Saison (SF) – My Favorite Meal of 2012

A meal at Saison is a slow burn through the night. Flavors are clean and light. A soft salinity brushes some plates like an ocean mist. Smoke wafts throughout. Imparts of faint bitterness. Tight concentrations of umami. Sometimes a funk. And always the striking dash of herbs. The fire is the heart, the essence and purpose. Singularity.

Follow the embers to the wild and the pure.

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Willows Inn First Harvest Dinner

To get away – seclusion, slow time, and the freedom to work. To explore the land and work within its bounty. To be inspired by the physical connection to food and walk amongst it – on the farm, into the green. Down to the beach: currants on the slant, stonecrop along the shore, and sea lettuce beneath the waves. Spot prawns swim just beyond. Five chefs ride the ferry into a new land of possibility.1

Sean Brock saw a realm of smoke. John Shields catalouged the environment and found plants in full blushing bloom. Dotting the bay, fishing boats must have piqued Jason Fox’s curiosity for the waters below. Kobe Desramaults, too, thought of weeds and herbs – and the dairy of such diets. And with its salty breeze and clear air, Lummi Island must have reminded Kyle Connaughton of Hokkaido. For Blaine Wetzel, it is merely home.

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McCrady’s – Seeds of Muse and Obsession

Every second, our connections to history dissipate. A family recipe is eaten for the last time, unknowingly. Land-rich, but cash poor, farmers sell their land to development. A forgotten plant might simply die out in a field next to the highway. History is kept alive by those that simply document. Farm almanacs, family cookbooks, and forgotten fields offer insights into a culinary past. Without research, proselytization, and, ultimately, consumption; yesterday might fade away. Sean Brock, chef of McCrady’s and Husk, is on a mission of reclaiming and re-imagining the Carolina Rice Kitchen. He mines the past with an archeologists’s zeal but cooks through a lens of today – an enchanting modern cuisine with Jeffersonian agrarian roots.

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Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA) – Island as Plate

To get away – seclusion, slow time, and the freedom to explore. To live with the land, honor its history, and work within its bounty. To be inspired by the physical connection to food and walk amongst it – on the farm, into the brush. Down to the beach: berries on the slope, stonecrop along the shore, and sea lettuce in the water. Spot prawns swim just beyond. A land of possibility. To take the ideas of noma and practice them on a nine-mile island, most of it uninhabited – welcome to Willows Inn.1

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Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel – Fog of the Sea

With the sting of an herb and brine of the sea, Justin Cogley’s food at Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel captures the Central Coast outside. Ocean mists and forest floors. His palette is largely the surrounding land and it clearly influences his work. And just as oranges, reds, violets, and blue swirl together during a Carmel sunset, flavors blend seamlessly in strong focused dishes. Naturalist, without masking ingredients, it also draws much from across the Pacific.

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