We recently catered a luncheon at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. The event was to honor Tom Dibble, a respected geologist.
(As published in 1992)
In over 60 years of active mapping, Thomas
Wilson Dibblee has created a true California legacy for his geologic
maps and reports. They provide an unsurpassed regional perspective that
contribute a wealth of locally important information. His knowledge
of regional stratigraphy, structure, and paleontology has been basic
to understanding much of California's geology. The magnitude, integrity,
and permanence of Dibblee's geologic mapping of one fourth of the state
of California is unprecedented and legendary.
Of all the culinary preparations, meringue has given me the most grief. A spot of grease in the bowl, too much moisture in the air and a few other little devils can spoil a meringue, make it weep or result in a bizarre macaroon ( my worst nightmare).
My pastry chef wife, though has mastered meringue. Here is a photo of her meringues that will be a garnish for a Buche de Noel that she is making for a party of 120 next Saturday. I'll have a picture of the final cake on a later blog.
Back in my "Michael's Wateside" days I devised a salad that worked as a first course or a savory salad after main course. The Waldorf salad, from the famed Waldorf Astoria, was the inspiration for the salad. I have a few variations but the basics are apples, Belgian endive, Roquefort and toasted walnuts. Another variation placed the cheese in puff pastry much like the dessert called Pithivier.
A Pithivier is usually a two crusted pie made from puff pastry and filled with an almond cream called frangipane. The edges are scalloped and the top is lightly scored into a set of spiraling spokes. Other variants of the dish include a meat or cheese filling. The dish is thought to have originated from Pithiviers, France.
Our friends, David and Tracy Beard, share a lovely yacht that is berthed at the Santa Barbara harbor. We love to go out on short cruises along the coast. Invariable, we bring along something to knosh on.
Last week, I make a quick version of paella, ready to cook on board. The stove was out of order so w I cooked it on a small portable grill clamped to the side of the railing. I have always boasted that if you give me a little heat, I can cook anywhere. The proof is in the pot.
It's winter in Santa Barbara. That means rain and rain means...wild mushrooms. Near our home there is an urban forest, somewhat wild, that has an abundance of oak trees. Typically when it rains, all sorts of fungi emerge.
In a good there, there are even chanterelles. Mostly there are either inedible or downright poisonous varieties that pop up at various times. Here is a rogues gallery of mushrooms that I have loosely identified. These identifications are my best guess. NEVER consume a wild mushroom that has not been identified by an expert.
No chanterelles are out in this are yet. Time to go check my "spots" deep in the woods.
Chefs Michael and Christine Tasting Pasta et Fagioli Soup
Every December the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History hosts the Folk and Tribal Arts Marketplace. The marketplace features the whimsical, practical and exotic treasures from more that 50 countries around the world.
We have now been serving shoppers from a "Tribal Arts Cafe" for three years running. This year we features basic Italian cuisine to highlight the Culinary Cruise that my wife Christine and I are leading next May. Please see our web pages for details.
We enjoy being at this event as we have a front row seat to all the dance groups that perform.
Here is the menu we offered as well as a few fun photos. Mark you calender for next year's Folk and Tribal Arts Marketplace.
As a passionate supporter of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural
History, I am delighted to extend a personal invitation to you, your
wine club members, families and friends to join me and Christine Dahl
on our first exclusive Silversea Culinary and Wine Cruise.
We hope you will join us on the Silversea "Silver Spirit" from Rome
to Venice, May 29-June 5, 2010 during her inaugural season to learn
first hand about the culinary and wine pleasures of the region.
Christine and I will also be hosting private parties and wine tastings,
sharing fascinating cooking techniques, and exploring the markets and
wine cellars at fascinating ports-of-call.
Cooking Class with Chefs Michael and Christine
For every passenger booking this great voyage, Cruise Bargains Inc. will make a donation to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Attached is an advance copy of the press release to share with people you know love to cruise and appreciate fine wine and dining.
Since we are holding ocean-view suites at an all-inclusive price through December 31, 2009, we welcome your referrals. Please contact our exclusive booking agents, Sue Cook or Amy Clay at 800-213-777 and our website for more information.
Michael and Christine
Join us on a Culinary Adventure
Award Winning Chefs Michael Hutchings and Christine Dahl Host Inaugural Culinary & Wine Cruise on Silversea's "Silver Spirit"
May 29-June 5, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, CA-Award-winning chefs Michael Hutchings and wife Christine Dahl announce their first annual Culinary and Wine Cruise. On board the Silversea's "Silver Spirit", during its inaugural season, Chefs Hutchings and Dahl will host this epicurean expedition from Rome to Venice May 29-June 5, 2010. The chefs have researched the distinctive cuisine in each port and will be leading shore excursions to special and unique restaurants, wine cellars and markets. Both chefs are passionate about sharing fascinating cooking techniques and will host wine and food pairings, special cooking classes and private parties throughout the voyage. In addition to their passion for food, chefs Hutchings and Dahl have a passion for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Therefore for every passenger booking a donation will be made to the Museum. Their decision to offer donations comes from a long history of support and appreciation for the work of the Museum and their love of nature. "Both Chef Hutchings and Chef Dahl are masterful artisans, and we are fortunate to be able to have their food enjoyed by staff and visitors," stated Special Events Meredith Moore. "The fact that they appreciate the Museum, and show it with a donation, is the cherry on top." "The decision to organize the cruise came from years of thinking 'How great it would be to bring together our friends, clients, and food and wine aficionados of Santa Barbara to share a culinary and wine voyage,' stated Chef Hutchings. "Imagine sharing our zeal with fellow culinary zealots." This inaugural Culinary and Wine Cruise is open to all travelers, and food and wine aficionados. The cruise can be purchased exclusively through Cruise Bargains, Inc., a 25-year old Santa Barbara-based travel agency dedicated to The Joy of Cruising. The cruise package includes double occupancy ocean view suite accommodations, gourmet meals by Relais & Chateau, complimentary fine wines, champagne and free economy air fare. For reservations and more information contact Sue Cook of Cruise Bargains at 805-962-9898 or 1-800-213-7777.
About Silversea "Silver Spirit" SILVER SPIRIT In December 2009, Silversea will present their newest luxury cruise ship - Silver Spirit - with more verandas, more dining choices, more onboard amenities, more of the excellence we've come to expect of Silversea. Join Silver Spirit during her Inaugural Season will explore the natural beauty of South America, the timeless treasures of the Mediterranean and the Caribbean's most idyllic, sun-drenched islands. www.silversea.com
My wife, Christine Dahl, makes gorgeous and delicious pastries. Case in point are these perfect pecan pies. The crust would win first prize at any county fair. They are made with a mix of butter and shortening since modern shortening is now trans fat free.
Antoine A. Parmentier (1737-1813) was the French agriculturist credited with improving the production and acceptance of eating potatoes. Parmentier presented potatoes to the French Court in 1785 in an attempt to persuade the king of the benefits of the potato for the masses at large. We often see Parmentier's name in association of culinary preparations that include potatoes such as Potage Parmentier.
There are thousands of ways to prepare this versatile tuber. Here is one of the all time favorites.
Here is a little Wikipedia information on this important tuber. Keep in mind that Potatoes, a member of the deadly nightshade family of plants, was long avoided because it was thought to be toxic. The skin, in fact can have toxic properties if allowed to turn green with exposure to light.
"There are about five-thousand potato varieties worldwide. Three
thousand of them are found in the Andes alone, mainly in Peru, Bolivia,
Ecuador, Chile and Colombia. They belong to eight or nine species,
depending on the taxonomic school. Apart from the five-thousand
cultivated varieties, there are about 200 wild species and subspecies,
many of which can be cross-bred with cultivated varieties, which has
been done repeatedly to transfer resistances to certain pests and
diseases from the gene pool of wild species to the gene pool of
cultivated potato species. Genetically modified varieties have met public resistance in the United States and in the European Union.
These compounds, which protect the plant from its predators, are
generally concentrated in its leaves, stems, sprouts, and fruits. Exposure to light, physical damage, and age increase glycoalkaloid content within the tuber;
the highest concentrations occur just underneath the skin. Cooking at
high temperatures (over 170 °C or 340 °F) partly destroys these. The
concentration of glycoalkaloid in wild potatoes suffices to produce
toxic effects in humans. Glycoalkaloids may cause headaches, diarrhea, cramps and in severe cases coma and death; however, poisoning from potatoes occurs very rarely. Light exposure causes greening from chlorophyll
synthesis, thus giving a visual clue as to areas of the tuber that may
have become more toxic; however, this does not provide a definitive
guide, as greening and glycoalkaloid accumulation can occur
independently of each other. Some varieties of potato contain greater
glycoalkaloid concentrations than others; breeders developing new
varieties test for this, and sometimes have to discard an otherwise
OK, this is not about food. In all the time I have been in Santa Barbara, some 20 plus years, I had not been to the Parade of Lights in the Santa Barbara harbor. So, last night we went to see this aquatic parade. There were some 45 boats decked out in holiday light displays and they did a loop around East Beach and back to the harbor area. Here are a few highlights of lights. As you can see it was about the sea and Santa.
"...the poorer a place is the greater call there seems for oysters. Look here, Sir, here's a oyster stall to every half dozen houses - the street's lined with 'em. Blessed if I don't think that when a man's very poor, he rushes out of his lodgings and eats oysters in regular desperation." Charles Dickens, The Pickwick papers, 1836
Here are two ways to enjoy oysters. At Le Gavroche in London, there use to be a dish on the menu called Huitres Francine. The dish had a lobster mousse piped onto an oyster shell and baked. The mousse was topped with and oyster poached in champagne. The cooking liquid was reduced with cream and used to glaze the oyster. The garnish was a slice of lobster tail and a dash of caviar. This is not a dish from Dickens!
Written by Bartolmeo de Sacchi di Piadena, The Temperate Voluptuary is a collection of recipes, sort of, from an early cookbook, 1475. THe recipes are vague and require a lot of imagination on the part of the chef to produce. Is it art, poetry and just a sort of cook's almanac? You decide. Keep in mind this is the same era when people thought the earth was flat, the sun revolved around the earth and must not have invented pesto.
It is bad for the stomach,
it dulls the eyes,
brings on madness and
blocks the liver:
even goats avoid it.
Moreover, ground then covered
with the grindstone, basil gives birth to scorpions.