I was in France for the last days of summer. September is the best time to visit Provence. Half of the tourists are gone, the temperature average 75. I found myself relaxing on the beach in Saint Tropez before having lunch at the Club 55. This is nearly impossible between June 1st and August 31st if you are not Johnny Depp or make a reservation 2 months in advance.
The taste of the last figs and white peaches is still lingering in my mouth. I had the last grilled sardines of the season. But you know what I like the best about the end of summer…the beginning of fall.
We were in the middle of lunch on a terrace in Collobrieres in the “Massif des Mores” when we got caught by the rain. My wife asked me if it was the end of this beautiful weather? I said no this is the beginning of the cèpe mushroom season. I was right. Two days after every restaurant in the region had cèpes in the menu. Just sauté with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of garlic (I am going to cry…).
Fall is also the season of shellfish, oysters, sea urchin, mussels, clams and… “violets.” I am not aware of any translation for “violets” that you can find only in Provence and Greece. It is a small shellfish looks like a dark stone but is soft. Spilt with a knife and you find inside the bright yellow to saffron color “violet” which taste like nothing else in the word. Eating “violets” is like eating…let me see…eating in one bite all the content of the seas and the oceans of the planet at once. If you visit Provence in autumn don’t miss this opportunity, go to the port of Cassis try “violets” with a glass of white wine and you can say “O temps suspend ton vol et vous heures propices suspendez votre cours …” translation, “oh time please stop…,” by Lamartine. I drive my wife crazy, she considers fall as the most romantic season of the year and all I can dream about is mushrooms, game and shellfish.
So happy to be back home in Honolulu after a family vacation in Provence. Time to start the fall menu, of course we are in Hawaii and not in Provence but with Kevin Chong our Chef de Cuisine we find a way through local ingredients to have you enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean with the beautiful flavors of Hawaii.
No “violets”? Let’s use Big Island abalone, marinate in escabeche and serve with manchego cheese croquette and Serrano ham. The combination of ingredients attracts a German Riesling from Vollrads chosen by our wine committee. The white peach overtone of the wine matches perfectly these Mediterranean flavors.
What about Maitake mushrooms instead of cèpes? This time the dish has a very strong Vietnamese influence from our sous-chef Andrew Le. The maitake are sautéed with green papaya shavings, mushroom broth flavored with galangal and kaffir lime, served with Sumida watercress. No wonder we call this recipe “Indochine,” we cannot deny the French technique of the execution. The spicy Italian Pinot Grigio from Jermann was the best pairing.
But let me talk to you about our best Lobster recipe ever (not again…yes). Kevin Chong who worked in Mexico came back home with some strong Hispanic inspirations. Kevin proposes this outstanding Lobster Paella. The lobster as always is cooked “à la coque” (in the shell). The essence of lobster flavored with Chorizo and the garnish made of roasted red bell peppers, green olives and English peas is quite traditional. The rice flavored with saffron is not any rice but puff rice flakes served table side and floating lightly above the dish…wow (sorry to get so excited). The wine is…red,I guess because the intensity of the dish and the presence of the chorizo. Everybody voted for this Australian Pinot Noir, Saint Clair, 2006 Vicar’s Choice from Marlborough.
(if you would like to receive the entire letter highlighting additional recipes, please send us an email with “Request Fall Menu letter” in the subject line).