My Last Days….

I forgot how fast a whole week can fly by. It felt like yesterday that I worked my last shift at the Harvest Vine but it was actually a whole week ago.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better day of service before hanging up my apron and tie for the last time until July. it was a gorgeous day out, it happened to be one of the busiest days of brunch we’ve worked in a while, and best of all, I got to see so many familiar faces to say goodbye and farewell before I left.

sundaybrunch

The next day, Monday, marked my last dinner service i’d work in Seattle. it was the last Monday of the month so that means it was time for another Irbille Edibles Pop-Up at Olivar! (Check out my post on Irbille Edibles and the Evolution of Filipino Food Here)

This was a pretty exciting night as it was the 1 year anniversary of Irbille Edibles Pop-Ups and we were fully booked. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the kitchen with Irbille since day 1 and I can’t thank him enough for letting me sit shotgun in this incredible ride we’ve been on as his sous chef. He is the Shawn Kemp to my Gary Payton. The Timbaland to my Justin Timberlake (this is probably the most accurate analogy I’ve made in my life). We just work really well together. I’m so excited for him and the IE crew to tear it up in the kitchen the next 3 months and especially excited for his new venture in Kraken Congee. You are doing some big things my Friend and I’m proud of all that you’ve accomplished.

irbilleedibles

On Wednesday, my chef, Joey Serquinia, had told me to come in to eat at the Harvest Vine. It was National Paella Day and he wanted to make sure he sent me off right and cooked a Mega Paella. And with no surprise, the paella was perfect, as is all of his paellas. It was a special night as I got to be around everyone that I have spent the past 3 years of my life with. I had my beautiful family with me, my work family (there’s no such thing as ‘co-workers’ at the Vine), some of my favorite regulars, and some new and old friends that i have made while cooking at the Vine. The amount of love and support that I was surrounded was something can’t even describe. I am so grateful for everything that everyone has done for me. Especially Joey, Carolin Messier, and Jeffrey Watanabe. I couldn’t ask for better managers. Thank you for guiding me and taking care of me and my family. I love you guys and can’t thank you enough!

Photo Taken from Brandon Patoc!

Throughout the week, I also made sure to eat at some of m favorite places since I know i wont be able to enjoy them in Spain. So i was fat kid for the past week!

fatkidfood

Fast forward to Saturday. My last official day in the great North West. I had spent the whole day with he people most important to me, my family. All gazillion of them! it was the day before Easter and we were celebrating the 3rd birthday of my daughter, Tegan! It was another beautiful day that was filled with Easter egg hunting. filling up plates upon plates with food, passing around all the babies to different family members. This is all i wanted before leaving.

Easter

It was a very bittersweet moment for me as everyone congratulated me and expressed their excitement for me, but at the same time, it means that I was leaving one the biggest part of me behind, my family. This is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do, but I know in the end that the outcome of this will be greater than anything I Can imagine and everything I do is for them.

As of right now, I’m sitting in the apartment that I will be occupying for the next 3 months with the current Basque Stage and my new roomie, Susy Santos, and the most recent Basque Stage Rising Star, Clifton Su, as he packs and leaves tomorrow at 4 in the morning. Good luck on that 17 hour flight home dude! It’s the end of my first day in San Sebastian and am looking forward to sharing all of my experiences in my next blogs!

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All About Eggs!: Huevos a la Flamenca

For my next All About Eggs! post I decided to do it on Hevos a la Flamenca. This is a very traditional Spanish dish that varies from region to region, but it usually consists of eggs that are baked in a rich tomato sauce along with cured meats, vegetables, and paprika.

This is a dish that has been on our brunch menu at The Harvest Vine since we started over two years ago. If we were to take this dish off the menu, I swear that our customers would cause riots and chaos in the Madison Valley. It is definitely one of the most popular dishes in our repertoire and it is the one dish I always recommend to our first time brunch customers. I feel that it is basically everything that our restaurant stands for all wrapped up and baked in a cazuela. Our Huevos a la Flamenca consists of a base of tomato frito (a fried-tomato sauce), a scoop of béchamel, slices of cured chorizo, thinly sliced jamon serrano, some sort of vegetable depending on whats in season, and two farm-fresh organic eggs. It is Spain in a dish! It has the perfect balance of flavor from the smokiness of the paprika in the chorizo, the saltiness from the cured ham, the brightness from the fried tomato sauce, the added richness from the béchamel, and the fresh flavors of whatever vegetables are in season. All of this combined with a perfectly baked egg with its still-runny yolk and then being soaked up by a slice of a freshly baked baguette, its easy to see why it has all the rave for our customers.

This is another prepartion of eggs I was new too. This dish is actually quite easy to put together as all you do is assemble everything and then put it in the oven, but it is very easy to mess up. Within a minute, this dish can go from being perfectly cooked to horribly overcooked. There is a very small window of time that you must take out the baked eggs when the egg whites are still a little jiggly, but with carry over cooking, the eggs will be finish cooking through as you let it sit.

Huevos a la Flamenca

To assemble, put 3 oz of tomato frito sauce on the bottom of the cazuela. In the center, add a tablespoon of béchamel. In the 12 o clock position of the cazuela, add the broad beans. At the 9 o clock position add your slices of chorizo. In the rest of the open space, lay down your thinly sliced pieces of jamon serrano. I carefully position all of these ingredients because it creates a hole in the center that will help keep the egg yolks to stay in the center of the cazuela. If the egg yolks are both directly in the center, it will help cook the eggs more evenly.

When you have your Flamenca assembled, place on high heat until the tomato sauce starts to bubble. Crack two eggs into a bowl to make it easier to place eggs into the cazuela (plus it makes ensures that you don’t accidentally break the egg yolk if you were to crack the egg directly in). Using a spoon, create a little hole in the center of all the ingredients and then slide your eggs into the cazuela.

Place into a pan and then place in a hot oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the egg whites are pretty much cooked through but still jiggly. It may look a little undercooked as you pull it out, but all the residual heat from the tomato sauce will carry over cook the eggs to perfection.

Sprinkle with salt and chopped parsley then serve with couple slices of bread and then enjoy! There are two type of people who eat Huevos a la Flamenca in a certain way. Those who like to break the yolk and mix everything together and then those who like to individually fish out every ingredient. I prefer to pick out all of my ingredients because it’s like a eating a new dish with every bite!

All About Eggs!: Tortilla Española

Egg cookery has always been something that interested me. One of the many lessons I have learned in my early culinary school days is that cooking eggs will be one of the toughest jobs someone will have in a kitchen…..

Really?!? How could something as simple as cooking an egg be that difficult? Well….. Since I’ve started working brunch, I now understand what they say about eggs.

So this portion of my blog is dedicated too all things eggs! Something that is so easy to make, yet so hard to get right that it could be seen as an art form.

Working brunch at the Harvest Vine has taught me many new preparations of eggs and more importantly, how to properly cook eggs. My first All About Eggs! post is on one of the most traditional dishes of Spain, the Tortilla Española. I have chosen the Tortilla because it holds a large amount of importance to how I work in the kitchen. I have made it a goal of mine to perfect the art of cooking the omelet ever since I’ve had my first taste of one at Txori. It was perfect. A small wedge cut out of the disc shaped omelet served on toasted bread rubbed with garlic oil and then dabbed with 3 perfectly round dots of alioli. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, but simple has never tasted so delicious. It took me about 2 years in the making and over hundreds of tortilla but I have finally figured out the ways of the Tortilla Española. There are so many variables that can make or break your tortilla from the batter you make with your potatoes and eggs to the heat control under your pan.

(Photo taken from The Kiwi Project)

Tortilla Española is essentially a potato and onion omelet but the fillings of ingredients can be countless from diced chorizo or ham to various vegetables like peas, artichokes, or roasted peppers. Basically, you can make a tortilla with any ingredient you want. Get creative  and have some fun (check out one of my favorite renditions by Ferran Adrià, the egg and potato chip tortilla)!

To make Tortilla Española, it is preferred to use a potato that is not as starchy. At my work, we use regular russet potatoes and find that it works perfectly fine. Traditionally, Tortillas start with thinly sliced potatoes and onions being cooked down in a pan with oil to cover until the potatoes are tender. At our work, we use reheated panadera potatoes that we add to our eggs so it cuts the time in the kitchen.

We start with 2 quarts of panadera potatoes and slowly reheat them until they are hot to the touch. We then add them to 14 scrambled eggs whisked with a good amount of salt; this makes about 2 full sized Tortillas or around 9 mini Tortillas. The next part is one of the most critical parts of the Tortilla making process, which is to let the batter sit for 30 minutes to an hour. This lets the heated potatoes gently heat up the eggs (but not cook the eggs) to make a very thick batter. I find that the thicker the batter, the faster that center of the tortilla cooks all the way through. If the batter is too thin and water, then it’ll take you longer to cook the tortilla all the way through and also, I find that it makes it easier to brown the outsides of the tortilla. Which is what we don’t want!

Next comes the frying. The key to the frying is to make sure you have the right pan. I prefer deep, heavy skillets that keep an even heat throughout the pan. Now for the oil, you got to make sure that you use enough oil so that the Tortilla doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and also, you need to make sure that the oil is heated up pretty hot. I usually heat it up until right it starts smoking before I add the potato and egg mixture so it instantly sets the bottom of the omelet. After adding the eggs, I return the pan to the stove and set the heat on medium low and carefully watch the omelet by running a spatula around the outside of the rim and scraping the bottom of the pan, making sure it doesn’t stick. When the outer edge of the omelet is thick and the center of the uncooked side looks like its no longer liquid its ready to be flipped!

Known as “la vuelta”, which means the flip, is probably the hardest part of the Tortilla making process. First, run a spatula around the rim again to make sure there is no sticking, then place a flat plate over the pan holding it firmly with your free hand thats not holding the pan handle. Then using both hands, carefully flip over the pan and carefully lift it from the plate, releasing the omelet from the pan. The cooked side of the tortilla should be a golden color with very little browning.

Next, reheat the pan with oil until barely smoking and then carefully push the omelet back into the pan, making sure to tuck in all around the tortilla to form the disc shape. From here on out, it is all about making sure that you watch the heat under the pan isn’t too hot that it browns the omelet. After every 4-5 minutes, I flip the tortilla until the center of the tortilla feels cooked all the way through. A toothpick can be inserted and should come out dry too show you whether or not the tortilla is done.


Even after making a couple hundred of these, I find myself finding new ways to perfect my Tortilla Española. It is always a great feeling when you flip out your Tortilla for the last time and let it sit before you cut into them and indulge in the light and fluffy texture of Tortilla!

Tortilla Española Wrapped in Jamon Serrano then seared until crispy!

Family Meal: Feeding the Staff

If there is one thing that I thoroughly enjoy about working in the restaurant industry,its got to be staff meal or better known as, ‘family meal’. Family meal is a tradition throughout restaurants all over where the kitchen staff prepares a meal for the staff with whatever is in hand in the walk-in. These are meals that you’ll never find on the menu nor is it something that any diner will be likely to experience. Family Meal has gained such a reputation that there are books (The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria and Off the Menu: Staff Meals From America’s Top Restaurants) that are dedicated to the meals that the diners don’t get to see. Usually made with no preconceptions of what will be served, all that is known is that there is always a great amount of appreciation from the staff.

Brunch Family Meal: Mushroom, almonds, and crispy jamon salad w/ poached eggs.

The format of family meal differentiates from restaurant to restaurant. There are restaurants that will do family meal in the middle of the day, right before dinner service. Other restauratns will make family meal throughout dinner service and serve it to the staff at the end of service. then there are those restaurants that won’t make a meal for the staff but will have them order items off the menu for their “meal”. I find this not to be the best way to go since it isnt that cost effective and alsom, where’s the fun in that!?

Brunch Family Meal: Sobrosada, Roasted Beets, Red Potatoes, Rioja Vinegar, Poached Eggs.

At The Harvest Vine, weserve family meal at the end of service. throughout the day, teh most asked question from the staff is not usually about something about the menu (they should already know the menu!), but it is always, “so whats for family meal? Family meal at our restaurant isn’t like any other family meal I’ve experienced at places. It’s not to often that I get to enjoy a meal, especially at my job, where all the staff gather around the bar of our open kitchen and enjoy, relax, and recollect on all that has happend the past 5 Hours. We cooks put up all of the fixings for a great meal. A salad from the pantry station, and starches, vegetables, and proteins prepared from the fish and meat station. We spend all day making sure we put up miraculous food for our diners, that we need to make sure that we eat well too!

Apple and Beef Tongue Salad, Glazed Carrots, Rice Pilaf, Roasted Chicken

I find it an amazing thing that we can come together at the end of the night and just enjoy a simple meal together. It’s difficult enough to do this with my actually family, but I feel that this is as close as I can get to an actually meal with my family. These folks ARE my family. These are the people I see probably the most in my life and it is a great thing knowing that we all have such a great companionship and such camaraderie. To show how great our staff is, even our front of the house staff likes to contribute to staff meal. We’ve had some great meals like homemade lasagna, to empanadas to spam masubi for family meal made by those who don’t even step into the kitchen! How great is that?!

Sauteed Greens, Porchetta with Creamy polenta.

I always find great appreciation for family meal. Not only is it a free meal, there is always so much care behind these meals. These meals brings us together and for a second, we get to forget about what we are there for and stop catering to others and get to cater to ourselveves, our family…

Beef Tongue: The Better Roast Beef

If there is one thing that I try to get guests to try at The Harvest Vine, it would have to be the Beef Tongue. Beef Tongue is just one of those dishes that people seem to be so scared off because of what it is…. a tongue of a cow.  Most of the people who are disgusted with beef tongue usually explains to me that they actually have had it before, usually made by their parents or grandparents, but it was just never good. Well thanks moms, dads, grand mothers and grand fathers. You have ruined something so great to these people and its time for a redemption…

Say Ahhhhhh!

It might not sound like the most appetizing thing to eat, let alone look like something that a human should ever have to put into their mouth, but I feel that is a completely versatile piece of meat. It’s like the better roast beef. When you thinly slice it, it’s perfectly good served cold.  It has the melt in your mouth texture that resembles the texture of a perfect slice of roast beef along with a great red wine flavor and saltiness that it absorbs in the brining process. You can the tongue into thicker pieces and sear each side of of the slice until its peferctly crispy and caramelized and still retain that great texture that the tongue has.

This is the process that a beef tongue undergoes until it reaches ultimate (and very edible) tastiness.

We brine the tongue(s) in a red wine brine with salt, sugar, aromatics, mirepoix, and of course, red wine for atleast 3-4 days. Brining aids with the flavor and texture of the tongues outcome.

Tongue In Brine!

Then we strain the mirepoix and aromatics then discard the brining liquid. We caramelize the mirepoix in hot pans and then add tomato paste and choricer paste then cook it down. Deglaze the pan with red wine and then add everything to the beef tongue and cover with beef stock/water with garlic cloves and herbs.

Tongue ready to be braised!

Braise at 325F for 4-5 hours with turning the tongue half way through until you can poke a knife or skewer through the tongue with no resistance. Then pull out tongue from liquid and let sit at room temperature until cool enough to handle. Strain the braising liquid from the mirepoix and etc and save for later use.

Tongues ready to be pulled out.

Once cool enough to handle but still warm, carefully pull off the skin from the meat from the tongue. You can do this while the tongue is cool, but it is much easier when the tongue is still warm. It should come off pretty easy but to take off skin with out ripping meat off, just carefully maneuver your finger between the skin and the meat, gently separating the two from each other. Otherwise, just go a head and rip that skin off!

The Naked Tongue

Once the skin is off, the tongue is all ready to use! Right now, our work has the tongue on the menu for Seattle Restaurant Week as a salad. The tongue is chilled then thinly sliced and then covered  with alioli (garlic mayonnaise), sliced pippara peppers, sea salt, and a really nice arbequinia olive oil. It’s a really simple salad that really lets the flavor of the beef tongue shine. The pipparas bring a nice acidic kick to the dish and then the alioli brings it all together to really balance out all of the richness of the tongue and the acidity from the pipparas.

Lengua de Vaca

Lengua de Vaca

We also have it on the brunch menu as a bocadillo (a small sandwhich in Spain) where we warm up the sliced tongue and then serve it with braising liquid as a dipping caldo (think like a French Dip, but rather a ‘Basque Dip’). There was also a request for a tongue dish so I made a dish with panaderas potatoes, seared tongue, 2 poached eggs, alioli, and demi. It turned out to be a great dish and the customer even said it should be put on the menu ASAP. We’ll see about that! =]

Beef tongue with Panaderas potatoes and Poached eggs.

This was a great post to me because I love trying to get people to try to be more adventurous and to be not so afraid of food like this especially when they are something as delicious as tongue!