Projects

So ive been trying to keep busy with little things here and there.  Among the projects is a charity dinner party for meals on wheels coming up this week.  20 hungry guests, 4 courses, 2 cooks, lots of food.  Heres a look into day one.

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Home made parmesean


fresh, RAW goats milk. Thanks Dan!

Pork belly- post cure, pre confit.

Foie gras torchon

Stay tuned for pictures from the actual event!

Donde esta senor marco polo?

Good news- Im Finally back home in Chicago.

Bad news- I was stuck in morocco for a while. (Thank you and love you U.S. embassy)

Great news- I was recently in Napa valley for the Almost Famous S. Pellegrino competition.  Which I won last year and Kendall won again this year!

Ive been back for a while now and still feel like I havent stopped moving and am living out of a suitcase…sorta.  Havent posted in a while, but rest assured my travels are soon to be shared.  For an idea of whats to come take a look at this nifty map I made showing where Ive been since leaving Castres, France.

Carcassonne

Whats a Carcassonne you ask?  A small town just south of Castres which took some back tracking towards Toulouse to make our way around the mountains.  The town was a relative ghost town to much tourists.  Probably because of how frigidly cold it was!  Though bundled in layers of shirts, sweaters, scarved and hoodies we perservered and climbed our way to get to the sight that the whole trip was based around, the castle!

After haggling the receptionist for a cheaper room and warmed up with some coffee we made our way to the castle.  We could see it in the distance and the closer we got the more surreal the day became.  We were making our way to a Mid-evil castle.. a legit stone wall, moat protected fortress.  Very different than my trip to midevil times when I was a wee young lad.

Inside was something like a fully functional enclosed town.  A childrens school, beautiful chapel, restaurants, barracks and the royal home.

The church

The incredible crepes.

 

You can check out the rest of the photos on my facebook!

Markets

Anyone who is a cook or any sort of a foodie knows their way around their local farmers market.  Every market has its own personality which is part of what makes it special.  In Chicago we have the green city market which goes year round with farmers from all over the Midwest.  Farmers and foodies are there slugging through mud or hiding in tents away from the snow devouring some of those incredible apple cider doughnuts.

In san Sebastian there was an incredible underground market in a central area of town which had some of the best and freshest sea food ive ever seen.  Theres the fish area, the meat area, the ham area, and the veg area, but you cant go wrong with any of them!

The biggest market would defidently have to go to Barcelona.  The place is a push and shove, fight for your fish Spanish marvel.  We were there for something like 2 hours nearly lost trying to find the way we came in stuffed from fruit, wagyu beef carpaccio, and pizza and smoothies.  The combination almost as ridiculous as eating that carpaccio on a random bench in a park surrounded by parquets.

Oh my mushrooms

Here in castre Im starting to see that it really has the most personality to it.  We go with chef three days a week to several of the shops and have really close relationships with our purveyors.  On Saturday the square really fills up and comes to life.  Booth after booth of incredible cured meats and cheese, a side street devoted to duck and foie, artisan breads and plenty of roast chicken, ducks and paella to keep you coming back for more.  Whats really nice is that since were so close to spain there are still lots of products and influence coming from spain and the basque country.

Foie gras and duck street/heaven

This guy was selling wine out of his van and then shooting it into random plastic bottles.  It was damn good and it was 1 euro probably safe right?

Market madness is what it is, and I love em all.

Castre!

With my vacation over I am on to the next chapter of this voyage. After a few nights in a hostel ran by Spiccoli I left for a full day of train riding.  Starting in San Sebastian I went to Hendaye, bayonne, tolouse to finally arrive in Castres, France sometime after 10.  The town reminds me something of the small boutique French city that lingers in your thoughts when dreaming of France.  Cobblestone roads lead to a lively market in the square that feeds the families and restaurateurs alike. It’s a place with patisseries around every corner, incredible baguettes and beautiful girls with that irresistible French accents.

 

Im here working in Bistrot Saveurs a 1 Michelin star restaurant with a modern style using local products and international influence.  Its ran by chef Simon Scott who spent some time as an exec. Chef at the Savoy hotel.  The restaurant has an incredibly different feel to it compared to Berasetegui.  I went from a restaurant with nearly 60 stages and 10 chefs to something like a very high end mom and pop place.  Theres 3 cooks, chef, his wife and another girl working the front and our very French sommelier.  The most interesting character in the restaurant is lucky, who happens to be a big black lab which is always watching from just outside the kitchen.  We make our own bread every day, something unheard of in most parts of Spain.  Myself along with Spencer walk to the market every other day with chef after a macchiato at the coffee shop which can be seen from my 4thstory window.

The style of the food is also obviously very different.  A 3 star is all about consistency.  Many of them will have basically the same menu for an entire year, or longer.  Since, well that’s how they got the 3 stars.  Though what we’re doing here is completely different.  Pretty much every service we change things up a little bit.  Different dishes, garnishes, styles of plating, everything changing per service.  It’s a style something like Le Chateaubriand.  Serving new things whenever we like depending on what we see at the market or what the best product our purveyors have.  On average we serve 25-30 covers per service and we are putting out some incredible plates.  Im half way into my second week and I can’t wait for what’s next.

p.s. thank you to all my friends for the various pictures ive stolen.

hostia!

For the past couple of weeks myself and some friends from back home had a bit of a journey through Spain and Italy. Traveling by train, bus, cars and boats we had a blast with plenty of new friends and food along the way. Nothing but some clothes and essentials in a backpack and we were off. Full posts to follow but, for now heres a preview of the adventures that came from it.

Dia de Santo Tomas, TOMA!

In America we have St. Nick, but in Pais Vasco there is Santo Tomas (St. Thomas).  A gift bearing, pipe smoking, beret wearing, wine loving jolly old man… what’s not to love about him?  So on this day of Santo Tomas the entire city is filled with txistorra sausage, sidra (cider wine), sweets, Basque animals, and more sidra!  You can find a txistorra tent around nearly every bustling corner and twice as much sidra to go around.  Kids who are just old enough to drink (probably) to couples who could be your grandparents walk around the city with a bottle of sidra in one hand, their cup in another and their Txistorra wrapped in talo(tortilla) somewhere in between.

The streets are so full it is as if the entire town decided to stop what they are doing, dress up and eat and drink till from dusk to dawn.  You know it’s a hell of a party when you’ve got mobs of kids singing and sloshing sidra and its not even noon yet.
Though as big of a party it may be its defidently a family event as well.  Here you can see the different booths including food, crafts and animals all from the Basque region.

Unfortunatley the event is only for one day, which might honestly be more than enough.  Somehow the citys gotta sober up and get all the smashed bottles cleaned up and put the snow in for what we really want, a white Christmas.

Check out my Flickr for more photos!