Chef's Blog

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

October 31, 2010

The menu has changed a lot recently; the rains have started in NV, tourist traffic has slowed a tad, and we’ve had a couple of spare moments to change the menu around, several of which I’ve documented in the posts.  Tonight we changed the scallops out for a halibut entree.

Ryder and I talked for a total of probably five hours over the course of a week about this dish.  The only things we were sure we wanted to include were halibut and chorizo; beyond that, the list of possible accompaniments ranged all over, from Brussels sprouts to hard pear cider to tomato-vermouth fondue.

Near the end of Friday night’s service, we finally decided on the components:  piquillo pepper sofrito, calamari, chorizo, romesco sauce, polenta, and the halibut, making for a very focused Spanish flavor profile.  In the above picture you can see the pool of romesco and the calamari tentacles, breaded and ready to fry.

Pictured here are the polenta frites with fried parsley.  This polenta is not nearly as rich as our creamy polenta–which I consider quite French in both its use of mascarpone, butter, olive oil, and parmigiano reggiano (not to mention milk) and the fact that the French seem to use starch as vehicles for fat

Behind the polenta are the buttermilk-fried calamari tentacles and the calamari tube, which has been stuffed with a mixture of chorizo, garlic, onion, and spices and seared on the plancha.  They sit on a small swipe of persillade.

The halibut is baked in a cast iron casserole with a lid, smothered in and resting on the sofrito.

So the composed dish is actually three smaller dishes, but their flavors are complementary enough that three become one.  Solbar is not a tasting menu restaurant where you’ll have only three identical bites of a menu item before the plate is empty; our entrees must keep the guests engaged, interested, and surprised for ten or fifteen bites.

Three other thoughts:

I bought white truffles this week for the first time at solbar.  I stored them with 60 eggs, from which I made pasta dough that we roll into ultra-thin tagliatelle, cook to order, and serve in a sauce of parmigiano stock, butter, and parmigiano-reggiano.  I shave the white truffles tableside, and the aroma fills up the whole dining room.

Cheers to Chris Kostow and everyone at Meadowood for the trois etoiles from Michelin.  Unbelievable!  Congratulations.  As the Bard says, “Look at that, he hit the f&*$ing bull!  Guy gets a free steak!”  Don’t be surprised if he laces ‘em up for the Heat when Flash tweaks a hammy . . . you heard it here first.

I should also mention that I’ll be in NYC (for the first time since 03 I’m ashamed to say) this coming week and J. Fraser and I have about 35 restaurants that we are going to hit.  If I were a Tweeter, next week would be my moment, but alas and alack.  Maybe I can figure out wordpress from the iphone, but the food pictures will just have to wait.

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