Archive for the ‘on the menu’ Category

meyer lemons on the menu (again)

its that time of year again: the time when i steal 90% of the meyer lemons from the tree and piss my mother off. (theres no way she could have used them all).

once again the tree pumped out another plentiful crop of picturesque lemons. it amazes me how perfect-looking they are. most backyard fruit is drastically flawed – massive, mutant, black specked and hideous. not in my back yard. these things are pristine. this is not because my family has green fingers – its because we are lucky. last year the lemons were going into “perfect” lemon tarts. this year they have been upgraded to sweet AND savory dishes.

on the savory side – meyer lemon aioli, an accompaniment for deep fried smelt and salt cod brandade. every fully realized dish needs an acid component and this is especially true for super rich fried foods. a little hit of lemon in the aioli balances it all out quite nicely.

the pastry ladies whipped up a lemon curd which was then folded into whipped cream. i’m not sure why i’ve never done this myself before – its extremely easy and delicious. this delightful whipped cream was dolloped onto a slice of super moist and crunchy polenta cake and garnished with lemon zest and lavender.

pomegranates on the (bar) menu

in order to make a good cocktail you need good ingredients. other things you need to worry about are correct proportions, dilution, and temperature. it sounds easy enough but like most things in life: its easier said than done. one reason its hard to make a good cocktail is that classic cocktail recipes often call for ingredients that are hard to come by. orgeat, pineapple gum syrup, and grenadine are sweetening syrups that were readily available in the cocktail boom before prohibition but are difficult to find today.

after the industrialization of our food system we are stuck with products like rose’s grenadine (ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, red 40, blue 1). thats a far cry from the real thing: pomegranate juice and sugar. the best bartenders in the world couldn’t make a good cocktail with that junk. at bar agricole we are lucky to use small hand foods syrups which are made with the best ingredients, just like the good old days. this winter i made some of my own grenadine with farm agricole grown pomegranates.

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there is a wild old pomegranate tree at farm agricole. one that is never watered or pruned. it grows in the narrow space between the house and the neighbors property and as a result grows very tall and spindly. despite its adverse growing conditions it still pumps out a huge crop of pomegranates every year that has basically been ignored in the past. they are not at all like the plump rosy colored pomegranates found at the store. their color is incredibly dark – almost black – with hundreds of tiny seeds clinging on to a minuscule amount on fruit. the flavor is intense and sweet and bitter all at the same time. i have no idea what variety of pomegranate we have but its definitely unusual.

this past season i harvested all the fruit i could (no easy task given the location and condition of the tree) and juiced it all with an old lever juicer yielding about 15 liters of juice. It took a ridiculously long time, made a huge mess, and dyed my hands black for about three days.

next time i’ll wear gloves.

i made the syrup by reducing the juice a little less than half and then adding an equal amount of sugar. the result is wonderfully rich and fresh with an incredible dark red color. i went through the trouble of canning the grenadine to make it shelf stable which was a total waste of time because the bar has gone through almost all 13 liters of syrup in about six weeks.

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there are countless cocktails that call for grenadine as an ingredient. the most well known (unfortunately) are tequila sunrise and shirley temple. some lesser known but infinitely more awesome cocktails are: presidente, scofflaw, monkey’s gland, ward eight, whiz bang, pink lady, jack rose, and mary pickford. a few of these have been on the menu recently at bar agricole.

jack rose: calvados, lemon, grenadine

presidente on the left: rum, vermouth, curacao, grenadine, orange bitters
monkey’s gland on the right: gin, orange juice, lemon juice, grenadine, absinthe

beets on the menu

some of the beds became available a little too late for summer veggie planting so i decided to plant some beets. beets are one of those easy to grow veggies that don’t seem to mind when they are planted – just as long as its warm enough to germinate. they grew nicely except the leaves were quite raggedy – i’m sure due to the heat of summer. the bulbs, however are delicious.

the seeds i had were a blend of red beets, chioggia, and golden. the red and chioggia varieties germinated and grew very quickly and the goldens barely grew at all. i’ve only had one or two goldens out of the whole lot which is a shame as they are my favorite.

the beets have attracted a visitor – my new best friend: garrett the gopher. he munched on a few fennel roots leading to the death of the plant but he really gets excited about the beets. he manages to pull the whole thing below ground leaving a few inches of leaves poking out of a huge hole. i’m not sure how many he’s gotten at this point but there are only about ten beets left in the ground – soon to be eaten by me. i think it might be a tough winter for garrett, especially because i just got my gopher trap in the mail…..

over the weeks i’ve taken about 16lbs of beets into the restaurant and they have all been used in a dish that has been on the menu for a few months now. most menu items only last a day or two. it is simple and light and a real crowd pleaser.


roasted and sliced beets on rye bread with horseradish cream cheese, garnished with watercress dressed in a simple vinaigrette.

green garlic, arugula, kale, and peas on the menu

sometimes its hard to keep track of where the food i grow ends up. i’ll come in to the restaurant before my shift with some vegetables and on a busy night can lose track of time and miss the chance to snap a picture. i’ve also brought veggies in then had the next day or so off and missed the dishes. it can be frustrating but i’m getting better at it. here are some of the veggies i lost track of:

green garlic

the garlic was planted in november and harvested in march. they were beautiful! unfortunately, i have no idea where they ended up on the menu. the garlic i used as seed was from the grocery store so it ended up being the least cost effective crop i’ve grown so far. i won’t grow it again unless i can get a good deal on seed garlic. anyone?

arugula

i thought the arugula was a disaster because it immediately went to seed without producing many leaves but they ended up being delicious! after i harvested lots of tasty flowers i picked out all the plants and harvested the leaves. i ended up with about a pound. not too shabby. the flowers ended up in a spring soup. i have no idea what else is in the soup though!

kale

the kale grew mostly in the shadow of the fava beans due to poor crop planning. when planting i didn’t think ahead to the favas growing to be eight feet tall and casting a huge shadow. the kale still managed to grow though. it can basically grow anywhere. when the favas came out the kale got some sun and bulked up a bit but was still quite pathetic looking. it had a great taste though – maybe theres a market out there for shade grown kale…

peas

the peas were absolutely delicious. i’m sad i missed their final destination. there is a tiny window when the peas are a good size but still sweet and tender enough to eat straight from the pod. left too long and they get tough, bitter, and starchy. i managed to get most of my cop in this magical window and took several pounds in to the restaurant. this coming fall i’m planning on planting some climbing varieties and growing over winter (last season i only did bush varieties in the spring).

i think thats everything that i’ve taken in to the restaurant this year and not accounted for. hopefully it won’t happen again!

fennel on the menu

almost a crop failure but not quite. i transplanted and started fennel from seed in the same bed back at the beginning of april. they both grew nicely – starting the seed inside was unnecessary. i kept waiting and waiting but the fennel never bulbed up like i had hoped. instead they have an almost perfectly flat pancakey frame. some of them are quite plump but “bulbed” would be an overstatement. the centers of some plants are elongating and getting woody – probably starting to bolt (although doing so very slowly).

there are, of course, different varieties of fennel out there – some bulbing and some not. i’m confident the variety i got (“orion” fennel)  is a bulbing variety. the flat fennel is definitely my fault – due to the plant maturing in the heat of summer while it would rather be doing so in a cooler climate. the fennel should have been growing during the cool season – planted in late fall instead of late spring. i’ve been doing a fair amount of learning the hard way recently. the mistakes i made caused the fennel to be too tough to eat raw but they are still tasty when cooked with a flavor that holds up well to other bold ingredients.

the fennel ended up in the broth of a mussels and chorizo dish but i lost track of that one. more recently they were braised with squid for a briny pasta dish. they were part of an italian version of mirepoix called soffritto made of celery, carrots, onion, and aromatics (including fennel) wich is often the foundation of a good braising liquid.

on the plate: squid ink spagetti, braised squid, sungold tomatoes, bread crumbs, and aleppo chili. theres fennel in there somewhere, i swear.

radishes and lemon verbena on the menu double whammy

this is the second time i’ve grown radishes. the first were planted back in november and harvested in february. there was a huge difference between the winter and summer plantings. in november the radishes grew very slowly and were hammered by slugs that flourished in the rainy conditions. this summer the radishes exploded out of the ground. i’m convinced they did so well because they were planted immediately after peas that fixed lots of lovely nitrogen in the soil. i was harvesting radishes after 29 days of sowing the seed. definitely the most rapid growth my garden has seen.

brandon took an unusual approach when serving these radishes at the restaurant. he cooked them in butter and white wine and mixed them with other vegetables and served them alongside a beautiful piece of sea bass. i don’t think i had ever eaten a cooked radish before. they take on a turnipy flavor and loose a bit of their spice and crunch. who knew?

this dish was served with the awesomest butter sauce ever: beurre blanc. shallots, white wine, acid (vinegar or lemon juice), and lots of butter – a winning combination. this sauce hails from France’s Loire Valley and is traditionally made with Loire valley muscadet wine. to add a little complexity and cut through the richness the beurre blanc for this dish was infused with lemon verbena from farm agricole. and thats a crazy delicious double whammy.

on the plate: steamed sea bass, radishes, roasted turnips, watercress, squash blossoms, and lemon verbena infused beurre blanc.

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the lemon verbena love continues in the pastry department. majkin’s (now famous) “thousand layer” crepe cake accoutrements have recently been upgraded from cherries to peaches. these peaches are getting a nice bath in lemon verbena infused simple syrup and the cake has a cute little lemon verbena garnish on top.

on the plate: almost a thousand crepes layered with bavarian cream and a nice bruleed top. lemon verbenary peaches, peach jam, and a verbena garnish.

lemon verbena on the menu

there has been a lemon verbena plant growing next to the house for as long as i can remember. it is never watered or cared for in any. every year we cut it back to its stumpy main stalk and every year it explodes with growth. it can get to be over seven feet tall and tends to take over that section of the yard. when you brush past it the smell can be overwhelming.

majkin – bar agricole’s lovely pastry chef – was having a hard time finding lemon verbena from our regular suppliers so i brought her some. she steeped it in some heavy cream and whipped it up to serve alongside a rhubarb upside down cake. a light infusion is important as too much herby flavor can taste soapy. this batch came out just right – just a hint of lemon verbena goodness.on the plate is a butter cake made with housemade buttermilk and rhubarb set into caramel – served as an upside down cake. a little sugar, salt, and the lemon verbena is added to the cream and it is left to steep overnight in the fridge. some vanilla streusel sprinkled on top adds texture.