature, but qualitatively in cooperation with nature.

 - Rene Dubos, A God Within

The quality of the inherent nature of man is an important topic raised by a book by the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Rene Dubos: A God Within (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1972).The author is not only a famous microbiologist, but also one of the leading supporters of the view that our ecosystem is in danger because of the devastating side effects of modern technology. He is not opposed to industrialization as such, only to its advance in total disregard of the effects of its indestructible waste products which cannot be absorbed into the despoiled environment. Irreducible plastic containers piling up in their millions provide mute testimony, contrasting with the debris of ancient civilizations which was taken back into the natural habitat. The most valuable contribution of the book is its stimulation of thoughts about the distinctive characteristics of man and, by implication, of the cosmic life patterns of which he is a part.

At the very outset, Dr. Dubos raises the interesting concept of entheos, a Greek term meaning 'god within,' from which our familiar word enthusiasm comes. He states it is this that drives man on into ever new ventures and greater creativity. Yet it would be better to say that it is not only enthusiasm in the ordinary sense, but also inspiration, for both are expressions of entheos, the god within. This suggests the kind of enthusiasm that Plato might have had in mind when he said the power of the poet to move the souls of men came through an ecstasy or 'divine mania' resulting from an overshadowing or 'possession' by the god Apollo, symbol of the Logos or universal mind.

This point of view opens up a larger vista of what is implied by the Greek term entheos, encompassing much more than the peculiarities of a personality that lasts only one lifetime. Dubos expounds it 'scientifically,' as the manifestation of what we inherit genetically and distill from our experience. He says that our ideals and what we commit ourselves to, flow from or are the expression of this entheos, thus accounting for the kinds of thoughts which emerge from us, and what we do. But does this really explain how and why we react to our surroundings and what happens to us in life? Does it describe the factors that combine to make us unique individuals? Happenstance and randomness cannot account for the various phenomena found in nature, such as the endless replication throughout a lifetime of each individual's distinctive DNA molecules, which are the vehicles of innate characteristics, not their creators.

The persistence of individuality cannot yet be explained in biological terms. Even though nerve cells do not multiply after birth, they keep growing at a rate matching the fastest proliferating cells of the adult body, and yet amidst all this flux, the mind retains a sense of identity throughout life. This stability implies the existence of a pattern of neural organization that is essentially independent of metabolic changes.

Does this not point to the presence within us of an entity of some kind that is the real center of the magnetic field we call a man, and of which we see but the outer ranges or integuments?

What everyone values most is his or her own individuality. Yet, by and large, sociologists and behaviorists try to explain human phenomena merely by generalizing from certain common traits observed in the 'hothouse' conditions of modem cities. They assert that the consciousness part of a human being consists only of biological and psychological factors arising from family inheritance and environment, and now incorporated into body and mind. Their findings are even being applied retrospectively to the study of historic peoples whose outlooks must have been quite different from those prevailing today. The real creators, the artists and thinkers, of long-gone civilizations, whose record we can only guess at from the broken shards, scattered references in old writings, and ruins, are veiled from our eyes.

The special "I-ness" that is the core of each one of us has experienced many things in a long succession of earthly vehicles. The various expressions of man's thinking and doing arise from the central individuality that continues as an identity through all the changes and vicissitudes of daily life. This is part of the process of a never-ending refinement of quality emanating from inside and tempered by the new circumstances that spring up from old causes sown like seeds in this or previous lifetimes.

Man's life "depends upon a hierarchical order," says Dr. Dubos, a suggestive concept that has its roots in antiquity. Not only was it then understood that the whole cosmos is comprised of families or hierarchies of entities, interlocking to embody the consciousness of the whole, but also that we ourselves compound a hierarchy of selves. These range from the most physical field, or body, to the most elevated or spiritual-divine. This thought can be expressed in another way, again quoting from the author:

Individuality is thus "becoming" rather than "being," a continuously evolving structure made up of inherited and acquired characteristics that are integrated at each step into an organic whole.

If we interpret the "inheritance" to mean what we have taken up from our own past lives, then the "becoming" and "evolving" more surely fit the development of faculty from the central essence within.

A flower illustrates this point very well. At first there is scarcely a speck, insignificant in size but already bearing within the "empty space in its heart" the design that will swell out into a small bud and reach its fullness as an open flower. Similarly, in the psychological heart of man's being there is a blueprint of which he has already embodied some of the parts. He is different from the rest of earth's children, he can make decisions, organize and reject; when spurred by inspiration he can make things of great beauty or ingenuity -- all of which is done with the power of the soul. The whole of the pattern has not yet been unfolded; if we may believe the encouraging words of wise men who have preceded us, we are to keep growing until the qualities of the entheos manifest in relative fullness.

Can the parts be different from the whole? Can we have qualities that are not to be found in our parentage in the consciousness of Space? Deep run the roots of man's being, indeed of all beings, through the layers of substance into the immensities of the infinitude. Because we have a common source, are sustained by a common supply of life force, are blended of similar ingredients, we recognize that there are bonds linking together every spark in the vastness. Brotherhood is a fact in nature and not a mere sentiment.

It is encouraging that scientists like Rene Dubos and the late Erwin Schrodinger turn to philosophical concepts to flesh out the dry bones of the data they accumulate in their researches. When Origen exhorted man: "Thou art a second world in miniature, the sun and moon are within thee, and also the stars," he meant we are all compounded of the same stuff. But he was likewise a link in the chain of Neoplatonists at the great center in Alexandria. And their ancient teaching was that the personal part of man came from a previous manifestation of earth's being, that which is now the moon. The spiritual side of man was regarded as of solar origin and the divine spark it carried in its center was thought to have a starry parentage.

Our individuality has been inherent in us from the very beginning of existence on earth. When our self-consciousness was awakened, bringing with it awareness of space, time and continuity, and of consciousness per se, we were able to communicate with each other. We shared the common aspects of our experience, but we could not impart the shades of meaning felt in our deepest recesses and beyond the powers of the reasoning faculty to define.

The sudden illuminations, the spontaneous ideas and achievements of creative artists and scientists, of social reformers, even of our own daily selves, originate in the still, quiet nucleus of our inmost self.

Man's physical transformations of his habitat have beautified and also made ugly the handiwork of nature. They have frequently drawn into actuality what was hidden in the wilderness as potentiality, in the same way as Michelangelo evoked out of the marble the hidden beauty his eyes saw there. Just imagine what it would be like if man equally transmuted his selfish, material traits into their noblest potentials. 


The Need to Feed - My Sabbatical Journey (2009)


This changed my life.  There are 67 blogs over two and a half months time when I was a stagiaire at The French Laundry in 2009.  I lived, ate and slept food - Michelin 3-star food, service, attitude and the pursuit of perfection. 


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Boulder Country Dinner Menu - 12 May 2012

Thinking on the menu for 12 May 2012.  Must be (in this order):


In season:  Herb * Potato * Asparagus * Fresh Hen's Egg * Rabbit * Grass-Fed Beef * Sheep's Milk * Garden Peas * Ricotta * Chevre * Chickens * Spring Lamb * Frais de Bois * Strawberry * Lobster * Suckling Pig * Mint * Ham * Foie Gras * Poussin * Veal * Rhubarb * Chocolate

With that in mind...a spring menu with a French accent:

Canape - 'House-Made Chevre, Honeycomb & Backyard Greens'
Soupe - 'Potage St. Germain & Fresh Hen's Egg'
Poisson - 'Lobster, Asparagus & Potato Mille Feuille'
Entree - 'Roasted Spring Lamb with Lettuce, Morels & Mustard Seeds'
Intermede - 'Milk & Honey'
Salade - 'Suckling Pig, Chard & Walnuts'
Dessert - 'Rhubarb & Sheep's Milk Yogurt Sorbet'

The above menu necessitates a nod, in part, to Daniel Humm from Eleven Madison Park, NYC.  Wines TBD.  Salivating.  Hunger. 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The 12 Seasons of The Boulder Country Dinner

Local can be good.  Organic is better.  Natural is, natural.  Seasonal is best...  These are the mantras that we chefs use today.  The end result of our cooking is our efforts at sourcing of good, wholesome, pure and wonderful food from the garden, the sea and the land.  Cook with the seasons and the resultant taste and flavor just has to be good.  Try not to get in the way and muck it up.  The food is the star, not the cook.  June is a different growth and harvest season than July.  August is different than September.  February and March we depend on what we put up from the spring, summer and fall bounty... Thus, there are 12 Seasons.  I took the name for my business in 2006 (when I changed from The French Manner) from a book by Alfred Portale of The Gotham Bar and Grille in NYC.  I have never looked back from that change, although I do still cook a la francaise.

As March practices to become April my thoughts turn to the Farmer's Market.  At the Boulder County Farmer's Market all vendors are required to sell only those products which they grow themselves.  Not so with other markets in Colorado.  Our guys and gals sell the food they have toiled over for the past weeks and months.  In Boulder County we know that it is good to know where your food comes from and who has tilled the soil and sown the seeds of your fruits and vegetables. 

I have recently come into a partnership with Mike Munson of Munson Farms.  Munson Farms began in the mid-seventies in Boulder and I will be proudly cooking with Mike's produce and fruit as it becomes available on a seasonal basis from his acreage.  Look for Munson Farms at the Boulder County Farmer's Market in April and at his family's farmstand located at 75th and Valmont, just east of Boulder!

The first Boulder Country Dinner of 2012 is scheduled for May 12th.  The month of May provides us with wonderful produce and fruits.  So, I will be applying my knowledge and creativity (with the help of students from Johnson & Wales University, I might add) to create original, seasonal dishes utilizing as much organic product as I can get my hands on (vegetable, protein, dairy, etc.).  I will post the menu once I get notice from Mike what he will have available during the second to third weeks in May.  This is culinary utopia.  When the farmers are tending the land and the cooks are cooking what is ready to be eaten....  The way is has been for eons and the way it has been and will continue to be for me and 12Seasons

So, come to dinner in the country!  The information for the 2012 Boulder Country Dinner schedule and registration is in a previous blog from a few weeks ago.  Check it out!!!  See you in May.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

'Live to Eat, Eat to Live'

Hello, world!  So, I'm Pre-Diabetic.  May end up being one of the best things for me...  I have been reading 'The Omnivoires Dilemma' by Michael Pollan and now have recently begun working with my notes on 'The Blood Sugar Solution' by Mark Hyman, M.D.  I had an epiphany towards food production in America and now I am working hard to purge those toxins from my body and begin to eat of the earth...  I used to live to eat but now I eat to live.  Here is my plan:

1.      See a Nutritionist.  Check.

2.      Buy and eat 100% Organic.  A constant work in progress.

3.      Eat the good carbs from plants such as fruit, nuts, grains and beans.  Never thought I would embrace this one!

4.      Lots of Vegetables need my attention.  Raw or lightly cooked.  I can do this!

5.      Protein from fish and lean chicken, brown rice, sweet potatoes and quinoa.  Omega 3 fats from algae, nuts, avocado, coconut oils.  There is so much more variety in the plant world, anyway.  We can only eat so many dead animals.  I will never give up on PORK!  I will just seek out heritage and organic raised animals to devour..

6.      Filtered water, only.  Enough said.

7.      Eat early, Eat often.  I kind of like eating so this gives me more chances to do that! :)

8.      Exercise.  Working doesn't count.  Walking Lucy (the St. Bernard) is o.k.  Running and biking is better.  Joining the local gym is not happening.  Time to hit the saddle and the road, man...

9.      Relax, meditate, do yoga…  We'll see.

Here are my food rules:

1.      Do not eat from boxes, cans or bags.  If it has a label, throw it out.

2.      If you do eat from the above, eat products with less than 5 ingredients.

3.      NO white flour or white sugar.

4.      NO high fructose corn syrup.

5.      NO hydrogenated trans-fats.

6.      NO corn or soy oils.

7.      No unrecognizable ingredients.

8.      NO MSG or food dyes.

9.      NO artificial sweeteners.

10.  Eat from the earth only.

11.  We are what we eat, eats.

See you on the healthy side of life!  Peace

Sunday, March 4, 2012

2012 Schedule for The Boulder Country Dinners

Chef Robert N. Corey/12Seasons Personal Chef & Sommelier Services
(photo courtesy of Christopher Davies, 2010)

The Boulder Country Dinner is a chance to dine on my cuisine within a 'Society' of dedicated foodies in a peaceful country home north of Boulder...  The fruits and vegetables are brought to you by Munson Farms of Boulder.  I, and my long-time crew at 12Seasons Personal Chef & Sommelier Services, will cook a fabulous seasonal, local and organic 7-course dinner, with appropriate wine service.  The menus will be seasonal to the time of the year and the meaning of the month. 

My food is procured and culled seasonally, is always (and has been since 1995) organic from local farmers, growers and ranchers.  I love working with seafood, ducks, hogs and cheeses, so I'll get those as I can but they will be heathly for us all.  My staff is comprised of my longtime Sous Chefs and students from the Denver Campus of Johnson & Wales University.  Jesse Slaughter, Sommelier for 12Seasons provides expert and excellent wine pairings and specialty mixology.

Cost is $100.00 per person.  Come for one dinner or come for them all, but do come to the country and enjoy the season...!  The best restaurant in Boulder County is in the Country.  Peace.

The planned dates for the 2012 Boulder Country Dinners:
May 12
June 23
July 21
August 18
September 22
October 20
November 10
December 8
December 31

‘The devil is in the details! Chef Robert Corey¹s Boulder Country Dinner series is the equivalent of having your bucket list meal – and best of all you get to repeat the experience every month!  Guitarists call Hendrix a guitar player's guitarist.  Chefs call Robert Corey a Chef's Chef! What else can be said about gourmet cuisine, wine and fellowship in this bucolic country setting? Jump on it, you will be happy you did!’  ~Christopher J. Davies, Co-Founder, Editor & Publisher - Wine Country International® Magazine & VinoTasting

The Boulder Country Dinner series continues with a Food & Wine pairing on Saturday, the 12th of May, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.  Once again we will be at the country house in Niwot, Colorado.  I invite you to come to our table to dine with us in the country!!!

We will set a table for 20 guests.  Seated together you will dine communally, outdoors or indoors as the weather permits.  The fashionable concepts of a Seasonal Menu a la Slow Food, Farm-to-Table, Local and Organic, are integrated within one vision – my food is carefully and caringly sourced, prepared and served to you, usually with a French accent. 

 The Dinner will be composed of seven-courses of Nouvelle classics paired with wines – all with seasonal tones.  The wine service will be a tasting of novel and boutique wineries that deserve our attention.  My plates and bowls are beautiful, small, multiple course creations in a casual and relaxed setting - it will not be fine dining, but the dining will be fine.  Please advise us of any special seating needs or dietary requirements.  The cost is $100.00 per person (including wine service), paid in advance to secure your place at the table. 

So…Who’s coming for dinner?   Peace.
Chef Robert N. Corey
For reservations call 303-667-3768 or send remittance to:

Chef Robert N. Corey
P.O. Box 270487
Louisville, Colorado 80027

'Duck, Duck. Goose'...The Process of Creating a Dish

To me, the process of creating a dish often begins somewhere in my mind while sleeping, often while driving, but never while sleeping and driving.  I think about food all the time.  My inspiration comes from somewhere and from nowhere but everywhere.  So, I wrote yesterday about Black Raspberries and then Foie Gras.  Went to bed after midnight and, thus, this morning I stirred at 5:24 a.m. and duck was on my mind (cue the Ray Charles back ground music and we can sing together, 'I got duck skin on my mind...'). 

In my semi-lucid state the duck skin thought became a duck breast (magret when used in conjunction with the foie gras of the same bird, a fattened Moulard duck), which then I imagined as two breasts positioned opposite to each other and dusted with transglutaminase to 'bond' them together and then rolled in plastic wrap to make a cylinder.  Formed as a roulade and then seard and wrapped in blanched cabbage leaves, I put that thought aside and began to use other parts of the duck.  Like on paper, all my ideas work in my head...  I then conjured up a small salad to pair with the roulade - duck confit, shredded with raw Granny Smith Apple and fresh parsley will pair well with the red meat of the duck breast.  Then the name came to me like a windstorm pounding the cliffs above the sea. 

I like a whimsical approach to naming a dish.  This potential dish brought to me a memory of a recreational playground game when I was a kid.  'Duck, Duck, Goose'.  So, the application of duck done twice with goose.  That wa easy.  Not a sexy name for a plate of food, but fun.  Then more illumination.  Ah, yes...foie gras.  But, of course!  Foie Gras d'Oie is fattened goose liver (literally 'fat liver'), a more prounounced flavor profile than the duck version so perfectly suitable to scoring and butter searing for my dish.  The useful combinations of duck meat then lead me to duck prosciutto, cured breasts left to hang in a cold larder until they begin to sweat.  Sliced thin it is a an ideal substitute for it's porcine cousin.  Here I thought to wrap a roasted or grill fig with the duck prosciutto or integrate it into an apple, pepper and shallot chutney (necessary for the acid componenent in a well-balance dish).  Still half-awake I took the skin from the breast, weighted the skin and seared it in a hot pan and then scraped the remaining sub-cutaneous fat off the underside of the skin and then finished the skin between two silpats in a low oven, in effect, Confit of duck skin...  The best thing about cooking in your sleep is there is no clean-up. 

The early morning sketch work of 'Duck, Duck, Goose'.  My apologies for the sketch laying side-ways.  It, like me, is still asleep...

Rising from my bed chamber I headed to the office to find paper and pen.  I wrote down the ideas that the sleeping Chef had dreamed of and then drew sketches (above) of the various components to the 'dish'.  I added the liquid nitrogen frozen blackberry drupes, the fig jam and the caramelized Passion Fruit 'Brulee".  Sitting back I planned to reproduce the theory and then plate the final version in a future blog this week.  Perhaps this may be one of the dishes that I will create for the Pairsine 'Spirits & Food' on the 17th. 

I thought to include this as an exercise in the creation of a dish.  I make sure to include the tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, salt, Umami and capsaicin first.  Then comes the thought of flavor profiling from aromas, interest and excitement in color, height, cooking methods, techniques, cooking apparatus and the seasonalty of the products.  Can I get the products locally, organically and sustainably?  Does it make sense?

So, does it make sense?  Peace.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

To Foie Gras or not to Foie Gras...

Roasted whole with Thyme & Shallots and presented to the table and carved before your eyes...  Seared with an unctous fruit sauce derived from a variety of fresh summer berries and placed atop grilled peaches with brioche and Maldon Salt...  Cured with salt, white pepper and Cognac and rolled in a kitchen towel, poached for the briefest of times and sliced and topped with a hazelnut glacage and sweet cherries...  These are just three ways of an infinite variety in which to truly represent a part of culinary heritage given to us by generations of farmers who have overseen the production of foie gras. 

In 2005 I appeared on the front cover of The Yellow Scene magazine with a plate of Tournedos Rossini which is a Classic French preparation created for the composer Gioachino Rossini by Marie-Antoine CarĂªme.  The dish comprises a Tournedos of Beef, pan-fried in butter and served on a Crouton then topped with a slice of whole Foie Gras. The dish is garnished with slices of Black Truffle, and finished with a Madeira Demi-Glace.  I gave copies of the magazine to my parents and was quite proud of the way the dish looked.  Later, I actually had people giving me a hard time for the use of the foie gras...not threatening my life but ridiculing me for the use of the foie gras, something akin to having paint splashed on my mink or animal fur coat (I do not own a mink or animal fur coat.  If I was living in Greenland or the Yukon Territory I might rethink that...).  No mention about how the beef was raised.  Hormone injected?  Humanely killed and slaughtered?  No, it was the gavage of the ducks in question.  We milk cows twice a day to promote a greater yield in the dairy business.  Unnatural, no?  We change the gentic structure of plants to gain a greater bushel to acre ratio all for the love of profit and more profit.  Gavage is the process of force-feeding ducks and geese in the last 6 weeks of their lives in order to swell the liver.  The fowl are killed for not only the liver but for their usual parts, as well.  No part of the duck goes unused.  None.  Only people who ethically cherish the products which they sell to consumers will utilize all that is available.  This is not butchering a White Rhinoceros for the horn only and leaving the carcass to rot in the African sun or catching sharks simply for the fins and then casting the rudderless species back into the briny deep.  If you don't take care of the ducks you won't have a good end product and you won't sell the foie gras to make your living. 

The animals live a life destined as food.  This has been going on for millenia, since the Ancient Egyptians observed ducks and geeese engorging themselves on figs before their bi-annual trips to the outer limits of their avian territories.  Families have been engaged in this process for hundreds of years in Europe.  'Inhumane' is a word that is bandied about often in this 'controversial' process.  It would be 'inhumnae' to force feed a human!  We have a different anatomy!!!  The bird has no gag reflex and has a tough gullet which receives the tube and the feed used to engorge the liver.  Here is the video from Hudson Valley Foie Gras: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=Kh_wJnQmETE&feature=endscreen.

As a cook, Chef and consumer I find it also DAMN GOOD TO EAT.  To the people who want ethical treatment of animals I say - stay out of the foie gras farm and put your efforts towards other issues like ridding our world of Genetically Modified Organisms.  So much effort is put forth in the abolition of foie gras production but we can't control drug trafficking, child pornography or even Mexican Nationals illegally jumping & swimming the Rio Grande in pursuit of a better life.  Really?  If there is no more foie gras it won't be the end of the world.  It will be a part of our culinary heritage taken away from those who wish to savor and use it.  There is always two sides to a foie gras, or a coin...   Me?  I choose to Foie Gras.  Often.  Peace.

P.S.  Here is Dan Barber's foie gras parable and a brilliant lecture about Eduardo Sousa who can lay claim to a truly 'ethical' production of foie gras.  http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_s_surprising_foie_gras_parable.html

Black Raspberry Memories

I wish I could have my Grandmother's Black Raspberry Jam.  Right now.  Spread on thick, warm, whole wheat, crusty fresh toast.  The poor folks in Ireland in Frank McCourt's  'Angela's Ashes' ate toast and jam for most meals, it seems, sometimes with sweet cream butter.  To me, it is a flavor of my youth, a memory that I do not ever wish to forget.  A luxurious natural sweetness that tasted of the berry and only the berry.  The jam jar came topped with wax from the larder that was Granny's pantry.  It was always taken best on their back porch on a sultry warm July morning. 

Newly refreshed from sleeping in the room and the bed that bore my father in his youth (and staring at his stuffed Caimen from South America - another story entirely) I would bound down the polished cherry wood stairs and trundle past the stare of the Flower Girl in the hallway, which now resides on the wall in my front door entrance way.  Granny, adorned in apron with combs holding back her long red locks, would be making breakfast in the pantry and Grandad solving the New York Times crossword puzzle and drinking his cream-laden coffee from the saucer, as was his habit, would be ensconced at the kitchen table. 

On perfect mornings we would adjourn on the back porch.  Seated at the wooden table in the blue painted summer chairs, the screened in porch would keep the birds out in the morning and the summer bugs at bay in the evening under a solitary bulb hanging from the ceiling.  I am salivating now thinking of that jam, my trigeminal nerve pulsing with my memory of taste.  Granny would bring the toast to the table and I was allowed to do my own slathering.  I could put a mean slather on my toast.  Debatable whether or not the toast came with the jam or the jam with the toast it was the taste of the berry, the flavor of the summer sun, the juicy explosion of nature and nurture.  Her plants and bushes were out next to the garage, where the sun would beat down and the heat would reflect off the white building, adding additional convection to ripening the berries.  The cool summer evenings and warm sunny days allowed the natural fruit sugars to form. Rubus occidentalis is the bush in question in the Eastern United States, especially in New England.  The berries were grown organicly, growing in the composted matter that was always being worked by Granny. 

She was born just after the turn of the 19th century and the first frugal person I knew in my life.  The other splendorous foods in our lives together were tomatoes, corn, Split-Pea Soup, Welsh Rarebit (I never did find any rabbit under the cheese placed before me...) and Grandad's Grilled Chicken.  I tasted my first coffee with them, drank my first swigs of beer (Miller Genuine Ale, always ice cold, because it was the Champagne of Beers) and took the first ever drags of his own-rolled cigarette.  Their home was something akin to a child's wonderment of Hogwat's Castle and living within a Charles Dicken's novel...  Grandad was a storyteller and the grandchildren were always the featured performers in his narratives. 

But this is about Black Raspberries.  The closest I have come to anything purely, truly and worthy of her black raspberry jam has been the Jam from George Washington's Mount Vernon estate and the Black Raspberry Ice Cream cone I devoured on Route 20 in upstate New York last summer...  It is a specific time and a specific metaphor that will always, when I dwell on it or when I find that particular flavor, bring me back to New England, back to the house on the hill, back to the porch and the toast laden with jam from my Grandmother's Black Raspberry bushes.  Peace.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Pairsine 'Spirts & Food' Competition - 17 March 2012

The Blog is back....  I will be writing and notifying on my Facebook when I post to this blog. 

Although my photograph was erroneously excluded from the front page of the site (as a two time 'Best Chef' and another as 'Most Creative Chef' I would have put myself front and center...alas, it was not to be) I am still excited to help promote the next Pairsine competition at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado.  The event is on St. Patrick's Day (if you have forgotten it is always on the 17th of March...) and 12Seasons will be there to regain the 'Best Chef', 'Most Creative Chef' and "People's Choice Award'.   Although I doubt they will give me all of them at one time the competition is always against myself and not another chef.  How far can I push the envelope?  What can I do to 'wow' the judges and also steal the culinary hearts of the patrons that evening?  Do I have enough electricity to do what I want?  Etc., etc., etc...  We will be pairing Spirits with Food...  Here is the link to the site: http://www.pairsine.com/.  Come out and support my team as well as the other hard-working chefs and the event itself.

Some of the savory seasonal and organic ideas that I am working on, depending on the 'Spirits' that move me:
1.  A Nouvelle approach to a Classical French Dish - Sole Duglere with Scallop & Shrimp Mousse,    Parsley & Tomato, Split Peas, Braised Endive, Hazelnut Coriander Brown Butter with Fines Herbs.
2.  Staying with my Francophile past - Oxtail Roulade with Pommes Mille-Feuille and Barigoule
3.  And now for something completely different - 'Octo-paccio' with Grilled Baby Squid, a la minute Confit of Stugeon, Mole Verde, Salsa Serrano, Plantain Mosaic and Salad.
4.  My take on Caviar & Champagne Hors d'Oeuvres - Poached Yukon Potato with Caviar, CO2 Champagne Grapes, Parsley Puree and Micro Chive.
5.  The Escoffier 'Blini' blown up a few stories - Truffled Potato Foam with Pea Essence in an Egg Shell with Crispy Pork, Pearl Onions, Quail Egg, and Potato Blinis.

Dessert, again depending on which way the 'Spirits' take me will be something like:
1.  Frozen Foie Gras, Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake, Peanut Butter & Banana Mousse
2.  A Savarin or Macerated Fruits 'en gelee'
3.  Warqa 'Napolean' with Nuts & Dried Fruit, Pistachio Gelato & Passion Fruit 'Brulee'

All for now.  Peace.