Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Keg Wines

In 2011 we installed a keg system at Park Kitchen. We already have beer on tap, and decided it was time to try having kegged wines as well. Living so close to wine country is a beautiful thing. Not only are we able to have close relationships with the people who grow, produce, and sell wines to us, but we are also able to directly ask them things like "would you be willing to put some of that Pinot Gris in a keg?". If we weren't so close to the source, I don't imagine this would be easy.
There are many reasons why having wine on tap makes sense for us. We can serve better wine at a lower cost, every glass tastes the same (no oxidation), there is less waste, less glass to be recycled, the kegs are re-usable, and it pushes us to reach out to wine makers and talk about this crazy new system. Community building experiences, here we come!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Celebration

December is an exciting time at the restaurant. Family gatherings and company parties are festive and lively, and being surrounded by people having a good time and celebrating the season makes it rewarding. Of course, we will also have our own company party after the hustle and bustle of this month has past. Throughout the holidays, our dining room has been adorned with a 12 liter wine bottle, which is the equivalent of one and a half cases of wine. This bottle will be opened for the annual Park Kitchen holiday party, and the staff will certainly drink it in holiday style.

The French have a long-standing tradition of bottling wine and champagne in large bottles. The bottles themselves are given the names of biblical kings and figures from antiquity. A 3 liter bottle is called a Jeroboam, a 12 liter bottle is a Balthazar, a 15 liter bottle is a Nebuchadnezzar, and a 30 liter bottle (though I've never seen one) is a Melchizedek. These bottles are so large that they usually require a special pendulum to pour it without spilling. Opening this kind of a bottle would naturally be a festive occasion!!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Chanterelle Vodka

Ever since I moved to the Northwest, I have loved foraging for wild greens and mushrooms, and I can usually find an adventurous companion to venture out with me. Nic Petersen is as much of a lover of the great outdoors as I am. On a recent outing, we gathered an abundance of chanterelles for Park Kitchen. Mine went toward several dishes on the fall menu. Nic's went toward a new cocktail for the bar. It has become a fall tradition to infuse vodka with chanterelles for the Park Kitchen cocktail menu. Simply clean and tear the mushrooms into strips and cover with vodka for about two weeks. At first, the chanterelles will cover the bottom of the jar, but eventually, as they absorb the alcohol and become more buoyant, they will float to the top. Once you begin to see the golden color dispursing into the vodka, and the aroma opening up, strain and discard the mushrooms, making sure to press all the alcohol from them.

Nic created this year's chanterelle cocktail, a delicious concoction of the chanterelle vodka with Lillet Blanc, Cocchi Americano and a delicate touch of lemon. Cocchi Americano is an Italian aperitif blending Moscato with herbs and spices, notably cinchona, gentian and citrus. The elements combine as a fragrant, pale golden elixir appropriately named "The Forager." Whether you are a mushroom enthusiast or just like something delicious to sip on, this is an elegant cocktail. Once the vodka is gone, you'll have to wait until next fall.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Knives of Park Kitchen

This week we hung a painting by Reid Psaltis on our wall. It is a portrait of kitchen knives used every day by our team. As such, it seemed only right that the painting hangs facing the kitchen, so it is in view from the space where we spend most of our time.

Every professional kitchen will have a selection of cutlery that reflects the personality of the restaurant. Some kitchens are devoutly European about stainless steel knives, while others have become fanatical about Japanese carbon steel blades. The Park Kitchen team carries a diverse collection of knives, with many different brands and styles represented, much like the staff that wields them.

Of course, with our open kitchen, our work is on display every night. Now our knives are on display as well.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Private Events at Park Kitchen

Although our private dining room is a popular location for special occasions, business meetings and wine dinners, today a small wren found an opening in the schedule and decided to host it's own special luncheon. It flew in without even calling ahead or filling out a contract (you can forget about a deposit!!!) and made itself comfortable amongst the fresh flower arrangements and basked in the green afternoon light. 
We know a lot of you miss lunch here at Park Kitchen, but this bird took it to the next level by demanding a meal even though we were technically closed. We could not say no to this bird and it's tiny beak! Nic and David thoughtfully plated up a simple lunch of sunflower seeds scattered on Japanese ceramic for a pleasing visual presentation. The bird left the silverware unused, though this will not have been the first lunch eaten around here without the fuss of utensils. 

I am relieved to report that the room is again available and open for private events big and small. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green Strawberries

What is the idea behind using unripe strawberries, you might ask? Indeed, that is the question my farmers were asking two years ago, when I first started asking them to pick their strawberries after they had fully grown, but before they could ripen into the familiar red jewels so widely known and loved. I first asked Leslie of Viridian Farms and Dave of Creative Growers. I remember being tickled by Dave's response, "What the hell are you gonna do with that?" Not entirely sure myself, I answered, "Think of it as an early gooseberry."

Guided by the beloved tradition of using green tomatoes at the end of the season, and making verjus from the unfermented juice of unripe grapes, it seemed to me there must be some virtue to unripe strawberries in the days leading up to the summer solstice.

Last year, the green strawberries were glazed in a piquant gastrique and served with duck breast, toasted buckwheat and chard. This year, they are gently poached and pickled in a chilled squid salad, with raw kolrabi and agretti (a crunchy green plant of Italian origin). The salad is dressed with lemon, buttermilk and arugula oil. It is a nice composition of green and white, with textures both crisp and supple.

Come try it soon, as green strawberries don't stay green for long.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Composed Cheese Plate

Of the many outstanding Swiss cheeses, there is a special place in my heart for the Tete de Moine. Typically, mountain cheeses are made in large wheels of twelve pounds or more. The Tete de Moine is a small wheel, less than two pounds, made of raw cow's milk, and typically aged two to three months. It's name means "monk's head," and refers to the cheese's resemblance to the shorn heads of the abbey brethren after the first slice has been removed. Today, it is produced by cooperatives surrounding the town of Bellelay, and is sometimes called by that name.

The Swiss have a penchant for gadgetry, which is probably why I am so fond of their customs and traditions. A devise called a girolle is used specifically to cut this cheese into beautiful, thin ruffles. The cheese has a sharp and intense flavor, quite nutty and salty, with sweet fruity notes, so these light curls of cheese are an appropriate means of approaching it without being overwhelmed. I thought this unique appearance would be the perfect way to start serving a composed cheese plate.

Taking advantage of the early spring shoots and wild herbs, I thought it would be fun to imitate the mountain pastures where this cheese originated. The base of the dish is made of crumbled honey walnut cake, which is then covered with an assortment of foraged greens, wood sorrel, lemon balm, watercress, wood violets, miner's lettuces and dressed with a sherry walnut vinaigrette. A few florets of cow's milk cheese and some fried strips of salsify for crunch, and a pastoral pleasure is ready to serve.

Great cheeses deserve great accompaniments. Come try it this spring,