Friday, February 27, 2009

Answer to your question....

Recently, I got a post from someone who was asking about how to select oysters for eating raw at their local seafood market. I thought this was a great opportunity to give some 'facetime' to seafood buyer extraordinaire, Dan Smith. From my point of view, Dan stresses the single piece of information I live by when sourcing for The Sheppard Mansion. Build relationships. Talk to the people who are bringing you your food. Get in touch with it and them. They'll steer you in the right direction. Believe me, the better the producer, but more they're going to want to talk about their products. Happy Oyster eating!!!

FYI, the oysters he's hand delivering in the video were......AWESOME.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Enough Said....

I originally had a long, drawn out blog post for today regarding Tom Colicchio's Diet Coke commercial that aired during the Oscars. I decided not to write any of it since those of you who read the blog know how I feel about anti-griddles, hydrocolloids(incidentally, methylcellulose, the darling of the molecular gastronomy crowd, is commonly used as a treatment for constipation.....check, please), 'squids' and 'shrimp nests'. The only thing I would like to mention is a short comment to all the Alinea Acolytes. Get over yourselves. It's easy for you to strike out at Tom as a sellout or whatever other blather you're posting on forums. Please take note that he wasn't singling out Grant Achatz or Alinea. He was making a point about the difference between simple, sophistication(which is in need of some magazine ink) and fad/fashion. The fact that Alinea is the leader in the 'modern food movement'(their term, not mine) is what it is. The saying goes 'unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes.' Well, when you're the lead dog, occasionally you get some stones thrown in your face.

Here's the commercial. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Oysters are making an appearance on our late winter menu. Raw, pure, pristine oysters. After consulting with our seafood expert, Dan Smith, I decided to go with Belon oysters this week, but the selection will change from week to week depending on what Dan feels like are the best we can possibly buy. I don't think there is much else to be said about oysters. If you love'em, you love'em. If you don't, you compare them to a sinus infection. I didn't grow up eating raw oysters, but I love them now. They are perfection in their simplicity.

Who was the first person who cracked open an oyster and thought 'that looks like something that came out of my nose recently...hmmm, let's see how it tastes'? I don't know who that person was, but I do know that standing around, throwing back raw oysters and drinking beer(Nation Bohemian, please) is one of life's true pleasures. I encourage you to come into the restaurant, have a bottle of champagne and some oysters.

Here's a video of Sheppard Mansion sous chef, Scott Robinson demonstrating the preparation and storage of these pristine oysters.

In this video, Scott demonstrates proper techniques for shucking the oysters.

This photo shows the finished plate. Oysters, ice, three sauces(classic mignonette, thai chili sauce, and country ham mayonnaise) Done.

On the way to the dining room....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

For the Love of Country Ham.....

Yes, I know this is the second post about country ham in two weeks. Get over it.

You see, I love country ham. Ok, I'll say it: I have a 'ham-mance' with country ham. I still have vivid memories of my mom and dad eating country ham steaks and then eating the marrow from the bone. Who knew how good we had it in the 80's? I grew up hearing stories about Polly Noel's amazing hams on the Westminster Road or going down to the basement and cutting off a slab, washing the mold away and frying it up. When we had breakfast at a restaurant my dad almost always had country ham and two eggs. In college, country ham and eggs was my preferred hangover food.(Perhaps the high amount of salt made me drink more water, who knows?) Later in my life, I spent some time working for Patrick O'Connell at The Inn at Little Washington and got to fall in love with country ham all over again.(Thanks, Tom Calhoun) Now that I'm settled back in beautiful South Central PA, my love of country ham hasn't expired. It has grown. I'm sorta like Bubba Gump. Country ham ravioli, country ham in mac and cheese, country ham pizza, country ham over asparagus with hollandaise, etc.

Italy, Spain and France all have their 'shots' at ham supremacy with the Iberico, Proscuitto(please, please, please don't say Pro-Shoot. You just sound like an idiot) and Jambon de Bayonne. Honestly, I think a lot of it is just hype. Sure it's good. But is the THAT good? I'll take a thinly sliced, perfectly aged piece of country ham any day of the week over those guys. You see, I'm a flag waving, Carhartt wearing, Bruce Springsteen listening York County boy and I think it's time the world starts to notice that we've got it as good if not better than them in some food areas.(Hello, Judgment of Paris, just not the Bocuse d'Or)

So, where to start? I mentioned Tom Calhoun. He makes great hams and is out of Culpeper, Virginia. I've also posted about these crazy guys who are putting up their own hams at an amazing little restaurant in Hanover, PA.(Who could that be?)

Right now my ham of choice comes from Allan Benton of Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Madisonville, TN. I had the opportunity to visit with Allan a couple of years ago and got a great tour of his facility. So, through the power of UPS, I can get Benton's ham in Hanover. Amazing. Although, you might be getting a run for your money Allan....I'm gonna crack open some hams in a couple of months. I'll let you know how they turned out!

It's difficult to describe the feeling of opening a box from Benton's. The first thing you are hit with is that distinctive ham smell. Yes, it's better than Drakkar Noir. As soon as you've scraped yourself off the floor(I'm assuming that you'll pass out from the joy of the smell like I do) the obvious next step is to get your hands on it. Massage it. Rub it all over your body. Put on Barry White and whisper to it. Go wherever your mind takes you....Sorry. I lost track of what I was doing. Like I's a ham-mance.

Here's a quick video showing the making of ham mayo. We decided to warm the mayo and serve it with a plate of fried oysters designed to be passed around the table. It's not designed to be sexy; it hasn't been plated with tweezers and paint brushes; it doesn't look more at home in an art museum than a restaurant. It is simply a plate of interesting, satisfying, great eating food. At the end of the day, isn't that the goal?

Go out and get yourself some country ham. Start a 'ham-mance' of your own.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I collect cookbooks. If you helped me move three years ago, you know this fact.(FYI, I have many more now, so if I ask you to help me move, you might want to reconsider) I don't always read them the whole way through...sometimes, I just look at the pictures. I collect cookbooks like boys collect baseball cards or some people collect pocketbooks or shoes. You see, I like to cook, but I also really like restaurants and food. Farmers and producers. Silver and crystal.

Imagine my surprise when on the last day in Paris I stumbled upon this gentleman in front of a bookstall. The stalls are called les bouquinistes. They are all up and down the Seine. This particular stall specializes in cookbooks, menus and food artwork.

Look closely, you'll see a Joel Robuchon book. If you could look closer you'd see a first edition Escoffier. What? So, after lining up a full stack of books, I was able to inquire where the closest ATM was. Upon arriving back at the stall, my new friend started dropping names of Americans who visit his stall that I may know. I knew them and so do you. How about a certain four star chef from New York? Or a four star chef from San Francisco?
Needless to say, I scored some amazing books and had a great conversation to boot.

I told you all of the above so that I could tell you this. I'm an idiot. The book below was released on September 30 of 2008. I knew about it, but didn't buy it. You see, like I said, I collect cookbooks. So, when I new book is coming out, I know about it and usually am able to put it on my wish list. The book below flew well below my radar, because, like I said. I'm an idiot. I looked at the title and thought it was a book for home cooks. You know....'here's stuff we do at the restaurant, dumbed down for the home cook'. Well, I got a copy last week because I read some really great reviews of the book. I've read the book cover to cover. I don't read cookbooks cover to cover. I've read the French Laundry book front to back and in between. I think this book may be as important as the Laundry book continues to be. Perhaps someone should blog their way through it(I'm talking to you Carol). If you like restaurants; if you like cooking; Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Winter Menu, Part One

Well, we're two weeks into the 2009 winter menu, so I thought I'd post a couple of videos of some of the items on the menu. Today's selections are the beet salad with smoked salmon, horseradish cream and rye crumble. Also featured is the beginning portion of the Nutella bread pudding, marshmallow, with bacon and bliss maple syrup sauce.

First up...beet salad. Not really sure about the inspiration for this one. Actually, I'm pretty sure that not every dish needs inspiration. It just tastes good. The components are as follows. Roasted beets tossed with olive oil, orange zest and banyuls vinegar; a round of smoked salmon; horseradish cream, frisee and chervil dressed with herbs, vinegar and olive oil; rye crumble.

Next up are two short videos showing our scrapple. The scrapple we make at the restaurant isn't your grandma's scrapple. It contains cornmeal, shallots, ham hock, foie gras and herbs. Like I said, not your grandma's scrapple. This dish is finished off with a grain mustard sabayon, cornichons, micro lettuces and, again with the Bliss maple syrup.

The final video is the first of a couple of videos about Nutella bread pudding. This dish DID have some inspiration. While I was walking the streets of Paris looking for take out coffee, I constantly encountered walk up crepe stands. The most common crepe seemed to be a Nutella crepe. I had a few Nutella crepes and they were nice, however my favorite was a chestnut cream crepe I had close to our hotel. So, I thought Nutella might play nicely in a dessert. In this example we're using Nutella in a bread pudding and pairing it with marshmallow fluff a bacon and maple syrup sauce. This video explains the nuts and bolts behind the bread pudding. Future videos will tackle the sauce and plating. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Sweet World of Country Ham

If you read my '25 Random Food Things', you may have noticed that I really wish someone would make a dessert out of country ham. Well, what can't that someone be me? We got a shipment of Benton's ham yesterday and as I fell asleep with the sweet aroma of country ham on my hands, I thought 'why don't you make a filling for chocolates with ham, pretzels, butter and maple syrup?'(Don't all of you fall asleep thinking of new ways to use country ham? If we all did, the world would be a better place. Trust me.)

So, round 1 of testing started today with a mixture of Benton's ham, Revonah pretzels(if you have to ask, you've never had them. Your loss) and some Bliss Maple Syrup. I processed the ham, pretzels, and syrup until they made a somewhat smooth paste and then warmed the mixture through with brown butter. We are actually going two ways with this experiment. 1.Filled Chocolates. 2. A chocolate bar.

I'll keep you updated.....or, maybe I'll just say it didn't work out and keep all the goodies for myself.....which will it be....which will it be....?????

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

25 Random Food Things About Me

OK, so I gotta confess that I've been inspired by the cultural phenomenon that is Facebook and the chain letter like '25 Random Things About Me'.(also, by Pim who broke away from Facebook and posted on her blog) I've decided to post 25 Random FOOD Things About Me. Enjoy!

1. I hate using tongs.
2. I wish country ham could be used as a dessert
3. My favorite food memories are not of five star dining or foie gras and truffles, but of my mom's home cooking and my dad's roasted prime rib and horseradish sauce.
4. The first wine I remember really enjoying was Markham Merlot.
5. I think if you use tweezers to plate food; it's not really food.
6. Farmers are the new rock stars.
7. I eat so much asparagus in the spring that I get sick of it. By August, I want it to be the end of April again.
8. I have a lot of knives, but really only use three.(each of these three knives has a name....don't ask)
9. I have more cookbooks than your local Barnes and Noble, but when I'm writing menus I rarely consult them for ideas.
10. When I'm really stuck for menu ideas, I like to listen to Jimmy Buffett on my way to work or when I'm exercising. Something about Jimmy gives me ideas.
11. My two heroes are Marco Pierre White and Jean Louis Palladin.
12. My favorite ingredient is currently Maldon Sea Salt.
13. I'd like to bathe in lard at some point.
14. This is the only way I want to cook. If I had to change, I'd do something else.
15. I once cried because I burned a piece of fish.
16. My love of food stems from summers watching my mom and dad garden and freeze vegetables at home.
17. My favorite kitchen tool is a tie between a Kunz spoon and blue painters tape.
18. I've eaten every type of offal. Yes, even brains.(Insert Hannibal Lecter comment here) My favorite is tongue.
19. I once turned three cases of potatoes because I needed to get better at turning potatoes.
20. I freak out if my pots aren't all lined up in the correct order.
21. I would like to sometime produce a multi-course meal outside using nothing other than a wood fire.
22. One of the happiest food days I've had since moving back to Hanover was meeting Kathy Glahn on an early saturday morning almost two and a half years ago at the Gettysburg Market.
23. Natty Boh and crabs should be their own food group.
24. Nutter Butters. Enough said.
25. I think cheese is a better expression of terroir than wine.