(late april. number 17.)
This Secret Restaurant was a continuation of the "o wow, spring might actually be happening" theme of our earlier April dinner, as well as a chance to try to some ideas for dishes and drinks that we'd had floating around for a while. Then we packaged it all in vaguely Scandinavian manner.
Douglas Fir Acquavit
Douglas Fir Tip tea from Juniper Ridge, brewed super strong, then cooled with cold water and simple syrup. Then an enormous quantity of Monopolowa Austrian potato vodka infused in the sun with more tip tea.
Stuffed morel, Sprouting tart
These morels from southern Oregon were a prime find at market. We stuffed them with a chévre mixture using Little Goat Dairy By The River cheese, Oregon black truffle, and chives from my garden (the only usable thing coming up yet). They were plugged closed with caps trimmed off of crimini mushrooms. They were given a covered baking, basted sporadically, and then finished under the broiler.
The tarts were made with purple kale raab, cooked up with slices of garlic that went delightfully pink. They were wrapped in filo pastry to resemble bouquets of flowers wrapped in paper. They were presented with their own flowers.
A sauce made with local new rhubarb was dotted around the plates.
Cauliflower soup, Country bread
Inspired by a soup Aria and I ate at Chez Panisse the previous month.
I tried out a couple versions before landing on the one we served, which was: cauliflower florets blanched in a shallow pan with lemon juice in the water to help them retain stark whiteness, blitzed, then worked back into the pot with a touch of a butter and parmesan/onion white sauce. Somehow the mild flavor of the cauliflower intensifies overnight. It was then chilled and served with gory slices of blood orange and fresh marjoram.
The bread was baked by me using natural leaven, as instructed in (and with all due credit to) the book by Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread.
THE LONG BACK STORY:
The first time I ate this bread was in late January of 2008. I was living in San Francisco, doing an internship in the Mission District, and had started to go to Tartine Bakery daily for coffee and sometimes the expensive-but-o-so-worth it pastries. (Look below, for another gallery of lovely film photos of Tartine!)
One day I noticed someone eating a sandwich on what looked liked insanely good bread, and felt compelled to ask if they sold that bread. At that time there was no indication of this on the menu. It was like a scene from a movie- the guy looked around shiftily, leaned over the counter, and said in a hushed voice "Yeah, we sell the bread. Do you want your name on the list?" I nodded. "Come back between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. today. Don't be late." He took my money and I left in a daze. When I returned, I found a line out into the street. Its primary queue members were a plethora of well dressed gay men accompanied by their partners, dogs, or both, with bottles of wine and wedges of cheese from Bi-Rite around the corner. Eventually I got my bread. It's size boggled my mind. I tore into it right there on the sidewalk. A huge cloud of steam hit me in the face. It was the best thing I'd ever smelled or tasted. This still probably is my #1 food moment of all time. I took it on the MUNI light rail car all the way home to the Outer Sunset district, and noticed the eager glances and coyly upturned noses of my fellow passengers. I spent the last half hour of sunlight outside in the little courtyard by my apartment's door, eating the bread with mushroom paté and sipping creamy pale ale.
Anyway, 3 years later, I was reunited with this loaf when seeing its image emblazoned on the cover of Robertson's book, and made 2011 the year to learn how to make bread. I've been working at it for a month or so, and this was the first attempt at serving it. I'm planning to make bread regularly for Secret Restaurant now, so wish me luck with that!
We served slices in baskets, hot, and passed around butter– the idea was to dip the the steaming bread into the cold soup.
Cooked till tender and then cooled yellow chard stalks and a toss of braising mix worked together with large, flat leafed arugula, watercress, and spinach massaged with lemon. A homemade blueberry vinaigrette (cold) and drizzled over, along with a crimini mushroom normandy dressing (warm).
Tandoori smoked salmon, Crispy salmon skin, Rårakor, Horseradish Créme Fraîche
Inspired by Marcus Sammuelson's Aquavit cookbook (as was the general Swedish Nouvelle Cuisine thing for the whole meal), we made our own tandoori spice blend, rubbed it on the salmon, and smoked that shit improv-style with a grill sitting in the fire pit outside. It was served with a mint chutney made with our own backyard mint!
The salmon skins were cut off early, marinated, and then baked until crisp and turned into little chips that went on the plates.
Rårakor is a Swedish Jewish-style potato pancake. Nothing but Yukon Gold potatoes, some celery salt, a beautiful spring onion, butter, and oil. Served with a fresh horseradish créme fraîche of our own concoction.
Slices of delectable fresh pineapple adorned the plates. We served this course with an elderflower cordial made by Aria that afternoon.
Pulla & mokka
Pulla is a finnish cardamom pastry designed to be eaten with coffee. I discovered it through trying one at Heart– maybe the best coffee in the world, near the school where I teach. Having never seen it anywhere else, I asked about it afterwards. The owner is Finnish, and I guess this a common thing there. Initially my mind was blown (the taste of cardamom pods bursting with hot coffee and thick pastry is unusual and exciting), but then I watched the pulla get progressively worse as they tried to mess with the recipe, and now it seems that they no longer do.
I set about researching it, using everything from recipes published in books to unintelligible translated-from-the-Finnish internet recipes. With the help of Aria and her Finnish-via-the-midwest mom, I made a first batch a few months ago that came out pretty well. Since then I've been making them every week or so and this was a stellar batch.
Served with tiny mokkas made from Espresso Roma (served at our 'Pastoral Brunch' and used for the coffee ice cream at New Year's) beans through stovetop mokka pots, with intense chocolate sauce and frothed cream.
Photographs of the dinner and prep were taken by Andrew Barton and Aria Mikkola-Sears. All 35mm prints by Aria Mikkola-Sears.