Sunday, June 29, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course four...

The next course in our Colorado chef's degustation menu featured a duet of duck, or "duck squared" as we like to call it. Here, we attempted to pair two preparations of duck into a cohesive dish highlighting the variance in flavor and cooking methodology. We think it was a fairly successful effort.
The first of our duck preparations was a hand-rolled ravioli filled with duck confit and caramelized leeks. Duck confit is a traditional French preparation of duck (hailing from the Gascony region) in which the duck leg is first salt cured, and then poached in it's own fat. The result is a flavorful and very rich piece of meat-- the perfect filling for a ravioli.
The ravioli was paired with our second preparation of duck-- Earl Grey tea smoked duck breast. To prepare this duck, we wok-smoked a seasoned duck breast over loose Early Grey tea leaves. The meat was tender and juicy, and redolent with the spicy high notes of the tea.

Both preparations of meat were served atop a ragout of broad beans, grilled baby artichokes, and earthy fresh morel mushrooms. The dish was finished with a juniper berry pan jus and juniper berry oil, both of which accentuated the sweet tea-scents and richness of the meat.
Striking in both appearance and taste, this course was a favorite of the guests. It would be difficult to pick a favorite preparation of the duck-- the richness of the confit versus the spiciness of the smoked duck! Tomorrow, the palate cleanser... and then on to the "entree" in our Colorado chef's degustation. Be sure to check back.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course three...

Our review of the recently imagined and prepared Colorado chef's degustation continues with the "fish course." In this course, we sought to marry the natural sweetness of fish with the earthiness of truffles and freshness of local produce.

This well-balanced course started with a vibrant green "soup" of braised pea shoots, finished with the earthy undertone of white truffle oil. The soup was fresh, slightly acidic, and the perfect complement to the richness of the risotto and fish.
Atop the soup, we placed a "risotto" made from Israeli pearl couscous-- a larger grain with more textural "bite" to it. The risotto was flavored with fresh asparagus, smoky saffron, and herbal tarragon.

Butter poached Chilean sea bass topped the risotto-- the sweetness of the fish shining through the simple preparation. The buttery flesh was perfectly moist and flaky, tastes melding easily with the risotto and soup.

Sauteed black truffles finished the dish, a testament to the belief that 'a little goes a long way...' These truffles tied the dish together, pulling in the white truffle oil from the soup and creating a memorable gustatory experience.
Tomorrow, duck! Be sure to see what we came up with as a follow-up to this, our favorite fish course prepared in recent memory!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course two...

Course two of our Colorado chef's degustation was developed with the intention of highlighting simple Japanese flavors, while cleansing the palate and awakening the taste buds to future courses.
To that end, we prepared a deconstructed Japanese "mojito..."
The focal point of the deconstructed course was an icy granita of Hakutsure-Sayuri (はくつるーさゆり) sake, a sweet unfiltered sake reminiscent of cantaloupe melon. The warmth of the sake was complemented by a green aloe "air"-- a light whipped foam which clung to the icy granita, providing both textural and temperature contrast.
A fresh flavored sweet shiso gelée, cubed to resemble ice cubes with a foamy gradient, provided an herbal tone to the dish. Freshly crisped shiso sprinkled with sea salt, and hand-candied young white ginger tempura provided both warmth and texture to the complex dish.
All in all, this "cold" course awoke the palates of our guests, providing both a cleansing bite as well as a conversation starter. It prepared us all for the following course, the fish course. Check back to see what we did with Chilean sea bass!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course one...

We continue our review of our recently prepared Colorado chef's degustation menu with a look at course one... a fish course.
Our aim with this course was to highlight the natural sweetness inherent in delicious diver scallops, and then to complement the sweetness with a smokey, earthy foil. In pursuit of that goal, we began this dish with a base of roasted cauliflower puree-- the roasting process adding both a deeper earthy flavor to the vegetable, but also providing a hint of caramelization and resulting sweetness.
The pan sauteed diver scallop was served atop this puree, and surrounded by a warm and tangy caper and white raisin espuma. This warm foam was both acidic from the capers, and sweet from the slow-cooked sun dried white raisins, balancing the earthiness of the cauliflower and the sweetness of the scallop. The airiness of the foam allowed the intensity of flavors, as had this been a traditional sauce or vinaigrette, it would have overwhelmed the delicate scallop.

A floret of caramelized cauliflower and some delicious warm, oven-dried grapes provided a textural contrast, as well as intense bites of flavor.

Tomorrow, course two... the first of two "palate cleansers" in our Colorado chef's degustation. See you then!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: amuse bouche

Our Colorado chef's degustation meal continued with a plated amuse bouche. Part of our culinary philosophy, here at orenji, is bringing people together to try new and exciting flavor combinations. The duet of amuse bouches is a perfect example of this approach. By creating many small bites of food, we can experiment with a far more varied array of flavors, textures, and cooking preparations... and our guests therefore get to expand their own culinary palates in the process.

The first of the two amuse is one of our most frequent requested items-- a sweet Turkish apricot, poached delicately in a rosemary infused sweet wine, stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and applewood smoked bacon, and broiled until warm. A syrup made from a slow reduction of the poaching liquid completed this rich, but tasty bite.

The second amuse bouche-- also attributed to Thomas Keller-- was his classic"bacon and eggs," but with an orenji twist. A poached quail egg, sauteed gently with a melange of root vegetables, was finished with a smokey, salty white miso broiled prosciutto. The saltiness of the meat contrasted the buttery egg perfectly, leaving the taste buds craving more... but isn't that exactly what the perfect amuse bouche is meant to do?
Tomorrow, we continue our coverage of the Colorado chef's degustation menu with a look at course one... be sure to check back!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation

A little while ago-- in late spring-- we had the opportunity to travel to Boulder, Colorado and prepare a chef's degustation for some dear friends and clients. The challenge in this particular case was to find locally produced ingredients, as is our culinary aesthetic-- fresh cuisine, highlight locally produced seasonal ingredients. In Boulder, we were fortunate enough to locate locally produced fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and lamb. All in all, the quality of ingredients was exceptional!
Our amuse bouche-- that little bite that tickles the taste buds and prepares the for what is to come-- was an homage to Thomas Keller, one of America's greatest chefs. Light and flaky black sesame tuille cornets were filled with salmon tartare tossed in lime oil, and topped with sweet Maui onion creme fraiche.

The saltiness of the tuille was the perfect foil of the acidic fish, and smooth and creamy creme fraiche. This one-bite treat-- paired with a dry champange-- began the meal beautifully, awakening the taste buds of our guests, and gathering them around the table to begin our meal.
In the next few weeks, we will be highlighting each course of our Colorado chef's degustation-- so please be sure to check back!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Gianduja Chocolate Torte

Recently, we were commissioned to create a specialty birthday cake for a customer who appreciates the finer things in life, and shares our European pastry sensibility. We hurried to the orenji kitchens to pull out all the stops and bake something the finest European pastry chef would be proud of. We think we succeeded quite well.
Beginning with the finest Belgian dutch cocoa, we created a dense chocolate and toasted hazelnut genoise, which we soaked with a vanilla and Frangelico syrup.

The dense and flavorful cake was filled with a mousse prepared with the finest Italian gianduja-- a robust hazelnut-infused chocolate-- creating a light, but deep filling.
The entire torte was covered with Belgian bittersweet chocolate ganache, and toasted chocolate hazelnuts for visual and textural contrast.
To finish the torte, a chocolate rose and accompanying leaves were hand-modeled from bittersweet chocolate and brushed with edible gold dust to create a stunning effect.

The cake was greatly appreciated-- both visually and in taste-- and even the rose was devoured!
In the next few weeks we will turn our attention to a multi-course degustation event we were fortunate enough to be commissioned to create in Boulder, Colorado. The menu allowed us to highlight local ingredients, staying true to our culinary aesthetic. We created some exciting new foods, which we are eager to share with you. Be sure to check back!

Friday, June 06, 2008

More Gourmet Cupcakes!

We continue our review of the duet of speciality gourmet cupcakes prepared this spring.

In contrast to the subtle flavors of our vanilla and lavender cupcakes, this cupcake was sweet, dense, and richly flavored.

We began with a classic butter genoise, loaded with toasted and ground hazelnuts. Once cooled, we soaked the genoise with a syrup infused with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, ensuring the cake would be both moist and delicious.

Topping the genoise was a classic cooked French buttercream, redolent with hand-ground cashew praline dust. The sweet, yet bitter, burnt sugar of the dust made the perfect compliment to the smooth buttercream.
Topped with chunks of cashew praline, these cupcakes were dense and delicious.
Next, we turn our attention to a specialty birthday cake, made in classic Italian style. You don't want to miss this, so we'll see you again soon at 'comparing apples and orenji...'

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gourmet Cupcakes

In today's post, we review the first of two specialty "springtime" cupcakes we were commissioned to create for a dear friend and client.

The first flavor began with a dense poundcake-like yellow cake, richly infused with butter and Tahitian vanilla. Following baking, the cakes were soaked in a simple syrup containing Hawaiian lavender, creating a moist and delicately-flavored floral pastry.

The cakes were then topped with a freshly whipped French buttercream, flavored with freshly zested lemon peel and lavender essence. The acidity of the lemon perfectly complimented the deep floral undertones of the lavender, creating a delicate sensory experience.

Topped with candied violets, these cupcakes were perfect for a summer picnic, high tea, or a lazy afternoon snack.

Tomorrow, the second of our gourmet cupcakes-- very different, but equally as delicious!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mother's Day Treats, part 4...

We conclude our review of Mother's Day 2008 treats with an orenji signature creation: Milk and Dark Chocolate Orange Slices with Candied Orange Peel.
We begin with the finest Belgian milk and bittersweet chocolates-- smooth and creamy-- into which we fold bits of our hand-candied orange peel.

The peel creates a bitter-sweet, sugary contrast to the smoothness of the chocolate, infusing it with deliciously vibrant, yet subtle, orange flavor.

We also are pleased to offer our hand-candied orange peel by itself-- the perfectly sweet finish to any meal.
Wrapped in our signature orange foil, and packaged in gold boxes with 'orenji' embossed ribbon, these orange slices are the perfect gift for any occasion.

Next we turn our attention to some springtime cupcakes in various flavors. You don't want to miss this!