This month’s prix-fixe event is literally a mash-up not only of squash but of international cuisines. Check out the menu below and you’ll see entries with distinct influences from Italy, France and especially Asian cultures. The reason why is because there are abundant varieties of squash that are enjoyed around the world. That’s what motivated Chef Alexander to step up to the challenge of creating delicious and flavorful dishes employing such a simple, fleshy vegetable.
I’m personally excited to sit down for what is sure to be a another memorable dinner because I’ve just returned from three weeks in France, traveling from Paris to Provence and many points in between. The highlight was a nine-day “Pilgrimage to Provence,” tour with a group of 26 mostly Carpe Vino Wine Club members that traversed a wide swath of the southern Rhone from Monaco to Chateaneuf du Pape. We encountered fabulous food and wine wherever we traveled, but I gotta say I’m very glad to return to the Friendly Confines.
Join us starting Tuesday and continuing through Sunday (October 27 to November 1) starting at 5 p.m. for four courses with choices for $59.95 pp++. As always, we recommend you make reservations by calling 530-823-0320 or go to www.opentable.com.
First Course (choice of one):
Spaghetti Squash “Carbonara” (Applewood Bacon, 64° Egg, Sage, Parmesan Cream): For this dish, think classic Pasta Carbonara sans pasta. Instead, Chef Alexander is substituting spaghetti squash that has been cut in half lengthwise, coated liberally with butter and then baked. He scoops out the flesh with a fork to create pasta-like strands tossed to order in a light parmesan and applewood bacon cream sauce (is such a thing possible??). The squash is plated. . .and then the cool part. . .Chef gently places an egg on top—cooked for an hour sous vide at 64 degrees. The egg white is oh-so barely set and when you pierce the orb with your fork, the yummy yolk goo oozes triumphantly. Lordy. . .I’m coming early to get mine!
Chicken Liver an Foie Gras Parfait (Musque de Provence Pumpkin Brulée, Huckleberry, Pain d’Epices): Take this to the bank. . .your hosts at Carpe Vino are anything but politically correct, and we demonstrate this fact in amazing flavors with Chef Alexander’s very special “parfait,” or more succintly in English, a mind-blowing mousse of chicken livers and foie gras blended with shallots, herbs, port, eggs and butter cooked in a water bath in the oven. After chilling, this pure decadence is spooned onto a plate, served with carmelized chunks of Musque de Provence (a squash variety grown on Chef’s Four Tines farm). Oregon huckleberries are cooked down into a sweet syrup and dripped on the plate; pain d’epices, bread that has been doctored with warm spices like ginger and cloves, is served on the side.
Sugar Pie Pumpkin and Rice Croquettes (Country Ham, Rye Crumbs, Smoked Cheddar Fondue): Cinch down your palate for this one. . .Chef roasts and purées sugar pie pumpkin (not for making jack-o-laterns!) and then folds in cooked rice, diced country ham and Parmesan cheese. This mixture is chilled, formed into balls, coated in house-made rye bread crumbs and then deep-fried. Plating consists of a layer of smoked cheddar fondue with croquettes arranged on top and garnished with young greens.
Second Course (choice of one):
Hokkaido Squash and Pear Soup (Shiro Miso, Crispy Ginger, Shiso): Also known as “red Kuri squash” this Japanese variety is sourced from Pilz Produce in Penryn—as is much of the squash on this menu (with a few entries from Four Tines). Chef peels and dices squash and cooks in chicken stock with onions, garlic, fresh ginger, Asian pears from his farm and Shiro miso (made from fermented soybean paste that contributes saltiness). This Japanese inspired soup is garnished with julienned strips of ginger that have been fried into delicate wisps.
Fall Chicory Salad (Pickled Butternut Squash, Persimmon, Chevre, Squash Seed Brittle): This salad starts with a mix of bitter greens. . .endive, radiccho and frisee lettuce that is tossed in a house vinaigrette with shaved pickled butternut squash (for a sweet and sour flavor), goat cheese and sliced Fuyu persimmon. For a crispy garnish: toasted butternut squash seeds (nothing is wasted!).
Main Course (choice of one):
Passmore Ranch Sturgeon (North Georgia Candy Squash, Red Cabbage, Chanterelles, Pickled Mustard Butter): Chef starts with perfectly seasoned and cooked farm-raised sturgeon sourced from Michael Passmore’s ranch in Sloughhouse. This is plated on a silky purée of cabbage cooked in red wine and a bit of sugar. Accompanied with sautéed chanterelles and North Georgia candy squash prepared thusly: squash is halved lengthwise, seeds are scooped out, half moons are cut from flesh and roasted.
Kabocha Squash Gnocchi (Duck Meatballs, Russian Kale, Prune, Walnut, Charred Onion Broth): If you love gnoochi keep an open mind here: Chef creates a purée of kabocha squash (roasts easily and has reduced moisture content), flour, water and egg yolk which is formed into dumplings and poached in water. Plated with ground duck meatballs, wilted Russian Kale, prunes and walnuts. Chef finishes the dish by drizzling it with a sauce made from caramelized onions infused with chicken stock.
Niman Ranch Pork Porterhouse (Fall Squash Hash, Quince, Pumpkin Butter, Spiced Red Wine): Think porterhouse steak but not beef. . .the Niman Ranch pork porterhouse is a pork tenderloin and striploin connected by a bone that Chef Alexander brines in cider and herbs and roasts to a perfect medium rare (it’s perfectly safe, trust me). The “fall hash” is a selection of ends and cuttings remaining from squash used in other dishes on the menu (remember, we’re doing our best to earn a gold star by not wasting food) that have been diced with potatoes and sautéed with quince and Brussels sprouts. A combination of pumpkin purée and whole butter is melted on top of the porterhouse and a reduction of red wine, sugar and spices is drizzled on the plate.
Dessert Course (choice of one):
Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake (Cranberry, Glazed Pecans, Maple Ice Cream): This is Chef McDonald’s squash interpretation on an American favorite. She layers the bottom of a baking pan with cranberries and glazed pecans and then pours over a cake mix made with pumpkin purée and cinnamon. This is baked and then inverted so that the cranberries and pecans are featured on top. Served with house-made maple ice cream.
Butternut Squash Crème Brûlée (Amaretti Shortbread Cookies): A very simple take on a classic dish—crème brûlée. Chef McDonald creates a custard from eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla, spices and butternut squash purée. . .making this the perfect fall dessert. Served with house-made Amaretti shortbread cookies.
We’ll look forward to greeting you for what is sure to be another delightful event.
gary, Drew & the Carpe Vino Crew