Last week, I photographed the May event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s event was a celebration of food and wine with Chef Adam Sobel of RN74 and Sommelier Rajat Parr.
Adam Sobel is chef and partner of RN74, a Michael Mina restaurant that was opened in San Francisco in 2009. RN74 is named after the famous Burgundy wine route of Route National 74 in France. Sobel was crowned the “King of Porc” in 2013 at the Grand Cochon, an annual competition held in Aspen where chefs from around the country are judged on heritage pork dishes. Sobel has also served as a guest judge on Food Network’s cooking competition show, “Chopped.”
Rajat Parr is the wine director of Mina Group and the San Francisco restaurant Michael Mina. He is also the co-author of the 2011 James Beard Award-winning best beverage book,”Secrets of Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink like America’s Top Wine Professionals” and co-founder of Sandhi Wines — a small-production winery in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County that focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Parr kindly donated two wine pairings from his label for guests to enjoy, as well as shared some of his extensive wine knowledge.
The first dish of the evening was Chilled English Pea Soup with Dungeness Crab & Lemon Verbena paired with Sandhi SBC Chardonnay 2012.
This vibrant, green soup was made from four different types of peas. The peas and pea tendrils, which could be substituted with spinach or chard, were blended and then passed through a chinois for a smooth and silky texture. Dungeness crab was added along with fresh English peas for garnish.
One guest asked where pea tendrils could be found, and Chef Sobel responded that you can either grow your own or go to Ranch 99, a large Asian Grocery market chain. Chef Sobel added that Ranch 99 is where he shops, which ironically happens to be my mom’s favorite grocery store. I guess chefs and chinese mothers know best! ;)
The main dish was Ricotta Cavatelli with Early Girl Tomatoes, Woodlands Bacon, Mint & Pecorino paired with Sandhi SRH Pinot Noir 2012.
Chef Sobel shared that the cavatelli can be made by hand with your fingertips or a bench scraper. One should make a small channel within the pasta to hold the sauce.
Chef Sobel also shared that handmade cavatelli is one of the few pastas that you don’t have to worry about over boiling!
These pictures show the pasta dish being prepared in the kitchen in the back while Chef Sobel is teaching guests. It’s really interesting to catch a glimpse of the same dish being prepared both up front by the Chef and in the back by the culinary instructors and students.
This handmade pasta was very tasty, and I loved the bright flavour of the sauce and the chewy pasta — it inspired me to want to try making my own pasta at home sometime!
Although I don’t know much about wine, I did learn a thing or two, especially that one should not eat a vinegar-based dish with wine, as the vinegar in the dish will make the wine in your mouth taste like vinegar.
The house made dessert was an Almond Tuile Wafer with Avocado and Lemon Mousses. I especially loved the lemon mousse — very light, and a refreshing finish to a delicious dinner!
Check back next month for Chef SondaBernstein of The Girl & the Fig, an iconic Sonoma restaurant known for it seasonal, rustic Provence-influenced cuisine — can’t wait!
Semolina Cavatelli with Early Girl Tomatoes, Pecorino, Mint and Bacon
For the Pasta
1 pound semolina flour
1 pound sheep or cow milk ricotta cheese
1. Combine semolina, eggs and cheese in a large bowl.
2. Add a large pinch of salt.
3. Mix together by hand and transfer to a work surface that has been dusted with flour.
4. Knead dough for 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Cover and let rest for 2 hours at room temperature.
6. Divide dough into four portions and place on floured surface. Roll each portion into two logs about 1/2 inch in diameter.
7. Cut each log at 1/4-inch intervals to create small rounds.
8. Using a bench scraper, pull each piece toward you to create a long oval shape. Slip the knife under the edge and flip to create the cavatelli shape.
9. Using a large pot, bring water to a boil and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook fresh pasta for 3 to 4 minutes, remove with slotted spoon to strainer.
10. Mix cooked pasta into sauce.
For the Sauce
2 pounds fresh seasonal tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup yellow onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
4 pieces bacon, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 bunch basil, leaves sliced in chiffonade
1/4 teaspon chili flakes
1 small can low-sodium chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Fresh min to garnish
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the bacon and begin to render on low heat until crispy.
2. Add the olive oil, onions and garlic and sweat until tender.
3. Add tomatoes.
4. Add basil and chill flakes; season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add chicken stock.
6. Cook down until the mixture reaches a sauce consistency.
7. Add pasta to sauce, mix gently, garnish with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and a few mint leaves.