August 2017 Full Moon Dinner – Crucian Collaboration #1

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When I went to St. Croix for their annual Taste of St. Croix this year, http://tasteofstcroix.com/ I was once again taken aback by the level of talent that the chefs there have on the regular, as well as the relationships that they cultivate with the local farmers. The agriculture community on Twin Cities is very in touch with the culinary world, and the final result is a food scene that is mature and robust.

While we do have our maintain our own garden next to the kitchen, have an organic farm in Coral Bay, and work with local fishing charters for product, the variety of locally sourced ingredients on St. Croix simply eclipses what we have on St. John.

As I was sitting at breakfast with other guest judges and one of the main organizers and producers of the event, Jane Watkins, and was expressing my jealousy of the chefs on our sister island having such abundant access to locally grown produce, she suggested that I try to find a way to collaborate with some of the passionate restaurateurs and chefs there. So I took her suggestion.

It has taken some time to organize, but this month, we welcomed our first guest chef of what we hope is many. Ryan Bennett is a former co-worker of one of our chefs, Vince Alterio, from back in their Chicago days, and has the culinary background to stand up with the best of them, including time working in some premier restaurants in Chicago, such as Gather and Graham Elliot before moving to St. Croix.

He is currently at Brew STX, an establishment not necessarily known for fine dining, but Ryan designed a menu that was both eclectic and familiar at the same time. We joined forces with Paul Kessock at Bellows International to pair a trio of Rose’s with the courses.

August’s menu was 90-95% locally-sourced and featured Caribbean-inspired flavors.  Here’s what our guests had to look forward to:

Sofrito Shellfish Consommé: Butter Sauce Conch / Avocado Puree / Salt Fish Lavash / Pickled Green Papaya / Fresh Racao

Pairing: Miraval Rose’

Roast Goat Roti: Crispy Roti /Tender Goat / Sweet Potato Puree & Chip / Mint / Turmeric / Coconut Rice

Pairing: Montes Cherub Rose’

Fruit: Mango ice cream / Pineapple Johnny Cake / Coconut Crunch / Lemongrass Gastrique / Basil / Crispy Plantain

Pairing: Josh Cellars Rose’

In addition, Chef Ryan and Chef Vince treated our patrons to some “one-bite” amuse bouche style plates.  This was the first time I got to attend as a guest, and although I won’t divulge what those one-bites were, I can tell you they were delicious!  OK, I may have had some wine and can’t remember properly at this time, so instead I will distract you with pictures of food.

The soup course was meticulously plated prior to being dropped in front of the customers.  The broth was a concoction of Thai Basil Tea and Habanera Peppers, and was poured table side from French presses after the bowls were set down.

Chef Ryan sourced out locally made roti shells on St. Croix, and chose to plate with braised local goat, sweet potato (two ways: chip and puree), mint, turmeric, and coconut rice.  All of the guests completed decimated their plates.

 

“Fruit” dessert: As promised, a combination of tropical flavors that seemed to explode on the plate, as well as on the palate.

We look forward to welcoming Chef Frank Robinson, a St. Croix native, in November for the second in our Collaboration Series.

Special thanks to St. John Inn for housing our guest chefs and providing a special rate for anyone wishing to stay the night and attend one of our dinners.  Check them out here: http://www.stjohninn.com/?gclid=CKO144bo8NUCFUxahgod9ckDAA

September’s dinner will be around the Harvest Moon and feature foods from the Great Midwest.  Friday, September 8th, so call us to reserve early!  340-777-5464.

 

 

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June 2017 Full Moon Dinner – I Bahn Heh

Chefs: Mathayom Vacharat, Vincent Alterio, Patrick Ryan

Gardner: Mathew Gibney

The Crucian Dictionary defines the term ‘Bahn Heh’ or ‘Baan Ya’ as, “Born here. Native. Belonger. This expression, part of the vernacular since time immemorial, is increasingly heard as immigrant islanders assert themselves in the community. This is indeed unfortunate as one realizes that the most defiant shouters of ‘Baan ya’ are themselves children of an earlier wave of immigrants. [First seen in print in the St. Croix Avis, 18 Feb. 1868.]”

To that end, with St. John Carnival in full swing, we wanted the June Full Moon menu to celebrate what we felt was an amalgam of many of the different flavors that were brought to the Virgin Islands, added to the culinary melting pot, and presented as what are now considered local dishes.  We also wanted to use what is sourced locally, as is custom practice for our kitchen.

Of course, we had to put our own twist on things as well, so non-traditional was the norm.  We linked up with Bellows and West Indies to pick a variety of wine selections.

In keeping with our commitment to give back to the world community, we decided to match any contributions to our beloved Pan Dragons steel pan orchestra.  Our patrons generously donated at total of $325, for a grand total of $650 donated!  Thank you to everyone who gave.  Feel free to continue showing the music program some love here: https://www.gofundme.com/st-john-love-city-pan-dragon-steel

Without further ado, here is the menu:

SLOW SEASON: Windy Level Baby Romaine / Smoked Eggplant / Stuffed Crouton / Coconut Hot Pepper Sauce
Pairing: Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc

Flavor Injectors!

Smoked Eggplant, Stuffed Crouton, Hot Sauce, and Baby Romaine

The greens, including baby romaine and Swiss chard, were picked from our garden and shocked in ice water.  The eggplant came from the lovely ladies who have their produce stand in Cruz Bay Park, and we smoked it for about 2 hours.  The crouton was seared and then stuffed with a Buttermilk-Herb dressing.  The hot sauce was inserted into flavor injectors and positioned into the crouton.  Voila!

CARNIVAL TIME: Wahoo Kallaloo / Lobster Dumpling / Saltfish Escabeche
Pairing: William Hill Central Coast Chardonnay

Salt fish with a smoky essence, lobster dumpling in kallalo

I see food and I eat it!

A semi-traditional Kallaloo was made with Okra from Ridge to Reef Farm in St. Croix, celery, onions, flavor peppers, malabar spinach, lobster stock, and lots of love!  A dumpling with chunks of Rock Lobster tail was added at the end, and on the side, we served an escabeche of salt fish, topped with passion fruit from our vine, and placed under a glass dish filled with apple wood smoke.  Oregano was chosen for the garnish.

CORAL BAY MASSIVE: Salt Pond Salt-Crusted Pork / Pumpkin Johnny Cake / Jerk Mushroom Sauce
Pairing: Domaine Carneros Avante Garde Pinot Noir

Salt Pond is a treasure trove for harvesting our local salt supply, and our crew brought back about a year’s worth last month.  We decided to crust and roast a pork loin, then add a whole bunch of pumpkin flavor by way of pumpkin spice Johnny Cakes, pumpkin slaw, and pumpkin puree.  We finished the plate off with a Jerk-seasoned mushroom sauce, the ribs that were trimmed from the loin, and fresh scallion.

DRUNKEN GOAT: Mango Beer-Braised Goat / Green Pea Pastry / Oxtail Demi / Spicy Tomato Jam
Pairing: Achaval Ferrer Mendoza Malbec

We ended up using mutton instead of goat as our main protein, but then after making the oxtail demi, decided to mix the oxtail meat in with the mutton to create a delicious partnership of flavors.  Planning for something like a deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie, Chef Vinny took our peas and made a crispy flatbread from them.  The spicy tomato jam cut through the richness of the dish with spice and acidity, while hints of mango perfumed the meat.  A pistachio crust was then applied to brighten the plate and add a bit of crunchy texture.

RECOVERY AND THERAPY: Sweet Plantain Monfongo Napoleon / Champagne-Sorrel Sabayon / Chocolate
Pairing: Batsiolo Moscato Bosc D’La Rey

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We have had an abundant fruit season this year, and so plantains also made the menu.  Yes, it’s true that Mofongo is orginially from Puerto Rico, but since they are so very close and we are told to, “Love thy neighbor”, we figured why not incorporate the dish somehow.  Ripe plantains were cooked, mashed, and seasoned with a bit of chili, then formed into cakes seared.  Spiced Tuille Cookies were par-baked, cut, and finished off.  The Champagne Sabayon was infused with Sorrel Liqueur from St. John’s very own Sharelle Francis.  Plating involved Chocolate Ganache, and torching the Sabayon to create a burnt marshmallow flavor.  Eating it was like taking a weekend trip to visit Boricua.

Next month, for July, we will be exploring the flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine, and serving a fantastic family-style menu with beers and Suntori Whiskey.  Come Thai One On with us on Monday, July 10th.  Call our office during business hours to reserve a seat for only $55pp   340-777-5464

We are also SUPER excited at the prospect of having our first guest chef appearance in August by way of Digby Stridiron of Balter in St. Croix!  http://www.balterstx.com/ Saturday, August 5th is the date.   Mark it in your calendars now; it’s going to be epic.  We hope to have a guest chef about every three months.

We will be posting our upcoming concepts for the year very soon, so keep an eye on our homepage and our Facebook page for details.

Until next time, enjoy Carnival and the Holiday week!

 

 

April 2017 Full Moon Dinner – Raw Deal: Uncooked and Cured

April’s Full Moon is sometimes called the Pink Moon, and when I think of pink food, visions of rare or raw meat come to mind.  This was the premise for the FMD menu in April, and our chefs Vince Alterio, Ben Lewis, and Pat Ryan took the idea and ran full steam ahead with it!  This menu didn’t have as many items from our garden as last month, but Mathew Gibney has begun the replanting process.  We are also planning some changes for the garden space (more on that next month).

We don’t usually delve into the world of raw foods too deeply, but it’s so much fun to experiment and try new things.  Variety is the spice of life, right?  Check out the bill of fare we put out:

 

  • Beet-Cured Salmon / Cold-Smoked Salmon Roe / Shaved Egg Yolk / Green Goddess / Beet Chips
  • Chilled Raw Tom Ka Soup / Fresh Local Catch Ceviche / Coconut / Lime / Hot Pepper / Nori
  • Duck Breast “Bacon” / Iberico Jamon / Beef Carpaccio / Spicy Mustard / Pressure-Pickled Vegetables / Dehydrated Vegetable Crackers / Lettuce / Sundried Tomato
  • Compressed Fruit / Almond Milk Glace / Local Fruit Granita

 

I read somewhere that, technically, you aren’t supposed to heat any food over 108 degrees Fahrenheit.  We used a good amount of raw fruits, vegetables, and grains, with the idea is that heating food destroys its nutrients and natural enzymes, which is bad because enzymes boost digestion and fight chronic disease. In short: When you cook it, you kill it. Some fans of raw food diets believe cooking makes food toxic.

We also wanted to keep things interesting and so employed a variety of techniques that allowed us to use the foods in different ways.  Dehydration, curing, compression, and acidity were all weapons of the team’s arsenal this month.

And lucky us, we had the inimitable Holly Chipman along for the ride to help us out with some fantabulous mocktail concoctions.  However, it was reinforced and made apparent once again that St. John is far from a dry town, and most guests asked to have their mocktails “upgraded” to a full on adult beverage.  Holly incorporated the Raw concept into her drinks, and paired the flavors beautifully with the dishes.  She named them after restaurants she admires.

  • Russ and Daughters:  Cucumber Water / Dill / Local Grapefruit / Lemon
  • Tram’s Kitchen:  Lychee / Thai Basil / Ginger Limeade
  • Dish Osteria:  Black Tea “Sangria” / Cinnamon / Cloves / Allspice / Star Anise / Angostura / Pomegranate

Without further ado, here is the food porn, sans drinks (because all of us were too busy to remember to takes pictures of them).  But trust me, the drinks were BEAUTIFUL!

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The color on the Beet-Cured Salmon just pops so well.  We topped it with the dehydrated beet and cured egg yolk, and finished the plate with avocado, cold smoked salmon roe, and local greens with green goddess dressing.

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The Raw Chilled Tom Ka Soup, accented with Mahi Ceviche, Chili Dust, Cilantro and Thai Basil Flowers, Coconut, and Lime.  We realized at the last minute that Nori is actually toasted, so we chose to omit that piece in order to keep the dish truly raw.

 

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For the protein plate, we cured duck breast for nearly three weeks, pressed it, then added a cold smoke to it to give it a bit of extra flavor.  We sliced the Iberico Ham razor thin and instead of the beef carpaccio, decided to do a beef tartare.  For the pickled vegetables, we put them inside a chamber vacuum sealer to force the pickling liquid into the produce rather than cooking them.  The dish was accented with truffle aioli, spicy whole grain mustard, sun dried tomato salsa, and moringa powder.

 

 

Dessert was kept simple.  Again using our vacuum chamber, we compressed fresh fruit to give it a different texture and paired it with Passion Fruit Granita (garnished with fresh Soursop), as well as an Vanilla-Almond Milk Shooter.

All in all, another phenomenal dinner by our team of talent.  We also got to celebrate a birthday with one of the guests!  Next month, we will be Kickin’ Ash: Smoked and Grilled.  Pretty much the exact opposite of this month…

Thanks to all who participated and worked this event, and see ya next time!

Group Shot!

It’s Jill’s birthday!

Can We Be Gluten Free?

Yes!

We work around food allergies and aversions every day in the kitchen. We can easily tweak menus for those who avoid gluten by using alternative starches like rice or potatoes, or grains like quinoa. If you check out our Guest Selection Formal Menu selections for our In Villa Private Chef Services, you will see that most of the dishes that are offered only need small changes to make it appropriate for a gluten-free diet.

Or, let us do what we do best and use our creativity! Selecting the Chef’s Choice option, we are able to use our skills to create something exciting with the most fresh ingredients.

That’s what Gluten Dude, the celiac food blogger, did on his trip to Virgin Gorda in the BVIs (we work on all of the Virgin Islands) this past December and he was NOT disappointed! In fact, he was so impressed he gave us quite the shout out in his blog.

Those who suffer from food allergies are at the mercy of a busy, distracted kitchen whenever they go out to eat and although your server may alert them, the chance of cross contamination is exponentially higher than when being prepared by a private chef. Gluten Dude opted to have a chef for multiple meals.He mentioned the ease of not having to explain his allergy every time they went for food and that he “Never got glutened. Heck…I never even got a stomach ache. Crazy, right?”

From breakfast with complete with GF pancakes to lunch where “we were met with one glorious creation after another” and even a round of sunset appetizers before dinner and dessert, Mathayom was able to impress in every course.

If you have a sensitivity to gluten, be sure to contact us for some of the best gluten-free dishes on the island.