Often the public perception of chefs is that they rule over all that they survey with an iron fist. While this may have been the case under the French brigade system, and is certainly reinforced by TV personalities like Gordon Ramsay, the truth is that the modern kitchen is a much more egalitarian environment. I often look to my cooks and sous chefs for inspiration and feedback while developing new dishes. I’ve found that having open ears and an open mind does wonders for kitchen morale and camaraderie; and getting beyond the mentality that, as “chef” the ideas that come to me are always better than those of others, leads to a more dynamic and delicious menu. In other words, I’m not always the lone writer; sometimes I collaborate and other times I wear the hat of an editor.
Josh Sappelt and I have worked together for many years. He started at Delfina Restaurant about one month after I did. We moved up the ladder together, with Josh ultimately serving for a couple of years as my sous chef at Delfina before he and his wife left to spend a year working at an orphanage in Guatemala, followed by 3 years living in Boston while his wife was earning a graduate degree.
When he and his wife moved back to the Bay Area, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to reunite with Josh. I consider him not only a good friend, but over the years we have developed a synergy and understanding that can’t be taught. He understands implicitly what my vision for the food at Comal is, and I am lucky to have someone whom I completely trust on nights when I am not at the restaurant. Josh has great palate, and brings great ideas to the table. Often he will suggest something that he has eaten while dining out, or read about in either the press or a cookbook, and then we riff off of that together until we arrive at something that is delicious and fits our menu.
After reading about a recipe for lobster poached in coconut milk from David Sterling’s Beard Award winning Yucatan cookbook that was published last year, Josh cooked up a recipe using shrimp and brought it to me to taste. I have long been wanting to put a seafood stew on the menu, and while I had been thinking of taking a more traditional approach using a spicy tomato-based broth, this broth was light, complex and delicious. So we began brainstorming and collectively have come to a dish using mussels, clams, shrimp and local rock cod poached over the wood grill in a coconut-Seville orange broth with chayote, corn and charred gypsy peppers. As one of our Platos Fuertes, this “Caldo de Mariscos” will serve 2-3 people, and be accompanied as always with rice, beans and tortillas. We will be debuting this dish tonight, and it will continue to be in rotation on our daily changing menu going forward. And I have to say that playing in a band is a lot more fun than being a solo artist!
On Tuesday, July 26th, Comal will welcome back Arnot-Roberts’ co-founder Duncan Arnot Meyers for another special wine dinner featuring a selection of their newly released wines paired with dishes by executive chef Matt Gandin. Arnot-Roberts’ innovative, ambitious approach to making wine has been garnering growing critical acclaim from both the media and the wine industry for years. In 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle’s wine editor Jon Bonné named them Winemakers of the Year.
Dining with Duncan, guests will have the opportunity to meet him and hear the story behind each featured wine. This is the latest installment of the Abajo Dinner Series at Comal, a series of producer dinners held in Comal’s private dining room, Abajo. Previous dinners have showcased Wind Gap Wines, Bedrock Wine Co., Mezcal Vago, Fort Point Beer Company, and many others.
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, July 26th at 6:30 PM
PRICE: Tickets are $125 inclusive of food, wine and service charge
RESERVATIONS: Space is limited – to purchase tickets, follow this link: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1221185
Arnot-Roberts Dinner Menu:
King salmon crudo avocado, green tomato, verdolagas, lime sea salt
Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz 2014
Rabbit tamal fig-puya chile salsa
Old Vine White, Heinstein Vineyard, Sonoma 2014
Frisee salad nectarine, pickled chiles,
green coriander seed vinaigrette, sheep milk feta
Rose, Luchsinger Vineyard, Clear Lake 2015
Flank steak guisado taco grilled corn-cherry tomato salsa
Syrah, Que Syrah Vineyard, Sonoma Coast 2014
Oaxacan chocolate budin raspberries
Cabernet Sauvignon, Fellom Ranch, Santa Cruz 2013
About Arnot-Roberts: Arnot-Roberts was founded in 2001 in Healdsburg, California by childhood friends Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts. Duncan and Nathan grew up in the midst of vineyards and winemakers in the Napa Valley. Each took an interest in the wine industry, with Nathan following his father’s lead as a cooper, and Duncan pursuing winemaking at renowned wineries in Napa and Sonoma.
The focus of this two-person operation is on small lot, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, as well as several other varieties uncommon in Northern Californian vineyards. Through good fortune and a keen eye, they have identified vineyard sources that are both singular and extraordinary. Collaboration with dedicated and passionate growers is paramount in the farming of these sites and vinification of their wines.
“Out in back on the spacious and comfortable, unenclosed patio — complete with heat lamps and crape myrtle tree — you can’t get a full dinner, but you can enjoy some fresh air, chips and salsa, and some really solid Margaritas, not to mention a bunch of other intriguing options including a mezcal-based Paloma and seasonally changing specials.”
On Monday June 13th, Comal will welcome Judah Kuper from Mezcal Vago for a special dinner showcasing several of Vago’s offerings complemented by a menu of Oaxaca-inspired dishes by Comal’s executive chef Matt Gandin. Dinner guests will have the opportunity to engage in conversation with Judah and learn first-hand about his extensive experiences in the world of agave spirits.
Judah lives in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he married into a family of fifth-generation mezcaleros. The enthusiastic feedback the family’s mezcal received at his beachside bar on the southern coast of Mexico inspired him to bring this special mezcal to the world. Mezcal Vago features small batch mezcales made in traditional methods by mezcaleros who for generations have been perfecting their craft deep in the mountains of Southern Oaxaca.
This is the latest in an ongoing series of producer dinners (previous dinners have featured Don Amado Mezcal, wine companies like Bedrock, Arnot-Roberts, Unti, and Wind Gap and beer companies like Fort Point, Henhouse and Social) held in Comal’s private dining room, Abajo. All previous events have sold out in advance.
DATE/TIME: Monday, June 13th at 6:30 pm
PRICE: Tickets are $70 (inclusive of food, mezcal and service charge)
RESERVATIONS: Space is limited – to purchase tickets, follow this link: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1184919
FEATURED MEZCALS: Espadin, Elote, Ensamble en Barro and more!
Guacamole, Chips and Three Salsas
Nahuatl by Nature (cocktail) Vago Espadin, Amaro Montenegro, green chile liqueur, lime
Halibut Ceviche serrano chile, green olive, tomato
Sweet Corn and Rajas Tamal, pipian verde
Flan Tradicional fresh strawberries