Friday, December 31, 2010

New menu, first month and it's highlights...

If you've been following along, you will no doubt remember that I was rolling out a new menu incorporating local and seasonal ingredients at the restaurant I work for, The Galway Hooker Irish Pub. When the new web site is up, I'll post a link. Well, having just past week four of this great project, it's time for a little reflection.

It took a few days of bumps and grinds, and continues to somewhat, to prefect it, but it's coming along nicely.

If I'm honest, rolling out a new menu of this magnitude for the first time in almost three years of this place during the busiest month of the year was probably not one of my finest choices culinarily, but I digress. My mentality was "Maximum Exposure" and I sure got it, lol. If I had waited a few weeks and rolled it out in January, I would have had less than half of the exposure and, besides, what fun would it be to roll out a menu during the SLOWEST month of the year, lol, I have to keep my boss on his toes, right? (Sorry Chris, didn't mean to stress you out, lol).

Week one was a little crazy. We had a celebrity comedian working the comedy zone upstairs and, well, it was a bit of a nightmare. Ticket times were horrible and, well, a few people were pissed off, including my staff and I. The only thing to do was to learn from it, prep more and be READY! And by the end of the week, we were. Nothing like a little embarrassment to get you motivated.

The next week went a lot smoother. As any decent chef would agree, it's all about mise en place or having your things in their place.

Fast-forward a couple weeks and my guys have a much stronger grasp on things. Shoot, some of these guys never saw a micro-green before in their life before they met me! lol. Aside from having to gently remind the boys how I want the plates to look, I think we've made huge head way in getting the new menu out.

This past week, we've been busier than I expected and the menu is getting rave reviews from just about everyone. Of course, there's always the one or two that just cant be satisfied no matter what (makes you wonder why they even leave the house, really) but I take them to a grain of salt and just try again when they come back.

I'll post a few pictures when I get them.

Sous Vide Demo for my local ACF Chapter

Having fell in love with the Poly Science sous vide machine carried by Williams-Sonoma, I've offered to demo the benefits of sous vide at the Charlotte chapter of the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

It has been a learning experience for my two helpers and myself, for sure. We all discovered that 12 ounces of marinade is enough to flavor over 40 pounds of meat! Pretty awesome. Also, I discovered a way to make amazing fried chicken to order without having to store raw chicken under my line cooks station and its probably the best fried chicken we ever ate!

Short ribs, well, I shouldn't have to tell you how good they are when you cook them low and slow for two days! No waste, no mess, wow.

During setup, I took a few pictures.

This small 12 ounce bottle was enough marinade to do 40 pounds of chicken legs, very impressive.

Hands-free cryo, nice to have when taking pictures, lol

Almost 50 pounds of short ribs, two cans of this great rub from Williams-Sonoma, seared, cryo'd and they took a 140F water bath for over 48 hours. We almost wept a little when we ate them. They even made their own jus, conveniently, which I mounted with some local butter, yummers.

Carrots that don't suck? Oh yes, I figured out a way and yeah, they were awesome. Maple and local butter glazed. They stayed bright orange and tasted like love. I swear, they were the best damned carrots we ever ate! Again, this small bottle of maple syrup was enough for all of this 25 pound batch of carrot bats. Yes, those are nobs of that local butter I keep yapping about.

We had a blast setting up for this event. We cryo'd almost 100 pounds of protein and over 50 pounds of carrots and local potatoes. That's a lot of bags. We used two vacuum machines and my poor little house model cryo machine kept over heating, lol, which slowed things down a little. Only took about 6 hours to rub, sear, pour, season and suck, lol.

[edit] just got the weather forecast, this demo was canceled until further notice. Sad to say, I was really looking forward to this. Well, I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

"Big Boss" of Raleigh, NC local cuisine beer dinner...

Great night tonight. We recently rolled out a new dinner menu using local and seasonal produce, cheeses and such and it's going well. People seem to be very receptive to our new and improved menu and ideas, which is a relief, to be honest. My ideas of great food is not always in keeping with OTHER peoples ideas of great food. To me, there's nothing like an unctuous pork belly sandwich or a rare steak simply seasoned with salt and pepper. Most folks, sadly, eat to live and have the palate of a small child.

Anyway, people are excited about our new dinner menu, which makes me excited.

In addition to our dinner crowd enjoying our new offerings, we ran an intimate beer dinner in our private banquet hall upstairs. Big Boss Brewers offered the beers and I came up with a menu based mostly on locally produced goods. My kinda food. Its easy to pair food with beer if you have access to the best of each.
My morning started off picking up some local micro greens at Lucky Leaf Gardens and then a load of locally grown produce at Barbee Farms. Earlier in the week Ashe County Cheese delivered some of their yummy-ness and a farm in Rutherfordton, NC sent us some quail eggs and mache. Awesome.

Menu was this:


Spicy Sage and Fennel Local Scotch Quail Egg with House-Made Whole Grain Mustard (passed)
Paired with: Blanco Diablo (Belgian Style Wit)


Roasted local pumpkin and toasted black pepper bisque topped with local pumpkin sprouts and pan-fried coriander pumpkin seeds
Paired with: Hell’s Belle (Belgian Style Ale)


Honey Cider Poached Local Apple, Baby Arugula; Ashe-County Crumbled Blue Cheese, Sweet Spicy Local Chestnuts, White Balsamic and IPA Vinaigrette, Parmesan Curls
Paired with: High Roller IPA

Main Course

Slow Braised Local Pork Belly with Roasted Local Root Vegetables, Wilted Local Greens and Bad Penny Pork Jus
Paired with: Bad Penny Brown Ale


Dark Chocolate and Roasted Apple Crème Brulee with Caramel and Apple Chip
Paired with: Aces and Ates (Coffee Stout)

Needless to say, everyone was a little drunk when they left but they all had a blast. Unfortunately, no one had the fore-site to take pictures and I just didn't think to. You'll just have to make sure you come to the next one to see how things look! :)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Chef's to School Program and my journey with Davidson Schools, continued...

Today during our current "Chefs move to schools" project, we discussed healthy alternative ingredients in baked goods. The 8 students picked out three baked items and I replaced or added an ingredient in the food with a healthy alternative.

Chocolate Chip Blondies where I added sweet potatoes, apple crumble where I used whole wheat flour and oats in the crumb topping and corn bread where I added a little butternut squash. All were yummy and a little healthier than their alternatives.

A great time was, again, had by all. We all enjoyed eating our subject material the best, I think.