That carrot taco

I love vegetables. They carry beauty, substance and endless possibilities when it comes to cooking. I am challenged and inspired by them in ways I never thought possible. Somehow they make my brain work all the time and I cannot seem to get enough of them. I did a pretty long stage at Rustic Canyon this time last year. I feel lucky to have had the chance to admire the love and knowledge of Chef Jeremy Fox “On vegetables”, and to become part of the family there.

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Chef Jeremy Fox signing his books for copies sold at Rustic Canyon

For this exact reason I decided to go back there. This time in a different capacity.

You know the feeling when an idea takes shape in your head and eventually it collides with something and somehow your hardly born idea makes the most perfect sense and feels so right. This is what happened to me. I had a plan to follow the journey of produce, cooking and people at Rustic Canyon and bring you the visual story of it. Somehow it got fit into that few precious weeks when Chef Jeremy and Chef Andy brought a vegetarian tasting menu to their guests every Tuesday.

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Vegetables

This made my project even more special, more close to my heart and eventually I also think it is a beautiful memory of this special time.

There were many interesting dishes created, techniques used and produce on display during my project.

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Pink lemonade blueberries from Pudwill Farms
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Prity melon, celtuce, fermented leek, borage pistou, marigold
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Santa Rosa plums , plum bay leaf jam, vanilla diplomat, spelt doughnuts

I came home with so many pictures, not really knowing how the story eventually will unfold. Sorting through everything, re-living the days, somehow it all boiled down to this carrot taco. It is a very thoughtful and expertly executed vegan dish, bringing perfect harmony of flavors, textures and beauty.

Carrot tortilla, grilled black nebula carrots, vegan nacho cheese, apricot skin hot sauce, pickled poha berries

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Black nebula carrots just arrived from Girl and Dug Farms and it is time to admire and test.

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They indeed are beautiful.

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Meaty and earthy. After slicing they got grilled on Binchotan coal.

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I know, it is a miracle. When something that has no cheese,  nuts or nutritional yeast in it ….. ends up as the perfect replica of the nacho cheese.

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Vegan nacho cheese made with carrot puree. Chef Jeremy Fox finalizing the flavor profile with pickled jalapeno brine.

Chef Andy’s fermented firecracker chili sauce will give the needed kick to the best apricot sauce Chef Jeremy Fox makes. And you would not believe it, but he uses the apricot skins only and the flavor is so amazing, I suggested big batch production so we can all buy that. So shall we keep our eyes on the shelves on stores near us Chef? 🙂

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Cape gooseberries from Girl and Dug Farms

Aaron Choi at Girl and Dug Farms grows Asian produce.

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And at the same time he also loves experimenting and growing little kinder greens, that I totally adore, for restaurants. His perfect nasturtium leaf babies will be garnishing the taco and also add peppery spice to the bites.

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So much thinking, so many steps, so much work can go into such a tiny flavor bomb. This harmony of textures and flavors from our plant kingdom will leave you satisfied.

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During the years Chef Jeremy Fox has been passing on his knowledge to someone special. So that the restaurant is in the perfect hands, even if he is not around.

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Andy Doubrava. He has that endless curiosity and dedication that only real love and passion for your profession, can bring. During this project I was lucky to be on the receiving side of Chef Andy’s urge to share and educate. He gets excited the same way I do, about produce, flavor and anything new. There could not be a better chef de cuisine at Rustic Canyon. Even when there is a beautiful piece of fish in a bowl, somehow Chef Andy managed that fish not to steal the limelight from the vegetables, but be part of that perfect bite, rounding up the dish.

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The fennel consomme and fennel and onion soubise makes the perfect light and creamy background for the local sea bass, complimenting its airiness every step of the way.

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Fennel consomme cooling down
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Santa Barbara white sea bass
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Chef Andy is giving special attention to those ever so famous Hakurei turnips from The Garden Of Farm, that goes in the bowl with the sea bass.
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Measuring fennel for the consomme
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Mise en place for the dish

 

And rest assured, if you have a sweet tooth (or more), you will be in good hands too. Look at Chef Rose! If a chef can get this excited about the appearance of the first good figs on the market,  she sure loves her job too!

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I witnessed the brainstorming session at the market, where the figs turned into a simple yet perfect plate of dessert in one minute.

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Fig leaves got picked up to be used for plating and decision was made to leave the figs as they are, to be star of the dessert, accompanied by different ice cream flavors that match figs so well. Honey, olive oil and vanilla.

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And Pastry Chef Rose is definitely the perfect match for Rustic Canyon. During the vegetarian tasting menu she managed to bring vegetables into desserts with creativity. One Tuesday her dessert was all about corn.

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Dwelley Farms yellow corn
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corn cookies
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corn pudding in the making

Corn crackling made by dehydrating leftover corn pulp, after juicing the corn kernels. You can find the recipe for this in Chef Jeremy Fox’s book “On Vegetables“.
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The end result. Corn cookies with a sweet corn chamomile ice cream, corn pudding, corn cracklings.

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Only thing left to say, if you haven’t been to Rustic Canyon yet, hurry up and make your tummy smile! Enjoy!

A glimpse into the life at Otium LA

 

Otium in Downtown LA is a contemporary restaurant with gorgeous space inside and outside next to the art museum, The Broad.

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It is designed to be a social restaurant with an open kitchen merging indoor and outdoor spaces. The restaurant’s name, Otium, has its roots in Latin, a word that is meant to emphasize a place where time can be spent on leisurely social activities.  http://otiumla.com/about/
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“Chef Timothy Hollingsworth’s 13 year history in Napa Valley, at The French Laundry, blended with his present roots as an Angeleno living in downtown Los Angeles, sets the stage for an environment of sophisticated rusticity with highly eclectic, vibrant and seasonal flavors.” http://otiumla.com/about/

I have dined there before and was impressed by the design and the airy open kitchen space. So when I came up with the idea to do a photography project on the life of a few select restaurants, I decided to approach Chef Timothy Hollingsworth for the Otium to be the first of this series.

I had full support from the staff at the restaurant, and Everyone was very welcoming. They were excited to see those captured moments that would never be seen otherwise. My  project at Otium is now finished.  I left the place with a heavy heart because once again I was lucky enough to have spent time in a kitchen that felt like home.

I hope you all like this little glimpse into the life of this particular restaurant and I will do my best to bring you more!

Let me know if there is a restaurant (in California for now) that you would like to see here!

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