Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Best chefs gather at The Cave

Nadine Kam photos
Vintage Cave chef Chris Kajioka, left, welcomed chef Blaine Wetzel, right, of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington, and pastry chef Baruch Ellsworth of Canlis, Seattle, into his kitchen for a collaboration event Feb. 23 and 24.

By Nadine Kam

The Vintage Cave welcomed Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington, during a collaboration event also featuring resident chef Chris Kajioka and pastry chef Baruch Ellsworth of Canlis, Seattle.

Wetzel was one of 10 Best New Chefs recognized by Food & Wine magazine last year, and came prepared with his regional sockeye salmon and alder wood, while also making time to go foraging with local chef Mark Noguchi for such ingredients as He'eia seaweeds and yam shoots.

The collaboration dinners took place Feb. 23 and 24, with 10 courses involving 15 dishes, including three desserts created by Ellsworth, also deemed "one of the best new pastry chefs in the country," by Food & Wine.

It was a great opportunity to sample their fare in such an intimate setting, and always so wonderful to see the creative work being done in the Cave.

As I told Chris later, it takes a lot of hard work and thought to reinvent the way we perceive, prepare and present food, and I appreciate the effort and out-of-the-box thinking.

The hard work starts with top chefs before trickling down to change the way we all eat. That's why we now can enjoy farm-fresh Hawaii regional cuisine plate lunches for about $10 to $12, where 20 years ago it was only available in high-end restaurants.

At our table someone joked that it's just a matter of time before we see truffle fries at McDonald's.

Here are the dishes presented:

Toasted kale leaves with black truffle and grated soy, so light and brittly crisp with satisfying umami effect. Dinner was off to a good start. This was among my favorite dishes.

Presentation of the Kona Kumamoto oysters with sake, elderflower and cucumber ice.

One per diner.

Vanilla-bean macaron sandwiching sturgeon caviar. One per person.

Kona kampachi topped with charred scallion, hearts of palm and cilantro, accented with tapioca pearls.

This dish was not on the menu, but added during the course of dinner, brioche topped with Golden Ossetra caviar and creme fraiche.

Organic greens and watercress with lightly salted rye and seared Hawaiian abalone. The rye had the snap and fluffiness of wild rice.

Smoked bigeye tuna with He'eia seaweeds and their broth with crunchy toasted quinoa.

Lummi Island sockeye salmon smoked over alder wood.

This was so amazing. Shaved foie gras over banana, parsnip, macadamia nuts and spiced meringues. The powdery foie gras simply melted on the tongue, bursting with full flavor. Later, Chris explained the "simple" process of making a traditional foie gras torchon, passing the mixture through a fine tamis, or sieve, then deep-freezing it and later shaving it on a micro plane.

Charred escarole under yam shoots.

Shinsato Farm suckling pig with cabbage and dill, with light anchovy broth poured into the dish after its initial presentation.

Chris Ly's very yum ulu and kiawe bean bread served with Naked Cow Dairy fondue.

Lilikoi curd with braised pineapple and powdered coconut, with white chocolate with the brittleness of deep-fried chip.

Grapefruit sorbet over smoked vanilla meringue.

Molokai sweet potato spheres with Manjari ganache, sassafras ice cream and hibiscus meringues.

You could see the purple of the sweet potato after taking a bite.

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