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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July 2017 Full Moon Dinner – Thai One On

Sorry for the late post!  We have been working very hard in what is the busiest July I can remember, which is great, of course, but also comes at a cost: less time for the beach, friends, music, exercise, and obviously, blog posts.

We did still have time enough to throw together a Full Moon Dinner, and it was our most popular ever, with 70 guests.  Since I had just gone to Thailand and Vietnam to visit some family and had brought back authentic spices and ingredients, it seemed fitting to share that with our guests, especially since there are no real Thai or Vietnamese restaurants in the Virgin Islands, at least that I know of.  To keep the experience even more authentic, and to make it (a little) easier on ourselves, we decided to make the dinner family-style, since most meals in Thailand and Vietnam are served this way.  I guess that’s why I always want my girlfriend to split entrees with me when we go out.  I like variety.

Courses came out one after the other, and since we were in the kitchen getting things out in a hurry, I completely forgot to take any pictures of anything.  So, to fill whatever visual cravings you might have, I am going to post some pictures from my trip instead.  The trip inspired me to connect with more of my roots and family, and was an opportunity to show my son another side of the world.

We paired up with Southern Glazer’s and brought in a few different Sierra Nevada Beers as well as some Suntory Whiskey for the event.

Here is the menu we designed for July 10th, 2017:

In addition to the Curry Trio (Massaman, Panang, and Green), Green Papaya Salad with fresh, local Papaya, Spicy Beef Salad, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Fish Cakes, Son-in-Law Eggs, Sticky Rice, Jasmine Rice, and Teas, we also had some some Bun (Rice Noodles), Tom Ka Soup, and array of sauces and pickled vegetables.  We also finished with a Thai Iced Tea Popsicle.

All of the food was born of the idea that we wanted to treat folks to an experience as close to what they would get in Southeast Asia as possible.  The extremely hot weather certainly helped us achieve our goal!

Here are some of the places, faces, and flavors that helped this idea come to fruition…

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‘Pon de River!

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The mountains above Chiang Mai

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Chatuchak Market

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Reclining Buddha

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Heart to the sky

 

Our journey to us first to Bangkok, where my son and I met up with many members of our family.  It was his first time meeting my father’s side, since we live so far away.  From there, we headed to Chiang Mai to spend some time connecting with even more family (28 members in all made it to this part of the visit).

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Lyric, Hua, and Nick enjoying lunch

 

A quick few days in Vietnam took us from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi to Halong Bay, and back to Ho Chi Minh.

With markets all over the place, it was hard to resist filling our suitcases with fantastic flavors.  We definitely did not bring back any fresh fruits or vegetables, as per the USDA regulations.  Wouldn’t want to risk losing our Global Entry statuses, after all.

 

Throughout, it was an amazing trip filled with new experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  Dreaming about going back as soon as possible and spending even more time there.

I hope that our guests enjoyed the evening and got the feeling that they were transported to another locale for just a few hours.

August’s Full Moon Dinner was another amazing time.  Stay tuned for the next update, soon come.

 

May 2017 Full Moon Dinner – Kickin’ Ash: Smoked and Grilled

The May Full Moon represents, in many ways, a fresh start.  It’s called the “Flower Moon”, “Milk Moon”, or “Planting Moon”.  For those of us in the service industry on St. John, it usually marks a period when High Season comes to a close, and we are finally slow enough to take a rare break before Wedding Season and Carnival start kicking in.  For many people in the States, it constitutes the end of the school year, the approach of Memorial Day and summer, and weekends outdoors with the family.

To that end, we wanted to do a dinner that was a tribute to the beginning of BBQ Season.  What better way than to build our own Grill Pit for the occasion?  The talented Chef Ben Lewis spearheaded our project from head to toe, with the assistance of Chefs Vince Alterio and Pat Ryan, and got the entire thing sketched, sourced, and built in less than a week’s time!  Our space just got a Redneck Upgrade in a very cool way.

 

We collaborated with Glazer’s Premier, who hooked us up with Hess Wines for this event.  Take a look at the menu and pairings:

Folks were actually texting us about how excited they were for this dinner, especially the meat portions!  Let’s take a look at the courses in detail.

Course 1: Full Nest Syndrome


Grilled Quail / Chorizo-Date Stuffing / Sweet Potato / Smoked Pepper Sauce

We decided to build this plate like the bird was sitting in an actual nest, so we threaded and fried the Sweet Potato, perched it on a plate that was dusted with Moringa Powder, and accented it with our Smoked Pepper Sauce.  The Quail was par-grilled on our new toy and finished in the oven prior to plating.  Sekhem, Mathew’s son, was thrilled to help stoke the fires!

 

 

Course 2: Day and Night


Day: Morbier / Quail Egg / Lardon / Grilled Brioche

Night: Morbier Fondue / Short Rib Skewer

Here, the goal was to create a dish that used the same ingredient in two different ways.  We chose Morbier because of it’s duality.

From Wikipedia: “Traditionally, the cheese consists of a layer of morning milk and a layer of evening milk. When making Comté (cheese), cheesemakers would end the day with leftover curd that was not enough for an entire cheese. Thus, they would press the remaining evening curd into a mold, and spread ash over it to protect it overnight. The following morning, the cheese would be topped up with morning milk.”

The Quail Egg was a simple sunny side execution, and the Lardon was Apple Wood Smoked Bacon that was grilled and then thick cut.  The Fondue was actually more of a Mornay, but we weren’t splitting hairs that day.  We did a 13 hour Sous Vide on the Short Rib prior to slicing and skewering, and dusted it with Smoked Paprika.

 

Course 3: Dust in the Wind


Smoked Wahoo / Lime Ash / Windy Level Greens

Fairly straight-forward and clean flavors dominated this plate.  Even though the Wahoo was smoked, we brightened it up and made it into a salad with Radish and Preserved Lemon, then stuffed it into Baby Romaine from our garden, tied with Lemongrass.

There were two types of Lime Ash on the plate.  One was rich and dark, made from the rinds, with almost a roasted coffee feel.  The other was dehydrated Lime Juice, which added the tart, citrus notes.

We finished the plate with Charred Tomato, Preserved Lemon, Green Goddess Dressing, and Nasturtium Petals.

 

Course 4: Table Top Luau


Al Pastor Roast Pork / Taro / Charred Pineapple

Chef Ben Lewis really wanted to take charge of this main dish, so we gave him free reign to cook the pork as he envisioned.  Marinated slices of Pork Shoulder were layered and skewered, wrapped, then set in a water bath for 18 hours.  After chilling it to retain it’s shape, they were then wedged in between Pineapple tops and bottoms, brushed with a spicy balsamic reduction, charred, and roasted to bring back to temperature.  We served these standing up, surrounded by a nest of Grilled Pineapple, Fresh Thyme, and Chicharrones.

Side dishes to complete the Luau feel were Taro for Caribbean Poi, Forbidden Black Rice, a Jalapeno Bread Panzanella, and a Roasted Beet “Poke”.  We gave each communal table a knife and designated one of the patrons to be the carver.  I think having guests participate in the action gave every table more of a family feel and some easy talking points.

 

Course 5: Go Nuts, Go Bananas


Grilled Banana Bread Tamale / Cinnamon Ice Cream / Smoked Pecans

Usually by the time dessert comes around at our dinners, our guests are full and happy.  So we have gotten into the habit of reducing our portion sizes a bit with the hope that no one leaves overstuffed.  We purposefully made our sweet treats more lightweight this time, especially considering that some of our dishes were on the heavier side of the palate.

Taking Banana Leaves from our garden, we softened them in hot water and rolled cigar-sized tamales.  After baking them, we set aside and grilled them to bring them back up to a nice, warm temperature, as well as add that light smokiness we were using as our central theme.  After pairing it with a small scoop of Cinnamon Ice Cream, Smoked Pecans, and Smoked Maple Syrup, we sent it out into the dining areas.

 

Overall, guests seemed to be pretty thrilled with everything.  Our front of house team crushed it (AGAIN), and in the kitchen, we had a ton of fun.  So much so that we forgot to take a group photo!  C’est la vie, no?

Join us on Friday, June 9th for the next exciting edition of the Full Moon Dinner!  I Bahn Heh: Local Flavors and Ingredients (5 courses).  Call us at 340-777-5464 to reserve your space, or just say hi.  It can get lonely behind a computer screen all day…

After that, we are planning some really special treats for the 2017-2018 Full Moon program, including possible collaborations from some guest chefs!  Keep an eye out for the schedule of concepts, and we hope you’ll be able to experience one for yourself sometime soon.