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  • Writer's pictureJanna Coumoundouros

Chef's Wife's Menu Interpretation

Photo cred: Janna Coumoundouros

I used to be a regular eater. Actually, I used to be a fussy eater. No seafood. Nothing unusual. Then at age 35 my tastebuds changed. Either that or I just decided to start trying new things and be a grown up. I suddenly liked red wine and started trying seafood. Ok, it was just fish and chips, but it was a start. Then I ordered fish that was broiled at a restaurant. I liked it. And so my entire eating life started to change. Then I met my husband, a chef. Not just a chef but a really, really good one. The kind that was trained in traditional french cooking techniques and not only takes the time to do proper sauces, brining, and confit but adds non traditional spices and ingredients to mix it all up. We started doing pop-up dinners together in unusual settings like art galleries and coffee shops. He made things like sweet breads (organs!) and sashimi (pretty much raw fish). Slowly I started trying all these dishes. I started learning about wine and how to pair it with food. He really changed my world. There are still things that I'm a little nervous about, but if he makes it, I will try it. I even eat raw oysters. The girl who would only eat fish sticks less than 7 years ago and wouldn't eat them at all before that now eats raw oysters. My family can't even believe it.

With our pop-up dinners I did all the promoting, websites, menus, etc. I had to type out all of these ingredients that I had no idea about. Sometimes when I would send out the menus to our mailing list I would put a link to the wikipedia definition of certain ingredients because I knew not everyone would know what the heck Vichyssoise fact I still have to look it up when I'm done writing this because I can't remember. I mean, Vichyssoise??? Huh? (I looked it up- it's "a thick soup made of boiled and pureed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream, and chicken stock. It is traditionally served cold but it can be eaten hot." Now I remember- it was incredible!)

Now my husband has a restaurant, The Conserva. I don't type up the menu's anymore but I still do the promoting and this week's menu left me really puzzled. So I decided to start doing "Menu's For Dummies" or "A Chef's Wife's Menu Interpretation".

This week's menu:

Heirloom Tomatoes, watercress, garlic creme fraiche, thai basil, sugarcane.

Basically, these are some of the best fucking tomatoes you will ever eat. If you even like tomatoes a little bit, you will love these. Plus they're grown on an urban farm in Detroit, which is pretty cool.

Roasted Avocado, soft egg yolks, gremolata, bread crumbs, brown rice vinegar.

Imagine avocados roasted with a layer of citrus-like bread crumb across the top, and when you cut into it, delicious egg comes spilling out. It was so popular that when he took it off the menu people kept asking for it, so he brought it back.

Oyster Shooters, spicy mustard, sea salt, lemon zest.

Just try it. Seriously- don't think about what they look like. Close your eyes and slurp that shit up. It's so good! Only, maybe don't chew it that much. Just gulp it down.

Lomi Lomi, Lock Etive Steelhead, avocado, sweet peppers, citrus.

"What the hell is lomi lomi?!" I believe that was what my text to him was. His reply was, "Lomi Lomi is a traditional Hawaiian dish. Lomi means massage. So, we took the steelhead fish, cubed it raw, mixed it with sweet chilis, avocado cubes, citrus and filled it back into the avocado shell. It's delish!!" If he's using the word "delish" to describe something, than it must be good! I don't know why it's named after a massage technique. Did they massage it first?? Also, what is Lock Etive Steelhead? I looked it up. It's fancy steelhead trout "that are raised in a remote, pristine environment with pure waters and fast-flowing currents. High in Omega-3 oils, this sashimi-grade fish is ideally suited for cooked creations—as well as crudo, carpaccio, tartare, and sushi." Ooh, delish!

Cheese Course - Humboldt Fog, peach marmalade, toast points.

I like cheese.

Za'atar Rubbed Octopus, garlic, cucumbers, radish dill, lemon zest.

Octopus. That was a tough one for me to try. I'm so glad I did! It's tender, not at all fishy, and he grills it to perfection. It's the only dish he's kept on the menu since the restaurant opened. But what is Za'atar again? He has to repeat everything to me over and over. If he is annoyed he hasn't shown it yet but I'm thinking I should just make friends with wikipedia from here on out. Ok, Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice with oregano, basil, thyme, and savory satureja- whatever that is.

Tempura Dipped Sea Bream, avocado tartar sauce, fingerling chips, malt vinegar.

My next text after the Lomi explaination was, "what is bream??" "It's a shallow water carnivorous fish found in most warmer waters. Semi oily, white flaky flesh. Also delish!!!" Again with the delish! I must remember to make fun of him for this. Maybe I will make him a t-shirt for Christmas that says, "Delish."Basically, this is a really good fish and chips dish that I missed out on because they sold out last night. And it was delish too! Damn it.

Confit Chicken Wings, peanuts, cilantro, sweet soy glaze.

Let me just tell you about confit. If you go into a restaurant and see confit, order it. Whatever it is, just order it! Confit means it is cooked long and slow in fat or grease. My husband cooks the chicken in duck fat. DUCK FAT, PEOPLE! He also does popcorn in duck fat. Because it's the best thing ever. And then it is served all nice and crispy with the meat just falling off the bone and with that sweet soy glaze...holy shit.

Grain Fed Waygu Burger, focaccia, Humboldt Fog, pork jowl, onion marmalade, black garlic aioli, cured egg yolk.

Why is Waygu so damn expensive and what makes it so damn good? And what the heck is humboldt fog?? And pork jowl on a burger? Waygu is so damn expensive because they are a special breed of cattle that are raised without hormones and have better marbling. Why is marbling so tasty? Because it has a better ratio of beef to fat than even prime. And guess what? It's HEALTHIER! It's something about the mono-saturated fat to saturated fat...and then my eyes glazed over a bit reading about it. But it is healthy for you and better than other beef. You can read more about it HERE. Let's move on to this foggy cheese that sounds like a Harry Potter spell. It is a goat milk cheese named for the local ocean fog which rolls in from Humboldt Bay. So pork jowl. Yep, it's in the cheeks. Gross! But not really- it's actually super delicious! It's relatively lean yet super moist meat that you don't find in many parts of the animal. They cure it like bacon. Bacon! This is the best burger I've ever had. The black garlic aioli is not overpowering and has a lovely sweetness to it. But back to the pork jowl. Read THIS by Serious Eats. He gets it.

Dark Spice Rubbed Dry Aged NY Strip, fermented garlic, fingerling potatoes, sweet chilis, chimmi churri.

I can't help but think of Charo when I hear chimmi churri. I had to look her up. Did you know she has a dance album? I'm listening to "Sexy Sexy: The Remixes" now. It's fantastic. Anyway, it is actually a Central and South American marinating sauce for meat made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, lime, cilantro, olive oil, and sugarcane vinegar. Paired with the sweet chilis, and garlic this is an incredible steak. The dark rub is cocoa, cinnamon, and chilis. The dish has a little heat but it's not super spicy. Sexy, sexy steak! Cuchi-cuchi!

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