Thanks to a very generous aunt, the Accidental Locavore has had the chance to take a lot of classes at DeGustibus. When I can't make up my mind about which one to take, Emmy, the booker, is always great about making suggestions. Food is always a criterion, but often we'll discuss how handsome the chefs are. This time, she suggested Gabriel Rucker of le Pigeon in Portland (Oregon) and it was one of the most enjoyable nights spent on Macy's eighth floor!
Most of the chefs are big names (and they know it) but surprisingly, many of them are not comfortable cooking in front of an audience. It's an art form to be able to connect with an audience and cook a meal (without losing a finger or two), and Gabriel was able to make it all work.
After a couple of tense minutes getting used to the quirks of an electric stove, he pulled off his version of a grilled cheese sandwich - bone marrow butter and caramelized onions. The drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar made it a sandwich to remember!
On the things-to-remember list has to be the way he works with fois gras. He makes a cure for the fois gras and cures the lobe for 48 hours. When it's ready, he rinses it off and shaves it with a (sharp) peeler. Amazing! It was such a good way of doing fois gras that I was looking up getting a lobe on D'Artagnan the next day. Gabriel used it to top a hamachi tartare with Oregon truffles and tangerine slices. Over the top and totally delicious!
Our main course was a rabbit sausage wrapped in bacon, or as he calls it "Rabbit in a Pig Blanket". This was paired with an individual quiche of mustard greens and Gruyère. It was a great combination, made better with a sauce of vermouth, chicken stock and two types of mustards. Since I was the extremely fortunate recipient of the "demo" rabbit, I actually made his sauce to go with it. It was easy, a bit time consuming just because you have to reduce it, but totally worth the time. Thinking of the classic French and lentil combination, I served it with lentils de Puy and it was great!
After that was an interesting carrot preparation - baking the carrots and topping them with a sauce of crème frâiche and almonds. Since I have had nut allergies, I didn't taste it, but it looked great and I might try it, substituting pine nuts for the almonds.
We finished off with cornbread made with bacon and dried apricots and topped with a maple syrup whipped cream. As dessert, it was good, but all I could think of was how amazing it would be for a special breakfast.
Apart from the food, a couple of things made this an outstanding evening. First, Gabriel was an interesting and generous chef. He was happily passing ingredients around for everyone to taste and smell (and with all the leftovers, for everyone to take home). He seemed to really be enjoying himself, not only with us, but with his trip to New York. I certainly sensed that a trip to his restaurant in Portland would be a great evening out. In lieu of that, his new cookbook, Le Pigeon, is really interesting and definitely worth checking out. I bought a copy to give to a friend and when I got home and perused it, wished I bought myself a copy. Is it wrong to give a signed and slightly used book? I'll try not to spill fois gras on it.