“Food is all about making memories,” explained Chef Michael Psilakis. He was speaking of an epiphany he had one day whilst grilling a whole lamb on a spit along with his brother and 2-year-old son. It seems that Buick was banking on this same sentiment when they created the Buick Discovery Tour a few years ago. After all, what could be be a better vehicle for altering the perception of a classic, yet perhaps dated brand, then by associating it with a day filled delicious eats and libations from some of Food & Wine’s favorite chefs.
Upon arrival at the Four Seasons in Westlake Village we were quickly ushered into a grand hallway filled with cheese plates, charcuterie, and roasted vegetable crudité platters. The event had yet to officially start and we were already being treated to a taste of luxury. The day was split into sessions during which each of the celebrity chefs Buick had enlisted would demo a dish that seemed to encapsulate not only their own personality, but also slyly mirror one of the characteristics Buick would like the audience to associate with their automobiles.
Raphael Lunetta, Chef/Owner of Jiraffe in Santa Monica, led off the day by cooking a filet of beef with potato and pear gratin. His classic dish featured a Madeira wine reduction sauce the creation of which constituted most of his demo. The final dish featured a host of other accoutrement, red flame grapes, swiss chard, ciabatta croutons, and hearts of palm, and yet it all melded together quite well. I also dug how the addition of pear to the gratin added a nice subtle sweetness that complimented the rest of the dish’s flavor profile.
Ben Roche, Chef Partner of Baume & Brix, strutted his knowledge of modernist cuisine with his complex yet delightful (recipe below). His final dish included a number of components, but for the sake of time he focused mainly upon the creation of the chiboust, traditionally a French pastry cream, his rendition utilized gelatin sheets in order to help set the custard-like concoction. Like his new Chicago restaurant’s menu which includes sections for “Explore” and “Summit,” Roche’s dish juxtaposes modern flavors with classical techniques. The Yuzu Chiboust was bright and acidic and accompanied by a caraway ice cream, coconut rice pudding, and fried/puffed rice noodles. Although the crowd seemed taken aback when Roche first explained that the flavor of the ice cream was based upon the same seed that is used in rye bread, their worries quickly seemed to dissolve as everyone took their first bites. When asked what had inspired him to bring together such seemingly different flavors into one dish, Roche explained:
“There is a distillery in Chicago called Koval and they make different kinds of spirits. They came out with a liqueur last year, it’s a caraway flavored liqueur. I got it to try it because it sounded interesting, and I ended up making a cocktail with caraway liqueur, grapefruit soda, and bourbon. Those were the only things I had available so that’s what I made. When I tried it I was really blown away by how the grapefruit and the caraway really worked together. I never would have thought to combine those flavors, but once I tried it I thought it was great. I knew I wanted to work that into a dish somewhere, and this was the first place that really made sense to use it.”
Next we were escorted outside to test drive one of five models of Buick they had waiting. After a quick presentation explaining the highlights of each of the models I settled into the sportiest of the bunch, the Regal GS. The 2013 Buicks have definitely come a long way from the grandpa cars I recall from years ago. The new ones look much sleeker and more modern than their counterparts of old. Perhaps Buick knows what they are doing in staging events such as the Discovery Tour.
Wine and spirit authority, Michael Green, was up second-to-last. He was tasked with walking the audience through a 20-week crash course in wine in under 20 minutes. A daunting task, but one in which he seemed comfortable in doing so, all the while poking fun at himself and the audience. He led us through two wine tastings, a Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc and a Tapena Tempranillo. The Sauvignon Blanc seemed a bit too acidic and dry upon first taste, but Green then instructed the audience to taste the slice of lemon which had been provided, and then taste the wine again. To the audience’s surprise upon second swig the wine’s flavor had become muted and palatable. Green explained that a wine such as it would pair nicely with a salad dressed simply with a citrus vinaigrette.
Michael Psilakis took the stage last to share a heartwarming tale of what cooking and food means to him, all whilst cooking up his gyro spiced sliders. The most seasoned celebrity chef of the bunch, Psilakis used to be an accountant who just happened to own a restaurant. One day his chef disappeared and he had no choice but to take the reins. He never looked back, and has since gone on to open nine more restaurants which highlight his signature brand of modern Greek cuisine. Psilakis’s gyro spiced sliders were as delicious as they were simple to make. And to make sure everyone’s memory of the day would last, Buick provided a copy of Psilakis’s cookbook How to Roast a Lamb as a parting gift. Psilakis’s inspirational tone and subtle charm seemed like a perfect way to conclude a lovely day filled with food, fun, and cars.
Ben Roche’s Yuzu Chiboust
Recipes: Yuzu Chiboust, Coconut Rice Pudding, Caraway Ice Cream
Garnishes: grapefruit segments, diced pineapple, fried (puffed) rice noodles
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Milk
1/2 cup Cream
4 Egg yolks
3 Gelatin sheets
4 Egg whites
2 grams Salt
2 Tablespoons Water
5 drops Lemon juice
6 1/4 ounces Sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Yuzu juice
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1. Soak the gelatin sheets in ice water, for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Remove from water and set aside.
2. In a pot, combine the milk, cream, and cornstarch, bring up to a boil, turn off the heat, pour 1/2 of it over the egg yolks, whisk, pour back into the pot and allow mixture to ‘thicken’ while stirring. This should not take more than 1 minute.
3. Pour this mixture into a tall, narrow container (like a cup) and add the softened gelatin. Blend together with a handheld blender.
4. Add the yuzu juice and blend with a handheld blender. Transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl.
5. In a small pot, combine the water, lemon juice and sugar, stir just enough to ‘hydrate’ the sugar.
6. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and heat over medium heat. Cook sugar mixture to 250F.
7. While sugar is heating up, combine egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and begin whipping on medium speed.
8. When sugar mixture reaches 250F, turn mixer to low speed and slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the whipping egg whites. Try to avoid pouring the syrup onto the side of the bowl and the whip itself.
9. Once all syrup has been added, turn mixer up to medium-high speed and whip until stiff peaks form.
10. Add about 1/4 of the meringue to the yuzu base and whisk together.
11. Add 1/2 of the remaining meringue and whisk gently.
12. Add the remaining meringue and fold together, gently, until smooth and well combined.
13. Transfer the chiboust into a flat sheet pan lined with plastic wrap, or a bowl or some other container.
14. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Coconut Rice Pudding
1/2 cup Jasmine rice
1 1/4 cup Water
3 cups Coconut milk
1/2 cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
Spice mixture (recipe follows) – 2 teaspoons
Spice mixture – star anise (1 ‘star’), cinnamon sticks (2), green cardamom (5 pods), black cardamom (5 pods) – combine all spices in a coffee grinder and pulverize until powdered, sift through a strainer.
1. In a pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a simmer over a medium flame.
2. Turn the heat down and let slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is soft and fully cooked.
3. Pour pudding into a different container, cover top with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cool.
Caraway Ice Cream
2 cups Milk
2 cups Cream
8 Egg yolks
3/4 cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Honey
2 teaspoons Caraway seeds (lightly toasted), ground into powder
1. Combine milk, cream, honey, half of the sugar, salt and caraway seed powder in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Combine the other half of the sugar with the egg yolks and whisk together.
3. When milk mixture is at a boil, reduce heat to low and pour about ¼ of it over the egg yolks while whisking.
4. Pour back into the pot, whisk to combine and put back on the heat. Continue to cook until bubbles have dissipated and the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
5. Pour into another container and put into an ‘ice bath’ to cool down.
6. Once cooled, blend with a handheld blender.
7. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions regarding your ice cream freezer.