Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Food and Fall go hand in hand, especially when you introduce the fresh, and seasonal into your menu. The executive chef of the Marine Room in La Jolla, Bernard Guillas joins us with tips on getting adventurous with seasonal food. We'll also talk about the adventure of San Diego Restaurant week.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. In popular culture, the slow food movement is a rather new craze. This emphasis on seasonal, locally grown, fresh food is current and hip, and it all seems very modern. But to a master chef, trained in the traditions of haute cuisine, there is nothing really new about slow food. It just used be known as food, so it comes as no surprise that the Marine Room's Chef Bernard is a great advocate of preparing dishes with fresh, seasonal ingredients. He's here today to share some of his wisdom and to talk about San Diego's Restaurant Week. I’d like to introduce my guest. Chef Bernard Guillas is the executive chef of the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Chef Bernard, welcome back.
BERNARD GUILLAS (Executive Chef, Marine Room Restaurant): Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Now, as I said, the idea of selecting fresh, natural, locally grown food for your dishes is second nature to chefs, right?
GUILLAS: You know, it’s funny, is that, you know, slow food has become such an incredible movement that I remember when I was about five years old, living with my grandmother and picking up everything in the garden. We were already doing slow food, so what’s great about it is about the awareness that, you know, there’s some incredible product out there raised with beautiful farmers who really put all their passion, love and energy into producing incredible product.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, you know, in our busy world everybody’s running around like a crazy person. We’ve come to believe that processed foods are so much easier and they save so much time. How do you counter that argument when somebody comes to you and says I don’t have time. I don’t have time for that.
GUILLAS: You know, there is one thing that, unfortunately, in this very busy life we kind of neglect, which is sit down and have a dinner with the family or the kids, and really reconnect the dots and really bring everyone together. There is one thing who’s important, is that if you teach your children what a carrot tastes like, most likely that child will remember from a very, very slow age, very young age, that, umm, this was delicious. So this is why. Take the kids and, for example, go to farmers market. There is over 40 farmers markets in San Diego. There’s a farmers market open every day in San Diego. So if you take them there and they are able to really experience the bounty and really smell those beautiful herbs and take a melon in their hand and they just smell the melon, and you see those eyes going ‘oh, my God.’ Just grab a little cherry tomato, who just pop in their mouth and they go, mommy, that is unbelievable. And this is what we need to bring back to our kitchens.
CAVANAUGH: That savoring that you talk about of seasonal foods, of locally grown foods. Now what if someone is not used to going to a farmers market? How would you introduce them to a farmers market? What would you advise them to look at first?
GUILLAS: Well, first of all, if you want to go to a farmers market, is not only going shopping to the farmers market, it’s a journey on itself because there’s not only food for sale who are from the farmers, there’s also other little producers who, for example, are bringing olives and cheeses and nuts. So it becomes really a journey on itself. If there – If you do not have a farmers market around where you live, in San Diego has got to be very difficult to not find a farmers market. Just go into your natural food store, for example, you go to slow food – Whole Food, I mean. I mean, if you go to Whole Food, you’ll get everything there will be almost like going to a farmers market.
CAVANAUGH: Do you…
GUILLAS: But farmers market is cool and you’re out and about and – That it is arranged. It is beautiful and shiny. It’s just an outing. It’s fantastic.
CAVANAUGH: Do you have favorites in San Diego? A farmers market?
GUILLAS: Well, yes, I mean, I love Hillcrest farmers market. I mean, you know, it’s – there’s a lot of parking there, very, very well run, and really – You know what’s really funny is that you will go to, let’s say, 40 farmers market and you will see a lot of the same farmers there. And it just tells you how much farming the farming community has exploded in San Diego. We have over 3,000 farms in San Diego, so it’s amazing. So, you know, you look at Restaurant Week, for example, this week, and it is fantastic for the restaurant but it is so wonderful that the restaurant are able to support their farming community. So this is where we all celebrate the bounty of San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: I want to tell everyone the Hillcrest farmers market is on Sundays.
CAVANAUGH: And what do you go to first? Do you look at all the unusual items first?
GUILLAS: I am the worst shopper.
CAVANAUGH: Are you really?
GUILLAS: I stop everywhere. I know this is the deal, so I will tell my girlfriend, okay, we’re going to the farmers market and she goes, okay, how long is it going to be? Oh, maybe a couple of hours. I mean, it’s just – that’s Bernard, you know, and you talk to your farmers and you taste and you buy too much because I always do. And suddenly, you know, I come home and I say, okay, so are we having a party? And she goes, oh, you got to be kidding me. I knew this was going to happen. Call the friends, have a barbecue. I mean, you know, just savor. Savor, savor, savor.
CAVANAUGH: Now what kinds of seasonal produce should we be looking at and using right now?
GUILLAS: Well, you know, that we are changing season except that in La Jolla the season has been pretty much fall all summer.
CAVANAUGH: I know.
GUILLAS: So there’s not that much changes. But I would say look for, for example, apple, pears, pomegranate, persimmons who are coming out, rhubarb and make a little bit rhubarb mint jelly, for example, for your lamb when you go around the holiday season, grapefruits, of course mushrooms. I mean, mushrooms are coming out. You have beautiful chanterelle, Black Trumpet, hedgehog, porcini, lobster mushroom, delicious, meaty abalone mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms. So you’re going to say, okay, what are you going to do with all those things? So you can make, for example, beautiful soups, you can make some mushroom pies, you can make wild mushroom bread pudding with your turkey for Thanksgiving.
GUILLAS: Just break the rule. So you can do so much. It’s wonderful.
CAVANAUGH: And one of the things that you advise, I know, is to infuse tangerines into your menus towards the end of the year. I would’ve never thought of that. What do you mean by that?
GUILLAS: Well, you can start with a tangerine martini, for example. I mean, put everybody in the mood. But I got to tell you what I do, I take some tangerine and some cranberries. I infuse them with a little bit of sugar and vodka. And then you just do that for about a week. You strain the juice and you use this as a base for a little champagne cocktail. So now that champagne cocktail can be used for, let’s say, Christmas, cheers on the New Year’s, and even the romantic night. Umm-hmm.
CAVANAUGH: It sounds wonderful. Now you mentioned one way to combine slow food with a busy lifestyle is a one pot meal like a soup.
GUILLAS: Well, the one pot meal are the best. And let’s talk about root vegetables.
GUILLAS: They’re all coming up now.
GUILLAS: Those are my favorite, pumpkin, squash, bonnets, beets, carrot, Jerusalem artichokes. Now think about this. Picture this. You are able to do one pot dish using, for example, lamb. You make a lamb tagine. You have all the beautiful aromatics, all the spices pretty much taking over the whole house. So do a lot of braising. You do your osso bucco, short ribs, pork cheeks, coq au vin, the old classic French one or even, I don’t know, you can even braise, for example, monkfish. Monkfish is delicious with pomegranate. Slowly cooked, it’s amazing. Maybe the bacon with that fingering potatoes, rock your world.
CAVANAUGH: You know, you’re making San Diego hungry right now, you know that, Chef Bernard. I do want to ask you one question about roasting, though, because when we do think about cooler temperatures, we can get things back into the oven. You have suggestions not only for roasting what sounds like a fabulous chicken but also roasting herbs.
GUILLAS: Yeah, you can roast herbs. Well, let’s put it this way, if you want to preserve your herbs, right now is the right time to harvest. If you want to preserve them really well, what you want to do is you want to dry them at about 170 degrees in your oven, very, very, very slow. And then Ziploc bag and they will stay nice and fresh for a long time. Now, roasting, what I love about roasting is this. You take your root vegetables, put a bit of thyme, a little bit of garlic, a bit of olive oil, and you roast all this together, you will have incredible aromatics. Now there is a cool thing to do. You take a whole chicken and beneath the skin you make a mixture of sun-dried apricot, a little bit of garlic, a little bit of herb like a paste, and you put it between the skin and the flesh, and then you roast it. You just infuse all the chicken. It is so amazing. You can also do that for turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s really, really great. Now the other thing that you should think about is brining. It is the right time now to think about brining. So you take a pork chop and you brine it with pomegranate juice, for example, a little bit of apple cider, thyme, rosemary and sage. It would be just fantastic. Then you just barbecue it. It’ll carmelize by itself. Mmm, get some apple, make a little bit of apple mash with that. Ouch, this would be so yummy.
CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Chef Bernard Guillas. He’s executive chef of the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. You have moved one of our listeners to call in. Sonya is calling from central San Diego. Good morning, Sonya. Welcome to These Days.
SONYA (Caller, San Diego): Thank you, and thanks for taking my call. I was wondering, where can I get a list of restaurants that support the local organic farmers?
CAVANAUGH: Hmm, all right. Do we know?
GUILLAS: That’s a really good question. I do not quite know but I think that you could get some information from the farming bureau, would tell you most likely which restaurant are ordering the produce from the farmers. Otherwise, the best thing to do, go to the farmers market, talk to the farmers. They will be more than happy to tell you because there’s so much pride for them to be showcasing their produce in the restaurants.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Sonya, and Sonya has brought us to the subject of restaurants. This is San Diego Restaurant Week. We’re right in the middle of it. So tell us a little bit about that, Chef Bernard. What kind of restaurants are included? How many? What kinds of dining opportunities?
GUILLAS: This started five years ago and it’s been a really fantastic journey. It started with about what’s about a hundred restaurants, now we have 197 restaurant. What’s great about this week is that you have three type of menu pricing to choose from: $20.00, $30.00 and $40.00. So it caters to everyone’s budget, which is really great. It really covers the full quarter into San Diego County. It is a three-course menu. You have a choice of three appetizers, three main course and three desserts. Except that, you know, I’m kind of a sweet guy so I give you three dessert as a tasting. I mean, hey, you got to finish with flair, you know. And it’s been really fantastic. It’s a great way to really support all the restaurants and also your farming community like we talked about. And have fun, get out of the house. I mean, you know, it’s – we know that the situation economically is challenging for everyone but think about it. Just treat yourself. Have a fantastic time.
CAVANAUGH: What kind of a dinner can you get for one of these fixed price dinners? I mean, what – you say that you have the course choices, give us an example, though.
GUILLAS: Well, I’m going to give you the example of the Marine Room.
GUILLAS: You have three appetizers so you have, for example, the – you have a shrimp appetizer and then you have a choice of – and a corn bisque and crab appetizer or a salad, and the salad is from Blue Haven Farm, local farm, it’s really wonderful. Diver’s scallop, filet mignon, and wild king salmon for choice as an entrée. And then you have your trilogy of desserts. So it’s really cool. I mean, at the Shores, for example, which is my other restaurant, they have the – they have a lobster tail, filet mignon for a choice, and it’s $30.00 over there, $40.00 at the Marine Room.
CAVANAUGH: Now, as you said, you mentioned the fact that people are economically challenged. How important is Restaurant Week this year to the participating restaurants?
GUILLAS: Oh, it is really important because, you know, it’s a great way to bring energy to a restaurant. It’s a great way to have the restaurant also showcase their style and the beautiful food that everybody does. What’s great about Restaurant Week is like you having a passport and you’re traveling all around San Diego without going to the airport and the screening process. You just have a great time, come in, eat and enjoy. You have a lot of different ethnic food as well. You have Spanish, you have Italian, you have Hindu, you have – I mean, you just name it. I mean, it is really amazing.
CAVANAUGH: How much enthusiasm has – have you had about people participating in San Diego Restaurant Week?
GUILLAS: Unbelievable. It has been so busy. You’re looking at in the last three nights that we had a total of 1,000 covers. We have another something like 1200 or 1400 coming in for – until the remaining days of the week. And we are extending it one day, which is Saturday. Now there is a few restaurant and you need to go to sandiegorestaurantweek.com and you will be able to have the list of people who are extending that for an extra week.
CAVANAUGH: An extra week.
GUILLAS: An extra week.
CAVANAUGH: That’s interesting.
GUILLAS: I’m doing an extra day. In the Marine Room, after that, I’m getting ready to be crazy. I’m doing a fifty dollar menu for – with lobster, which is something I – We have Lobster Mondays and then we are cooking the book because my cookbook, you know, we have the Flying Pans out so...
GUILLAS: …it’s fun.
CAVANAUGH: And so I would imagine reservations are required? Or…?
GUILLAS: Well, I’m going to tell you, the worst thing that can happen is you make plans at the last minute and say, you know what, I want to go to that restaurant and that restaurant you call and you cannot get a reservation. It’s very frustrating. So this is why everyone should really make their reservation now. I look at, for example, where I am at the Marine Room, Friday night is pretty much packed. So you still have Thursday where – and tonight, Thursday, Saturday, and this is it. So you need to make reservation. Make reservation to your favorite restaurant but this is a week where for, I would say, I don’t know, a couple hundred dollars, you can eat all around San Diego in many restaurants, not only one. So this is really a fantastic way to celebrate San Diego’s best.
CAVANAUGH: And you also say this is a fabulous week to maybe get a little adventurous with your wine pairings.
GUILLAS: Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, this is – Everyone has really worked on their wine pairing. You look at all the restaurant. A lot of wine by the glass. You don’t have to go for the bottle. Go for the wine by the glass, and really share it. I mean, I know that if I will go out—if I had time—go out, for example, tonight, my girlfriend and I will have maybe a couple of glasses of wine but it – She would order something that we would share. I would order something that I would share. So that’s really, really fun because it become a nanojourney on itself.
CAVANAUGH: I’d like you to talk to us for just a little while about the San Diego food scene because there’s been really a lot of energy, a lot of new restaurants. I know that we’ve been talking about them when we do our Weekend Preview, new restaurants opening up, new chefs coming to town. What do you think about that and what does that say about San Diego?
GUILLAS: Explosion of energy and passion with young chefs in San Diego have really taken over. It’s really wonderful to see that restaurants are doing – the cuisine was very diverse, was very modern, and older chefs really have their own style. So there has been really – I mean, I remember when I started here 20 years ago. I was like what am I doing in San Diego really? And then I look now, it’s like I would never leave San Diego. It is amazing. The chefs really have that passion. There’s a group of chef named Confab and those guys get together, they do all type of dinners, they really celebrate the craft. So you can tell that there is a great momentum. On my hand, I do a lot of traveling. I will be in Dubai and in India in November. I will be doing a dinner in Lexington for the Equestrian Olympics with the James Beard Foundation and it’s going to be in October. So I do a lot of things to really market our region nationally and globally, and it’s really amazing to see how many people really go to the Convention and Visitors Bureau website, go to our website. We can really see it when you look at the tracking. People love our city and this is why we have a lot of people coming from all over the place and coming and enjoying our restaurant and our food scene.
CAVANAUGH: And I suppose in those years that you’ve been here, you’ve seen the San Diego palate just sort of become more and more educated.
GUILLAS: You know, it’s not only there’s been more and more education. I think the San Diego palate was already educated but I think that it were not – they didn’t have the opportunity to really able to enjoy the food that we are doing today. I mean, we really – the chef really have created a great platform for very sophisticated palate but not only it’s very sophisticated, for everyone’s palate and at every age. And this farming community really has a lot to do with it.
CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you so much. Not only have you made us hungry but you’ve made us all want to go out to dinner.
GUILLAS: Hey, you know what, life’s too short. Savor the moment and have a fantastic culinary journey.
CAVANAUGH: I want to thank Chef Bernard Guillas. He is executive chef of the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, and co-author, with Chef Ron Oliver, of the book, “Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World.” San Diego Restaurant Week continues through Friday, September 24th at some restaurants, including the Marine Room. It’s extended a bit further, so you should go online to check out where your restaurant is on this, restaurantweek.com (sic). If you’d like to comment, you can go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. Stay with us for hour two of These Days coming up in just a few minutes here on KPBS.