link to dinner menu here:
The planning behind my meals generally supports to one goal: to provide the highest quality ingredients [with the vast majority mainly] from the wild, in order for others to have a greater connection with Earth. Whether foraged or hunted or from the water, the quality of the ingredient is incredibly high, and 99% of the time, cannot be duplicated in a restaurant. The keys to the high quality ingredient are 4 fold IMO. 1) From a Good Area 2) captured humanely 3)processed well 4)prepared correctly.
I’m sure the above invokes some questions: What do you mean
From a Good Area? Diet and location of the animal is directly related to the taste of the animal. I like Sea Urchins that are below 35 ft of water, that live in cooler waters, and live around kelp. Sea Urchins also populate rocky areas, but if their diets do not consist of kelp, you can still taste the freshness of the ingredient, but they are bitter. If hunting shellfish from offshore Catalina Island, or shellfish from the Long Beach Breakwater where lots of boats pass in and out in oily water, well, I guess when you cook you don’t have to add olive oil 😉 But the taste is dirtier.
Captured humanely? What I mean by this is having an ethical capture, a high percentage shot that allows the animal to be captured with minimal suffering. If you want to eat meat, or shellfish, or fish (and possibly plants?) Something has to die. I want the full control over my fish for instance, so I know how the fish was handled, where it came from, how long it was before it was placed on ice, and so on. Are these questions important? Maybe, maybe not, but if you don’t know where your food comes from, how do you know there weren’t thousands of flies laying maggots on top of your rotting fish that sat in a barrel of a Panga(small fishing boat) in 105 degree weather for 12 hours before it was cleaned on a dirty fish board? Now is the control important?
Processed well? Animals have parasites, and if you don’t bleed them quickly, and gut them, the parasites can move from the stomach where they inhabit into the nearby flesh. For fish, what I mean is bleeding them quickly (a snip in the gills, a spike to the brain, and a small incision at the tail allows the blood to be cleansed out of the flesh. Japanese call this Ike Jime. For animals, hanging can extract a lot of the blood/gamy, or iron-y flavor from the meat.
Prepared correctly? Each ingredient is different from its farm raised counterpart; generally the wild animals or fish have a stronger, more genuine taste; what I mean by this is ever heard the phrase it “tastes like chicken?” Which to me means, has no taste, and picks up any flavor that you put on it. The scallops of the west coast, when 2 days or fresher, have a very firm texture that to me doesn’t make for good searing. The inside becomes rubbery very fast, and is ideal in a ceviche, or raw with a little acid and salt. The mallard ducks have a very ducky flavor, but lack fat. So the lack of fat can be compensated for by confiting them, or cooked very rare.
The particular dinner was very fun, because it featured wild boar cured meats, from 2 months ago (it took ~ 1.5 months to cure). I wanted to focus on light wines to progressively heavier, but not losing sight of the integrity of the ingredients. Anyone who eats without tasting wine is missing out. Can you enjoy cookies to their full satisfaction without milk?
I have some ideas about what I want to capture, then I go by what the sea or land provides. e.g. I’ll go hunting Yellowtail, but if I come across a white seabass, I would take that home if given the opportunity 🙂 I’ll look for scallops, but if the sea urchins look like they are bulging, healthy, and fat, why not? Or if the scorpionfish looks particularly delicious, may go through the hassle and danger of catching them to make a fish pasta.
It just so happens the Urchins looked good, the fish were my choice catches (Sargo & Calico), both which have a distinct flavor and texture, the latter needing to be cooked delicately since it toughens and overcooks quickly.
Here is a cursory glance of the general thought process behind a dinner (written during the day, forgive me for not having wine)
my refrigerator from above, cured meats, Sea Urchin, beef braise
Australian wagyu short rib
few days of not shaving, the distributor wanted me to use their beautiful Maine Lobsters as part of the dinner. It was a very cool facility – the largest Maine lobster distributorship of the west coast at 5am (required to wear a shmock? cape? what do you call it)
Eat something good. Your body will thank you.