Oct 2, 2006 by Chef Michael
Sometimes I miss the energy of a restaurant kitchen, the thrill of creating and serving a high-end meal to a dining room full of appreciative guests. So when the opportunity comes to sharpen up my knives and see if I can still dance behind a stove, I go for it!
A friend of ours, Laura Buckley, is the chef/owner of “The Inn at Whale Cove” on Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick. You can find her cooking on the line almost every night, all summer long. It’s hard for her to get away so a few weeks ago Rachel and I decided to give her the night off.
Whatta day! I strolled in around noon, kicked Laura out and started cooking. The menu led with a soup made from local peas seasoned with lovage from my home garden. It’s an intensely celery flavoured herb that perfectly accented the walnut goats cheese pudding that we placed in each soup.
Next up was a course we called ‘salad’ but knowing that we had a dining room full of meat-eaters it was really just an excuse to show off pork belly! This cut normally becomes bacon but braised in apple cider and then cut into thick cubes and roasted it becomes a treat that everyone loved. I’m not sure they noticed the lentils underneath it or the ‘salad’ of arugula on top but I know the plates were empty!
But that was all just a warm-up for the main course because next we asked everybody to come outside where 50 grain-fed chops were grilling away over an aromatic apple wood fire. There are few things as tasty as meat grilled over fruitwood, especially with a ladleful of creamy sauce packed with hand picked local wild chanterelle mushrooms.
For dessert we baked one of my favourite treats: individual white chocolate cakes laced with lots of real vanilla. We completed the plate with local blackberries marinated with orange zest and ice cream made in an old-fashioned wooden ice cream churn. Marsala ice cream!
I really enjoyed ‘plating’ everything restaurant style, arranging and garnishing. It’s not something I do as a home cook but then again, I usually don’t cook for 50 people at once.
Oh, and Laura is already making plans for her night off next year.