Monday, December 20, 2010

Sushi POP

Sushi Pop, located in the small town of Oviedo about 3-4 miles from the University of Central Florida, this place is this GEM! Sushi POP is a modern cooking inspired sushi restaurant; chef and owner Cantu and his Sous Chef Mike "Good Ol Boy" Gleason. I found about this place through Chef Windus and the reaction I got from him was I had to try it. The place sits maybe 75-90 people including the seats at the sushi bar, all the servers are dressed in weird "japan pop clothes" and on all the TVs they are playing Jap-Anime. Chef Mike came to the table and brought us an amuse which was a Pork Fried Rice ball with togarashi aioli and sliced kumquat. The soy sauce dispenser was interesting since I have seen these too many time in my tenure at bluezoo.
We ordered our drinks and I wanted the Hitachino Nest White, and my fiancee order one of their signature drinks which was the strawberry saketini; both drinks were amazing.

I had them bring out all of our food in course structure since I like to look, eat and reflect on what I have eaten. The first course came out which was there Oysters Rockefeller. Wianno Oysters, smoked Gouda, micro shiso, sea salt, toasted panko. If there was any dish that was weak, I feel it may have been this one, everything tasted great but to me just did not stand out compared to all the other things.

Next we had the Shishito Poppers which was Japanese sweet and hot peppers stuffed with cream cheese, bacon, chives and panko fried. These were really good, simple and delicious.
The next course was the Kurobuta tacos, braised pork belly, hoisin BBQ sauce, scallions, avocado and crisp greens. These were GREAT, the pork belly melted and everything paired perfectly with each other. I am a huge taco fan and could eat taco 3 times a week, but it would have to be these that I eat two of those three times!

My next course I forgot to take a picture and it was the dish chef mike brought us personally from his station. The Harvest Duck, with braised pumpkin, toasted marsh mellow foam, mushroom, and cranberry reduction. The dish tasted really good and everything fit well together. They sous vide the duck breast and slice it thin which is great but I think to add to the texture and the integrity of the dish a quick hard sear on the skin side would have been perfect. Overall solid dish though.
Now on to the dish that made the night for me, It's No Yolk.. Fresh Cubed Salmon tossed with lime juice, olive oil, shallots, Thai basil, a "sunny side up" egg of coconut milk and mango puree and seaweed rice crackers. This to me was the definition of a "Sexy Dish" The flavor of the salmon was refreshing and the "egg" just added to the depth of the flavor.

Of course we couldn't go to a sushi place without trying some of their signature rolls. The roll in the back is the Ceviche Roll: hamachi with avocado, tempura shallots, chipotle lime sauce, topped with flounder, siracha, micro cilantro and Hawaiian pink salt. The middle roll was the Choleste-Roll: bacon, avocado and creme fraiche, deep fried and topped with baked spicy conch, smelt roe, scallions and spicy mayo. The roll in the front was the Hot Mess: Smoked Salmon, avocado, and tempura flakes with maple soy, topped with baked tuna, salmon, yellow tail, flounder, spicy mayo, smelt roe, scallions and rendered bacon. I like the Hot mess, but i think my favorite was the ceviche roll.

AND for dessert we were stuffed as it is but whats going to a restaurant when you don't get dessert, and when you also don't have a choice in that matter. We got the Apple Fritters, 5 Spice apple fritters topped with cinnamon cream cheese, maple ginger ice cream and candied bacon. Tasted good the bacon was different but very enjoyable.
Great place, nice atmosphere, great food, hats off to Chef Mike and Chef Cantu. I definitely will be back in the near future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Housewife Recipe Website

The hotel has a recipe website designed to help housewives and parents have more creative ideas for dinner at home. Each year 12 people are picked in the hotel to create a dish and recipe card for 4-6 people. This year all the Sous Chefs were picked, so of course I was excited to create something for someone else; I mean isn't that what were in this business for? Naturally knowing a great deal about modern cooking I instantly starting thinking that way, but only to realize how unpractical that would be for the home cook. Since my new gig is being a Sous at an Italian restaurant I figured it would be good if I did a fresh pasta dish. I decided to make a Saffron Tagliatelle with marinated heirloom tomatoes, arugula, a smoked paprika/chorizo vinaigrette and Red Snapper.

I felt that this was a dish that could be made in a household setting, maybe not on a regular basis, but at least for a nice romantic dinner at home. I made some chorizo oil, and used that when I sweated out the olives, shallots and garlic for the vinaigrette. Covered with Orange juice, season and blend with oil; came out really nice orange color. I used the basic pasta dough recipe just cut in half, and added about 1 1/2 g of saffron threads. Overall I feel that it was a good dish, and anytime you feel your in competition with other chefs, you will give it your all no matter what!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hot Sauce.... The condiment I LOVE!

Hot Sauce in my opinion has to be the most versitile condiment on the planet. It ranges in spice, acidity, sweetness, color, and flavor, where ketchup and mustard in my opinion fall very short. Over the past couple of years I have taken it upon myself to collect as much different hot sauces from places I have visted and also to create some as well. Lets start with the basic American Hot Sauce found in any "chili heads" home: Franks Red Hot, simple light heat and basic chicken wing sauce.

Here is some Traditional Costa Rican Sauce I got from a trip. Chilero: strong acidic bite and good heat, Tabasco: there version of the American one, Salsa Criola: Costa Rica's traditional hot sauce, and Salsa Rica: which is just like A1 sauce.

Here is a Panamanian Hot Sauce: Abrupt spice, then mellow acidity that actually cuts the spice at the end bite.

Sticking with Latin Inspiried Hot Sauces here is a Hot Sauce I bought in Costa Maya, Mexico. Strong Habenero flavor, strong vinegar bite and the heat is alittle much; not really for the faint at heart.

A traditional Belize hot sauce which actually is my "Go-To" hot sauce at home. This goes on everything and I mean EVERYTHING! And then a picture of a traditional Puerto Rican Hot Sauce called Pique, I made at the job a while back.

Crossing the Pacific into Asian Hot Sauces. I have the most widely used Sriracha, Konzu (Korean Chili Hot Sauce/Paste) and then my Carrot Chili Sauce.

I will keep collecting and maybe in a year I will post a PART 2 to this post but until then keep making delicious sauce made from Chilis, vineagar, carrots, oranges; keeping putting these things to ferment in jars, bottles, clay pots, and tubs in and above the ground. After posting this I found a article on Yahoo about the world's new hot pepper, check it out!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ravenous Pig

Winter Park, FL; on the outskirts of downtown Orlando is another small city/town that's a world of its own. It is a nicer part of Orlando that I had never been too until recently. There many really nice restaurants and a pretty relaxing town that you could just walk in the autumn weather and enjoy. So I guess everybody I know has been to the Ravenous Pig except me, which naturally made me want to get there even more. I went last Saturday for lunch at around 12, and the place was already pretty full; and they had only been open for a half hour.

The Ravenous Pig is an American Gastropub which is the only one of its kind in Orlando, FL. You take Pub Food + C.I.A Grads + Nice Town = A great dining experience. All of their menu is about locally grown, sustainable, organic and fresh ingredients, which I am accustomed to already. The beers on tap and in bottle form are all from microbreweries around the country, NO BUD LIGHT HERE! I ordered the Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner, from New York. Light, Crisp and really Dry.

Just like any other chef, a new place means trying new things and the things you hear so much about. So we decided to get the Charcuterie plate with our beers as an app.
Chorizo, Soprasatta, Toscano, Pork Terrine, Ossau-iraty (sheep's milk cheese), pickled green tomatoes, grain mustard and grilled bread. Every bit of it was delicious, pork terrine had pistachios and apricots wrapped in bacon...Amazing!

For our entrees, my girl got the Irish Trout B.L.T which had sauce gribbich, roasted peppers, bacon, house made pickles and shoestring fries. The trout was extremly soft and juicy, they must have learned how to cook fish from Bluezoo!

I on the other hand got the award winning and heavily popular; Pub Burger... caramelized onions, buttermilk blue cheese, house made pickles, roasted peppers, shoestring fries as well. Simply put......BEST BURGER IN ORLANDO, FL!

Lunch for the two was $45, not bad for two micro brews, a charcuterie plate and two sandwiches which by the end we were stuffed. Ravenous Pig is a must go if your ever in the Orlando area, and if you know me personally call me when your going I am always up to go again.. and again.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Todd English Food and Wine Demo/Dinner

The yearly Todd English Epcot Food and Wine Demo/Dinner has come and gone again, and this time I went to the demo. This being my second time doing the event at Epcot I knew what to expect. Prep for the event and the dinner later that night have been extremely long and tiring. Working 10-12 hours shifts consecutively throughout the week have drained most of us at the job. Getting to Epcot early to make sure everything is ready to plate up while Chef Todd and Baxter are on stage in front of 100 people. When they say fire food, its crunch time and there is no turning back with 100 plates go out in a matter of minutes. The plates looked great, everything seasoned and cooked perfectly, no pressure just Todd's yearly 100 person demo at Epcot resting entirely on my shoulders.
Hawaiian Mero, spicy carrot air, parsnip puree, red and yellow beets, beet fluid gel, beet powder and crispy farro.

Baxter and Todd on stage after the food went out. Back to bluezoo for the Todd English dinner for 95 people, small reception before the dinner with little passed apps and drinks.

Peruvian Ceviche, tortilla strips, micro cilantro.

Foie Gras, huckleberry powder, huckleberry fluid gel, foccia breadcrumbs

This was the amuse for the dinner, Fried Oyster with Rockefeller flavors, mornay gel, bacon spinach puree, sous vide egg yolk and bacon powder.

The first course Hawaiian tuna, dashi noodles, avocado pudding, yuzu fluid gel, yuzu air, caviar.

Picking 1000 Nantucket Bay scallops in a 47 degree cooler is not the most fun thing in the world. The end result of my hard work was delicious though. Pumpkin agnolotti, candied pumpkin seeds, brown butter scallops, butternut squash puree.

Third Course which was Wild Stripe Bass, parsley root puree, parsley top puree, organic carrot, crispy farro and myer lemon vinagrette.

Waygu Tenderloin, porcini cream, agro dolce, artichoke-porcini ragout, shortrib mccaire potato.

The cheese course, Brillant Savarin, acacia honey brulee, concord grape gel, brioche. The dinner was awesome, great event, always a great opportunity to step out of the normal everyday 300 cover nights Bluezoo is used to. A chance for us to showcase what all of us at the restaurant are capable of and what type of food we can bring to the table in Orlando, Fl. This may be my last post from bluezoo since, I will be transfering to be a sous chef at Il Mulino NY Tratorria and will post about the restaurant in a couple of days.

ICA Dinner

The executive chef of the resort asked me to help him with a special VIP Chefs Table dinner for the International Catering Association. Of course I was generally excited because usually his VIP events are extremely nice plate ups and tons of tedious preparation beforehand, this event was no different. From bruniose truffles to tourne celery and hundreds of picked micro greens this event had it all.

This was the amuse for the dinner, Huckleberry Gel, braised Belgian endive quenelle, stone crab knuckle. I didn't get a picture of the 1st course which was a hamachi tartare with togarashi spice.

The second course was Foie Gras torchon, nitro foie, candied walnut, quince puree, candied beet, and beet/vanilla fluid gel. Toasted Brioche not shown.

The 3rd course was miso glazed grouper cheek, roasted salsify puree, beluga lentils, grilled pineapple, pineapple noodles, Korean chili/corn puree, and turnip rings.
I didn't get a opportunity to snap a picture of the fourth course which was Bacon wrapped Veal Tenderloin and sweetbreads. Overall an amazing event and great opportunity to be able to prep and cook with chefs that have worked all over the world. Being able to hear "This is perfect, this needs to be smaller, food is seasoned well, WE NEED TO MOVE FASTER", all those critiques is what develops cooks into chefs. As long as you always understand that it is ALWAYS about the food...