Monday, March 22, 2010

My visit to Creekside Acres Farm

So, in my hunt for chicks, bunnies and/ or ducklings for the kids to pet during our upcoming Easter Egg Hunt, a friend told me about Creekside Acres Farm in New Salem, NC. Though they didn't have any animals for me to borrow, they did mention on their web site that they sell duck eggs! Curious, I've never had one nor have I ever cooked with them. I just had to buy some!

Being a short 30 minute drive, deep into the country from my house, I was greeted by two HUGE, gorgeous Labrador Retrievers doing their jobs and barking at me, wondering what the deal was! They were sweet hearts. A perfect addition to the clucking red chickens roaming all over, the lovely Jersey Cows, the farm cats and, of course, the ducks. There were a few baby goats (kids) roaming around too, just an amazing place. So peaceful and charming.

I was greeted by Kathy and John, down to earth and hard working folks that were just really into what they were doing. I mean, they seem to be living the dream. I was a little envious, to be honest, lol.

So, I scooped up a few dozen duck eggs, a few of those awesome jumbo chicken eggs, some lamb and I was on my way. I plan to play around with the eggs, maybe put a few on special this week, make a dessert, or whatever. Whatever I end up doing with them, I hope the diners will love them.

A couple pictures for your enjoyment;

A few Jersey Cows, beautiful girls!

The chickens run wild! :)

The little store that sells the food. They even have an old out-house around the back like in the old days, lol, awesome.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Organic garden project

For those of you that may or may not know this, I'm a huge fan of fresh produce. This year, in addition to buying from a few local farmers in the area, I've decided to plant a small organic garden here at the back door of the kitchen. Since I don't have the time or patience to grow everything from seed, I've decided to buy from an organic farmer who sells the seedlings you can plant right in the ground. Mary Roberts at Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC has everything I need.

After spending two long hours pulling up old herb growth, weeds and sticks, one of the greens and grounds guys tilled in some worm castings into the already pretty loamy, dark, rich soil. The other day, I planted the early crops. Broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, chives and parsley are in. Soon, there will be a good bit more. I will keep you informed of my progress.

Here are a few pics to get you started:

Another successful wine dinner using local ingredients

Last night we had an intimate wine dinner for 12 lucky club members. The majority of the food came from local sources including Barbee Farms and a few other farmers from North Carolina. (Burnesville, Rutherfordton, and the like).

I turned it into a "Good Bye to the Cold Months of Fall/ Winter and Hello to the Warmer Months of Spring and Summer" themed menu. From fresh Ahi tuna to root vegetables to pork, I think it went off well, especially with all the wines that were matched with the food.

We started the evening off with a tiny amuse bouche of seared Ahi Tuna. My new sous-chef discovered a cool trick to keep the tuna very rare without over-searing such a small piece of protein. He took our propane torch (you know, the one's used for toasting creme brulee and lighting stubborn gas burners, lol) and lightly browned the outsides of the fish. The results were a nice rare center with cooked color around the edges. Check out the pics below.

We served the lightly seasoned tuna on tiny plates over a ponzu vinaigrette and garnished with local micro-mesclun mix. Less than two bites, was perfect.

Next course, the Starter, was a giant U-10 dry packed scallop wrapped in a really high quality prosciutto ham, scored and seared on a rocket-hot pan and finished to medium/ medium rare. That was served on an orange marmalade beurre blanc made with my moms home-made marmalade, whoa! Too good. The combination of that slightly bitter-sweet marmalade with the butter and meaty saltiness of the scallops and ham were a perfect combination.

Next course, the Soup course, was a trinity of root vegetable purees. We simmered beets, carrots and parsnips in separate batches until tender, seasoned them slightly and pureed them until very smooth (or smoot if your last name begins with "La" or "Le" and you have a French Canadian accent, lol). We then poured each puree on top of each other forming a bulls eye shape, garnished it with fresh herbs and more micro greens. A splash of truffle oil and... yeah, it was awesome.

The "Intermezzo" course was a white fig/ apple butter on warm baguette. I sous-vide some dried white figs in a little port, some fresh thyme, orange zest, a pinch of salt and some local honey for a few hours until they just fell apart into their own jam consistency. I took that and some fig reduction and blended them up into a paste and whipped them into some unsalted butter. Served that with an amazing baguette. What can I say, I'm a sucker for bread and butter :).

Salad course was a simple local greens and garden veg salad with a whole-citrus vinaigrette inspired by one the few FN chefs I admire, Michael Chiarelli.

Main course; Pork-Three-Ways. Crisp/ fatty pork belly (slow cooked for hours and seared until the skin was crispy, like a bad-ass pork rind), pulled pork lumpia and pepper crusted pork tenderloin. Each pork item had its own accompanying sauce. I think I gave everyone high blood pressure, lol.

Dessert course; Chocolate Pot De Creme with a cinnamon chip I made using bagels (spritz of clarified butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar, baked in between two sil-pats for about 8 minutes at 350F), topped with whipped cream and house-made caramel sauce.

The entire meal went off perfectly. Everyone was stuffed and happily buzzed when they left. Feels good to make people so happy with our food.

Check out the pictures and the official menu complete with wine pairings.

Amuse Bouche Course

Starter Course

Soup Course

Salad Course

Main Course

Amuse Bouche
Pan-seared Ahi Tuna with Ponzu Vinaigrette and Micro Greens
Paired with: Tangley Oaks Chardonnay

Pan-seared Diver Scallop wrapped in Prosciutto Ham with an
Orange Marmalade Beurre Blanc
Paired with: Sean Minor Pinot Noir

Root Vegetable Trinity with Fresh Herbs and Truffle oil
Paired with: Acre Cabernet Sauvignon

Barbee Farms Local greens with garden vegetables and Citrus Vinaigrette
Paired with: Acre Cabernet Sauvignon

Main Course
Pork 3-ways: Crisp Belly with Cola Gastrique, Hawaiian Pulled Pork
Lumpia with Eastern-style Vinaigrette, Marinated Tenderloin Au-poivre with Apple Reduction
Paired with: Murphy Goode Liars’Dice Zinfandel


Pot de Crème with Caramel Sauce and Cinnamon Chip
Paired with: Capasaldo Prosecco

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Spring is coming! Getting excited about the season...

As some of you may know, I'm a huge fan of using local produce and supporting local farmers. When at all possible, and during the seasons, I try to cook with food items from within just a few miles from here. Not only does it support the local economy, but it puts a face on the food I buy as well as insures the diners get nothing but the freshest food possible! It blows me away to see how excited people get when they find out they are eating a radish from 10 miles away!

Before planning this springs menu, I got a private tour from a local farmer we use quite a bit. Brent from Barbee Farms in Concord, NC drove me around in his golf cart through the 25 plus acres of farmland. We discussed what they are going to plant this year and giving me tips on the small garden we are planting at the club in a few weeks. (Actually, broccoli, cauliflower and cilantro is going in the ground next week!! I'M PUMPED! More on that later...)

Their web site reads: "The farm currently consists of approximately 25 acres of fresh vegetables, approximately three acres of fruit trees, and 40 additional acres in corn, barley, and soybeans for rotational purposes." Needless to say, we have plenty to chose from this season. I have big plans for the new menu and I cant wait to share this wonderful stuff with the members and my staff! I know they will all be excited to play around with it.

In addition to working with the Barbee family, I will also continue to work with Denise Smart with Nise's Herbs out of Locust, NC. She and her family are just a few miles up the road. She sells some of the best heirloom tomatoes, white figs and hot peppers I've ever had!

Moving forward, we just received our first small order from the Farmers Fresh Market run by the Foothills Connect Project. According to their web site, they are "a virtual "Farmers Market" linking growers, chefs, and individual buyers. Once orders are placed online, local growers process them, and we deliver them - picked and shipped within 24 hours!" It's pretty amazing. With my busy schedule, it saves me from having to make any extra trips to the farmers markets. Although, I still will on occasion, just dont have to so often.

Wow, between the garden we are planting on premises and the tons of access I'll have to local farmers and producers, our new menus are gonna ROCK (more than usual, lol).

Stay tuned...

Tomatoes getting ready for the upcoming season. This pic was taken Friday. Looks like they'll have tomatoes mid-April! :)

Strawberries in the winter? (evil grin) can't wait to grab some of these soon. I ate one, yes, they are good. :)