Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

January 3, 2012

You’re getting three or four blogs for the price of one today because we were so busy for the past few weeks that I barely sat down at the computer.  Let’s see if I can pull some stuff up on the iphone camera . . .


AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I only found two:

I don't know People, or Wine, but my friends sure do, and they're generous friends..

My favorite menu for Fried Chicken Night in a long time--Black bean soup to start; cheese grits with chanterelles, hot and cold endive with grapefruit and tarragon, and butternut squash panzanella to accomapny the chicken; coffee pot de creme for dessert. I know, Roland could have done a better job with this photo, right?

This weekend in the lounge, Napa Smith will be here pouring  and chatting up their seasonal brews; I’m going to work on chicken and sausage gumbo, heritage pork cassoulet, and beef stroganov to accompany them.  All of which are perfect for a cold, rainy January night!  But of course we have the climate of San Diego this winter.  Glad I’m not a skier.

Am I up to three blogs yet?  A re-read says No.  I should write this stuff down as I go, but it just fades away after a day or two, especially at my advanced age.  The New Year’s Eve dinner was a success.  Interestingly, the dishes were “fancier” than our normal ones because we were using luxury ingredients–caviar, truffles, foie gras.  On the other hand, they lacked the level of composition that is found on our normal menu items.

Chefs spend money on those luxury ingredients because they are amazing natural products, and I believe that the best chefs manipulate those items the least–you’re paying top dollar to bring this foie gras in the door, why handle it and change it to the point that it’s unrecognizable?

Ryder chopped the black Perigord truffles and stirred them into a simple vinaigrette to accompany his rabbit terrine.  Zach cut some of the foie gras into batons that filled his squab roulade, and then seared a second piece of foie to serve next to the squab breast and confit leg.  Ryder used osetra caviar on top of his egg-yolk-filled cauliflower sformata (grazie M. Vetri).

SO why don’t we use caviar and truffles and foie gras all the time?

–Their carbon footprint is very large and doesn’t mesh well with our local approach to sourcing.

–The cost for them is so high that our menu prices would skyrocket and turn away hotel and guests and locals who depend on us for high quality at prices that have risen over the past five years, but not sharply.  Additionally, their cost and availability can fluctuate wildly.

–The novelty wears off.  If we cook with luxury ingredients once a year, cooks and diners are thrilled on that one day.  If we cooked with them 365 days a year, everyone would think, Ho-hum.

–After years of cooking in Fine Dining before Solbar opened, I no longer have a great deal of interest in utilizing luxury ingredients.  I’ve said from Day One at this job that I’d rather blow someone’s mind with green salad and roast chicken than truffles and foie gras–the former feat proves that you can cook; the latter, that you can shop.

I’m up to three or four blogs now, and the prep cooks are glaring at me through the wall, I can feel it.  Back to the stoves.


One Response to “post-holiday sale”

  1. indigo says:

    you da man chef!

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