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Currently Browsing: Restaurant Reviews

Jenny Lake Lodge

Published in Chef Notes, Jackson Hole News & Guide, August 24, 2011
Shared by Executive chef Vishwatej R Nath
Jenny Lake Lodge

Lavender Infused Panna Cotta

Serves 6

2 T         water

1 ¼ t         gelatin powder

2 c         whipping cream

¾ c         milk

¾ c         vanilla yogurt

1 t         vanilla extract

½ c         sugar

½ T         lavender buds

 

Heat milk just to boiling and drop in the lavender buds. Remove from heat and let infuse until the milk cools to room temperature. Strain the milk and throw away the buds.

Pour 2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let it stand until softened, about 15 minutes.

Whisk 1 cup cream, yogurt, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Heat remaining 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and cream comes to simmer. Remove from heat. Add gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve gelatin. Mix hot cream-gelatin mixture into yogurt mixture in bowl. Strain the mixture to make sure it is uniform. Divide mixture among six 3/4-cup ramekins or small cups, using about 1/2 cup for each. Refrigerate desserts uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

You may add any flavor or topping you are in the mood for, such as garnishing with berries and a spring of mint or whipped cream if you like.

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An evening sublime is the way to describe it, like going to heaven without dying. Lesser terms would be inaccurate reflections of our dinner at Jenny Lake Lodge. After a perfect summer day of touring Grand Teton National Park and a stroll by String Lake, it was a sanctuary to ease into the lodge with rocking chairs aligned on the porch facing the cathedral group of peaks.

We were seated with that same view across the wildflower studded meadow. A brief summer shower just after we were seated added a sparkle to the landscape of changing light.

Weeks before a pal of mine arrived for her first visit to Jackson Hole she was informed by a friend who has been here that the one thing she must do was dine at Jenny Lake Lodge. What a great idea. Every summer I seek out one dining experience in the parks. Why not go for the best?

Everyone from Levi Thorn, the director of marketing, who set up the event to the gracious treatment by all of the staff deserves praise. Executive chef Vishwatej R Nath has spectacular command of his artistry and culinary skills. As we dined we noticed a unique pace among all of the diners. There was an element of slow motion as each palate paused in the savoring of every taste.

Chef Nath was raised in Hyderabad, India. A city known as The City of Pearls, it is the capital of the state Andhra Pradesh, the crossroads of north and south. From a diverse background with a Roman Catholic mother and a Hindu father, he had the culinary experiences of both those cultures and their celebrations as well.

His mom might have ruled the kitchen, but his dad was a creative cook. That made cooking intriguing. His mother used to make apple wine and red wine for Christmas, plus Christmas pudding and chocolate fudge. Watching his parents and grandma cook and bake was pivotal. As there was no opportunity for cooking school, hotel management was the path.

After graduating with degrees in hotel and hospitality management in India and through a distance learning program from the Educational Institute of American Hotel & Lodging Association, Nath studied in Geneva, Switzerland at the Institut Hotelier Cesar Ritz at Le Bouveret. This center of European cultures was a gateway for exploring international cuisines.

Nath arrived in the United States in 2004 on a student exchange visa to study pastries. He was on a learning path at the Vail Marriott from that autumn until May of 2006, when he first came to the Jenny Lake Lodge. Continuing to gain skills, he has experienced aspects of Vail Resorts including banquet, pastry and sous chef positions in locations including the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas and the Boca Raton Pass Club in Florida.

An eye for detail and perfection, plus his skills as a leader brought Chef Vishu the position of Executive Chef of Grand Teton Lodge Company in May of last year. “Grand Teton National Park is a spectacular stage. The winters are cold and very quiet. During the season we have 120 days and serve 9000 meals.” About his philosophy Nath shared, “Keep it short and simple. Food is something that looks, smells and tastes good.”

Our first taste was day boat scallop with a slaw of fennel, blood orange and micro greens. It got our attention right away. The four starters were a wild mushroom papardelle with parmesan beurre fondue and aged gruyere so smooth plus perfectly seared wild caught prawns with a cannellini bean ragout of uncanny flavor balance. Spiced duck prosciutto took us by surprise, it was so good with marinated asparagus and a delicate mustard sauce. Roasted beet tartare with apple vinaigrette, candied walnuts and ricotta salata was just the right counterpoint, cool, tart, striking.

Both soups were extremely pleasing: wild mushroom brie bisque with VSOP cognac creme fraiche and a butternut squash, smooth and silky. The signature salad of organic greens, dried tart cherries and glazed pecans had just a whisper of red onion vinaigrette. The grilled romaine hearts Caesar had us wide eyed with its presentation of powdered olive oil and anchovy foam. The classic dressing was superlative.

The grilled elk chop could not have been improved. Accompanied by sage spaetzle, huckleberry port sauce and crispy onions, the aspects of flavor and texture convolved to explode on my taste buds. The chicken roulade was another surprise. It’s just chicken, right? Not at all. The pounded and rolled breast filled with sun dried tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella and prosciutto was tender and moist. The creamy mascapone polenta and chasseur sauce added to its charm.

When we were served a lavender infused panna cotta with ripe summer berries my buddy said, “This puts me in a very happy place.” A tiny box of hand made truffles to take home took it over the top. I’ve never had a better meal.

Chef Vishu shared “During the summer I don’t take any days off, but most days I take some time to kayak on the lake.” All must conspire to keep him in just the right state of serenity.

 

Aspen’s Market

Published in Chef Notes, Jackson Hole News & Guide, August 10, 2011
Shared by Chef Joel Cox
Aspen’s Market

 

Dustin Varga’s Mustard Spiked Brussels Sprouts

3 lb Brussels Sprouts, washed and trimmed

2         red bell peppers, cleaned cut in thin strips

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 T          butter

3 T          stone ground mustard

juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

3 T          EVOO

¼ c          white wine (optional)

1 t          chili flakes

3 T          salt

In a large pot bring wine, chili flakes, 1 T EVOO, salt and 4 quarts water to boil. Add Brussels, stir and poach approximately 6 minutes. Remove and place in ice bath. Saute the garlic in the butter until golden. Place drained Brussels, peppers, lemon juice, mustard, garlic butter, and remaining EVOO toss well. Spread onto baking sheet and roast in 375° oven for 10-15minutes, until tender and golden. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This dish has a quite a following here and I think people would really enjoy it! It makes a perfect side for roasted chicken. Here is how we do our roasted chickens

 

One whole natural bird 3.5-4 lbs, cleaned of excess fat and trussed

1 t          chopped fresh rosemary

2 t          chopped fresh thyme

1 t          chopped fresh sage

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T          EVOO

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°. Season bird with salt. Mix remaining ingredients together, rub bird with goods including inside the cavity. Place in roasting pan uncovered. Put in oven for 10 minutes, then check. After it begins to take on color, reduce oven temp to 325° and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. If color begins to get too dark cover with foil. When the temperature of the bird reaches 165° remove from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Carve and enjoy.

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Ah, how wonderful to be young and a perfectionist. I am filled with admiration for Joel Cox, the butcher and chef at the new Aspens Market. Together with the Reids, who own the market, they have been doing a great job at creating their new place. It’s fresh and streamlined, a grocer, butcher and deli, filled with interesting, quality ingredients and products.

Cox formative childhood memories are of his time in his grandparents’ world on the Tulalip Indian Reservation north of Seattle. It was their way of life to grow and gather foods, hunt, fish and live from the land. That set the stage for the strong desire in his professional life to source ingredients and create the purist foods possible.

The culinary program at the local community college was Cox’s educational path and from there to his first job at Olive’s Wine Bar. He worked from 2003 to 2005 in Seattle at Jonathan Sunstrum’s Lark restaurant.

From there Cox found a new inspiration. On Vachon Island at Kurtwood Farms he spent 5 years helping grow their farm dinners. Every Sunday, rain or shine, the staff created a local sustainable feast of 9 courses. The chefs did utilize a few staples such as salt, pepper, flour and sugar. Everything else was created from scratch from the surroundings of the farm and the island.

Dinners started with 20 guests. They grew by word of mouth networking. Folks had to be introduced and brought to the events by those who had already attended. The momentum was astounding and after 5 years the adventure reached its end.

Before landing in Jackson Hole this winter to help with the new market, Cox has been inspired by and involved with Brady Lowe’s Cuchon555, a ten city tour of culinary events involving chefs, wineries and heritage hogs. He also spent 8 months in Italy learning the art of butchering.

One of the Aspens Market’s contribution to the lofty benefit for Vertical Harvest last week on top of the town parking garage was Cox’s porchetta. Porchetta  is a skin-on mid section of a pig that is boned, spiced with rosemary, garlic, lots of fennel pollen, chili flakes, salt and pepper. The loin is rolled inside the belly to keep it moist, tied tight with butcher’s twine, covered, and baked in a hot oven for a few hours.

“Good food takes time,” Cox shared, “Since the market opened March 8 it seems we have been scrambling to catch up. The goal is to create everything as sustainably as possible.” They bring in whole hogs and steers from the Robinson Family Farm. One of the chef’s hopes is that their meat program becomes known as a destination. Nothing is prepackaged. Fresh ground burger is easy to discern. The steaks and roasts are the best I have seen. I can hardly wait for the occasion to bring some home.

They are featuring specials such as Taco Tuesdays with pork carnitas, a fabulous and tasty bargain. Cox is loves to interact with customers and was thrilled when a customer recently recognized his Tomahawk steak cut. Benton’s Bacon has a dense smoky flavor. Cox’s house made sausages of 3 varieties were all flavorful and extremely lean. His ragu is divinely inspired.

Cox said that his goal is to streamline, and yet they are making everything including their own mayonnaise from scratch. He gives great credit to Dustin Varga, the prepared salads guru of their deli, who has broad experience in grocery.

I have sampled many of the products. The delicious tuna salad starts with fresh albacore. They roast the chickens that are transformed into their tasty chicken salad with pecans, celery and grapes. The Kasmiri black rice salad delighted my palate. The hummus was especially well seasoned with a creamy texture. The list of palate pleasing choices is large including a roasted beet salad, wheat berries with veggies, quinoa, and a selection of vegetables such as grilled asparagus, broccolini with lemon zest and red pepper flakes and green beans with miso.

I hope the new Aspens Market is well supported in their desire to bring our valley incredible quality culinary delights.

 

Hatchet Motel

Published in Chef Notes, Jackson Hole News & Guide, July 27, 2011
Shared by Chef Ron James
Hatchet Motel

 

Hatchet Resort Beef and Buffalo Chili

Serves many. Freeze some for later.

2 c olive oil

2 chopped red bell peppers

2 chopped green bell peppers

2 chopped yellow bell peppers

3 chopped white onions

1 c minced garlic

4 c Anaheim chilies

3 lbs ground beef

1 lb ground buffalo

#10 can plum tomatoes

#10 can kidney beans

#10 can black beans

3 small cans tomato paste

1 c cumin

1 c chili powder

½ c salt

½ c black pepper

½ c paprika

½ c Worcestershire

2 bottles Snake River Lager

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat, add olive oil, add vegetables and cook until tender. Add the beef and buffalo and seasonings, stir until browned. Drain and add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire and beer. Stir well. Bring to a boil and then slow simmer for about 10 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste. Add spices ¼ cup at a time until desired flavor is achieved.

They serve this as an entrée, on nachos and it makes an awesome chili dog, as long as you use all beef franks.

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We were in the heart of Dixie the other night, just east of Moran Junction at the Hatchet Resort in the Whetstone dining room. Hospitality and good cheer were bubbling over, a diverse crowd of people were all seeming pretty darn happy. Delicious looking plates streamed by us into the dining room trailing enticing aromas. We settled right on in.

I’d heard from several sources, including a journalist from Oregon who contacted my editor at the paper that the folks from Mississippi who were there were serving up some really fine food. On a beautiful summer night why not find out?

Greeting us with a friendly smile and that unmistakably warm drawl was Ron James, the manager. When I asked about “the chef” in our initial phone conversation James told me there was no chef. He learned to cook from his Grandma and his Great Grandma. “I always liked to make big spreads for loads of people. A little bit of this and a little bit of that goes a long way as long as you don’t go overboard.” That’s as good of a philosophy of how to cook as any I’ve heard. James’ son Josh is part of the crew. He cooks dinners. His dad shared that Josh hadn’t been schooled as a chef either. He worked construction and lived with his cousin who was trained in the field. They just loved hanging out and experimenting with recipes, cooking for friends. That’s how he learned.

The whole staff shares that hospitality gene and James shares credit with his staff. “We all work really well together. They are great,” James told me. “If they don’t carry their weight, I get rid of them.” One of the guys said, “It’s kinda cool. We’ve served folks from 24 countries. If they stop by once, they come again.”

Some things are meant to be. James shared that he was born in Natchez and went to school in Hattiesburg. (I don’t know if you know this, but our states are quite similar in that the whole states are both like small towns.) He lived south of Memphis and managed a furniture store for a long time. Then, in a less happy period of his life, he was managing the footwear department of a Sportsman’s Warehouse. This guy came in looking for winter snow boots. James asked, “Now why would you need boots like this in Memphis?” The gentleman, Billy Graves, said that he ran the Hatchet Resort in Wyoming. James said, “Take me with you! I can be there tomorrow to start working.” He obviously had no idea how long the drive was, but drive to Jackson Hole he did. Graves stayed for the next year. Three years later James says he is here to stay. Managing a store is not that much different from this. It’s all customer service.

The Hatchet was homesteaded as a ranch in 1892. In the mid 1950’s after the highway went through, the motel was added. In 1998 the current owners partnered with the Jackson Hole Land Trust to buy it out of bankruptcy auction. They permanently protected the land’s scenic vistas and wildlife corridors, leaving 7 of the 800 plus acres for the resort operations.

The Whetstone dining room building has been added in the last few years. It is a beautifully crafted log building with expanses of glass facing the Tetons beyond a lush meadow. The bar and the fireplace are surrounded by hammered copper. The furnishings are made by local artists, some fashioned from antique sleds. There is an upright piano. The whole environment is ripe for festive gatherings.

One of the first plates that caught my eye was the nachos. They looked great! Our shared recipe is the chili that serves as their base. The pizzas I saw also whetted my appetite. We had a Caesar salad that was a fine balance of flavors, crisp romaine and hand made croutons. They offer a chef’s salad (even though there’s no chef) and a garden salad, plus a Wrangler salad that includes grilled flat iron steak, red onions, tomatoes, feta and garlic croutons.

The entree choices include half pound buffalo and beef burgers, bacon wrapped filet (the most expensive at $29.95), ribeye steak, brisket, grilled chicken, trout and barbeque shrimp. All include a salad, potato choice and vegetable. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs or Fettucini Alfredo is $12.95 and comes with house salad and garlic bread.

The nightly specials were London broil w/ mashed potatoes loaded with caramelized onions and a generous portion of al dente cooked fresh broccoli or a pork chop with white wine cream sauce, sauteed mushrooms with angel hair pasta with pesto and broccoli. The London broil was excellent. We shared the barbeque shrimp, 6 large grilled tasty crustaceans, with crisp sweet potato fries and a sauteed medley of colorful peppers, onions and zucchini.

Everything was just plain delicious. All were served cheerfully in a timely fashion. As we watched the sun dip below the horizon, we were bathed in the laughter of a huge table of folks from the neighborhood enjoying the evening.

I loved the fact that none of us even mentioned dessert.

 

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