Chef's Blog

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

September 26, 2010

In my purely speculative forays into why the East coast has better and more diverse fish for eating than we do on the West coast, I’ve formulated a (boring, predictable?) theory:  the West coast is newer (geologically), with a harsher, more dramatic coastline, fewer harbors, deltas, marshes, and the like.  More rocky beaches and cliffs.  So our marine life is rock-clingers (like mussels and oysters), flatfish (halibut and petrale sole), and strong deep-ocean swimmers (amberjack and tuna).  East coast fish have gentle tides, places to hide from predators, and a broader continental shelf.  It’s entirely possible this theory is already well-known or shot to hell, either one without my knowing it, but it makes sense to me, but then so did Clerks 2.

At solbar, the sous chefs and I are dedicated to sourcing our products locally, but are limited with the range of West coast fish.  This week, however, we put on two new dishes that are dynamic, seasonal, and centered around local seafood.

Ryder took the kumamoto oysters from Tomales Bay, shucked them and soaked them in their own strained liquor, then made a cauliflower foam in our soda gun.  The other accompaniments to this striking, rich, yet light and satisfying first course are a julienne of gravenstein apples, celery leaves, apple-miso gelee, frisee, and sausalito springs watercress leaves, finished with several generous dollops of California white sturgeon caviar.  SCREAMING for Krug (or J Schram).

I got hamachi, which we fillet and drizzle with nam pla and sear with a torch–that way it’s got a layer of caramelization that’s one-sixteenth of an inch thick, and the rest of the fish is raw but not cold.  It’s served with ambrosia melon, compressed golden watermelon that has been seasoned with nam pla and korean chili flake, coconut rice puree, puffed Japanese short-grain brown rice and pickled mustard seeds.  SCREAMING for a coupla things–chilled sake, maybe Riesling, maybe Marsanne-Rousanne or Blanc de Blancs.

The new dishes have been well-received so far.  I’m proud that we have two dishes with grapes on the menu, and already two dishes with the first local apples of the season (did I mention the new lily egg preparation, encrusted in a rosti potato and served with corned beef and savoy cabbage with apples, grain mustard, and fontina soubise?).

For dessert, here’s a great quotation from Snooki:

“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.”

Did I write Snooki?  I meant Albert Einstein.  Snooki probably thinks she’s God, and probably does play dice.

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