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The French Room as I Remember

The last dinner in the French Room as we know it was on June 11, 2016.  They have shuttered for remodeling.  I had the great honor to be the Chef there for 5 years . .  one of the best times of my professional life I must say.  I was there from 2004 to 2009.  It was a special restaurant with a crew that really bonded. I made some great friends and learned a lot.  We had an amazing team of culinarians, awesome servers, and a real thirst to do some cool food.  Always trying to do something better, challenge ourselves, and raise the bar.  We had two great reviews in the Dallas Morning News, both 5 star.  We also had the amazing surprise of being named Zagats number one hotel restaurant in the country, earning a score of 29-29-29 three years in a row!

I can’t help but wonder if the changes being made will destroy the magic of the place. . . and yes there was some real magic in the room – glittering chandeliers, high vaulted ceilings, great wine service, caring servers and captains,  and a culinary team that was really pushing themselves to be better every day.

I was lured off to Las Vegas to open the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on the strip.  To be honest, at that time in my life I still had a little wanderlust I guess.  I knew I was leaving something special behind but  the promise of what is next can be very alluring.  As it turns out, opening the Mandarin was a great experience.  But, I will never forget my time at the legendary French Room. I hope the long time members of the French Room team (not everyone suffers from wanderlust) land on there feet, get to return if they want to, and hold there heads high for all they accomplished through the years.

Thyme Remembered,

Jason

Some photos from the “Old Days”

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Rest in Peace Tom and Drew.

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Spinach, Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Gruyere Dip

Well yesterday was the Super Bowl and I suppose it could be said this post is a day late.  I actually put this together yesterday with out recipe . . . shooting from the hip if you will.  It came out so darn good I wanted to post it! During the game it was hard not to keep getting up and having a little more dip, sometimes on the French bread I took to serve with it and sometimes on a chip.

This recipe is easy to make, the longest part is slowly caramelizing the onions which can take a 1/2 hour or so to do right.  Low and slow wins while caramelizing onions.  This recipe will serve 8 as a appetizer.  Serve with chips or French bread to dip.

Enjoy

Thyme fly’s

Jason

 

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

6 ounces bacon, diced

3/4 cup white wine

5 ounces baby spinach

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise (commercial)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 packet Hidden Valley ranch powder .4 ounce

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

  1. Turn your oven to broil and set out your cream cheese to soften.
  2. You will need to have two pans one to render the bacon and one to slowly caramelize the onions.  Begin by rendering the bacon.  Heat a pan to medium and add the tablespoon of olive oil to get started but once the bacon starts to cook it will give you all the fat you need.  As the bacon cooks you will see a good amount of fat rendering off, this is what you will use to caramelize  your onions.
  3. When the bacon is almost crispy pour most of the fat into your other pan and turn on to medium heat. Add the diced onions and start to cook them.  Once they start to sizzle and begin to brown turn it to low.  Then slowly caramelize slowly while stirring every few minutes.
  4. When the onions are golden brown add the spinach and wilt down.
  5. When the spinach is fully cooked add the wine and bring to a boil.
  6. When the wine is boiling add the everything except the gruyere cheese.  Let everything heat until it is all melted together and hot.
  7. Pour into a oven proof dish and top with the gruyere.  Put in oven on broil and cook until bubby and brown.

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Operation Chile Day 3 – “Dinner at Lapostolle”

It took us quite some time to travel from Casa Silva to  Lapaostolle, but the journey was certainly worth it.  Lapaostolle  the most opulent of the vineyards we visited, the family that owns Lapaostolle also owns Grand Marnier so I would imagine funds are not a issue!  We were fortunate to experience so much hospitality here.  Not only did we get to tour the family’s private cellar but even finished up with a wonderful dinner prepared by the chef.  Lapaostolle is definitely channeling France in the heart of Chile.

Thyme Out

Jason

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Entrance to the “Private Cellar”

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Operation Chile – Day 3 “lunch at Casa Silva”

After having wine for lunch, snack and dinner for several days the thought of doing this again is rough. Not! Actually it’s awesome. This lifestyle works well for me! I have a renewed vigor to win the lottery or invent a nutritive cereal varnish that will cure obesity, get rich and travel the wineries of the world.

Casa Silva winery was a bit of a journey for us. At the foothills of the Andes this was one of the more stunning vineyards. It felt different than some of the others and I think the reason is the owner and his family live down the road and still work here every day. There are vines here more than 100 years old! This is a business for them, but also a lifestyle. They eat lunch here in the restaurant every day. . . with a view of the polo field and the mountains. Not too bad!

The restaurant had just changed the menu and we were fortunate to be able to take part!

Empanadas, tuna ceviche, grouper, steak, quinoa pudding, creamed corn, and mango cheesecake is not even a complete list of the menu!

Be sure to look out for the Casa Silva Altura and the Casa Silva Micro Terroir Carmenere. You will be glad you did!

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Operation Chile – Day Two “Borago”

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One of the top 50 restaurants in the world Borago is a very forward thinking restaurant. They are foragers, seeking local ingredients as a way of life. They say “as one forages the other cooks”. The chef although cooking in a modern way uses only ingredients from Chile and has tremendous respect for the Mapuche, who are the original inhabitants of the area, using the foods they would have lived on as a major inspiration for his cooking. If you are any where near Santiago, Chile this is a must go!  Although you will need a open mind and be ready for a true Chilean experience.

Upon arrival the restaurant is modern, very busy, the aroma, very appealing of food but not always recognizable. We are greeted warmly and offered a small snack before being seated.  What ever they said the snack was, I have no idea, but it was good.

We had a choice of a six course or a nine course “Endemica” Which is a journey across Chile. What was to follow was about nine courses not including what they call “snacks” which appear randomly in between courses, seemingly at the whim of the kitchen.

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Berlin De Pate’

Fermented and Raw Pewen, Pebre of Toasted Flower Marraqueta

Sea Urchin, Green Salsa of Chia Seeds

This was a bit of a first course. The sea urchin was very fresh and the most surprising part of the dish was the green chia seed salsa. Slightly chilled and served underneath the sea urchin which was perched on a unique gray cracker, the chia seed salsa was incredibly fresh with just the right acidity. A bit of the chia salsa on the sea urchin was a great balance. Were we supposed to combine the two? No idea, but I’m glad I did!

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Crudo of Deer from Valdivia, Locos Mayo

Again very fresh and flavorful. Not only a unique presentation but the venison had a great “pop” of lemon.  Pictured in the back of the photo is the restaurants take on the famous Chilean drink “Pisco Sour”.

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Cold Pulmay, Jevia from Central Coast and Apples

Tasty and again very fresh, but a bit too tart.  I think this was a cold cuttlefish stew with apples.

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Chupe of Mushrooms from Quintay and Salad of Plants from the Shore

The stand out dish of the night! Served in a bowl that is wrapped like a package in what appeared to be a burlap type of blanket “infused with the essence of the earth”. Cooks deliver the dish and unfold the package, Immediately an olfactory explosion which does indeed completely smell of the earth, like being in a cave of dirt and mushrooms. Sounds questionable? It’s not. Tasting the Foraged Mushroom Chupe and salad while being surrounded by the aroma of the earth made for one of the best courses I have had, here or anywhere else. A very forward thinking take Chupe, a warm seafood dish often served here in the winter.

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Skins of Piure and Skins of Tangerines

Piure is a native seafood which lives in the rocks, it is not beloved by the Chileans. In this case the skin of the Piure, raw I believe, is stuffed with tangerine skins. . . The Piure is not beloved by me either. A very interesting dish to be sure, however it’s a challenge to love this. One thing to note this dish was the first of the “Sequence of Rocks”

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Rock Puree served with Rock Broth (Rock Broth poured tableside and not pictured)

I truly have no idea what this was, tasted a bit like a flavorful black bean puree in a “soy type broth” with some pickles. The unique thing the bean like substance was baked around a rock which you had to scrape off with a spoon. Very earthy and had a good feeling of umami. Enjoyable! Always nice while visiting another country to scrape a delicious but unidentified substance off a hot rock. Earthy broth. . . bonus!

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Conger Eel on the first Sea Stars of the Season

Perfectly cooked conger eel seemed to be brushed with a local honey and seasoned well. Then baked, the honey formed a crust which was perfect to adhere a lot of sea stars. Sea stars being little flowers that are around once a year for a few weeks. The cook delivering this dish was very excited about the flowers, and I mean excited. He had been waiting all year. The flowers were very good and being locally foraged by the cooks, even cooler. I must say however the conge eel stole the show. I would say this dish ended the “sequence of the rocks”.

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Free Range Veal and Flower from Trees of Early Spring

Very tender veal cooked in local cow’s milk. The flowers were foraged, again by the cooks, from around the city of Santiago. Also a surprise on this dish, they were able to make yogurt from 100% almond milk, simply by introducing the bacteria and keeping it at the proper temperature.

 

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This was a off menu treat!  A ice cream treat that tasted just like chocolate but was made from a local nut our seed.  There is also a dehydrated carrot preparation hanging from the branches, if you look closely.  This was not only fascination but really full of flavor

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Ulpo of Espino and Mushroom Ice Cream

Inside the pod, the Ulpo,  a unique sweet make with toasted flour and milk, a traditional dish prepared for children, it’s salty and toasty. We are told to pair it with the mushroom ice cream but not before being quizzed by the waiter on the flavor of the ice cream. It was tough to come up with the flavor but once we got it! The combination of the toasty and salty flour with the beautifully rustic flavor of the ice cream was perfect. One of the best dishes of the night.

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Tres Leches: Sheeps Milk, Goats Milk and Cows Milk

A sheeps milk ice cream encased in a local berry gel, goats milk stuffed berries and cows milk powder

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Salad of Rica Rica, Cenizo, and Cucumber

Explosion of unidentified flavors at first bite. It’s a salad of local leaves and cucumber. Here is the part that will make your mind explode. The salad is all foraged near or on a specific tree. The ice cream is made from a parasite which grows on that tree! In summary “Parasite Ice Cream Salad” is a must have!

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Liquid Nitrogen Meringues – A perfect way to end a meal! A minty – eucalyptus attack on the senses!

The Chef in his upstairs lab / think tank!

It was a great end of the evening to be able to see the upstairs area where the chefs seem to brainstorm, work on dishes, theorize, and I would imagine, regroup after a long service.

Hearing Chef Rodolfo Junto’s passion about the restaurant,  Chile, and his philosophy about food made a fantastic meal, service experience and evening even better.

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Operation Chile – Day 2 “Undurraga”

First stop today was a beautiful winery called Undurraga. Opened at the end of the last century this beautiful winery was designed by a renowned designer of the tines, whose name I was told and promptly forgot. The tour of the vineyard reviled a beautiful campus whose design was certainly kept true to the original. There are several aspects of the winery, including a museum, which paid homage to the natives of the area, the Mapuche.

We did a wine tasting in two parts with the master wine maker for the winery. First we tried the TH label, TH standing for Terroir Hunter! A fitting description for these wines which do show so much about where they were grown. They are also a great representation of the fruit. The second tasting was on their Volcanus Line. All grapes grown in the area where the soil was volcanic, which they have a lot of here in Chile. They also have the feel of the soil and are very distinctive. If you can find a TH Carmenere or a TH Syrah you should snag them up, throw something on the grill, preferably meat, and enjoy!

Lunch here was a beautiful mix of grilled meats and salads. The stand out of which was an open air fire roasted lamb. The slow fire roasting gave the lamb a delicious crispy grilled outer crust, but it was moist and delicious.

Next post will be about dinner at Borago, one of the 50 best restaurants in the world.

Thyme out,

JW

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Operation Chile – Day one “The Afternoon”

Grand Vinos De San Pedro
Located at the foot hill of the Andes, the landscape was breath taking, weather was chili and the hospitality was warm!
Here are the picture from the tasting, tour and awesome dinner.  The wine maker here also spoke with passion about Terror, representing the land and taking care of the varietals.

Try the Altair when you can, the wines here were great, the Altair. . .  Fantastic!

Thyme to hit some Vineyards!

 

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Operation Chile – Day One in the Chilean Wine Adventure

Having never been to South America I was looking forward to arriving in Chile very enthusiastically. Having long been a wine lover I was looking forward to arriving in Chile even more enthusiastically!

Chile is a long thin country in South America. It is about stretching 2,670 miles long but only 217 miles across.  Chile is a land of extremes. Bordered by the Andes Mountains, the Patagonian Ice Fields, and or course the Pacific Ocean cooled year round by the Humbold Current. A goliath border between the Chile and Argentina the snowcapped Andes tower above Chile shrouded in fog. Seasons change, snow and glaciers melt and as the winter passes they create rivers which travel all the way to the sea.  Some rivers still flow, others stopped hundreds or even thousands  of years ago creating fertile growing areas for a variety of grapes. Some grapes grow well in the volcanic soil of the Andes, others in the granite of the coastal areas or the alluvial soil in in between. Chilean wine makers are pushing the limits and trying to grow grapes in other non-traditional areas, working there soil, learning and focusing on the grape and the terroir.

Lunch Day one has brought us to an awesome winery in Isla De Maipo, the De Martino Winery.  Martino has a slogan, reinventing Chile.  After hearing the wine maker talk he is all about having the variety of grape speak for its self, allowing the flavor of the land and the grape shine through.  There wines were very good and really showcase where they are grown.  Truly appreciate there hospitality, wine and knowledge here at De Martino.

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A really nice first course prepared for us by the winery.  A traditional Chilean dish made with local fish and cheese.

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Local Beef and Potatoes with naturally with a red wine reduction!

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This is a  unique and a very old fashioned and traditional way to make wine.  They make two types of wine using this very natural technique.  The wine is fermented in these clay vessels called tinajas.  The tinajas are sealed with adobo.  The wine is natural and sulfate free and have a very unique flavor.  A picture of the bottle is below.  Cinsault is a traditional Chilean grape.  They also use Muscat.

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Barrels aging on a rainy day at the De Martino Winery

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Traditional oak barrels aging at the winery

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Many wine makers are going to a larger oak cask to limit the exposure to the wood.  Let the true flavors shine through.

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Table set to go!

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A job well done, by the time the afternoon was over we tasted 12 wines and have a full afternoon to go.  Not to mention the four more days of visiting wineries.  Its a tough life.  More on the rest of day, and week in posts to come soon.

Thyme for some wine

Jason

 

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A nice shout out on Starchefs!

A while back my good friend Jan Loov  and I had a chance to spend a afternoon with Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt of Starchefs.com.   If you have not been on the website be sure to check it out, it is  a awesome resource for anyone who loves food and beverage.  To say starchefs.com is on the cutting edge of the industry is a understatement.  Guided by CEO and Editor and Chief Antoinette Bruno, Managing Editor Will Blunt and advised by a team of legendary chefs this site is a on line temple  of industry knowledge and creativity.

Yearly they host a international Chefs Congress which is a veritable magnet for the best Chefs and Beverage people in the industry.  I had a pleasure to go there twice once while I was with the French Room, when I  go to know Bruno Goussoult, and once while I was with Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, as part of the Pierre Gagnaire camp.  I highly recommend a trip to this congress held yearly in New York City, well worth it, you will learn and absorb so much knowledge (also food and drinks).

Some years back, while at the French Room I had done a tasting for them and had some photos put on the site.  What a honor to do it again.

Jan and I were very honored to have some of our cuisine photographed by Antoinette and posted on the site.  Check it out!  Congrats Jan!

https://www.starchefs.com/cook/photos/director-food-and-beverage-jason-weaver-and-chef-jan-loov-texas-spice-omni-dallas-hotel-dalla

Thymes Change,

Jason