y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: November 2011

Return to the Wolvesden

It hadn't even occurred to me until I arrived at wolvesden that my previous and first visit was a year ago. Having run into and chatting with wolvesmouth, aka Chef Craig Thornton a couple of times, it seemed more recent.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_zh logo on TV screen

But that was most likely because that first dinner blew my palate and mind and stayed in my foodie memory as a precious experience. You can read about that post by clicking here. Needless to say, it felt great to be back.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_c group in kitchen

Being one of the later arrivals, seeing the group gathered around the kitchen and smelling the food cooking is the best way to enter this feast. 

This gathering was a private dinner organized by my friend Abby, so several diners were wolvesden alumni.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_d menu

The handwritten menu on the refrigerator also brought last year's memories back, this menu being as exciting with its diversity of courses and ingredients.

Throughout the meal, I noticed times each course was served next to each item. Although the atmosphere feels laid back, the meals are planned and executed with great precision.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_e Craig plating

After blocking the refrigerator trying to take photos of the menu, while the Chef was trying to get ingredients, I tried to lay low and not talk too much or be in the way until the meal started.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_f produce apples quince

I didn't remember seeing the ingredients throughout the kitchen last time, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the raw materials, given the sheer variety and highest quality of ingredients. 

I saw many ingredients that were new to me, despite being an avid cook and adventurous eater most of my life. The beautiful apples above worked their way into the first course.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_g delicata Moroccan squash Arkansas black apple cider brown butter goat cheese

1st Course: delicata Moroccan squash Arkansas black apple cider brown butter goat cheese

This bold, flavorful and bright course started off the meal with a bang, much like the first course (my first course ever) of Tahitian squash last year.

The skin on squash took on a very solid, meaty consistency, rounded out nicely with vinegar. I thought I bit into some ground meat in the squash puree, but was told there was no meat in the dish.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_h black sea bass cauliflower puree lemon

2nd Course: black sea bass cauliflower puree lemon

There was no way this dish wouldn't be perfect. Three of my favorite ingredients. There is an are to cooking fish and this version maintained that juicy flesh, crispy browned skin. The creamy cauliflower with lemon complemented the sea bass.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_r duck skin

Once again, one could hardly ignore this crispy skin sitting on a tray, to be integrated into the next course.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_j chicken liver mousse chicken skin poached pear watermelon radish wild arugula pain de mie

3rd course: chicken liver mousse chicken skin poached pear watermelon radish wild arugula pain de mie

The greens and radish provided nice contrast to the creamy mousse, which contained cherry brandy. I used the buttery pain de mie (toast soldiers) to wipe up every last drop.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_zd eggs

I like the color variation in these eggs.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_k profiteroles

Wolvesmouth Nov11_l piping profiteroles

Wolvesmouth Nov11_p fried green tomatoes

Looking at the components of this dish made our mouths water. Profiteroles, fried green tomatoes?

Wolvesmouth Nov11_m corn crab fried green tomato crystal hot sauce profiterole

4th Course: corn crab fried green tomato crystal hot sauce profiterole

And those weren't even the highlights. They piped a spicy creme fraiche, seasoned with Crystal hot sauce and Old Baby seasoning into the profiteroles. The juicy, sweet dungeness crab seasoned with olive oil, lemon and chives was the star of this dish. I did not expect the corn sauce.

The flavors reminded me of the Chinese classic crab corn soup to which I always add hot sauce.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_n empty corn and crab plate

The plate says it all for this course.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_o rabbit meatballs and green tomatoes with pans

Wolvesmouth Nov11_q rabbit baked beans celery root remoulade sorghum

5th Course: rabbit baked beans celery root remoulade sorghum

Sorghum, a sweet grain, provided a sweet glaze for these rabbit meatballs. The contrast of the smoky beans and the celery root remoulade, which had a lot of bite and crunch, kept the textures varied.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_zb immersion circulator

By this point we were thankful for the large loft setting and I began walking around between courses trying to keep going. My stroll included passing by the immersion circulator.

A couple of the diners left the building for a walk around the block.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_zc anti-griddle

And the Anti-Griddle, often used to make ice cream. I've seen all these tools put to use on Top Chef and got to hear how the Chef uses them too.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_v Craig Julian prep

Wolvesmouth Nov11_w Roman gnocchi glazed carrot kale parmesan fennel pollen 12 year balsamic

6th Course: Roman gnocchi glazed carrot kale parmesan fennel pollen 12 year balsamic

I didn't expect a traditional Roman dish to be part of the meal, but when I saw it, I wasn't surprised to find a cloudy gnocchi on the plate. The carrot cooked for a long time and tasted almost like vegetable candy. A good balsamic enhances any dish.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_i sous chefs

The sous chefs worked nonstop and were so aware of everything going on at the table.
Wolvesmouth Nov11_za Craig at table group

We all enjoyed Chef Craig's visits to the table. In fact I passed by the kitchen a couple of times and with all burners full and multiple dishes going on, he actually held up fairly detailed conversations. He really makes this daunting effort look easy and natural.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_x pork belly

When this came out of the oven, the bubbling and loud sizzle filled the room. I wish I took a video of it for full sound effect.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_pork belly rice paper cy alamansi chili garlic peanut

Wolvesmouth Nov11_z pork belly sisig dish

7th Course: pork belly rice paper calamansi chili garlic peanut

This course is inspired by the Filipino delicacy Sisig, sour and spicy pork. This version contained a sous vide pork belly, rice paper in place of steamed rice and papaya pickled in palm vinegar. The base was a raw calamansi (Asian citrus) sauce including garlic and Thai chilies.

Each bold flavor combined well and countered the rich, fatty meat.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_s mushrooms

Wolvesmouth Nov11_t brussels sprouts shallots in pan

Once again, seeing the components of chanterelle mushrooms, brussels sprouts and shallots, the next dish already was made up of some of my favorite ingredients.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_u duck breast leg chanterelle farro skin maple brussels sprouts

8th Course: duck breast leg chanterelle farro skin maple brussels sprouts

I enjoyed the chewy texture of the farro, chive risotto. The creamy chanterelles, crunchy brussels sprouts and crispy skin provided a hearty base for the duck breast and leg meat (the meatball). The sauce consisted of maple cider vinegar.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_ze brown butter maize pound cake red wine wine fig creme fraiche

9th Course: brown butter maize pound cake red wine wine fig creme fraiche

A most unexpected dessert from this chef, I did not expect a composed cake dessert. The brown butter flavor added to the flavor with very fresh fruit, vanilla and cream notes.

The figs were both fresh and poached and played well with the tart Granny Smith apple balls. The sauce of poaching liquid and wine and the bits of bacon provided contrasting flavors.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_zg letik ice cream letik shortbread baby banana lime coconut ube pudding

10th Course: latik ice cream letik shortbread baby banana lime coconut ube pudding

I enjoyed this light, hot and cold dessert, another Filipino inspired dish. Latik involves extracting coconut cream and cooking the curd down with brown sugar to form a topping.

The ice cream and the shortbread cookie crumble are based on this flavor.
The ube (purple yam) pudding, thickened with tapioca, adn flavored with lime and coconut formed the warm component.

By this time I only had a couple of bites possible and was thankful the ice cream had a super light consistency. I loved the flavors.

Wolvesmouth Nov11_zf coffee tables

Wolvesmouth Nov11_a antlers

Wolvesmouth Nov11_b antler necklace

I enjoyed seeing the antler centerpiece which I loved so much during the first visit, as well as other bone and antler decorative items. I over course, came equipped with my antler necklace, to dress the part!

Overall, the meal once again wowed me in creativity and presentation, taught me some never before seen ingredients, yet also provided that same degree of comfort and familiarity I love so much about wolvesmouth food.

He continues to take feedback from repeat diners, which only serves to enhance the experience. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the meal just as much this time.

I hope to enjoy another unforgettable evening at the wolvesden before another year goes by.

What Inspires You?

When Thanksgiving comes each year it gives us all a chance to express gratitude and be content for what we have and what we are. Finding the good parts of all situations helps me cope with anything that's going on.

 It is the little things that count most. In my life this past year I've encountered many little inspirations just sitting at my desk and looking out the window.

The view changes depending on time of day and the weather conditions. 

What I noticed is that the same little creatures come to visit on a daily basis. Some of them peck on my window, or if I'm outside, flew right toward me to face me head on, in a friendly way.

I recognized and welcomed them as they added a peaceful continuity to the hustle and bustle of daily living.

After more than a year of this view, along with my daily visitors, still takes my breath away.

My view on a clear day
green hummingbird loves the rock purslane
blue jay
blue jay
bird on electrical wire
house yard summer11 grasshopper
grasshopper eating eggplant leaf
house yard summer11 dragonfly a
house yard summer11 dragonfly c

house yard summer11 dragonfly b
house yard summer11 bee in rosemary a
bee on rosemary bushes
house yard summer11 bee in rosemary b
bee on rosemary
house yard summer11 spider
rainy day
cloudy sunset
fireworks on 4th of July
dusk with setting sun
dramatic sunset
house view Oct11_sunset clouds a
sunset with clouds
house view Oct11_sunset clouds b
sunset with clouds
street Alta Vista Circle in fog Oct11
my street in the morning
plant growing from cracks in the concrete

Finding inspiration right in my own home is a gift that I cherish. I hope you seek and find your small gifts in life too. Happy Thanksgiving!

"We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde