Re-visit. Hope you've got some time on your hands.

About three years ago I started writing a blog on a social networking site whose name rhymes with pieface.  It wasn't really about anything in particular...but it did feature a lot of pictures, and a lot of kitchen and restaurant talk.  It got many views, and paved the way for this blog.  I re-visited it last week and decided to put some of that stuff here...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Ill be moving to SF in the next 6-8 months.  Itll be nice getting out
of here...and I know Sky needs a change of scenery.  VDV even said they
would pay for the moving truck.  Last night I told Sky, "Everything is
about to change."  She said "Good."
I submitted my equipment list to Chef...with the practical, and not so practical--Some examples:
Flat Top
Prep Tables
Ice Cream Machine

And some of the not so practical:
Seafood Tank
Meat Curing Area
Blast Chiller

So far, I havent heard any No's.

So the weekend at work was pretty tense.  Chef was in a weird
mood...really riding everyone, and the place was busy.  The guys had
said they were feeling a little abused lately...and being their
ambassador to Chef, I was feeling it too.  On Saturday night, things
came to a head, and Chef and I yelled at each other outside for a bit,
then talked things out.  One of the servers said it looked like a
father/son argument.  It had been coming for a long time, and im glad
it happened when it did.  I think we both understand each other a
little more now.

The next day I got my first raise since I got sous chef.  It felt good.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006
Sky wanted a16, so we went to SF last week.  Of course, a16 had an hour
wait.  Their bar was packed as usual...so if we were to wait, we would
have to do so outside, in the pouring rain. 
Instead, we decided
to try Coco500--Loretta Kellers new spot...replacing her old spot,
Bizou.  We drove ALL THE WAY across town, down 4th St, past Dil's whole
foods, and found easy parking.  What was cool, was the when I called to
ask if they took walk-ins, the host said yes, and that he would save a
table for us.  I was blown away.
I had a great belgian beer, then
we settled on a bottle of Patz & Hall pinot.  We had the
"tacos"--tortilla chips with pork mole on top.  Awesome.  We also had
tempura green beans, and the salt cod brandade, both of which were
great.  Then Sky and I split a brussel sprout salad (my third in three
months...im in love with brussel sprouts.  Thank you Barbuto for
enlightening me)  and the pappardelle--more of a beef stew than a pasta
dish.  Perfect stuff for the cold rainy night.  To finish off, we had
the beef cheek with cress salad...beautifully braised.  Love shows
through in braising--as does carelessness.  This was one loved piece of
meat.  It evoked a memory of a dish my mom used to make--baked chicken
with a dijon/mayo breadcrumb crust.  This was basically the same thing,
just with whole grain mustard and a beef cheek.  It inspired me to make
that chicken dish at vdv the following weekend, and it was a huge
hit--especially as a counterpoint to the usual flood of fried stuff we
Lastly, the San Francisco Dine About Town is this
month...a clever idea really.  A huge list of restaurants puts together
three course prix fixe menus--and for $21.95 at lunch, or $31.95 at
dinner, you can get this menu.  Its a pretty cool deal--seeing as how
places like Campton Place and Farrallon are on there.  Joey and I
wanted to do lunch at Farrallon, so we headed out...and of course, they
were closed on a Monday.  We then decided on a16...and they too were
not open.  So we headed to Ozumo...and got a great lunch.  Salad,
sashimi, and tempura soba.  We couldnt resist the sake and sushi rolls
either.  What can I say.  We're cooks.

Thursday, February 16th, 2006 - The French Laundry Post
We were the first table sat.  I think everyone was nervous...but our
server put us at ease right away.  He went over the menu with us, and
took our water order.  Sparkling AND still please.

All of us
ordered the chefs tasting menu.  Sky went with the hearts of palm
salad, while Joey and I went for the terrine of foie gras.  Mal went
for the seared foie.  The sommelier, who almost stole Sky and Mal from
us because he was so fucking charming, inquired about wine.  When we
asked about pairing, he said they didnt do pairings...as to not assume
what the guest might enjoy.  However, he did say he could choose some
half bottles for us course by course, in the price range of 150 a
person.  We decided on that.

Before we started, I asked our
server if coffee and doughnuts was being offered that night.  He said
he would check--but being that that dish was well....old...they didnt
always offer it.  I had read on confessions of a restaurant whore that you could ask for it though.....and i ended up being VERY glad that I did.  Thanks Joy.

Then we were off.  Please excuse my pics....I didnt use a flash.

The cookbook cover.

The cornet.  I almost cried when I ate this.  Sesame tuille, chive
creme fraiche, and salmon tartare.  I dont even like salmon.  But this
was epic.

Oysters and pearls.  With the "sixty dollar quenelle of sevruga
caviar."  Sky said "I didnt even know I liked oysters and caviar."

I was only on my first course, and already I was blown away.  I had
seen two of the Laundrys signature dishes....and they both more than
lived up to their hype.  In Soul of a Chef, Ruhlman goes on at length
about oysters and pearls--the joke being that Thomas Keller said he had
never tasted it.  My favorite quote regarding this was "You dont have
to stick your hand in fire to know its hot."  Well, im pretty sure
mortal cooks need to taste a recipe involving tapioca pearls for fucks
sake.  But not TK.  Crazy.
With the cornet, the profiterole cheese
bouche thingy, and the oysters and pearls, we had a bottle of Pierre
Gimonnet Brut, 1er Cru.

Next please.

On the cooks tour where Bourdain goes to TFL with Eric Ripert, Mike
Ruhlman, and Scott Bryan, they get this crazy salt service.  Well, we
got it as well.  And it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. 
The box in the middle was Japanese nori salt.  Clockwise, from
top-left:  Sel Gris, then forty MILLION year old salt from a mine in
Montana, then Hawaiian salt from the big island--cultivated from 3000ft
depth seawater, then iron rich salt from Hawaii, and of course, fleur
de sel.  And lets not forget the strauss and vermont butter.  And the
bread.  From Bouchon. 
It was around this time that I remembered
what my mom said to me the day before:  "Savor EVERY bite."   So I
did.  I slowed every movement.  I let the effects of the massage from
earlier set in.  Then our foie showed up.

With Skys hearts of
palm salad, she got a 2002 Gaston Huet Vouvray.  With Mals hot foie,
she got a 2002 Hungarian Kiralyuduar Tukaji.  That shit was like
syrup.  Awesome.  Joey and I got an 86 Chateau Raymond Lafron 1er Cru
Sauternes.  Candy.  And did I mention that all of these being half
bottles, that they poured the WHOLE bottle for us?

I had eaten a Thomas Keller foie terrine before....but never with the
fennel marmalade, or the bitter orange "puree."  The puree was made
with an orange, cooked sous vide, then pureed, zest, pith, seeds and
all, and strained.  Joey and I made something similar upon our return
to work using meyer lemons....and it totally worked.
This course
only stung a bit, because I got the haunting feeling that I would never
be able to make a foie terrine as beautiful, or tasty as this.

This course was my favorite.....Japanese medai, with sous vide razor
clams, green onions, carrots, radish, and sauce
"Asiatique".....basically a Thai style sauce with lemongrass and
galangal.  The flavors were mind blowing.

Thats carrot powder on the bottom.  This was paired with a 2004 Dr
Loosen Riesling, "Graacuer Himmelreich."  I should mention here that
not a single wine pairing didnt work.  They were some of the finest
glasses ive ever enjoyed.

Finally, the gloves came off.  Or should I say mitts?

Butter paoched Maine lobster "mitts a la barigoule", with jabugo ham,
globe artichokes, king trumpet mushrooms, and "barigoule
emulsion"--basically the buerre monte they poached the mitts in. 
Apparently, the jabugo ham is raised specifically for TK....and is fed
artichokes its whole life.  The artichokes themselves were cooked with
so much care, they resembled more potatoes....and with the ham, they
made a tear inducing hash.  With this, we drank a 2004 August Briggs
Chard, from Carneros.  Ahh...something local.

Regarding the
water....you really couldnt take a sip without getting your glass
refilled.  We went through some fifteen bottles of water or so.  Thank
god....because it kept anyone from getting too tipsy.

this time, Jesus, or the Count of Monte Cristo himself, Jim Caviezel
sat down across the room from us.  Sky says he smiled at her.

Sirloin of Devils Gulch rabbit (with kidney...yum), braised "cavelo
nero" (black horse?) piquillo peppers, candied pine nuts, and sauce de
lapin.  The rabbit was great....although the chops didnt really work
for me.  With this we moved into reds, with a 2003 Lemelson Pinot,
"Theas Vineyard", from Willamette Oregon.  Slurp.

This was the piece de resistance....Elysian Fields Farm "selle d'agneau
rotie entiere", with a chickpea flour "panisse", melted eggplant, green
garlic, and san marzano conserva.  We had been asking so many questions
about the food, our waiter finally asked the ol "are you in the
industry" question.  When we replied yes, he offered a kitchen tour
after our meal.  My smile was so wide it hurt.
Sky loved the
eggplant so much, she offered a straight trade--all the lamb on her
plate, for my peice of eggplant.  Tempting, but I declined.
lamb was cooked sous vide to rare, then pan roasted on a huge mirepoix
with aromatics, then rested in buerre monte.  Yes, your technique is
not adequete.

Attention to detail.

With the lamb we drank 2003 Ovide, En Cerise, from Walla Walla
Washington.  I sopped up the sauce with my mini epi like a heathen.  No
one, not even Christ seemed to mind.

And the procession of
savory food ended.  Next came the grapefruit granite.  Joey laughed,
because he had a grapefruit granite on his tasting menu...and he
doubted he could duplicate the flavor he tasted here.

Next was
cheese....with "pleasant ridge", yukon gold potato "mille feuille",
petit parsley, and caraway vinaigrette.  With this we had a 2002
Weinback Gewurtztraminer, from Alsace. 

Im going to make this part simple.  The Laundry gives you ALOT of
dessert.  Including the coffee and doughnuts we had asked for.  TWO of


The rest was a blur--the manjari chocolate mousse, the meyer lemon pot
de creme, Sky and Joeys creme brulee (which Sky says was "pretty much
the best" shes had), the cookies, the chocolate covered macadamea nuts,
the chocolates.  Our final glass was a 2003 Tablas Creek Vin De Paille,
from Paso Roblas. 

Thats not chantilly cream.  Its creme fraiche.  Who knew?

Finally, we went paid our bill....all 1800 of it.  And it didnt hurt at
all.  We took our kitchen tour with the guy we had seen in that episode
of cooks tour...and even got to meet Corey Lee, who invited us into the

The pass.

Its gleaming in there.

Uni on the pass.  NOT on the menu that night.

Thats the plasma that looks into Per Se.  On the upper left it the definition of "finesse." 

We had a nice chat with the maitre d on the way out....I talked to him
about Presidio, he talked to me about the Northern CA Michelin guide. 
Then we left.  Four and a half hours later.  I was floating.

The next day we at lunch at Bouchon, (where we saw Thomas Keller and
Laura Cunningham having lunch) and then headed back for service that
night.  We brought back sandwiches and bread from Bouchon. 

As corny as it may sound, that meal changed me--leaving a print that
there really is much, much more to learn and do.  I cant wait to go

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Canteen, More CoCo, and Changes...

no secret that my parents and friends had a huge impact on me becoming
a cook...but only recently have I realized just how much. Here are some
of the top examples.

-Mom's oil vs. water demo. I thought a
quick splash of water on my face was enough to clean up after a long
day of playing. Mom poured oil, then water to demonstrate that, yes
son, you need to use soap. It was my first lesson in broken vinagrettes.

-Salting and peppering my ramen when I made it for my sister. As if there wasnt enough sodium already.

by the kitchen when we ate at _______ Italian restaurant. There was
this Italian place here in WC that my family used to go to...and they
had a huge, open kitchen--complete with rotisseries and all that. I
would make two or three bathroom trips just to check it out.

-Cooking with Pat and Sky....drunk. Turned out to be good practice.

-Thinking I was really cool when I used an immersion blender to make my campbells tomato soup smoother.

that my Dad could actually cook. There was this period where he was
laid off during the early 90's that he really got into cooking. My Mom
could cook--but Dad went crazy with all these recipes from cooking
magazines. It was a true revelation when he stopped buying pie crusts
and actually started making them.
seems to be moving along. Final drawings are in...and now all we're
waiting on is some contract negotiations and the like. Rossi, the first
of the "new" group staged last night at Walnut Creek. Its going to be
an interesting (and very quick) few months leading up to opening. The
rumored target opening is August 1st. A huge high profile opening in
the middle of summer?
Some would say its culinary suicide.
of changes, Ive also been recently reflecting on the changes at VDV.
This time last year we were knee deep in Ricky _____ bullshit. Ricky _____, for those that dont know, was VDV's second sous. After Mario
left, my Chef didnt believe that anyone on the current staff could step
in and be the sous--so he brought on Ricky. (Funny side note--no one on
the staff at the time even wanted the sous job in WC. Why not? The
Preso rumors were ciculating even then. Josh and I wanted SF. Side note
..2...Josh is gone too.)
So back to Ricky. The guy could barely make
a risotto. He yelled at me for not calling tickets the way he wanted.
And after two weeks, he was gone. And I had a new position.
the same time that I got promoted, we hired on Chris Kelling--an FOH
manager. He was my age. And that was the beginning of the really fun
time at VDV. The weather was improving...business was up, and Chris and
I simply had fun. Did we maybe goof off too much? Sure. But our shifts
ran well, and on our shift, we got a 5 out of 5 review. (shakily, but
we still got it.)
Now things are a bit more strict. Its more
business, and all the romantic fun loving shit seems to be going out
the window. People are trying to make their mark...sometimes to the
detriment of others. Its no big deal--but it doesnt mean I dont miss
the fun time.

Thursday, May 4th, 2006
I ate well yesterday. 
Joe and I went on an epic quest for a tamis, or drum sieve to aid with
our foie terrine prep.  So a trip to St. Helena and several stores
later, we were still out of luck.  I even called WD-50 out of
desperation, hoping to say something like "Look Wylie, im about to lose
my shit here.  Tell me where you got that motherfucking tamis." 

So imagine my annoyance when I go on JB Prince and see the exact model
I searched for two weeks ago on there.  I ordered two.
Anyways, back to eating yesterday.  Joey and I dropped
into Bistro Jeanty, for a couple of beers, some foie and lentils, pigs
feet, and steak tartare.  Bistro at its best.  Upon my return, Sky and
I met up with Dan and Laura for dinner.  The rules were no small plates
places....so we decided on Rivoli on the Berkeley/Albany border.  For
one, I was wearing a t-shirt with a panda bear cartoon pooping on.  And
flip-flops.  This outfit would have been fine for Fonda, just a few
doors down....but to my surprise, Rivoli was a collared shirt and
pompous atitude kinda joint.  I had a the portobello fritters...which
werent even really fritters, as much as they were just....fried
mushrooms.  Then I had the steak with cheese souffle.  Three ounces of
steak.  And a big floury dense souffle.  Blah.  I was batting .500 for
good meals yesterday.

Lets talk about Monday.  May day.  A day
without an immigrant day.  Upon hearing about the boycotts ocurring
that day, I gathered up the guys to discuss this.  They made it clear
that they would like to take that day to show their support--and I told
them I supported their choice.  My chef on the other hand, was not so
supportive.  I felt like a union leader negotiating with him, getting
yelled at, etc.  In the end, the guys were given the day off--although
somehow we decided to open the restaurant for dinner, using all the
non-Latino workers we have in the kitchen.  Joey and I ended up as the
The day was actually fun in the beginning.  When I
showed up, Angelo was making breakfast for everyone, Joey had brewed
coffee, and Danielle was working on sticky buns.  We set up, ate, and I
started washing.  Everyone prepped their own stuff, and there was a
good feel in the kitchen.  This was 10 am. 
Slowly everyone
trickled in, and Angelo and Chris had the idea to pick up a bottle of
Jim Beam.  By 1, Angelo was a little red in the face.  And next thing
you know, he's coming back with another bottle.  This kinda set the
tone for the rest of the day.
One thing about washing dishes--its
not that hard.  Its just kinda gross....and hot.  I got really parched
mid service, and reached for my water....not realizing Joey had
replaced it with sake....which had turned warm from the ambient heat of
the dish machine.  That huge gulp was not pleasant going down.

Around this time, Angelo was truly in rare form.  I asked for
margaritas for everyone.  We got them.  Then beers.  And more sake. 
Danielle showed up to help us close.  And in the end, everyone was
pretty fucking drunk.
We had wanted to go to the hangerone industry
party....but missed it.  I think it was probably for the best.  I ran
into Danielle in the alley, and after slurring about losing her keys,
she dumped the entire contents of her bag on the ground.  This pretty
much summed up where everyone was sober-wise.
Did the Latino guys
protest?  No....they all met up and played baseball--whats more
American than that?  Did they thank us for working for them? 
No....although they did laugh when I told them I dishwashed.  All in
all, im not sure what kind of impact this will end up having...whether
fiscal or socially. 

Thursday, June 1st, 2006
foie gras terrine. a how to.

the addition of a foie gras terrine to the vdv menu has kept me plenty
busy lately, making two terrines of 750g of foie each--weekly. this has
been done of my days off mostly--meaning yes--technically
we're....breaking some rules. however, im not so sure we could get the
same results in the crowded work kitchen.
youre gonna need:
foie gras....1500g is enough for one big ass terrine.
a vacuum sealer...if youre into it

a scale


a hotel pan to poach in, with a thermometer

cheese cloth
a cloth napkin
butchers string
parchment paper

a bowl scraper
a piping bag
a terrine mold
a tamis or chinois  (you can get a nice tamis from jb prince for about 50 bucks)

a couple hundred dollars worth of black truffles.  or not.

oh, and some ice

so anyways, how to do it?

day 1 -- seperate lobes of foie using a paring knife. butterfly open
each lobe and remove large vein sections. cut into 1 inch cubes and
soak in whole milk for 12-24 hours.

day 2 -- make your cure. its up to you--ours has sea salt, curing salt,
sugar, star anise, white pepper, and until just recently, cinnamon. it
should be as finely ground as possible, and passed through a strainer.
we have a set ratio of foie to cure--but for a long time we played and
experimented with it.   just a heads up...grinding this cure into the
fine powder youll need est un bordel.

take your foie out of the milk and let it dry on paper towels. season
your foie like you would a steak--make sure you hit the whole surface
with cure--and dont overdo it. we cryovac ours, and cure for 12 hours.
you can cure in a bowl if you need to--just press plastic down touching
on the foie.

day 3 -- take foie out--and heres the fun
part--roll into a cylinder. lay out a sheet of parchment, and pack foie
on edge closest to you. roll up as tightly as possible, and twist down
ends. let chill in refrigerator 10-15 min. take out of parchment and
roll again, this time in folded out cheesecloth. in the meantime heat a
water bath to 180 degrees f. we use sake. its up to you. roll foie
tightly into torchon, and tie both ends. poach for 90 seconds gently
rolling torchon. shock in ice bath. roll in towel or napkin and hang in
fridge to rest. for another fucking 12 hours. during this part, it cant
hurt to pick up a loaf of acme bread, some burrata, and san daniele
prosciutto. or some truffled eggs with truffles.

day 4 -- take foie out of napkin and cheesecloth. scrape away oxidized
foie and save. cut foie into medallions and pass through tamis, or if
you dont have one, a chinois. fold together passed foie with a spatula,
and put into pastry bags.
line terrine molds with three layers of plastic wrap.
pipe foie into terrine molds, tapping to remove air bubbles.

*quick note:  yeah, the terrine above is lined with truffles.  and yes, it was 3:15am at the time I took this pic.

wrap, and place weight of choice on top to flatten. melt reserved
oxidized foie over low heat, and strain away fat. pour rendered fat
over packed foie. rest, again....for 12 hours.

day 5 -- this
day means, oh shit, I have to make condiments for foie--which while
fun, usually means alot of work. but it also means eat up fucker....you
just made a terrine.

I found a note written between me and Ginger from when we were in culinary school:

Me:  I dont know if I can make it through this shit today    thinking about leaving
Ginger:  that sucks.  whats wrong

Richie:  I just dont feel like listening to lecture ive already heard
and getting shit about cooking.  maybe it report day.  i dunno.
Ginger:  Yeah dood, I dunno though I really just want to work on that tarte tatin    Im just nervous about this stupid report

Richie:  Youll get it done-itll be fine.  and concievably, you could go
type both out in 15 min and give the old "oh sorry chef, I think the
pages fell out of my report-as for your oral, theres no way it can be
worse than anyone elses
Ginger:  haha-...word

If you made it this far, wow, you just read a lot of old stuff.  Don't worry, there will be an actual blog update this week, where I write something, not just cut and paste.  After this last entry, my old blog went another direction, as things a work started to change.  It's interesting to see the evolution of things over the past few years...and how it all led here.  Again, if you made it this far, thanks for checking it all out.  The way things were shows how they're going to be. 


Waleed said...

Nice post man. Just started Culinary school about 3 months ago, myself. Been reading your blog for a little over 6 months now, I think. This was a pretty fun one to read because it's goddamn funny to imagine someone running around for a Tamis for what I imagine was several hours.
It's funny because when I drag my friends along on stupid cooking adventures like that they wanna give up after 15 minutes and I wont let them, heh.

Anyway, good blog. Hope you found that line cook. Drop me a line if you have any advice.

Matt said...

i really enjoyed the keller part. i'm not gonna lie i stopped reading shortly after that. i wish i had $500 to drop on a thomas keller meal. someday....

starzqalien said...

Nice Blog ! Happy Holidays

Lilly Morgan says... said...

What a refreshing slap in the face this blog is! A dose of reality in a world of fantasy. Now I know why a certain friend of mind never orders anything in a cafe unless it's been cooked thoroughly. No salads for him!