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A Tale of Torus

Whew.  I mean motherfucking WHEW.  So much has happened since my last post that I can’t figure out where to begin. I guess the biggest and most obvious thing to mention is the latest project that I’m involved in, Bowery Bagels. The story goes like this: My employer and friend Michael Madigan has a mean bagel recipe. I mean these things are REAL bagels, which where I grew up you didn’t have to clarify what that means. Out here in the Northwest however, the definition of that oh-so common torus shaped bread is much more nebulous; but I digress. Yes, this is a true bagel recipe; a simple, malty, glutenous dough which is formed, long fermented, boiled, seeded, and baked. Anything else just isn’t a bagel. And Michael’s recipe is a fine example. I first tasted this recipe about 10 months ago, Michael had made a batch to butter up a certain contact at a certain grocery store to hopefully get the products of one of Kitchen Cru’s clients onto the shelves at said grocery. The products were almost forgotten as the bagels were devoured, and the contact urged Micheal to go into production and make these bagels available to the masses.  When he came back from that meeting, the excitement glimmered in his eyes, and the so catalyzed the meteoric rise of our bagel production and what would become Bowery Bagels.

We did R&D. We converted Michael’s recipe for 8 bagels to 16, 32, 64 and we outgrew our mixing options at Kitchen Cru. It was right around this time that we started development of one of our signature bagels, the Miso Soy Ginger (MSG.) The most significant milestone in this process, maybe the whole Bowery process in its entirety, was the hiring of my dear friend Kathy High, a Dough Whisperer of the Highest Order. She arrived to the party at about version 9.2 of the MSG’s development, and after touching the dough once, doing a little research, she dialed in the recipe to what it is today.

Fast forward to today. Kathy has kicked so much ass that there is little ass left to kick. 10,000+ bagels a week are pumped out of Kitchen Cru, and more and more are ordered every week from our numerous wholesale accounts which include Stumptown Coffee and New Seasons Market. After several pop ups at Cru, our store front has been opened across Broadway next door to the Gilt Club, and we already have a devoted crowd of local followers; served by a devoted staff of kick ass peeps. I’m working on my second sandwich menu for the shop, which has been delightfully fun thanks to another key employee, Erin Andrews. She preps all the food for the shop as a culinary ninja such as herself would do such things. And me…well…I just try to keep it all rolling forward. One day I’m ordering a pallet of high gluten flour, or picking up huge buckets of malt syrup, the next I might be scaling out ten batches of dough and corn-mealing 500 sheet pans. In the same week you’ll find me R&Ding new sandwich ideas, or showing Erin how to make foie torchon for our foie gras schmear. All the while running Kitchen Cru with my newly hired kitchen manager, Ingrid Chen.

In a nut shell, I’m doing great my Faithful Readers. Better than ever in fact. So as the dust settles a little bit, and the talented people I work with take more and more off my plate; expect a lest a FEW more posts than you’ve been seeing here. And no, I haven’t forgotten about tentop, and I hope you all haven’t either. So come eat a bagel for fuck’s sake, they’re damn good.


Cocktailia

Tentop has evolved in ways that my faithful readers never would have dreamed at it’s inception, at that is too cool for me to put into words. Our latest dinner however, was a little closer to the basic form we started with. To put it most simply, two guys cooking the food they wanted to cook. We had the fortunate benefit of having Nick Keane on board as our bar tender, and his drinks were the starting point for all the dishes that Michael and I came up with. While my liver may never forgive me for the R&D put in on this menu, I feel it was some of the best food Micheal and I have cooked, and it had to be; to stand up to Nick’s banging concoctions.

The whole menu and pairings were killer, as I hope you can imagine; but I’d like to focus on two dishes. Our entree, Delmonico Steak Frites is a good snapshot of how we approach dish design. Take a classic, in this case two classics, and jam ‘em into something new, something the same but different. Here we started with Steak Rossini, a classic even among the classics, basically filet and seared foie gras. With our typical “we can do better” attitude, we switched out the filet mignon for rib eye, (as we are, in fact, men;) and the seared foie for torchon, because it spreads like butter. We molded the torchon into a fancy flexible mold to get the cool shape. A full rib eye steak seemed a bit much for a multi-coursed meal like this, so at Michael’s suggestion we had it butchered in the Delmonico style by Ian of Tails & Trotters. I know better than to tackle a butchery project like this on my own, and Ian’s skill is widely known. He did such a good job that we ended up cooking the suckers whole, and then sexily slicing them at service. So we’ve got steak, we’ve got foie…how about truffle fries? So yeah, we jammed in yet another classic; Steak frites. Nick came up with the perfect pairing with this, a goose fat washed Manhattan, which had a lingering earthiness to it that rode smoothly underneath the profound richness of this dish. Fuck was it good.

My other favorite of the night was partially due to the pairing, and partially due to the fact that I literally dreamed this dish up. When we tasted through the cocktails the first time, I knew right away I needed to rethink my dessert. This cocktail (originally named the McRittenhouse before Nick settled on Bitter Vieux,) is one of the best I’ve tasted. Thick and syrupy, stirred of course, and perfectly balanced. This drink needed more than a slice of pie next to it. I’d been dicking around a bunch with the Milk Bar cookbook, with mixed results, and the answer eventually came from there…kind of. I had a dream one night, and my better half can verify this, because I woke up spouting gibberish about “the best ice cream sandwich” before rolling over to return to loudly snoring. The dream involved my combining Tosi’s milk crumb recipe with the age-old “crunchy layer” I learned from Chef Tony Martin. I made the crunchy layer, then covered it with the milk crumbs, covered both with a layer of parchment and weighted it down. After it was set I portioned it into rectangles and used it as the “bread” for an ice cream sandwich. In my dream, I did this process countless times. I just kept doing it and doing it until I woke up. Weird huh? Anyway, dreams do come true sometimes, and in this case, thankfully so. Here’s a recipe.

Milk Crumb Crunch

first, make the milk crumbs.

you’ll probably want to double the recipe, it’s a good thing to have around.

then you’ll need:

12 oz of chocolate (I use 64% cocoa barry)

3 cups of feuilletine (if you can’t get feuilletine, you can use an equal amount of ground nuts, corn flakes, potato chips, or any combination there of. Just some crunchy shit you think will taste good in chocolate)

1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Prepare a half sheet pan with a silpat.

2. When the chocolate is melted, mix in the feuilletine all at once. Quickly spread the mixture out onto the prepared pan using an offset spatula.

3. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle an even layer of milk crumbs over it. Cover this with parchment and pile on a few half sheets on top to press the two recipes together.

4. Chill until fully set, at least one hour. Bring the pan up to room temperature before portioning into desired shape. How I used it is pictured below, as the cookie in a butter pecan ice cream sandwich. We served it with salted orange caramel and

Bitter Viuex by Nick Keane

1 1/2oz Rittenhouse Rye
3/4 Laird’s Applejack
3/4 Lillet Blanc
1/4 Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Benedictine
3 dashes Fees whiskey barrel bitters

  1. Fill a mixing glass half way with ice.
  2. Add liquors and other cocktail ingredients.
  3. Twirl a bar spoon to stir for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Strain the cocktail into a well-chilled glass.


Tentop Presents: The Modernist with Chef Cafiero

My skepticism about modernist cuisine, so named after ‘molecular gastronomy‘ fell out of favor; is not a thing I hide. As it is with so many things, the doubts stem from ignorance, intimidation, and unabashed pig-headed stubbornness. When Chef Anthony Cafiero (AKA Tony Two Fingers) approached me about doing a tentop based on modernist techniques, my skepticism faded as I began to understand the kind of dishes he wanted to do. This wouldn’t be a masterbatorial onslaught of foams, gels, and powders; a showcase of chef-jizz that just barley resembled food. No, Tony has a real knack for applying these techniques in a very non-obnoxious way, and his infectious enthusiasm one cannot help being swept up in. And while this dinner did in fact have foams, gels, and powders; they were all used as an interesting twist on something Tony is quite good at, making food taste good. I mean, you’ve eaten at Tabla, right?

I felt those pangs of skepticism return as mid way through the first day of prep, we hadn’t actually cooked anything. We had used the blender about eight times, had done some steeping, so I guess there was some heat applied, but cooking? This wasn’t quite cooking yet. We made a curried carrot foam that would keep it’s shape for days. We made passion fruit pearls (or ‘caviar’) in a way that I would almost call easy. We made a panna cotta that was intended to be served warm. Yeah…warm panna cotta…I was digging this, I was learning things here. We brined some venison loins, and that was the closest to my comfort zone as we were going to get that day.

It wasn’t until the day of service that we started to ‘cook.’ Pork bellies were tanked for a long, slow swim in the circulator. Tombo tuna was butchered. Venison came off the brine and also went into the tank to cook sous vide. As we started to set up the mise en place for service, I started to get a sense of the full scope of what were about to do. We had five one to two bite ‘tastes’ followed by eight courses of modern tapas, 6 savory and two sweet. We had an intermission planned with aroma therapy and cocktails. We had Chris Onstad on hand to document it all in his distinct, eloquent prose. As the guests started to arrive, I knew that this was going to be a once in a lifetime dinner.

Service was a bit of a blur, I can’t lie. Each course came together as planned, but I was shocked as the colors and flavors popped the way they did, it being the middle of winter and all. We rolled through the small bites, we smoked tombo to order, Tony seared sturgeon and I finally felt heat on my arms as the fire burned hot and fast. As we plated the ‘Umami Cereal,’ I had one of those moments where I thought ‘Wow, this is my job,’ and whatever I had done to get there I silently rejoiced in. It’s crazy to watch a dinner go from a page filled with scribbles to such a visceral experience. During our short intermission, we served a cocktail called a ‘neBroni,’ where in we made a simple negroni augmented with root beer liqueur. We sealed it up in a cryovac bag and had Eric squeeze it into the glasses like an udder, pouring it over orange ice cubes. Eat your heart out Morgenthaler. The most memorable plating for me was the one pictured above, a coffee crusted venison loin with a concord grape fluid gel and beluga lentils. The venison was a succulent morsel, and I had a blast with the ‘blood spatter‘ style plating.

A play by play of this dinner would only serve to trivialize it, as it was an experience that cannot be replicated with words or otherwise. Suffice to say Chef Cafiero is cooking WAY over our heads, all the while being one of the most approachable and friendly dudes on the scene. Here’s the full menu from this amazing night. Click here to log into facebook and see the entire set of pictures.

tentop presents

the modernist with Chef Anthony Cafiero

’snacks’

apple & absinthe granita w/ pork powder, sangria sphere with finger lime & shiso, mushroom cream w/truffle pearls, licorice w/eucalyptus & pickled pears, apple cider w/ chorizo gel and crispy crepe

small fish

smoked tombo tuna w/lemon gel & passion fruit

big fish

sturgeon w/ celery root, red cabbage & curried carrot

small veg

warm red kuri squash panna cotta w/ teff & espilette

big veg

umami ‘cereal’ w/maitake, wheat berries, jamon broth, millet & brussel sprouts

small meat

pork belly, romesco, mushroom ‘air,’ paprika

big meat

venison tenderloin, coffee, cocoa, beluga lentils, concord grape

fruit

lemon curd, cranberry sheet, 42 second almond cake

chocolate

ganache, chili, crispy soy, smoked meringue, graham struesel


Best Job in Portland.

Anyone who has visited me at Kitchen Cru more than likely now struggles with a deep seeded jealously. At the very least; they leave puzzled by my insistent smile, and my inability to explain what it is exactly that I do. The actual physical work includes such glorious and noble tasks as compost bin scrubbing, towel folding, and applying the occasional “How’s Your Father?” to various kitchen equipment. Truth be told, these everyday kitchen tasks seem few and far between over a forty hour week. That’s right, I said 40 hour week. Jealous yet, cooks? Did I mention vacation? Sick days? I had to look that last one up!

I remember when I was first coming up in kitchens, on the fringe of an era where Chef’s still hit their cooks. Part of the dogma back then used the term ‘Forty Hour Man’ as a dis for the uncommitted, the cooks who didn’t let “The Life’ rule their lives. Many of those early ideas have left me wanting, constantly striving to reach a balance between inside and outside, career vs. life. What I wanted from a kitchen and what I felt was “owed” them. I’ve come to realize, I have zero fucks to give for kitchen dogma. I mean sure, there are certain things to which I subscribe. I can’t deny that my personal spirituality, my ‘religion’ is balls deep in kitchen concepts, the catch phrases that repeat in my head as I stalk and hover around the kitchen. “Behind You” can mean ‘Get out of the way,’ and ‘Ive got your back’ in the same breath. Mise en place IS my religion, not to get all Bourdain on you. And if it did come down to taking sides, you know where I stand. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend 60-70 hour weeks breaking my back to make 35 K a year. It’s just not sustainable. That’s why I feel this kitchen was basically designed for me to run.

At Kitchen Cru no two days are the same. One day I’ll witness thousands of vegan pastries spring into existence; the sweet smells mingling with that of caramel smelling smoke from ham hocks; tight like apples. Across the kitchen a tasting at the counter sports smiles and it’s own crisp odors, and beyond, PIES!! Another day you might find a little whole animal butchery going on, a pig, lamb, or deer. And of course, yes; there is tentop. My infrequent posts to this blog are testament to my busyness with that project. I’ve gotten to cook with my baby again, too. Which has been nice, to say the least. Even taught a class with her. The event space will keep a kitchen manager busy as well, wine dinners and market places and beer tastings and what have you. In spite of being at a nexus of all things culinary, it’s another aspect of the job that truly satisfies: the community. This kitchen draws the best people, so much talent has passed through these doors in only eight months. I’ve learned so much, just from being there. ‘The right place at the right time’ has never rang more true to me. You probably can see through all this nonsense, my wack attempts at waxing poetic. The truth of the matter is that the constant shwag supply chain that I am at the end of. From the numerous “Can you taste this?” requests to the beloved “Want this?” as various cuts of fresh animal or boxes of produce are thrust upon me. I’m a fat ass, it’s widely known. My faithful readers know that mama never taught me how to say no to food. I should mention as well that a HUGE part of my love of KitchenCru has to do with my employer, Michael Madigan (pictured above.) I don’t want to get to into the details, he’ll give me shit about vying for a raise. Suffice to say he takes care of me, and he’s a blast to work with.


Tentop Takes the Next Step.

My original idea for tentop was not to create a thematic supper club. I knew when I took the kitchen manager job at KitchenCru that i would need a creative outlet, a venue where I could experiment with food and write about it.  I also thought I might be able to create a place for buddies of mine to cook; sous chefs or line cooks. Talented people who wanted to cook their own food, but worked under another Chef, so couldn’t. Not another venue to give the reach around to the usual suspects of the Portland food scene, but a place for the talented up and comers who make those Chefs’ celebrity possible. As noble as that all sounds, I also saw it as a chance to continue learning new techniques and biting ideas, the foundation of my culinary prowess. And the obvious benefit of doing half the work and receiving the same amount of glory was not unappealing, truth be told.

So, proud to say; our latest dinner showcased talented Chef Mark Dunleavy of Tabla on NE 28th. I met Mark at Ten-01, and I’ve written about him before on this blog. He picked a menu direction that turned out to be a hard sell: offal. I was a bit disappointed and surprised by this in Portland, with everyone preaching the whole “nose to tail” eating and all that farm to table shit. I figured people would be tripping over themselves to eat this stuff, but we didn’t fill the seats until the last minute. Chef Dunleavy created a menu both interesting and accessible, for the veterans of organ meats and noobs alike. The guests who attended were blown away, we had one couple tell us they wanted to buy a season pass to tentop; and they were visiting from DC.

After posting the pictures from this dinner on facebook, I’ve been inundated with requests from cook buddies in Portland who want to get in here and do a dinner with tentop; and I couldn’t be happier. Upcoming dinners will include themes like “Fusion,” because love it or hate it, it’s where innovation in food comes from. Also “Molecular,” because I know a talented Chef who can teach me some cool shit. And what about straight up Mexican? Everybody loves that shit, and I’ve got a guy for that. So stay tuned faithful readers, if there is still any of you out there. Here’s Mark’s menu, I handled the dessert, of course. I’ll be bugging him to hook me up with some recipes to post.

Offal Good

Chef Mark Dunleavy

foie gras mousse

“ants on a log”

pig heart rueben

house made rye, heart pastrami

confit lamb tongue

beets, watercress, horseradish

raviolo

pig’s head, marinated mushrooms, pickled mustard seeds

veal kidneys

deviled with potatoes, grilled hanger steak and parsley sauce

sweetbreads

in the style of pastilla with carrot ice cream

“squeal”

“pig tail,” blood caramel, milk chocolate mousse


Nachos and Wings

The latest tentop dinner at KitchenCru was a smash, or at the very least; we all got smashed. We opened both evenings with a big bowl of espillette almond caramel corn, and an even bigger bowl of iced down coldies. I mean what better way to kick off a Junk Food dinner than with an ice cold PBR or Ranier?

Pictured above was the first (and my favorite) course of the menu, Nachos. We cut some white corn tortillas into triangles and fried ‘em off, then smeared ‘em with white bean puree. Then they got some cooked chorizo, a big hunk of octopus, manchego cheese and a sunny side quail egg. In my humble assessment, this was one of the most successful food items I have created. And, it breaks the “No Cheese With Seafood” rule quite readily. We served this with a startlingly outstanding Sangria Slushie, cold and refreshing. I had the lovely miss Chen portion this up in front of quests, it’s just so damn COOL to see a whole cooked octopus. Incidentally, cooking octopus is not as nearly as intimidating as I once thought. Simply blanch it real quick in nearly boiling water, then pressure cook it for an hour, and let the steam dissipate naturally. Furthermore, pressure cookers aren’t nearly as terrifying as I expected them to be. Thanks to Tony Two Fingers for walking me through this technique.

The second appetizer course was Wings, a trio of those plump little beauties. And just to be clear, this. If I had my way I would never eat a drumette, only wings. And since I do get my way at tentop, only wings were served. I steamed all the wings after brining them overnight for twelve minutes. Then the wings sat on a rack over night to dry out for ultimate crispiness. When we finally went to fry them they had a full on pellicle going . We had three types, starting with the classic Buffalo. The only way to eat hot wings of this style is with blue cheese dressing, and because we do things a bit over the top here at tentop, we chose Rossini blue cheese for ours. This is hands down the best blue cheese on the planet, and it should be for the price. Shit for the price you should get a free bowl of soup. Second we had an Asian style wing, with a spicy chili crust and a plum dipping sauce. Lastly, my favorite; the Cool Ranch Dorito breaded wing with spicy peanut sauce. I used to put Doritos on my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and that’s where the idea had it’s origins.

These first two courses were a real microcosm of what we do at tentop. We take an idea, and then we push it as far over the top as we can. And that’s not for everybody, and that’s OK. Fuck the haters. We only want ten at a time anyway.

Cool Ranch Breaded Chicken Wings with Spicy Peanut Sauce

3 lbs chicken wings

3/4 cup kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups boiling water from

1 gallon of water

1 tblsp fresh ground black pepper

5 eggs

3 cups flour

1 large bag of Cool Ranch Doritos

1. Measure the gallon of water and remove 2 cups of it, placing it in a pot and bringing it to a boil. When boiling, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, sugar, and black pepper. Stir to dissolve. Add this mixture back into the gallon of water.

2. Add the wings to the brine and cover, refrigerate for 5-6 hrs. Rinse wings well and pat dry. Lightly steam or quickly blanch the wings, about ten minutes in the steamer or 2 minutes in boiling water. Place wings on a rack set over a sheet pan and let dry out, uncovered, over night in the fridge.

3. Next day, pulverize the Cool Ranch Doritos in a food processor and create a work space for the standard breading procedure, with the ground Doritos as the breading. Proceed with breading in the manner described in the linked article.

4. Preheat your deep fryer to 350. Fry the wings until GBD, about 4-5 minutes. Serve with…

Spicy Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped

1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.


Landing at KitchenCru.

When Ten-01 closed, I knew I was at a crossroads.  Being a pastry chef at a fancy restaurant was fun and exciting for a lot of reasons, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized: being a Chef sucks. Sure you’ve heard it all before; the hours are long, the work monotonous and sometimes dangerous and almost never glorious. The part of it that I find fun is the creative element, the incubation of idea to fully realized dish.  After that, it all was kind of annoying to me. The repetition of production and plating, and in spite of myself, always having to come up with a new dessert.  I knew I needed a change, I just wasn’t sure what that change would be.  Over the past few months I’d been picking up shifts at my favorite restaurant in town, Tabla. Producing desserts as needed and working the line a few nights a week was a blast. I worked just enough hours to keep me sane and just few enough to continue receiving unemployment. I came up with the idea for Your Mom’s and that has filled me with an excitement I haven’t felt in a long time.  If I could get Your Mom’s off the ground (heh) I’d really have something.  A few weeks later, I heard through the Ten-01 grape vine about a new commissary kitchen opening up in the park blocks.  The proprietor had purchased a bunch of the used equipment from Ten-01 when it closed, and the industrious Teddy Rupert had delivered it. He brought back tales of endless stainless steel in a cavernous kitchen, steam jacketed kettles, combi-ovens, the list went on and on, his eyes glazed over in a recollection that was no doubt bordering the pornographic. He asked me if I knew anyone that might be interested in managing the place, as the owner was searching. Know anyone, I thought; hell I’m interested.

When I met Michael Madigan, he wasn’t what I expected.  I’m not sure what I expected, but he wasn’t it. The more we talked, the more we both were aware of a certain simpatico.  The KitchenCru project excited me.  It was hard not to get excited, Michael had an infectious enthusiasm that almost immediately swept me up.  Here was an amazingly beautiful, brand new, state of the art kitchen. The guy who built it a lover of all things food and kitchen, a true patron of the culinary arts. The job he was looking to fill played to all my strengths: kitchen logistics to describe it simply.  If only I could convince him to let me continue doing the Tabla desserts and to pursue Your Mom’s (heh,) this would be the perfect job.  He didn’t need much convincing.  He had factored in that kitchen use would be a perk of the position.  He wanted his kitchen manager to be cooking, to be using all of the brand new equipment.  Everything seemed to fit right in there, like a complex puzzle putting itself together.  On top of all this, the type of clients this beautiful kitchen was attracting, there was a huge opportunity for me to learn from a diverse mix of cooks and Chefs, as well as impart my 15 plus years experience to others.  It all makes sense to me, I thought, so I signed on.

About a month later, things have changed yet again. Working at KitchenCru has dared me to dream. Dared me determine what it is exactly that i want to do with my life. Doing the Tabla dessert menu and delivering it a few times a week turned out to be a huge pain in the ass, and spread me a litter thinner than I wanted. When it comes down to it, I want to experiment with food, and write about it.  I started to dream up an idea of how to use the Kitchen Cru space to achieve this…Enter TenTop.  A ten seat pop up restaurant at the KitchenCru counter.  But that’s another blog post isn’t it?