Monday, February 29, 2016


Haven't gone anywhere in a while, but we still tour the world, at least culinarily. Allow me to explain:

Six weeks ago, Jason challenged me to a friendly competition--the kind of amateur cook-off inspired by programs like Top Chef that have become popular around the country. Except he's a professional chef, and I'm, well, me. To make it easy on Karen, we decided on fish. Still, half the dishes contained pork, the most magical animal and the one that chefs have been pairing with fish for 5,000 years, and another one incorporated foie gras because of course it did. Here's J-than examining the menu, plus a copy for your perusal:

Thirteen diners. Jason opened with apps: pastrami-cured salmon with bread-and-butter pickles, sushi and foie, clam chowder shots, and something else. I don't remember as I was charging a cream whipper to foam the sea urchin and stuff it in squid ink cornets with wasabi tobiko on top.

Jason spent a good few hours on Friday making herbed pasta from scratch, with clams and his special slow-cooked pancetta. It is unreal. If you're getting worried about Karen at this point, she adores all forms of seafood, and her plates didn't include any land animals.

Next up, and I'll admit it, my salmon was the worst dish of the night. I forgot to take a torch to the skin, and the rice was a bit off. Probably just too many things going on in this one, but the dashi was on, and this one will return to future menus in a refined form.

At this point, our runners--Karen and Jason's wife Shannon--started reporting that people were suffering death by food. And we were only halfway done.

Jason's scallops with mussels, chorizo and peas were awesome. This is where stuff really got going, food was hitting the tables fast, the plating (thanks in no small part to Karen) was perfect, and the wine pairings were making a mark.

The octopus. Most highly rated of the night.

The skate wing. Jason's dish, and my favorite.

The Elvis Napoleon. This one requires a bit of explanation: four layers of puff pastry, two layers of zabaglione, one layer of caramelized banana, maple, and chocolate. The powdery stuff is peanut dust (tan) and bacon snow (white). It's designed to make you feel dirty, but in a good way.

J-than and Karen tallied the ballots and announced the winner. I'm not going to tell you who it was, because it was a friendly competition, but it was me.

The chefs.