1. Seared Beef Striploin with Mushrooms Persillade, Garlic Flan, and Bordelaise Sauce
From Restaurant Alma
Starting things off nice and easy, we start with steak. I get a lot of questions as a server in regards to cuts of beef. It’s pretty easy to identify tenderloin and filet mignon, but striploin, hanger, and bistro can be a different thing. The striploin, or New York strip, steak is a cut from a muscle that doesn’t do a lot of work. Although not as tender as a ribeye, it is still a tender and flavorful cut. Persillade is a sauce consisting of parsley and garlic. Seriously, that’s it. The garlic flan is roasted garlic custard, and bordelaise sauce can be one of two things. Classic French would have red wine, bone marrow, shallots, and butter as the base, while a New Orleans counterpart would strongly feature garlic instead of wine and marrow.
2. Grilled Organic Lock Duart Salmon with Sweet Corn Succotash and Roasted Tomato Coulis
From Mill Valley Kitchen
It is a known fact that our appetites are growing out of control and overfishing is a huge problem. By putting “Lock Duart” before salmon on their menu, Mill Valley is hoping you’ve done your research and know what Lock Duart is—and why it is important they have it listed. The salmon is farm raised in Scotland and then shipped around the world to diners. The “organic” component has come under scrutiny lately. More restaurants are naming farms on their menus—when seen, ask your server for more information—there should be a reason it is listed, and it shouldn’t be vanity. Succotash is a classic summer side dish consisting of corn sautéed with other fresh items like shell beans, tomatoes, or okra. A coulis is a thick sauce created from pureed fruit or vegetables. This case the coulis is from tomatoes that have been roasted and reduced, then strained to make the sauce.
3. Grilled Quail with Quinoa, Charmoula, and Summer Vegetable Relish
Quail and other game birds may be more commonplace on today’s menus, but they still invoke a little frontier spirit when ordered. Smaller and more flavorful than chicken, the tiny bird is most likely to be served almost boneless. Although quinoa used to feed the Incans, its appearance in the mainstream is fairly recent. The seeds (as it isn’t a true grain) are edible as well as the greens and nutritionally speaking, it packs quite a punch. It also has a wonderfully mild, almost nutty flavor. Charmoula is a condiment, more common in Mediterranean-style restaurants, a sort of cilantro-based pesto that uses fresh herbs, garlic, and exotic spices like paprika, coriander, saffron, and cumin. The summer vegetable relish is more than likely a zesty combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, or corn.
4. The “Bennie,” Eggless Benedict with Huitlacoche
From Heidi’s Minneapolis
A benedict without the eggs seems blasphemous, until you realize the egg has been slyly replaced with huitlacoche. Considered by American farmers to be a disease, huitlacoche is actually a fungus that naturally occurs in corn; and is also considered a delicacy by Mexicans and certain South American cultures. Also called corn smut, and Mexican truffles, the fungus attacks corn, causing it to balloon to large sizes, resulting in an earthy, sour flavor. The distinctive flavor (sometimes considered smoky) would pair perfectly with a lemony hollandaise.
5. Tete du Porc with Macaroni, Artichokes, Guanciale, and Truffle Salt
I hope it is obvious that I’m not including this menu item to discuss macaroni and artichokes. Guanciale is an un-smoked cured meat from the pig’s jowl or cheek. Truffle salt is salt that has absorbed the flavor of the fungal truffle (not the chocolate variety). When it comes to tete du porc, the French translation is “head of the pig.” This dish could be crispy, delectable fried ears, confit cheeks perhaps, or brawn—a.k.a. head cheese. Not a real cheese, the dish is made by boiling the head of an animal. After preserving the boiling stock and reducing it to help create the binder (or jelly) the meat from the heat is shredded and mixed with the jelly, then pressed into shape. You’ll never experience the flavor rush that comes from a good head cheese in anything else. It’s at the heart of charcuterie, and the mark of a great chef.