Yummy Monday: A Menu inspired by Love and Beets

The finished menu card and place setting for a memorable Valentine's Day dinner!

The finished menu card and place setting for a memorable Valentine's Day dinner!

I am very fortunate to have two wonderful friends who happen also to be amazing chefs AND are married to each other! Ethan and Priscila Paige got married last year and I was fortunate enough to work with them on some beautiful wedding invitations, menu cards, place cards ceremony programs and thank you cards. Their Valentine's Day tradition is to create a delicious and inspired multi-course dinner. This year, Chef Ethan asked for help in creating a menu card that was worthy of their creative menu. I had some inspiration from my Pinterest Board,  Menu Card Inspiration, and designed a menu card using a combination of script and block fonts. The card was printed on 100% Cotton, 236# paper and backed with a beautiful beet colored paper. I finished the menu card by hand punching the corners to round them and dropped the cards off to Ethan. Below are pics from their dinner which they were so gracious to share along with some great notes from Chef Ethan. 

from left to right: Chef Ethan, Pri's daughter and maid of honor, Sabrina and the lovely bride, Chef Priscila on their wedding day!

from left to right: Chef Ethan, Pri's daughter and maid of honor, Sabrina and the lovely bride, Chef Priscila on their wedding day!

We love this tradition of cooking for your loved ones and couldn't be more honored to share this lovely post with you!. (hint hint: It's only 340 days until the next Valentine's Day - time to start planning!)

I was initially inspired to go with this concept because our wedding day menu was inspired by our garden, really Pri's labor of love, and beets from our garden appeared on that menu. It was the Vodka & Beet Cured Hamachi that was perhaps our most favorite menu item from all of our past menus and prominently featured beets three ways: in the cure, as a bright red reduction drizzled around the plate and in the form of neatly diced roasted red and gold beets on the plate. I realized beets, as the inspiration, could be at the "root" of every course, not necessarily taking center stage, but definitely informing and elevating each course.

Oysters on the half shell with quick pickle,  bull's blood shoots

Oysters on the half shell with quick pickle,  bull's blood shoots

This year marked the first Valentine's Day that Pri and I were a married couple. I chose to do the oysters because they were served at our very first Valentine's dinner and this year is a celebration of all of our years together. The bull's blood sprouts symbolize the beginning and, in the progression of the meal, are the lightest and most delicate manifestation of the beet flavor.

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Sunchoke Purée, Pickled Cherries & Beets

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Sunchoke Purée, Pickled Cherries & Beets

Our wedding entree was a new creation for the wedding day which featured a bone-in beef filet mignon, seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, white truffle-infused cauliflower puree and baby vegetables. This course was kind of an homage to that dish. I remember being inspired by a dish by Top Chef Texas winner Paul that prominently featured a pickled preparation that included cherries and beets among other things with foie. This dish was informed by that creation but was definitely original. I was writing new menus for my catering company and had a thing for sunchokes at the time. I needed that nutty and creamy backdrop to ground the unctuous seared foie and the acidic, sweet, briny and luscious pickle. As the second course, it also represented a progression in depth and complexity. 

Kale & Beet Green Salad; Toasted Pancetta, Toasted Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins and Shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano with Champagne Vinaigrette 

Kale & Beet Green Salad; Toasted Pancetta, Toasted Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins and Shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano with Champagne Vinaigrette 

Pri and I have both enjoyed sharing and preparing this salad in the past year or so but the new addition of the beet greens was inspired by the garden, cooking with and eating every part of everything Pri grew as much as possible, for example, using carrot greens in salads and in place of parsley in recipes. The actual inspiration to have them in the salad was our inclusion of young radish greens in salads over the past two years. 

Pan Roasted Sea Bass with Orange, Shaved Red Radish, Micro Green Mustard & Fennel Salad, Potato Purée, Baby Brussels Sprouts, Beet Reduction 

Pan Roasted Sea Bass with Orange, Shaved Red Radish, Micro Green Mustard & Fennel Salad, Potato Purée, Baby Brussels Sprouts, Beet Reduction 

This course was initially sort of an amalgamation of the last several years in the way that it participated in a history but was also fresh and new and its own thing. The Black Cod with Lobster Nage, the Quail Legs with Shaved Fennel and Yuzu-Fennel Pollen Dressing, the Vodka & Beet Hamachi all set up the context for this entry. The dish also spoke to things that we identify with very much... potato purée, Brussels sprouts. I was very happy to have this great foie gras fat to play with from the second course and basted the Brussels sprouts with it when firing the course.

Beet Red Velvet Cake with Italian Buttercream, Coconut Snow and Meringue Mushrooms (and beyond)

Beet Red Velvet Cake with Italian Buttercream, Coconut Snow and Meringue Mushrooms (and beyond)

I had wanted to prepare this cake for over a year when it first popped into my head as a result of a conversation with one of my staff about moving away from using all artificial food coloring. At Pri's last job, we got a real kick out of the amazing creation of yule logs by the owner of that business and delighted in visions of meringue mushrooms and a fantasy of chocolate and technique! Every year I wanted to prepare a Buche de Noel but wound up getting busy, sidetracked or somehow missing the boat. This year in particular I was so determined that I bought one just to satisfy the feeling of holding one in my hands. We brought it to my dad's house and it was enjoyed by all... but it wasn't mine. I still had the afterglow from the holiday yule log in mind when I wrote the Valentine's 2014 menu. It was always a part of this menu and may have been essential in discovering the theme because of the creative implementation of both beet juice and pulp in the recipe. I wanted the winter fantasy of the yule log dessert but in February, for Valentine's Day, and it needed to be original. The meringue mushrooms, with cocoa dusted caps, and the downy coconut "snow" that coated the Italian meringue buttercream frosting (no cream cheese frosting for this beet red velvet!) were inspired by coming in from shoveling this winter to be greeted by fresh hot chocolate prepared with love by Pri. Also, we have always been enamored of French macarons, a treat that we enjoyed with various Italian specialty cookies as a special addition to our wedding cake display. This may have been the first twinkle of the idea to seek the special surprise genius of Donna Kim to take the occasion to the next level with her amazing vision and personal touch. I knew her surprise appearance and role alone would completely blow Pri away since she is such an enthusiastic fan of Donna and Donna played such an amazing role in our wedding day and wedding planning! My final wink to the menu, to Pri and even to Donna was the addition of the beet stencil to the plate. It was a motif inspired by the image of the singular beet on Donna's menu and was actually cut out from the paper insert from the menu frame that Pri picked (without knowing the menu, theme or design) and that I shared with Donna in the beginning of this year's exciting project. Much love to Donna and much love to my wonderful wife, Pri!

Notice the beet stencil cut-out at the base of the framed menu that was used for the plating of the dessert. We love this creative and "perfect detail!"

Notice the beet stencil cut-out at the base of the framed menu that was used for the plating of the dessert. We love this creative and "perfect detail!"

Click on the invite thumbnails to open the gallery of Pri & Ethan's Wedding Invite, Menu Card and Wedding Ceremony Program Fan!

Donna Kim