My Great Grandmother Cassidy lived in a beautiful antebellum-style home near the state capitol in Olympia. The front yard was dominated by a gigantic Bing cherry tree. As children we used to go visit Grandma Cassidy and I couldn’t wait to climb the stairs to the grand second level porch, and reach out and pick some juicy black-red cherries. My brothers and I would try and see who could spit the pits the farthest off the balcony towards the street below. Sadly, after Grandma sold the property to the state, her beautiful mansion was torn down–along with that huge Bing cherry tree, to make room for more state government buildings.
Several years ago when I was chef of this beautiful restaurant Rix in Santa Monica CA, we came up with a great summer-y salad using Bing cherries–and we named it “Cherry Love”.
The salad is on our menu now, and is very popular with our guests. It consists of baby spinach leaves, feta cheese, sweet Walla Walla onions, roasted pistachio nuts, and a vinaigrette that we make from the cherries.
Genius: Pacific Grill’s tuna melt
CHAT WITH CHEF GORDON NACCARATO
Yeah, we already know he’s a culinary genius, but Tacoma’s award-winning chef Gordon Naccarato knocked me off his Pacific Grill chair with his tuna melt. The open faced grilled ahi tuna sandwich off his Pacific Grill’s lunch menu deserves to be bronzed. I know it’s one of his favorites, too. He tried to take it off his lunch menu once, but people cried in the streets. It’s back on, thank goodness.
I caught up with Naccarato for the scoop behind this dish.
WEEKLY VOLCANO: Who came up with this creation?
GORDON NACCARATO: Many years ago when I had my restaurant in Aspen, I was looking for a modern update on the classic tuna melt for my lunch menu. I think back then I used a New York white cheddar and served it without the bread (back before there was any decent bread in the U.S.) and used an opal basil butter … but I loved the white cheddar with the fish. When we were kicking ideas around for another sandwich for PG I remembered the dish from Aspen and how delicious it was. I wanted the sandwich served open-face on top of grilled La Brea Bakery bread. I love grilled bread. Everything tastes better with grilled bread — just like everything tastes better with bacon!
VOLCANO: Why do you think it works well?
NACCARATO: The combination of the vintage cheddar cheese with the soft, rare flesh of the tuna is very satisfying. The charred warm exterior of the flesh contrasts with the cool rare center. It all plays well against the contrasting texture of the grilled rustic bread. The charred rosemary mayonnaise is another layer of lusciousness. Charring the rosemary provides a slight natural smokiness. The grilled onions provide a sweet note against the rich cheese, and the tomatoes provide an acidic note of punctuation. I love watching people take a first bite of this dish; it always elicits a satisfying smile.
VOLCANO: What kind of beverage goes best with it?
NACCARATO: I would think either a refreshing wine, or beer. A Washington Pinot Gris would be good. It has medium body, and hints of apple and pear that would taste great with the cheddar, and it has enough acidity to cleanly cut through the rich dish — or a Belgian golden ale called Duvel, that we have right now, would be nice — as it is light bodied and has notes of citrus that would be refreshing against the rich fish.
VOLCANO: What sandwich did your mom always put in your lunch box for school?
NACCARATO: A tuna fish sandwich on Wonder Bread, made with mayo (never Miracle Whip — YUCK) and pickles and iceberg lettuce.
VOLCANO: Plain, super heroes, or sports figures — what was your favorite lunch box?
NACCARATO: My favorite Lunch Box was a brown bag … except for the time I set it on the ground and ran back inside my house to get a book I forgot, and when I came back outside the neighbor’s dog had peed all over my brown bag lunch!
VOLCANO: Nice. Do you have anything in the works to grace your lunch menu soon?
NACCARATO: I am planning our spring menus right now, and I am always thinking about new sandwiches — like when I put our version of a sloppy joe on the menu with roast pork shoulder in tomato sauce over grilled bread with shaved reggiano. I love tweaking classic sandwiches. Maybe I should do a patty melt on grilled rye, gruyère cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut — but a REALLY good version — or why bother?
Pacific Grill, lunch served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday
1502 Pacific Ave
Article Reprinted by permission
We did a great special main course recently:
Alaskan King Crab legs steamed with mussels, prawns, manila clams, red jacket potatoes, corn on the cob, onion & bay leaf.
This was prepared for a minimum of two people [unless you were a really hungry big guy] and served simply with drawn butter & lemon wedges.
We served it on our gorgeous crab platters, which made for a great presentation!