Occasionally we get complaints or comments on why we do not automatically put salt & pepper shakers on our tables at Pacific Grill restaurant.
The answer is very simple. I (like a lot of other chefs I know) want my guests to taste their food first. This is not a health issue–it is a taste issue.
I have a close friend named Charlene who always—almost unconsciously—salts her food the minute it is placed in front of her and she hasn’t even tasted it yet.
At dinner she would talk on and on relentlessly salting whatever dish it was, until I almost lunged across the table and shouted out to her to stop! This habitual, knee-jerk reaction is rude to the chefs that have toiled so long and hard to make a perfect dish. And especially rude to me since she was dining in my home.
When a dish leaves my kitchen it has been seasoned. It has salt and pepper, or soy sauce—or Thai fish sauce or some other seasoning particular to the dish and very carefully chosen. And hopefully it leaves the kitchen well-seasoned.
The only thing worse than over-seasoned food is UNDER-seasoned food!
Granted we sometimes make mistakes and under or over-season a dish, but please try the dish first, then if you would like additional salt please ask.
Many times when we garnish dishes, just before delivering them to the dining room, we add a final grind of a special exotic peppercorn blend, or we use an expensive finishing sea salt over juicy heirloom tomatoes, for example—if you then add table salt on top of the sea salt, you are most likely not going to like the flavor.
I had this happen to me many times where a guest returned a dish as being “too salty” with the waiter later explaining to me that they saw the guest flailing away with the salt before tasting it. A few restaurants ago I decided that I would remove the salt shakers from the dining room.
The worst example was once upon a time I had served a potato pancake with an ounce of expensive Beluga caviar on top. The guest told the waiter that it was too salty –when the waiter returned the dish he explained that the guest was seen salting the CAVIAR!!! (And the wholesale cost of caviar at the time was about $50/oz).
After that, the decision to remove the salt shakers from my dining room was very easy.
Thanks for reading my blog, and for those of you who’ve noticed [and been pestering me to start writing again] let me explain that I have been traveling a bit—to Los Angeles for an amazing lunch at the best restaurant in LA. And also at Mario Batali’s and good friend Nancy Silverton’s (La Brea Bakery superstar chef) new restaurant Osteria Mozza—one of the hardest tickets to get in town– for a dazzling dinner in Hollywood, and with celebrities in tow…
I will be blogging and sharing photos about these meals, soon. I also continued south from LA and landed in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 11 days of beaching, exploring, shopping and eating some of the best street tacos I’ve ever had—all with camera in tow to let you in on some great street food I discovered.
Here at Pacific Grill, we have just changed the Dinner, Lunch and Bar Menus a bit to reflect our continued transition from Spring into Summer, and I will be sharing with you some of our new dishes: like our grilled lamb flank steak with amazing feta mashed potatoes, and a delicious light summery salad of grilled oregano chicken with a warm Greek bread salad.
While we were working on these menus we noticed how often that arugula [rocket, roquette, rugula, and rucola] has been showing up in our menus on salads and as a good garnish on some of our grilled meat entrees. This pungent lettuce looks beautiful, and has a hot-mustard taste rather like radish.
And now I just read an interesting article on how nutritious it is too! The article says: “Pack some onions and arugula betwixt your turkey burger and bun today. It’s a delicious way to help protect your pancreas”.
Apparently, an 8-year study found that people who consumed this leafy green had a 23% less chance of getting pancreatic cancer. Onions are another good source. So if you eat one of our Steak Salads at lunch and dinner, know you are putting some good cancer-fighters into your system, as well as enjoying a delicious meal.
If you’d like to read the complete article you can find it on Oprah’s Dr. Oz website here:
In ancient times, herbs were thought to be mainly medicinal… gypsies used herbs for fortune telling, and in the Middle Ages, herbs were used to preserve meats as well as to cover-up the flavors of rotting flesh, and used in religious observances. Over the centuries we had less need to cover-up the off-flavors of spoilage, and began to love the flavors herbs imparted just for themselves. Now we are coming full-circle and realizing that herbs indeed have tremendous antioxident properties, with implications that affect our health–another reason to eat more fresh herbs.
(photo shows Pacific Grill Executive Chef, Aaron Valimont, holding a bunch of Rosemary going to fight for our health!)
In a recent article found on http://www.realage.com/ there is an interesting study on the medicinal qualities of rosemary— one of my favorite herbs.
When I first started cooking professionally I was struck by what a wonderful piney flavor rosemary imparted to foods and marinades. In fact, I make an all-purpose herb infused oil that we use to marinate vegetables, meats and chicken, out of a blend of 10% extra-virgin olive oil, 90% canola oil, chopped garlic, fresh chopped Italian parsley & chopped fresh rosemary.
When I was growing up, my Italian grandfather, Frank Naccarato, used to make a wonderful minestrone soup at his restaurant on the old mountain highway that I still wish I had the recipe for. One day while making a vegetable soup for my restaurant Gordon’s in Aspen, I happened to add a bunch of chopped rosemary. After the vegetables had simmered, and the soup was ready to taste—it immediately conjured-up the memory of my grandpa’s– and I realized I had discovered the secret of great chicken soup—it was the rosemary! Every mother knows that chicken soup is good for you when you are sick. But we are just beginning to find out how good certain herbs are for us!
Now a study has found that not only is rosemary a great flavor booster– and one of the trendiest cooking herbs, but the article goes on to say: ”… the fragrant needle-leaved herb is also showing early promise as a cancer killer…in cell studies, rosemary extract has given both breast cancer and leukemia cells a real fight.”
As a way of introducing a greater use of rosemary in your diet, they suggest sticking a fresh sprig in lemonade, or steep some rosemary in hot tea, and sprinkle it on salads.
At Pacific Grill we use rosemary in many of our dishes. It is a particular favorite of mine on our Saddle of Lamb.
And don’t forget it’s the secret of great chicken soup!
References: Anti-proliferative and antioxidant properties of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis. Cheung, S., Tai, J., Oncology Reports 2007 Jun;17(6):1525-1531.