Friday, February 12, 2016

Vintage Valentine

This is the setting for the fun and energetic cooking class we participated in at The Marine Room in La Jolla, California.
We have enjoyed many fine meals at the Marine Room in La Jolla, and I recently learned that cooking demonstrations are offered four times yearly.  Earlier this week, Rich and I attended the "Vintage Valentine" class which was great fun.  In the oft repeated words of Chef Bernard:  "Life is Delicious!"
The class was presented by Executive Chef Bernard Guillas and Chef de Cuisine Ron Oliver, who have also collaborated on two gorgeous cookbooks - most recently, Two Chefs, One Catch - pictured above

The cookbooks are a story in themselves.  Beautifully written and photographed, Chefs Ron and Bernard shopped the first book, Flying Pans, to several literary agents, with no takers - so they self published - and the book won awards!
We were treated to a very refreshing, light cocktail - lemon vodka with pomegranate juice and seltzer

Mise en place for the Maine Lobster Minestrone 
First up was preparation of the Maine Lobster Minestrone.  Chef Ron reminded us that Minestrone is essentially "Cucina Povera" or peasant cooking and was typically a way to create a filling dish using food leftover from previous meals.  This was no Cucina Povera!!!

Chef Bernard is over the top, bubbly, effusive; Chef Ron is deadpan.  They play off each other beautifully!

Waiting for dinner service

Chef Bernard shelling the lobster for the minestrone that Chef Ron was composing.  The stock was the lobster cooking water re-infused briefly with the lobster shells for added flavor. 
The lobsters had been prepared prior to class, and the water in which they were cooked was the base for the minestrone.  After the meat was deftly extracted from the shells, the shells were added back into the simmering stock for about 10 minutes, to further fortify/infuse it with the rich flavor of the lobster.  Diced pancetta had a quick saute' in olive oil, then aromatics were sweated in the fat.  Drinkable white wine, tomatoes, the lobster stock and barley were added and brought to a simmer, at which point the pasta and remaining vegetables except the spinach were added to the pot.  The spinach leaves were placed in serving bowls; they are cooked at the point that the hot finished soup is ladled over them.  Similarly, the cooked lobster is simply pulled through the hot stock to reheat, to prevent overcooking.   The reheated lobster pieces were beautifully arranged in the serving dishes, which were garnished with sprigs of flowering herbs.  Absolutely delicious.  And the pasta shape?  Shells, of course!  Chef Bernard has shared the recipe online; here is his link:

Maine Lobster Minestrone, as presented by Chef Bernard
Chef Bernard seasoning tenderloin for Beef Wellington

 Next up was Filet Mignon Wellington with Foie Gras and Duxelles, with a Truffle Port Wine Reduction, served with "Sexy Bundles" of White Asparagus, Pickled Carrots and Chive, and Comte Mashed Potatoes.   Chef Bernard started by seasoning the trimmed filet portions well with salt and pepper, and then searing in olive oil on all sides.  Meanwhile, he sauteed sliced mushrooms, shallots and butter until they sizzled, then chopped them into a paste in the food processor.  Next step was to slice foie gras pate thinly in order to assemble the final dish.  Puchased puff pastry was cut into an 8' square, then rolled out more thinly.  A portion of mushrooms was placed on the pastry, topped with the filet, then the slice of foie gras, then more mushroom duxelles.  At this point the pastry was gently folded over the top of the bundle, and the edges sealed under.  The entire package can be refrigerated for up to 12 hours prior to baking.
Chef Bernard plating the components of the main course

Filet Mignon Wellington, Comte Potatoes, White Asparagus Bundle with a Truffle Port Wine Reduction 
 Et Voila - the finished product!  The aromas during preparation were simply amazing!
Finally, a Flight of Chocolate Pot de Creme
The final course for the evening was a trio of Pot de Creme, which is basically a very gently cooked egg custard made with heavy cream, and in this case, three types of chocolate - dark, milk and white.  The custards were piped into mini-ramekins using a tool called a "Sugar Gun" or "Sauce Gun" which was similar to a funnel but with a lever with which one is able to easily control the flow of liquid into a container.  The ramekins were plated on top of an orange slice and two pieces of sliced lotus root - simply to keep the small dishes from sliding around on the dish.  They were garnished with citrus biscotti, shortbread spoons and a chocolate curl.  The only difference between Pot de Creme and Creme Brulee is that the Brulee is coated with a layer of sugar which is "bruleed" or carmelized by direct flame on top.

Interestingly, The Marine Room, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary, was in the news recently, as a hungry sea lion pup wandered into the restaurant and was found sleeping in a booth with a view very early in the morning.  During the evening, Chef Bernard shared the news that he had been to Sea World earlier in the day to visit the pup, now named "Marina", and that she has gained 4 pounds since her rescue and will be released back in the sea in a few weeks.

Anyone interested in more information regarding this wonderful evening, please contact me at

Travel Well!!!

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