Pranzo Italiano! with Chris Cosentino and Jeremy Tummel: Cooking For Solutions 2013, Monterey CA
Day 2 of Cooking For Solutions brought us to Pebble Beach. Our favorite offalist Chris Cosentino and Jeremy Tummel designed a four-course meal for a lunch at Casa Palmero. The weather was excellent, and the food matched.
While we waited to be seated, we sipped champagne from Chandon. In fact, all the wine pairings were from Chandon. Staff eagerly rushed out more flutes than we could handle as we anticipated the main event, and the sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir were well suited to their respective entrees; at the third course with the pinot noir, August gasped, “This is my new favorite red! It tastes like savory liquid dessert.”
The skewered kobe beef was superbly seared with a medium-rare center. It was extremely tender with a deep beef flavor, and the sauce was rich yet mellow so the kobe was still the star of the bite. The roasted artichokes with Bermuda Triangle goat cheese and pepper relish were marinated so there was some green acidity underneath the tanginess of the goat cheese. Zach typically does not like goat cheese because it is strong for him, but this “wasn’t the strongest (he’s) had, it’s more like a medium to low range.” The sweet, earthy relish was refreshing to top it off. The oysters, though, stole the show. Chef Chris shucked them for us while answering questions and sharing anecdotes. The two mignonettes for the oysters were citrusy like a vinaigrette without oil, but each had their own zing (the serrano was a little spicy, but good).
Being Italian-American and growing up with certain attitudes towards food, Chef Chris explained to us that “Italian food is convivial,” so all but dessert was served family-style. We had a great time meeting our table mates and making new friends.
Chef Chris was not reserved in speaking to us about our meal. He explained that our first course was “from the bottom of the food chain today,” with vegetables, anchovies, and an anchovy bagna cauda (for which we were given the recipe, yum).
We passed the platter to pile our plates of fresh, fragrant finger foods. Some vegetables in this non-traditional crudité were raw while others were lightly blanched, but the bagna cauda was delicious for it all. Like a super intense Caesar salad dressing, it was tangy, salty, and bright.
Second course was a green salad like none we’ve had before. The vegetables tasted like they were harvested that morning. The deep green colors aligned with the vibrant smells, so you could tell that the ingredients were as fresh as you could get. To stay in the theme of seafood, Chef Chris shaved salted cured fish roe, which added an intensely rich saltiness.
When the third course arrived, Chef Zach took charge and served each person at our table since it was just too heavy to try to pass this around. The pork was so tender and moist, he used a spoon to cut and serve! Despite being that tender, the meat still had a nice rub on the crust, aka bark, so we’re happy to have gotten the recipe for the dish and learn how to recreate it. For either this or the bagna cauda, if you’re interested in trying them for yourself, let us know and we will send you the recipe(s).
We don’t believe we’ve had asparagus as sweet as this was. The sauce for the pork and clams was a mild green garlic, more like a deep broth with rich clam flavor. The aioli, though, was killer. It enhanced each element of the course and brought uniformity and theme among the different flavors. Zach especially liked it with the asparagus, and August couldn’t get enough on her pork.
The desserts didn’t have a name or description, and we’re not going to make up a name, but we can still write about the flavors and textures. The chiffon-like cake was very thin and soaked in a flavored simple syrup, with fresh strawberries set in the white chocolate mousse. Smooth and creamy, the mousse was August’s favorite part of the plate. It had a deep white chocolate flavor that perfectly complemented the strawberries. The strawberry sorbet was rich but ironically light – sorbets are supposed to be light, but this was so creamy it almost fooled us because it didn’t have the same rough ice crystal feel that we’re accustomed to, and it didn’t even contain any cream or milk. Zach felt it was tart and tangy with a natural, robust strawberry flavor. Raspberry sauce and vanilla crème anglaise created a fancy border between the two parts, which was great for the cake as well as plain with a spoon. It helped to offset the dessert so that we didn’t go on strawberry overload.
We can’t wait to pour over this cookbook organized by season. Part of practical, conscientious eating is being aware of not just where our food is from, but when. With an enthused sense of culinary responsibility and environmental awareness inspired by what we’ve learned so far in two events of Cooking For Solutions, we eagerly await (and look forward to sharing with you) tonight’s street food-themed dinner and tomorrow’s conclusion.