Monday, March 31, 2008

Philosophy Part I - Go to the Source, Learn It From the Bottom Up, Respect the Product


OK, on to the good stuff. I've been getting quite a bit of new hits lately(thank you, Michael Ruhlman) and since folks all over the country are looking at the blog, I've started thinking what I could do to better get across the ideas and philosophy that we employ on a daily basis at the restaurant and entice folks to make the trip to little ol' Hanover. So, I decided to write a little bit about my philosophy regarding food. As you can see from previous posts, I really dig getting in touch with our farmers and their products. I think it is really important for folks to know as much about the food they are eating or in lieu of that go to restaurants that take special care to provide you with amazing foodstuffs that have amazing stories. A huge joy for me is crafting a dining experience that has soul, has a story and is entertaining. I have been very fortunate since I moved back to Hanover to enter into great relationships with farmers and artisans who are super willing to let me take part in whatever part of the process I want.(Special Teaser: Our milk-fed chickens should be finished soon and I'll be participating in the butchering with Beau. Awesome.) Well, the video below shows a great example of this 'go to the source, learn it from the bottom up, respect the product' part of our restaurant philosophy. Last summer, I was invited to the Sheppard's lake and Mr. Sheppard took me out turtling(is that a word? Def. The act of hunting for turtles..How about this.....turtlin') The first photo shows him demonstrating the proper baiting technique. The video below shows him patiently demonstrating how to clean the turtle. If you notice at the end of the video, he is already finished with his and it looks a lot cleaner than mine! I vow to get much better at the cleaning process if he'll have me back this summer! The turtles yield an amazingly sweet and delicate meat, which I made soup out of after we were finished cleaning. What an incredible experience!!! When you take so much time and pride in every step of the process your food will taste better and the experience of eating will mean more. So...'Go to the source, learn it from the bottom up, respect the product'

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Growing The Herbs, Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a video of the growing room we set up in our carriage house. This room was the first step for us in growing our own herbs from seed for this year's growing season. Yesterday, we went to step two. We moved the plants out into the sunshine on our patio for the length of the day and then I took them over to my parent's house where they will bask in the warmth and sunlight of their sun room. Once Mother Nature cooperates with us, we'll put them in the ground and watch anxiously as they reach for the sun and we clip them for dinner service. Just as a point of reference here is a little teaser of the herbs and plants we have started.... italian parsley, chervil, five types of basil, rue, cutting celery, chives, sorrel, borage, and so on.... Keep crossing you fingers for warmer weather!!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Birth Announcement

I guess in actuality this is a conception announcement, but who's splitting hairs?!? As you can see from the video, we unearthed four 'BeauBirk' hams from their salt slumber. These four babies now finish off our first experiments with Beau on 'building a better pig'. These are hog 1 and hog 2, fed a modified diet and a peanut intensive diet. I guess the thing that makes these hams a little different from the pork tasting that we posted a few weeks ago is that we are going to have to wait a year to get a taste!!! A little bit of clarification on the video.....after shooting we realized that those four hams were sitting in close to 80lbs of salt, not 20!!! Also, Scott's mention of using black pepper 'to keep the bugs away', is a historical reference to why hams were coated with black pepper when they were put up to hang in barns. Our aging facility is a little more sophisticated and 'bug free'!!! So, like I said, this post is more of a conception announcement(does that mean we can consider the larding and peppering a 'baby shower'?) and we'll get back to you in a year with the full birthing(slicing and eating)!

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's Open!!!

OK, there are a couple of signs that I always look for that tell me that spring is finally on the way. Easter Sunday is one, daffodils popping through the still cool soil is another, longer days....yet another. The biggest sign that spring and summer is right around the corner is that The Tropical Treat opens up its doors and fires up the deep fryers. I want to set the record straight right now: chefs don't have refrigerators full of foie gras and truffles and wine cellars full of the finest vintages of grape juice. We do have coolers full of National Bohemian beer and on our nights off we eat cheeseburgers. I know, I know everyone reads Gourmet where Star Chef Whoever says how he/she really likes eating sushi on his nights off because he/ she really enjoys the clean, fresh flavors. Now, I like sushi and we have a really great sushi place in Hanover's what I really like: I like the 'clean, fresh' feeling of a greasy Fat Boy cheeseburger with its neon pink sauce, some onion rings, an ice cold Coke and the smell of newly turned fields in the air.

Below is something that must be a Hanover original. They call it a 'French Poodle' and it's a griddled hot dog topped with hamburger barbeque on a hamburger roll. Simply delicious! Yes, Karen ate this.

OK, how do you end the perfect spring meal? Well, you drive across town and get a raspberry and vanilla twist in a pretzel cone from the York Street Treat. Does life get more delicious?

Alrighty folks. I know this post was a departure from our normal 'here's our whole hog' or 'here's how we take a set of ingredients and rock out something amazing and creative on the plate' but I thought everyone would enjoy knowing that Karen and I aren't quaffing Pouilly Fuisse and eating escargots on our days off!!! Well, actually we do sometimes..... Cheers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring has sprung?

OK, so it's the first day of spring and it's COLD. Anyhow, thought I would take a quick trip outside to take a look at what is popping through the ground. As you can see from the video, we do have some plants to look at and are moving full speed ahead with preparing the soil with spent coffee grounds. The starter seeds are still inside under the grow lights and will soon be moving out of the carriage house and to warmer climes. Once the soil starts to warm up, they'll get set up in the ground and off we'll go. This is such a great time of year for me. We've been working with root vegetables and braised meats for so many months that it is just awesome to start thinking about the first garlic chives, asparagus, morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns and so on. Please stay tuned for some of the amazing ideas we are kicking around regarding spring produce....Here's a teaser: Asparagus raviolis with morel mushrooms and ramps in a country ham does that sound?

Where did the ham go???

Alrighty's what happened to the 'best ham you'll never eat'.....we ate it. Very simple nice homemade roll, thin sliced country ham, melted cheddar and just becuase we can, a poached egg on top. I do have to report that once the initial excitement wore off this is ......still the most amazing ham I've ever eaten!!! I was a little worried that upon further inspection and tasting we might start to do what we do best and find fault with every little thing. Nope. Just good, honest amazing salt cured goodness. I've also added a little 'blooper' reel to the end of this post so that everyone can see that after a hard night of service we really have no manners whatsoever!!! Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Meditations on Pork Fat

You know sometimes you just gotta kick back, turn on the video camera and act a little strange. I guess that's the bottom line with this video. I was making lard the other day in preparation for putting up our hams and thought it might be fun to 'romance the lard'. Anyhow, just a little video to let everyone know we don't take ourselves too seriously! Cheers.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Farm to Table - Hanover Style

The concept of farm to table is nothing new to anyone who reads regional or national food magazines. In its simplest form the concept describes a persons desire to shorten the time their food travels from the farm to their table. It's also a great way to connect with the farmer who is producing their food. This idea isn't a fad; it's the way. Farm to table has always been the way I've wanted to and have cooked; it just happens that now it has a sexy, hip title. The video above just shows how I've taken this idea one step further. We work very hard at the restaurant to establish great relationships with the people who provide us with amazing raw materials. A huge benefit of these relationships is that these farmers and producers are very open to trying some of my crazy ideas regarding how to produce a better raw product. A lot of chefs are content to buy a little produce at the local farmers market and then blather on to magazines and writers about how important it is to 'buy local'. Meanwhile, a huge truck has just unloaded asparagus in the middle of January. At this point I have to provide a disclaimer so that I can remain consistent. Our restaurant is located in south central Pennsylvania, so obviously there isn't a whole lot of stuff that we are able to buy locally right now(although I just got my hands on an amazing apple and peach blossom honey from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg....more on that later....also, I am ALWAYS looking for amazing farmers and artisans...even if you just grow the best asparagus, e-mail can be our asparagus guru) I understand that there have to be allowances made for location. All I'm asking is that some of these folks just be a little more open about what they are really buying and have their menus reflect the season in their area. Hey, if they don't want to, that's fine also...just don't pretend that you do. Have the magazine or writer call me. I'll fill'em in. OK.....stepping off the soapbox. On to how we take farm to table one step closer to perfection. As mentioned in the video, Beau and I started the concept behind this project in October with the goal of creating a more flavorful pig. It's really working. However, this isn't the only instance in which we work VERY closely with our farmers. During the VERY cold month of January, Scott and I sat down with Kathy Glahn(a.k.a. The Tomato Lady) and poured over seed catalogs picking what vegetables we would use this year. Yes, you read this right. Our summer menus actually got their start this past January when we asked Kathy to grow specialty produce for us. How freakin' cool is that?!? I'm sorry, I get a little excited just thinking how special these relationships are and as a result how great the raw products are that we get in the back door. Simply amazing.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Best Ham You'll Never Eat

OK, folks....after 16 months of time spent hanging in our cold cellar our first 'Pennsylvania Pro-shoot-o' was cracked open. Honestly, we have a pretty serious, quiet, when I cut into this ham and all of us shouted like we were 10 years old and it was Christmas morning(ok, maybe I was the only one shouting) people took notice. I have to be pretty straight forward here. We put two hams up last November(2006) and when we cracked into this ham today I don't think the expectations were very high. Like I always say, if you have no expectations you'll never be disappointed. Anyhow, upon tasting this ham all of us discovered what a wonderful flavor it has. Slightly reminiscent of the Italian versions, a bit more balanced and less salty than our beloved country ham. It is truly a unique and amazing product.(Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not just blowing smoke, either. It's just not in my make-up.) However, since this ham was a personal experiment and the fact that I'm an idiot, there are no notes on the process. So, it is officially the best ham you'll never eat.(unless you're a close friend of the restaurant...then we might be able to work something out) Anyhow, we're getting a lot better about note keeping, so hopefully sometime soon( well, it's soon if you consider 16 months soon) we'll have a ham that we can share with everyone. Until then, enjoy eating hams from all over the world, but know that soon there will be a new ham on the block!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Preserved Lemons

Here is a quick video of Scott doing our preserved lemons. These jewels will be ready in about a month and will provide us with another finishing element that can really put a dish over the top. We also are experimenting with preserved oranges and perhaps limes this week. I think the options are pretty much endless once these guys come out of the salt. I'm thinking of taking some of the preserved lemons over to the sweet side of the kitchen and see how we might be able to twist up the classic lemon meringue tart. Who knows? That's the fun of it!!!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Going Whole Hog

OK, here you go folks....a true example of our farm to table connection. The video shows a Berkshire hog raised by rockstar farmer Beau Ramsburg. This particular hog is the second of three hogs that we raised as an experiment with different feeds to see if we can raise an 'old-style' Virginia hog. All the usual humane and natural standards applied, Beau simply had three different types of feed for these guys. I CAN'T EVEN DESCRIBE TO YOU HOW EXCITED I AM ABOUT THESE ANIMALS. Anyhow, I'll let the video speak for itself. I will mention that in terms of freshness, this particular animal was alive on thursday, inspected friday and broken down by us on saturday. Now that's shortening the food chain. Here's an important point I touched on in the video: 'Local' and 'sustainable' have become the current vogue terms for chefs talking to magazines these days. I'm providing this video to prove that we are dedicated to this type of cooking. I guess the most appropriate way to describe it is 'nose to tail'. It's not a trend for us. It's just the way. I think it is very important to cook by the seasons(and be aware of Mother Nature's nuances), support our local farm economy and also use the whole animal. It's admirable to cut pork chops from a local farmer out of a bag and throw them in a pan, but what is happening to the rest of the animal? Can we as chefs take less desirable cuts of meat and make something amazing with them? Always remembering that Mother Nature is the true artist, we're just technicians.(Thanks, Marco) How good can we be as technicians to show off everything that nature provides. So, yes this means changing the menu and putting some heavy thought into how to use all these parts. That's the fun of it!!! I've included a photo of the processing just so everyone can see how it's all done!!!