Karl Elliott has two words to describe his experience cooking at the James Beard House in New York City last month: surreal and tiny.
Elliott, the executive chef at Whitworth University, won a trip to the iconic venue as a finalist in a competition sponsored by his employer, Sodexo, which operates the dining services on the campus. The worldwide company operates in 80 countries and serves some 50 million customers every day.
Elliott, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., had helped cook at fundraisers at the James Beard House, but this time things were different. He was shoulder-to-shoulder with six other Sodexo chefs for the final competition on May 15, making his dish for the James Beard Foundation’s president and executive vice president, award-winning chef Roberto Santibanez, a food writer and a vice president for Sodexo. The James Beard House is the former Greenwich Village townhouse of the well-known food writer, teacher and cookbook author and part of the nonprofit culinary arts James Beard Foundation.
“It was quite intimidating,” he said. “It’s not a big, magnificent place, it’s a little more rustic, like somebody’s home. But it was definitely surreal. Julia Child has cooked there.”
The judges chose Elliott’s Blackened Pacific Cod Loin Verde with Tomato Watercress Salad as the top sustainable seafood dish in the competition. To get to the finals, the Sodexo chefs had to create a recipe using fish that are caught with sustainable methods, make a YouTube video of themselves making the dish, talk about their commitment to using sustainable seafood and drum up enough online votes to beat their fellow chefs in the competition.
The company is working toward a pledge to serve only sustainable seafood at all of its 33,400 sites by 2015.
Elliott has been at Whitworth for three years. He previously worked in New York City, Chicago, Miami, Napa Valley in California and at Valdosta State University in Georgia. “It is our responsibility to ensure natural resources are healthy and abundant for future generations,” he said.
Students at Whitworth are concerned, too, he said. In a survey of the students who eat at campus dining services each semester, they consistently rank healthy choices, sustainable ingredients and local, regional foods as their highest concerns, he said.
Elliott said he thought the Southwest flavors of the dish were well received by the tasting panel, although they didn’t get much feedback from judges. The dish is something that might be served to students at Whitworth and can be offered at catered events. The winning recipe also goes into the Sodexo database and can be used by other chefs in the company.
Another area chef, Adam Hegsted of the Coeur d’Alene Casino & Resort, recently served dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. Two other area chefs have been invited to cook there. At least two other area chefs have been honored by the James Beard House.
Executive chef Rod Jessick, of the Coeur d’Alene Resort, cooked there in 1999 and received another invitation about five years later. Also, chef Brian Hutchins, who works at Stix in Spokane, cooked at the James Beard House in 2003.
Here is the recipe for the cod that Elliott served:
Blackened Pacific Cod Verde with Tomato Watercress Salad
From executive chef Karl Elliott, Sodexo, Whitworth University
For the pickled red onion:
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
For the sauce:
6 tomatillos, large dice
1 jalapeño, stemmed and cut in half
1/4 small white onion, large dice
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1/2 cup cilantro, rough chop
Salt and black pepper, to taste
For the crispy corn strips:
2 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/4 cup vegetable oil
For the salad:
2 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/2-inch dice
2 ears fresh corn, kernels only
2 fresh avocados, 1/2-inch dice
4 radishes, cut into 1/4-by-2 inch matchsticks
Juice from one lime
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, rough chop
2 bunches fresh watercress
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the fish:
6 (5-ounce) pieces cod filet, skin off
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 tablespoons blackened fish seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 cloves whole peeled garlic
To prepare the pickled red onions: Place sliced onion in non reactive (plastic or glass) bowl and toss generously with vinegar to coat and marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Prepare the sauce by placing all of the ingredients in a blender to puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
To prepare the crispy corn strips: Heat oil in deep-sided pot until it reaches 350 degrees. Fry strips in small batches until golden brown, drain on paper towel, making sure to season with a little salt.
Prepare the salad: Cut kernels from cob and blanch in salted boiling water until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, remove from water and set aside to cool.
Place cut vegetables (corn, tomato, avocado, radish and cilantro) in mixing bowl, dress ingredients with lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil (reserving a little of both to dress the watercress later), season to taste with salt and pepper. In separate bowl place washed dry watercress and reserve. (Do not dress and season watercress until just before serving to prevent wilting).
To prepare the fish: Season top of cod filets liberally with blackened fish seasoning. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, add half of the oil and carefully place three fish filets seasoned side down into skillet (do not overcrowd the pan). Reduce heat to medium high. Cook for 3 minutes.
Carefully flip fish with a spatula. The fish should have a nice almost black, caramelized crust. Remove pan from heat and add half of the butter, thyme and garlic. Return to low heat and continually baste the fish with butter using a large spoon for 3 additional minutes. Set fish aside. Clean skillet and repeat with remaining filets.
To serve the dish, place 2 ounces of sauce onto the center of each plate. Evenly divide the vegetables on top of the sauce. Place fish on top of vegetables. Place a little watercress lightly tossed with lime juice and olive oil to the side of the fish. Garnish with pickled onions and crispy corn strips.
Yield: 6 servings
Chipotle Mexican Grill opens today
Food with integrity?
That is what national chain Chipotle Mexican Grill said will be on the menu at the new Spokane location when it opens today. So, what does that mean?
Chipotle is one of the few fast-food chain restaurants that says it is committed to buying naturally raised meat, along with local, sustainable produce.
According to the company’s new release, Chipotle served more naturally raised meat and local produce than any other restaurant company in the country – more than 100 million pounds in 2011. The company only serves cheese and sour cream made from milk from cows that are not treated with synthetic recombinant bovine growth hormone. Also, an increasing percentage of dairy served at Chipotle is made from milk that comes from cows that have access to pasture, according to the news release.
“We want to change the way people think about food, which is why we are committed to making great-tasting food from premium quality ingredients available and affordable for everyone,” Chipotle’s director of public relations Chris Arnold said in a news release.
The Spokane restaurant is located at 930 N. Division St. It will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, starting today.
Chipotle will be in what used to be a Hollywood Video location on the southeast corner of North Division Street and East Cataldo Avenue. The chain uses similar materials in the construction of each of its restaurants, but starts with existing buildings when possible. The restaurants have a similar look, but no two are alike.
Founded by Steve Ells, Chipotle opened a single restaurant in 1993 and now operates more than 1,100 restaurants. There’s more information at chipotle.com.
Cannon Coffee & Cone opens
Eric Crow has one tasty triangle of friends.
Crow said he has been scheming about opening his own coffee joint for a few years, so when a friend called and said he was buying a building that could make a great coffee shop, he was ready to try. That friend is Mark Camp, owner of Anvil Coffee, which is served at the new Cannon Coffee & Cone, 1925 W. Fourth Ave. in Browne’s Addition.
The building was vacant for a decade before Crow settled in last week, but it was once home to an espresso shop owned by Tom Purdum, owner of Brain Freeze Creamery. Crow once worked for Purdum and now sells the decadent ice cream at the new shop.
Crow offers espresso as well as Melitta, Chemex and Aeropress coffee made from the locally roasted Anvil beans.
Melitta is a single-cup, pour-over coffee brewing system. Chemex is a brewing system designed by a chemist that uses heavier coffee filters to filter out the smallest particles in each cup of coffee. Aeropress coffee makers are designed to use the best brewing temperature and air pressure and promise coffee that is lower in acidity and without bitterness. There is a growing following of each kind of coffee brewing system.
Crow offers frequent buyer discounts and a mug club and ice cream loyalty program.
Crow is an artist and had a local graffiti artist do the paintings of coffee beans, cups and ice cream cones at the shop. He hopes to participate in First Friday events and eventually add an Art-o-Mat.
Art-o-Mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are more than 90 active machines across the country. Collectors don’t know what they’ll get when they put money in and pull the knob, but always get an original work of art.
For the rest of this week, Cannon Coffee will be open from 6 to 11 a.m. and again from 6 to 8 p.m. Next weekend, the shop will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., with expanded evening hours until 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the summer.
All City Fro Yo at San Francisco Sourdough Eatery
The owners of San Francisco Sourdough Eatery have added a sweet treat to the menu. Steve and Annalisa McKee recently remodeled about a quarter of the dining space at 2913 S. Southeast Blvd. to offer 10 self-service frozen yogurt flavors and more than 64 options for toppings.
All City Fro Yo shares seating with their franchise deli café, which can seat 36 people inside and 24 more outside on the patio.
The shop has free wireless access and the owners said they play a different game every day from 2 to 5 p.m. so customers have a chance to win a 10 to 50 percent off discount. Yahtzee, Bingo, Match the Card, What am I? and Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader? are some of the favorites. Customers can also play one of the 20 games offered there while they dine or eat yogurt. Discounts are offered for good grades and winning sports teams.
San Francisco Sourdough Eatery is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. All City Fro Yo stays open an hour later each night. Reach the store at (509) 535-3913.
• The much-anticipated new restaurant by the owners of Madeleine’s Café and Patisserie opens to the public this week.
Casper Fry, 928 S. Perry St., will offer a modern take on Southern comfort food starting today, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Customers can expect to find Southern barbecue, homemade sausages, pickled and canned foods made at the restaurant and updated Southern classics. Local farmers and growers will be featured along with produce from the South Perry Farmers Market.
Deb Green, her son Ben Poffenroth and daughter Megan VanStone, are opening Casper Fry, which is named for Green’s great-grandfather. Fry was born in the South and worked as a Baptist minister at the church across the street from the restaurant.
Joshua Martin, the chef at Madeleine’s, has moved to the kitchen at Casper Fry. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesday, starting at 11 a.m. They plan to add weekend brunch sometime this summer. Reach the restaurant at (509) 535-0536.
Watch for more menu details in an upcoming story.
• Mommy G’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese is closed.
The last word from owners on the roving grilled cheese truck’s Facebook page said the whole kit and caboodle is up for sale for $25,000. Call (509) 723-6326 if you have a serious interest.
• Regal Street Seafood is closed.
According to a Facebook post from the business, the seafood market lost its lease at 2812 E. 30th Ave. The retail market owned by Heather Lanzone is associated with Northstar Seafood.