Thursday, June 27, 2013

Snakes!

video

We had a large California king snake visit us behind the restaurant today.  Thanks to Matt for the video!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tarantula Hawk Wasp

A few days ago, while Fiona was tending to her new heirloom tomato bed she across this large Tarantula Hawk Wasp dead on the ground.  I have seen these wasps from a distance at Garrapata, but never this close and personal.  Allegedly these insects have a good temperament and are not known to be aggressive towards humans.  This is fortunate because their sting is said to be second only to the bullet ant in the intense debilitating pain it inflects on its target.  The name Tarantula Hawk comes from a macabre and bizarre ritual where the female insect stings a tarantula and incubates a single egg inside the still live poisoned spider.  She then traps the paralyzed spider inside its own burrow so the wasp pupa can feed on the spider before emerging from its abdomen.

Despite this gruesome history - the wasp is quite delicious quickly fried and seasoned with cumin and sea salt.........  Just kidding.......... this is one local item you will never see in my kitchen.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Giant Sequoia and Wild Strawberries

One of my favorite parts of Post Ranch is the trail that starts by the pink peppercorn tree at the North end of the ridge and winds into the redwood forest.  Deep in the redwood forest it is dark and giant logs lay covered with moss and ferns.  As you reach the edge and walk out into the meadow there is a whole eco system thriving below the tree line.  With just enough light and a supply of fresh water dripping from the trees above, wild strawberries, wood-mint and yerba buena fight for a spot between stands of native grass.


The redwood forest is an inspiring landscape and I have done my best to pay tribute to it in one of tonight’s appetizers.  To begin, the course is plated on a dish made by Eefj out of an impression made from an ancient Post Ranch redwood.  I took the very young, fluorescent green redwood tips that have been popping out the last few months, and steep them in 20-year balsamic to infuse the vinegar with a refined pine/forest aroma.  We make strawberry chips by roasting the wild strawberries, pureeing them and then drying them on pieces of acetate.  The chips are seasoned with sea salt and Balinese long pepper.  Since finding wild strawberries in any quantity is a challenge, I added local strawberries to the dish also.  We take the freshly harvested strawberries and put them in the dehydrator for three hours, just long enough for the berries to slightly shrivel and take on a custardy texture and intensified flavor.  When I did this I was thinking about how satisfying freshly picked strawberries are when they are still warm and fresh off the vine.  I would like to imagine that our strawberry preparation mimics the texture and flavor of berries that were picked and then left in the sun for a few hours.  The dish is finished with yerba Buena, wild mint blossoms, Charlie’s goat cheese and pistachio puree.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Portrait of Bay Laurel by Star Chefs.com

StarChefs.com published an article about Post Ranch and our exploration of the California bay laurel.  Here's a link to the story:

StarChefs.com - The Product: A Portrait of Bay Laurel

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Local Dungeness Crab with Avocado, Melon, Mint and Habanero


The other day chef Ono was charring pieces of avocado for his Octopus dish.  As the neon green skin blistered and turned black from the heat of the torch it almost appeared as though the skin was still on the avocado.  This was a beautiful effect on a small slice of avocado and I wondered if it would be possible to create the same effect using a whole-hollowed avocado.  A few minutes later we had a charred avocado that appeared completely intact.   The next morning Dominique, our Wine Director, brought in a box of avocado leaves from his house and we completed the visual with a few small avocado leaves precisely placed where the stem would have been.  We now had a hollow and completely edible avocado- which lent itself to numerous possibilities.


This week I am sticking to class flavors - early summer melon, spearmint, habanero and popped black rice.  The final dish is refreshing and texturally interesting.  Initially guests are skeptical about the minimalist aesthetic - but as soon as they get the first bite of otherwise comforting flavors, they are pleasantly surprised. 

I can see this technique having many future applications.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What's New In The Garden

The Chef’s Garden at Post Ranch has always been a central part of our culinary philosophy.  This year, with the help of our gardener, Fiona, we are expecting the garden to reach new heights.  A few months ago, when frost covered the ground each morning and the beds lay barren, aside from a few lone mustard and kale, we began planting thousands of seeds in the sanctuary of our tiny gardening shed.  Sheltered from the cold and coaxed to life below the glow of two lights, the trays of tiny seedling provided a jump start to this year’s crop.  Now, every corner of the garden is teeming with life.  For me, the garden is more than resource for great ingredients, it is a refuge to go and find inspiration.  Each afternoon I will take a few minutes to walk down into the valley and pick a few herbs and delicate blossoms for the evening’s menu. 

As I peruse the rows of plants, I begin to envision how our menu will evolve.  The crisp white pea blossoms are giving way to plump sweet peas and tiny red apples have appeared from nowhere on our dwarf Pink Pearl trees.  These walks through the garden serve as a reminder that everything is in a constant state of transformation.  Each ingredient is at its apex for a fleeting instant; and as a chef it is my goal to capture that moment.  In today’s world, with ingredients changing hemispheres with the season, it is easy to forget the magic of a freshly picked strawberry or an unrefrigerated pea.  There is no better reminder than spending a few minutes in our garden.

We have some ambitious plans for the garden this year.  In fact, they are so ambitious that I now refer to it as our ecology program rather than garden.  This month we are installing three bee hives and are drawing up plans for a large chicken coop.  Our makeshift growing room will be replaced with an actual greenhouse that can also be used for small private events, and a wood-fired oven will enable us to cook ingredients straight from the garden.  It is an exciting time and I can’t wait for our first small event.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cilantro and Coriander

Cilantro is an amazing culinary herb that has become a staple in cuisines around the globe.  People either love or hate its cleansing floral aroma that hints of soap and perfume.  Right now our cilantro in the garden is representing a full life-cycle and a number of culinary applications.

Coriander and cilantro are different words for the same plant - but it is more common for fresh leaves to be referred to as cilantro and dried seeds to be referred to as coriander.  The seeds and leaves, while similar, each have distinct characteristics and applications.  As the plant ages, the leaves towards the top of the plant become frond-like and take on a bit of the bitterness and complexity similar to the seed’s flavor profile.  Soon after this happens, the plant produces tiny white and pink flowers that are one step closer to the flavor of coriander seeds.  A week or so after the flowers emerge bunches of fluorescent green seeds form between the flowers.  When these seeds are dried they become the brittle pale bb’s found in spice cabinets around the world, but in their fresh state they pop with an intense aroma.

Often overlooked here in the US, the plant’s roots are prized in South East Asia where they are a staple in curries and soups.  When pulled from the ground they resemble small,
fibrous parsnips.  Their flavor is similar to the leaves, but deeper and less bright.  The benefit of using the root is that unlike the leaves, that quickly lose their aroma and turn bitter when heated, the root retains its mellow aroma when heated in a sauce or braise.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Monterey County Weekly Video

The Monterey County Weekly recently posted a story and a short video discussing the types of things we're doing here at Sierra Mar.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Garlic

We have tons of onions and garlic in the garden right now.  From tiny onion sprouts to mature onion flowers and seasoned garlic cloves, we have every imaginable combination of textures and flavors to choose from.





Monday, June 3, 2013

Berries!

The garden is bursting with early summer berries!  Our hillside is covered with a thick layer of wild redwood strawberries in full-bloom.  This week I am working on a salad with Charlie Cascio’s fresh goat cheese, olive oil infused with spring redwood tips and redwood strawberries.  The pine-
like sequoia aroma seems like a logical fit for the tiny berries, helping bring them back to their natural environment.  Look for the final dish on an upcoming blog post.