Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hay Roasted Beet

Bull's Blood Beet roasted in a hay-sea salt crust with Big Sur Honey,
Grains, Nuts and Sheep's Milk Yogurt.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I love walking through the chef's garden at night, especially when I can hear owls calling to each other from across the meadow. We have several owl boxes stationed around the garden that serve as a natural deterrent to the small animals who like to eat our vegetables. While I have always loved hearing the owls I have seldom seen one this close! I was able to take this picture just at dusk as the owl hunted at the edge of the forest.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tips and Tricks for the "Kitchen Compressor Hack"

I am very excited that so many chefs and restaurants have contacted me about our air compressor!   This is going to be a blog post to share tips and tricks as well as to answer questions.  I will also post some really bad videos below (forgive me- I'm a chef not a cinematographer)  with some actual examples of how the system works.    Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions or feedback.  Thanks!

1.  The objective of all of this is to avoid using the spray handle either completely or as much as possible.

2.  The compressed air works great on removing things like:   salad, sandwich scraps, leaves, sauce covered ramekins, fruit pieces- really any semi-solid food and some gels like ketchup.

3.  For really greasy or tacky foods (chocolate, egg yolk, honey, risotto), or foods that have dried onto the plate, you still need to use a soapy brush or give the plate a quick dip in a bus-tub filled with soapy water. 

4.  You can avoid having solid foods going down the drain by collecting them in a mesh colander or other strainer.  Most of these foods can be added to your compost or thrown away.

5. Use an air gun that allows the handle to be slowly pulled to steadily increase air volume- rather than go directly to max psi.  When clearing a ramekin or bowl you want to point the bowl in the direction of the collection container.  If you aim the compressed air into the middle of a bowl or ramekin while looking into it and spray into the center you might end up with egg on your face!

6. You need to understand what your dish machine will take care of.  This will depend on what kind of machine it is.  Most of the time a little bit of grease or other residue will come off in the washing cycle.

7.  Like anything new- this takes some time to get used to.  We are fortunate that our staff is very aware of the current drought and are happy to help us learn and figure out the new system.  Once we eliminated the use of our spray nozzle the dish team quickly adapted.  Overall the learning curve was quick. 

8.  Regarding noise-  I think the compressor motor is less loud than the actual full blast of compressed air.  It is certainly far less loud than our juicer or vitamix- but far from a Zen monastery.

Trying to illustrate how loud the system is... with minimal luck
You still have to use a container of soapy water sometimes:
White Sauce on a white plate- probably a bad demo choice...
Works really well on irregular surfaces and mesh..
How not to cover yourself in egg or ketchup...

Experimenting with Beets

Just when you thought you had seen every conceivable combination of beets and blue cheese…. Last week I took small bulls blood beets and cooked them with red wine vinegar and sea salt- then inoculated them with penicillium roqueforti and dry aged them for ten days. After a few days the beets took on a nice white bloom and after eight days were fully coated in a lush layer of dark blue mold- the same mold that grows in the lime stone caves where Roquefort cheese is produced. With a touch of trepidation I cut one in half and tried it. The beet itself had taken on a very rich and decadent texture and had turned almost black. The natural sweetness of the beet was balanced by an intense earthiness- the aroma of wet dust, like the unmistakable smell of the desert after the season’s first rain. The mold also seemed to bring a pepper-like spice.

While I believe this preparation is too intense to serve in its entirety – my next test is going to be inoculating large beets and then cutting them into thin slices so the ratio of exterior mold to beet is lower. Once the technique is perfected- I could see this being used in conjunction with other cured, smoked and pickled vegetables as a unique celebration of our garden.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Water Conservation

As a bit of background- Given the current drought we have been looking for ways to conserve water. Sierra Mar uses approximately 3,500 gallons of water per day (well below the industry average). One of the single largest uses is for spraying off dirty pans and dishes before loading them into the dish machine. Just that one spray handle uses close to 1,000 gallons of water per day.

 Last week we installed an air compressor on our dish station to use in place of the water sprayer. By using compressed air we have been able to reduce the sprayer use by 80%. This represents a huge water savings for our restaurant.

Right now California has an estimated 60,000 full service restaurants. If each of these restaurants switched to compressed air for pre-cleaning plates and could save even just 250 gallons per day that would equal over 5 billion gallons of water per year.

While the current requirement for restaurants to only offer drinking water by request does bring awareness to the issue, it does not represent a major water savings. To illustrate, each of our guests drink approximately 2 cups of water when they dine in the restaurant. That equals just over 18 gallons per day of drinking water. Over the course of a year we would save around 6,570 gallons of drinking water - compared with a savings of 292,000 by using the compressed air.

This is an easy and efficient way for restaurants to save water.  If other restaurants across the state would start this practice it would make a real difference with water conservation!

By Request, I went with an ultra quiet 1hp electric compressor model to keep noise at a minimal.  I paired it with a 50 foot hose and airgun (so you can place it away from water - we put it below the pot sink drying area). You should be able to obtain the entire setup for a couple of hundred dollars.  Good luck!  Let me know how it works for you.

*Update-  For heavy or dried sauces (or other food that can't be removed by air) try doing a quick dip in a soapy bus-tub or use a soapy brush prior to air)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Foraging

With the rain comes spring foraging - I love this time of year! The trails are loaded with wild onions, mustard and radish.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Last Summer's Pickled Green Strawberries

Last Summer’s Pickled Green Strawberries with Iberico Lardo, Burrata, Picholine Olive Oil and Monticello Balsamic. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tistle Cheese 2.0

Here is a sneak peak at our new wild thistle cheese with spring artichokes, green garlic and asparagus. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Morro Bay Road Trip

Last week I took a trip down the coast to visit Neil from Morro Bay Oysters and check out his new holding tanks. With any luck the new tanks will be in place by next summer- which will enable him to harvest even after heavy rainfall. I love his Pacific Gold Oysters - which is a fitting name when you consider the sunset photos I took from his dock.