The Main Ingredient

One thing that's fun, always interesting and almost a must when exploring the culinary world is utilizing an ingredient in a way that you wouldn't normally think to. I had the opportunity to experience this a couple of times this week. 

On Tuesday I was invited (yes, writing about food does have it's perks) to a 'Pear Luncheon' at Lauro Kitchen. The luncheon was in celebration of chef Jennifer Buehler's winning recipe in the USA Pears Pear Panache contest. Each year, the Pear Bureau reaches out to national chefs in the fall (or the beginning of the pear season) and asks them to create their own unique recipes featuring...you guessed it...pears. Of the entries, seven recipes are selected and are featured each month through March. Chef Buehler won for her Braised Oregon Lamb Shank with Caramelized Bosc Pears and Shallots with Pistachio Cous Cous (pictured right). I got to taste the incredible dish as well as four other dishes featuring different varieties of pears. And, we even started off with a pear cocktail called "The Local": Aviation Gin, Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Rosemary Syrup and a slice of a fresh green Anjou pear as a garnish. A surprise that wasn't on the menu, but that was clearly a favorite of mine was a pizza with slices of red Anjou pears, mozzarella and proscuitto. I would have been happy with that alone! 

Wednesday brought a similar idea, but with a sweet twist. The Portland Culinary Alliance (P.S. an organization I sit on the board for) held a dinner of chocolate indulgence and education at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Portland. The dinner featured doctor and author of the cookbook Good Food, Great Medicine, Dr. Miles Hassell, who took attendees through the benefits of chocolate in a healthy diet. Of course we were all ears to hear that we could have chocolate in our daily diets - in moderation and watching the calorie count of course. Our guest chef for the evening was David Briggs, chocolatier and owner of Xocolatl de David

The dinner consisted of five courses where the main ingredient in each dish was chocolate. Think you'd pass out in a sweet, sugar high after such an evening? It didn't happen. The chocolate was so perfectly matched in each dish and paired so well with the savory elements in all. It was so interesting to see chocolate used in such a unique way. Chocolate vinaigrette with cocoa nibs in the salad? Crab bisque emulsified with chocolate? It was a delightful combo. 

The moral of the story - the next time you go to utilize your favorite ingredient, think of what it might taste like in a dish that may be just the opposite of how you prepare it. Do you usually use something as a sweet treat? What would it be like as a main ingredient paired with meat?
Raleigh Cake with salted caramel sauce                        
Some other things I just loved this week...
  • Wine country...yes, again. It's going to be a heck of a season tasting Oregon wines and I'm happy to be kicking it off with our early days of sunshine we've been having. This weekend we ventured out to Carlton to some new spots I haven't been to before. Seven of Hearts winery won for its hospitality, and selection of artisan chocolates made right there in the store. Anne Amie winery won for the best wine and probably what is one of the most incredible views in all of Oregon wineland. 
  • Brunch on Sunday at Meriwether's. I don't think there's much more to say. Meriwether's is always a Sunday brunch staple to me. And the weather was nice enough today to take in the scene on the covered, and heated, back patio. Perfection.

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