Trash Fish Dinner II May 19 – The best seafood you’ve never tried!

April 16th, 2014

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Every environmentally aware chef can cite an “aha!” moment, when we first realized the awesome consequences of our daily buying decisions, which inevitably leads us down the road less traveled, that being the way in which we think first of our stewardship responsibilities over the land and sea, before profit. Most people don’t know this about chefs, but besides being (hopefully) creative, we’re numbers folks. We have to sweat the numbers – what we pay, what you pay, what it costs us to turn the food we buy into something that’s compelling to you, from what’s on your plate to the culinary and service skills that got it there, and the physical venue in which to serve it. Yet, the decision to travel down the path of sustainability isn’t a difficult one. In fact, once you’ve had the “aha” moment, it is the only choice.

Most recently I’ve experienced an “aha” moment over “trash fish.” I first heard the term used a little bit differently – “garbage fish” many years back and the cook who used the term to refer to some monkfish (since over-fished and now recovering) got dressed down hard for referring to food as garbage. Yet, the term persists as many fish species are not regarded as marketable (even lobster, a long, long time ago was mostly used to feed the labor) even though they are packed with nutrition not to mention delicious. Personally I’d love to see humanity’s history and experience with the ocean inform us to the ends that we begin to value everything the ocean can give us, and not just a few “hot” species. Over the years we’ve seen once-abundant U.S. cod stocks plummet, and many other once-disregarded species such as Patagonian toothfish a.k.a. Chilean sea bass, redfish, monkfish, and skate rise to popularity and then suffer overfishing.

Fortunately, improved marine surveillance technology combined with the expertise and vigilance of non-governmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and Shedd Aquarium, these species of fish were able to be saved before they suffered the ultimate fate, and improved monitoring together with cooperative fishing communities has seen their fisheries become more sustainable, though the work is just beginning.

We can learn from our experience with lobster in particular, but also oysters, that what was once shunned by tastemakers can one day become the ultimate delicacy when a new tastemaker is making the calls. What can we learn from this? That one cook’s trash is another cook’s treasure. When we can look at all species of fish as desirable and marketable, we open up many possibilities for enjoyment, and also spread our growing appetite for fish over far more species, taking pressure off those that face special challenges, whether it’s a long reproductive cycle, slow growth rate, or overfishing due to consumer popularity.

May 19, with sponsors Fortune Fish, Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and Shedd Aquarium, we are hosting a special “Trash Fish” dinner as a benefit for Chef’s Collaborative. I have been humbled by the group of chefs working to make this dinner happen:

  • Susan Spicer – Bayona and Mondo (New Orleans, LA) – triple tail
  • Colby Garrelts – bluestem and rye (Kansas City, MO) – Spanish mackerel
  • Phillip Foss -El Ideas – Asian carp
  • Brandon Baltzley – TMIP – Greta Lakes smelt
  • Andres Padilla – Topolobampo – blue runner
  • Paul Fehribach – Big Jones – Conger eel

Tickets can be purchased at Chef’s Collaborative’s web site here, with all revenues going to benefit Chef’s Collaborative’s work to increase environmental awareness in our industry. It’s a goal of Chef’s Collaborative to make sustainability second nature to chefs everywhere, and our oceans are as precious a resource as we have. Working together, we will set out seven courses of lesser-known, underutilized species you may never have seen on a menu before, much less tasted. We’ll show you that not only are these fish not trash, but they are delicious in their own right and worthy of discovery. Just as lobster was once seen as garbage to feed the help and is now enjoyed as one of the oceans’ greatest delights, you will see that fish such as blue runner, triple tail, and even Asian carp and conger eel are delicious, and we are issuing this challenge to chefs nationwide to take note of these underutilized species that are often cast away as garbage.

If we are successful, this dinner will be the beginning of the end of the term “trash fish” and begin a new chapter in our relationship with the seas, in which we view every gift of the ocean for what they are – delicious and nutritious food upon which civilization can stand anew, in which species such as bluefin tuna, red snapper, and yellowtail can take a break from runaway demand as we learn to cook and enjoy our abundant stocks of fish such as the ones we are preparing for dinner.

Take a look again at that roster of chefs. I’m humbled that these proven badasses are eager to share this story with you, but I’m not surprised. These chefs care and time and again, they’ve put their precious time and resources on the line to make a difference. Please join us as we plot a new course for the future of seafood.

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Henry McKenna Single Barrel is April’s Whiskey of the Month!

April 1st, 2014

Henry McKennaWe are pleased to announce Henry McKenna Single Barrel as our April Whiskey of the Month. Aged for 10 years, Henry McKenna is the only single barrel bourbon that is bottled in bond, meeting strict requirements for age and proof. Produced and bottled at Heaven Hill Distillery under the watchful eyes of Master Distillers Parker Beam and Craig Beam, Henry McKenna is perhaps the most under-the-radar top notch single barrel bourbon on the market.

The whiskey is named for Henry McKenna, an Irish immigrant who in 1837 settled in Bourbon country and took a liking to Kentucky whiskey. He then set out to reach a higher standard for finished whiskey beginning with his family’s recipe, insisting that his whiskey age in charred oak barrels before bottling, which was still a rare practice at the time, when most whiskey was still produced and bottled as a clear liquor. Heaven Hill produces Henry McKenna Single Barrel according to the original recipe and ages it for ten years, yielding a refined spirit that is feisty around the edges.

Spicy on the nose, with loads of fresh cracked pepper, spice box, and citrus peel aromas, the palate yields to a rich buttery toffee flavor accented by the spicy and grassy notes of rye and rounded out by the smooth vanilla flavors contributed by the oak and corn. The long, smooth finish closes with caramel and black tea flavors that linger. Magnificently complex, Henry McKenna Single Barrel is easy to ponder, and even easier to drink. Bring your passport in for a complimentary pour any time you visit  during April.

It’s free to join the Big Jones Bourbon Society, just ask your server or bartender to sign up on your next visit. You’ll receive a passport to forty of our more than sixty whiskeys. On each visit, members are welcome to one complimentary pour of the Whiskey of the Month (WOM) which will usually (but not always) be a straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Big Jones Bourbon Society members will also receive invitations to members-only events such as whiskey tastings and whiskey socials.

Of course you’re welcome to enjoy any whiskey on our list at any time. We’ll mark off your passport as you taste each of the forty whiskeys, and once you’ve tasted them all, you will earn the distinction of Master Taster, and win tickets for two to a one-of-a-kind all-out whiskey dinner. As the ranks of Master Tasters grows, we will host a series of dinners for Master Tasters.

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A Bourbon Country Repast, ca. 1880 with Julian Van Winkle – A Piggy Bank Benefit for Southern Foodways Alliance

April 1st, 2014

We are pleased to offer some deeply rooted Kentucky cooking for our second Piggy Bank Dinner, a benefit for the Southern Foodways Alliance. Julian Van Winkle will be here to discuss his storied bourbon (12, 15, and 23 year will be served) plus a couple of selections from Buffalo Trace Distillery, and we are cooking up a 5-course menu with receipts and inspiration from Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife (Louisville, 1839) and The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery. SFA documentary films will be shown, The Poker Night String Band will play some righteous tunes, and good times will be had by all.

“The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. We set a common table where black and white, rich and poor — all who gather — may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.

A member-supported non-profit, based at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, we stage symposia, produce documentary films, collect oral histories, sponsor scholarship, mentor students, and publish great writing. Donations from generous individuals, foundations, and companies fund our good work.” – SFA Mission Statement

Big Jones supports the Southern Foodways Alliance because their work inspires us every day by telling stories about the people and places in the South that make both the history and future of this cuisine. What’s critical about the SFA’s work is that they are going after these stories, collecting them, and documenting them. Without the SFA, many of these stories would be lost to history. As much as this dinner is to raise money for the mission of the Southern Foodways Alliance, it’s also to spread the word.

According to Big Jones tradition, every dish on this menu is made from whole raw farm ingredients processed at Big Jones. Farms and suppliers represented here are likely to be Gunthorp Farm, LaPryor Farm, Slagel Family Farm, Windy Knoll Farm, Genesis Growers, Green Acres, Spence Farm, Kilgus Farmstead, Anson Mills, Burton’s Maplewood Farm, and Seedling, perhaps a few more.

For anyone curious about the date we’ve affixed to the menu, we have used the inspiration of The Kentucky Housewife along with some later 19th-century books, Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book (1867,) Housekeeping in Old Virginia (1879,) and Dishes and Beverages of The Old South (1913,) to create a menu of historically accurate foods from the time, when Bourbon whiskey was reaching its present form and coming into its own.  The legendary A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery was founded in 1872 as a sour mash distillery at a time when that was becoming the preferred distillation method, and Julian Van Winkle I, who was a young boy at that time, would eventually purchase that distillery and merge it with his wholesale liquor company W.L. Weller and Sons, and the rest is Bourbon legend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

6:00 Reception

Virtue Cider, “The Mitten” bourbon barrel-aged cider

18-month aged house-cured country ham, sorghum wild yeast rye bread, pickled ramps, asparagus, and fiddleheads

7:00 Dinner

Pappy Van Winkle 12 year old

Guinea fowl and butterbean dumpling soup with pickled pokeweed shoots

Black Seeded Simpson lettuce with spring onions, heirloom radishes, and hot bacon dressing
Salt-rising bread with cottage cheese and damson preserves

Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old

Crispy chicken livers with buttered bloody butcher corn hominy, young turnip greens cooked with smoked jowl, and gizzard gravy

Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old

Mince pie with syllabub

Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye

Coconut macaroons floating in rum custard with preserved rhubarb and mint

Please join us for a very special evening. The price is $150 per person including tax and gratuity. Reservations can be made by calling 773-275-5725.

country hamPiggyBank-logo

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It’s Mardi Gras at Big Jones! Laissez les bon Temps Rouler!

February 23rd, 2014
Crawfish were once considered the lowest of the low - a couple of generations ago, no self-respecting Cajun would publicly admit to enjoying crawfish. Now of course, they are celebrated as the tasty morsels they are. Photo credit: Heather Sperling

Crawfish etouffee is one of the most iconic dishes of Mardi Gras. Our version is based on an old Cajun recipe from the 1930′s Photo credit: Heather Sperling

There are but a few days left to fatten up before the end of the Mardi Gras season, and we’re here to serve with our annual celebration of all things South Louisiana, bringing you some of our favorite dishes from the Creole and Cajun traditions which can be enjoyed all year, but which bring special significance to the season for us fans of Louisiana cooking, Mardi Gras being one of America’s greatest cultural phenomena. Besides great Cajun and Creole food, we’ll be playing New Orleans jazz and funk, mixed in with a little Cajun country music and zydeco, all of which make for a great party vibe. Wash it all down with carefully crafted hurricanes, peach daiquiris, Vieux Carrés, sazeracs, or local craft beer.

In keeping with Big Jones Mardi Gras tradition, our entire dinner menu will change for the last six days of Mardi Gras, from Thursday, February 27 through Fat Tuesday, which falls on March 4 this year. So, if you’re wont to enjoy the many different offerings we’ve got on tap, you don’t have to have them all in one sitting (though that would be a truly Creole way of celebrating Mardi Gras!) you can stop by more than once to get your fill of some of these dishes we won’t see again until next year.

Some of our regular menu will remain, including the favorites shrimp & grits, gumbo ya-ya, and crab cakes, all of which are perfect ways to celebrate Mardi Gras, but here are the once-a-year dishes we cherish, and hope you’ll join us to indulge:

Barbecued Shrimp   12
One of our favorite Creole dishes and truly unique to New Orleans, and a hallmark of gluttony – jumbo head-on Louisiana shrimp in tangy & spicy sauce, served with wood-grilled dipping bread

Cajun Boudin   12
Decadent pork liver and rice sausage breaded and deep fried, served with cayenne mayonnaise and piccalilli

Alligator & Andouille Sauce Piquant  25
Louisiana alligator simmered in a spicy sauce with homemade andouille sausage, served with buttered rice

Crawfish Etouffee, ca. 1930   24
Louisiana crawfish tails simmered in butter and wine with trinity and garlic, served with buttered aromatic rice and scallions

Peacemaker Po’ Boy  15
Crispy fried oysters on a French roll with butter lettuce, homemade mayonnaise, and local hothouse tomatoes

Roast Beef & Debris Po’ Boy   15
Thinly-sliced roast local grassfed chuck with debris gravy, shredded cabbage, and homemade mayonnaise

Jambalaya   14   Serves 4-6
Cooked and served in a cast iron kettle—Louisiana rice, smoked andouille sausage, and tomato baked with trinity and chicken broth

Red Beans and Rice   7 / 4
Small red beans slowly cooked with pickled pig’s feet and smoked ham, served with buttered rice and chow-chow

Calas, ca. 1890
Homemade sourdough rice fritters in the old Creole way, served with chocolate sauce   8

King Cake
Homemade traditional yeast cake filled with praline cheesecake, topped with royal icing   6

Please join us, and especially if you are looking for a seat on Fat Tuesday, make a reservation by calling 773-275-5725. The menu is available from Thursday through Tuesday night, so if Fat Tuesday isn’t an option for you, you can enjoy the same delicious food Monday, Sunday, or even over the weekend! Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

Homemade king cake!

Homemade king cake!

Barbecued shrimp - one of our favorite Creole dishes, only available once a year

Oh yes, there will be fried chicken!

Oh yes, there will be fried chicken!

 

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February Whiskey of the Month: Balcones Single Malt

February 2nd, 2014

balconessingleWe are proud to announce our February Whiskey of the Month, Balcones Single Malt Whisky! Hailing from Waco, Texas, in their own words, Balcones doesn’t just make whisky in Texas, they make Texas whisky.

Of all the craft distilleries popping up around the country these last few years, many strive to make top flight whiskey, and few succeed to the extent that Balcones has, garnering more than forty medals internationally in little more than five years of operation. We think if you taste their whisky, you’ll immediately see how much it stands apart.

Balcones Single Malt is 100% small batch, mashed, fermented, and distilled at their Waco, Texas distillery. Unfiltered, it may cloud up just a touch when enjoyed with a splash of water or ice cube because of the natural oils that remain in the whisky, contributing to a smooth, unctuous mouthfeel that is uncommon in younger whiskeys.

The nose of Balcones Single Malt is fresh and young, but also nuanced and balanced, with aromas of ripe banana, stone fruit, honey, and flowers, yielding to a rich, full-bodied palate that is somewhat smoky and honeyed (think mesquite honey) yet as smooth a butter with a hint of candied orange peel. The finish is long and rich, with dark caramel and hints of cocoa riding out the experience.

We’re always excited to see promising new distilleries enter the business and love to champion their work. Balcones is a young distillery that is proving their promise and worth being a part of any serious drinker’s collection.

As always, receive a complimentary pour any time you visit for a meal simply by presenting your Big Jones Bourbon Society Passport. If you don’t have a passport, please ask your server or bartender on your next visit; it’s free to join the Big Jones Bourbon Society. Ages 21 and up only.

 

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