Into the Wild: A Big City Chef Brings Her Knives to the River
When you got invited to be the guest chef on O.A.R.S.’ Wine Tasting on the River Tuolumne trip, what was your first thought?
“No way, that’s crazy.” Then I thought about it, and some of the other things I’ve done and thought, “Sure, let’s give it a roll.” And it was a lot of fun.
Had you ever been on a whitewater rafting trip before?
Once down the American River rafting and we ended up wrapping a boat, having to jump in the water and swim through rapids. So that was on my mind.
What was it like to go from cooking in a luxury kitchen to cooking on the river?
I’m not one of those chefs who has to have this pot or this knife. And there’s a lot of time when you’re visiting another kitchen and you have to make do with what’s there. That being said, cooking on a river outside of your comfort zone is definitely a challenge. But as challenging as it is, it’s also really relaxing. You’re outside, along the river, it’s beautiful.
Your food focuses largely on small organic farms and local producers, how did that translate to your menu for the Tuolumne River wine trip?
There was a NY strip with chimichurri and that came from Fallon Hills Farm. In regards to produce, I did a couple different things with tomatoes from Peach Tree Farm. One was an heirloom tomato salad with haricot verts (small green beans), lardons [cubes of pork fat] and blue cheese, so it was kind of a riff on a cobb salad but without the actual lettuce, just all of these veggies. And we did a duck egg salad on crostini. The duck eggs were from Triple T Ranch.
All of your dishes were served with wines from Hatcher Winery, right? Were there any pairings that really stood out?
The first night we did a Peruvian causa, a cold potato dish that we topped with an albacore confit. The wine they served with that was a Verdelho. It was slightly acidic, kind of like a Sauvignon Blanc, but not as grassy. I thought that went really well together. And the steaks with their Zinfandel. Steaks and Zin…yum. For dessert, we did a fig on burrata with a smoked honey that we paired with an ice wine that was absolutely phenomenal.
What did the folks on your trip love most about their riverside food and wine experience?
I actually hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and the food on that trip was amazing. So that’s what I had in mind when I planned my menu—to make sure these guests were wowed. “The best meal they’ve had in a really long time,” one person said. And that came from a gentleman from my area. So I think they were wowed.
What was the best part about the trip for you personally?
Everyone was really inquisitive about recipes and techniques, which I thought was interesting. We spent a lot of time talking about the farms and the farmers, so it wasn’t just a meal. I got a chance to do what I do, which is educate people.
This article appears in O.A.R.S.’ 2014 Adventures catalog. Order your FREE copy here.