Deckers Outdoor had its annual board dinner last night. They asked us if we would be able to cater the dinner for 24 people, if they paid us a predetermined amount. This will forever live as the day that the entity that is Barbareño lost its amateur status.
Julian: Wooh! We got through our first truly legit, full-on dinner service. Five courses, four passed apps, paired dessert wine, two waitresses, spiels about the food…the whole thing. I’ve obviously cooked professionally for people before–sometimes with a lot more at stake–but this was the first time I’d say my own reputation was on the line. I haven’t been that nervous for a dinner since……well, I guess ever.
Julian mid-dinner with Cyclops eyes.
Jesse’s busy so I’ll just write everything for this post. Anyway, there were a few hiccups. I discovered my aioli was broken a couple minutes before it was supposed to be served and had to scramble to make it anew, our pot of water wouldn’t come to a boil for the life of Phoebe (I later discovered I had it on the smallest burner in the kitchen), and my hiatus from cooking for two months was apparent in my over-seasoning of multiple elements of the meal. But in general we were both pleased.
Here’s the menu, which includes some ideas that I think may make their way onto the eventual restaurant menu:
-Crostini with homemade ricotta, cabernet jelly, and pickled black walnuts
-Dates stuffed with Central Coast Creamery blue cheese, topped with burnt pistachio oil
-Soft-boiled scotch quail eggs fried with pinquito bean coating, with sweet chili sauce
-Bay-smoked potatoes with rosemary aioli
–Chilled avocado soup with basil and red onions
-Shitty Ranch Salad: Home-cultured buttermilk panna cotta, tomato consomme, pickled baby carrots, romaine chiffonade, chopped chives, parsley, EVO emulsion
-Pistachio angel hair with savory strawberry marinara and chanterelles
-Santa Maria BBQ: Red oak-grilled tri-tip with tomato coulis, seared pearl onions, cilantro oil, jalepeños, and pinquito bean crisp
-Eucalyptus ice cream with pistachio cookie crumble and wild fennel
A few notes about this menu, and where some of the dishes came from. Most importantly, the Shitty Ranch Salad and the Santa Maria BBQ, as these give some insight into what we’re trying to do with the restaurant:
–The Shitty Ranch Salad came about because I wanted to base a dish off of ranch dressing. Quick side story: Hidden Valley Ranch, located right near my old high school, was where ranch dressing was invented. The owner of the ranch, Steve Henson, invented a concoction of mayo, buttermilk, dried parsley, dried chives, black pepper, and possibly some other ingredients. He served this magical blend to guests at his dude ranch. People loved it so much that he was pushed to sell it, eventually creating such a demand that Clorox was prompted to buy him out. The rest is, of course, history.
When I was brainstorming ranch-based dishes, the first thing that came to mind were those shitty ranch salads I would eat in dining halls…big pieces of chopped romaine, mealy wedges of under-ripe tomatoes, and baby carrots. All made edible by the judicious use of glorious gobs of ranch. So I figured I’d take those elements and serve them at the most important dinner I’ve ever cooked.
–The Santa Maria BBQ dish has been something we’ve been playing around with for awhile. Classic Santa Maria BBQ consists purely of grilled tri-tip (a cut of meat “invented” in Santa Maria, which is located about 45 mins from Santa Barbara), always grilled over red oak on a Santa Maria grill, served with pico de gallo and pinquito beans (these beans are amazing and only grow in and around Santa Maria). So, as with the shitty ranch salad, we wanted to take the elements of this staple regional meal and refine them a bit.
Each of the other dishes we served has a story behind it too…Santa Barbara was the first town in America to cultivate avocados, the tri counties are a major producer of strawberries and pistachios, I foraged the ingredients for the dessert while on my favorite running route in town, etc. I really like these stories that can be told. It adds an element of intrigue and learning to a meal, and also connects people to where they are. And having a reason for taking the actions that we choose to take, grounded in the history, climate, agricultural traditions, and culture of Santa Barbara forces us to be creative.
Long story short, our first paid dinner went well. We’ve got some work to do, but with practice things will get smoother. We will hopefully get to do a few more of these dinners, which will also help in the much-needed money department. We’ve got a lot of work to do now, so I’m going to stop procrastinating by writing on the blog and get busy. Stay tuned for updates!
post dinner, ready for bed. That’s all we got for photos…