Hello y’all! I can’t believe that I haven’t posted anything on the old blog since August 2010. I’m ashamed, I’m appalled, I’m sorry and I’m determined not to neglect Chef’s Night Out in 2011. I’ve got a list of excuses a mile long, justifying my blog abuse, but we all know excuses are “a big bag of crap.” Yeah, I’ve been super busy with work, but I’ve also been enjoying my down time and living “La Vida Loca” every chance I get. 2010 was a great year, but I expect 2011 to be an even better year, both professionally and personally, with lots of cool and interesting things “in the mix.” Hopefully, I will stay current with my blog posts and keep y’all in the loop.
Well let’s see, where do I start? How about I work backwards? January has been a blast so far. I got a wicked surprise last week, when out of the blue, I received a Fed Ex package from David Chang of the Momofuku Restaurant Group. So I’m doing MEP in the kitchen, I’m literally covered in a big ass Brooks Peninsula ling cod, when “Sales Mix” and “KDub” come into the kitchen, with this “gift from the gods.” Momofuku Milk Bar overnighted a Frankenpie to Steveston, for me and the staff at Tapenade Bistro to enjoy. Long story short, it was awesome. Love the crack pie and the candy bar pie and thank you David Chang for the thoughtful and generous gift. My staff absolutely loved it!
We also just got back from a recent three-day trip to Whistler. Since before “Jazzy’s” birth, “Monk” hasn’t touched her snowboard in 2+ years. I’ve cut back my skiing significantly (no fun when “Monk” can’t come), but we decided to go for a quick trip and try to take advantage of this window of opportunity. We brought “Hair by Lena”, “Monk’s” sister as our make-believe domestic/au pair. We paid her in premium liquor, gourmet food and an adjoining room in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. While she watched our little monkey, we attacked Blackcomb with serious fervor and a mildly heavy conscience. We’re hands on parents and spend a lot time with “Jazzy”, so it was a little sad, when she stared at us, knowing something was up, as we snuck out of the room that morning. Well, conscience aside, we had lots of fun, lots of great wine and food and hopefully we can get back on the slopes in the not too distant future.
Tapenade Bistro has been rocking and rolling along. The Christmas push was intense and then on Dec. 28, Tapenade Bistro was featured on Groupon Vancouver. We sold 1520 Groupons, which translates to possibly 3000 extra people visiting the restaurant in the next 4 months. Yowza! Traditionally, January is a slower time of the year around Steveston, but we are going like gangbusters and working extremely hard to maintain our standard and keep up with the volume. My kitchen team (pirate crew) is stronger than ever with “Great Wall”, “Boomer,” “Momo” and “Godfather” all in the mix. Despite all the haute food we cook, poutine has recently become a hobby of mine. The popularity of our poutine features is shocking and the recent “Le Poutine Royale” I featured last weekend was a big hit. Kennebec pommes frites, duck confit, seared foie gras, 63 degree eggs, cave aged Gruyere, duck and pinot noir jus, truffled hollandaise sauce. It’s sounds like a heart attack in a bowl, but in reality, it’s surprisingly well-balanced, not overly heavy and is a super tasty treat. Trust me, we ate one after service with a generous tranche of foie gras. I think “Sales Mix” and I should seriously consider opening an upscale poutine and burger joint in Steveston. A fantastic burger is a rare treat and combined with comforting poutine, how can we go wrong. I’ve received more feedback about our fancy poutine than any other feature I’ve done in all these years! Forget about spot prawns, morels, local asparagus; everyone just wants poutine. We’re also about to kick off our Tapenade Winemaker’s dinner series in two weeks and Mission Hill, Nichol Vineyards, Tinhorn Creek and La Frenz are going to be featured. These wine dinners always sell out and are a fantastic evening of fun people, tasty food and beautiful wine. Other news, Tapenade Bistro was recently featured on the Steveston episode of Flavours of the West Coast and I cooked a halibut dish from the summer menu. Check it out, but please, no fat jokes. “I’m feeling exceptionally sensitive these days.”
On a more serious note, I recently joined the Board of Directors of the Richmond Schoolyard Society, previously the Terra Nova Schoolyard Society. You might have heard of Chefs to the Field, which has been the annual marquis fundraising event of the society. Well, after a year’s hiatus, I’m excited to announce that Chefs to the Field is back for 2011, bigger and better than ever! I’ve been a big supporter of this cause for many years and it is a great opportunity for me to get involved and give back to the community. Teaching our kids where food comes from is a priority of mine and I feel that the Richmond Schoolyard Society is an amazing program with huge potential. Ever since “Jazzy” was born, promoting sustainable, responsible, local and natural foods have been a personal priority. Protecting our planet for the next generation and ensuring they know the truth about food and how it affects their lives; it’s a big deal and our eventual goal is to get our educational programs into every Richmond school. Kids + gardens + healthy food = healthier communities.
Back in November, “Monk,” “Jazzy” and I went on vacation to Scottsdale, Arizona. While there, we stayed at the amazing Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and had an absolute blast. Our Casita was perfect, the property was amazing and even though I didn’t play any golf, it was a perfect vacation. Weather was gorgeous, the sights were so cool and the food, particularly the South Western/Mexican food was unbelievable. La Hacienda, by Richard Sandoval is a restaurant on the hotel property and we ate there 3 times during our stay. The table side guacamole, the lobster tacitos, the suckling pig tacos, the tres leches cake, the churros and the chile infused margaritas! Yowza! Unbelievable food and service and those flavours are still so vivid in my brain. I would probably say that the flavors at La Hacienda was the most memorable food for me in 2010. Outstanding!
As far as eating out is concerned, we’ve been eating out our fair share, but mainly at our usual haunts. Lots of sushi, lots of noodles, but not that much fine dining per se. “Jazzy’s” inability to sit patiently for prolonged periods of time, keeps us from attempting too many grand meals. To be quite honest with you, I’m not terribly interested in long drawn out meals either these days. Don’t get me wrong; I still love well orchestrated tasting menus, but only now and again. These days, I just want properly seasoned, nice ingredients, cooked with good technique, by people who care. Is that asking too much? There’s been a lot of buzz about recent restaurant closures and the bleak outlook for 2011, but that’s the restaurant business in a nutshell. The restaurant business is a tough one and 2011 will definitely bring unique challenges. I recently had lunch at Meat and Bread and enjoyed it thoroughly. I dig the simplicity and “Jazzy” loved the porchetta. I’m impressed by people who have the confidence to do relatively little, but do it very well. I’m also looking forward to checking out L’Abbatoir and the newly rebranded Nu Restaurant soon, but there are only so many meals in my day. I have a few dinner meetings coming up in the next few weeks, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to check them out.
So, that’s about it. In the words of an “old cookie bear friend of mine”, I’m just “living life and loving it”. Damn it, I still don’t know where the quotation marks go. But seriously, I’m living by my creedo of working very hard, but playing just as hard. I’ll be back soon, with a couple new stories. I feel the need to write and it’s good therapy for my “mile a minute brain.” I promise, but until then, eat well.