Friday, March 22, 2013

An Inspirational Trip

Recently I took Jacob, Willy and Yulanda up to the East Bay in search of culinary inspiration.  We explored underground fish markets, searched Chinese grocery stores, scoured a Vietnamese restaurant supply warehouse, sampled fermented foods at the Cultured Pickle and tasted a number of conserves and jams at June Taylor.  We managed to fill the trunk of the Lexus with everything from fish sauce to yuzu marmalade and everything in-between.  Our adventure concluded with a dinner at the Chef's counter at Commis in Oakland.  I have been hearing about Chef James Syhabout and Commis for a couple of years  and was excited to experience it firsthand.  We enjoyed an eight-course dinner and were impressed by the focus and execution of each dish.  Every plate was beautifully presented with clean-focused flavors and contrasting textures.

One dish really stuck in my mind - a pre-dessert of sassafras and mandarin orange.  Sassafras is often hidden behind a mixture of other ingredients and is most often associated with root beer.  On its own the sassafras was quite refreshing and unexpected.  When I got back into the Sierra Mar kitchen I decided to break out our supply of sassafras and play around.  My vision was to create an elk dish that would be reminiscent of a summer barbecue.  I made a roulade of elk rolled in charred licorice root with savory borage cake, tamarind and grated sassafras.  I'm going to continue working on the recipe this week and plan to feature it on the new Taste of Big Sur Menu.

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