As many of you know, I attend a lot of food gatherings. Some good, some well not-so good, and then there are those that really stand out. They are the ones where you think about and crave what you ate hours, days, and even weeks after you first indulged in it. One such supper, was a recent California Chinook Salmon feast prepared by Chef John Fink of The Whole Beast. The occasion was a celebration of the recently thriving California salmon season. The special meal and lesson in prepping and cooking a king salmon, was held at the unexpected, urban tasting room of Dog Patch Wine Works, home of Qualia Wines - who was serving for this unique and intimate affair.
We started off the evening with several wonderful appetizers including Grilled Chase Cellars Zinfandel pork sausages, Llano Seco Ranch pork love confit, and brined, vibrant-colored Salmon roe on rye toast with sour cream, red onions and dill. The starters were paired with a 2011 Qualia Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma Valley, and a 2010 Qualia Carignan from Alexander Valley.
It was an unusually hot day in San Francisco, and the ideal evening for an outdoor barbeque. Amid stainless steel, brick and concrete, stood Chef Fink, grilling up a whole, generously sized, 14-pound California Chinook Salmon provided by local, sustainable seafood marketplace I Love Blue Sea.
Cooked over an almond and oak wood fire and wrapped in a fish basket of organic green bay laurel leaves and stems, the Chinook salmon was a sight to be seen. With a dusting of porcini and fennel powder, served over a leek, chanterelle and fish fume nage with Qualia Sauvignon Blanc plus a drizzle of Qualia Carignan Sauce, this was one of the best salmon dishes I've ever tasted. The texture was that of black cod. Silky, buttery, like smooth warm sashimi. I know this experience has raised my expectations for tasting cooked salmon. Since the dinner, I've actually eaten salmon at a couple of San Francisco's most revered restaurants, and they just didn't measure up. Not even close. Chef John Fink's preparation and cooking of the whole salmon was on an entirely different level. I'm yearning for some as I type this.
Chef Fink also prepared a pile-high salad of Bitter Greens and a plate of roasted, fingerling potatoes. The flavors and textures went perfectly with the Chinook. I was the first to get up for seconds. I would've went for thirds if there was anything left, but my dining companions also couldn't get enough. It was fantastic. Absolutely divine.
As if our appetites weren't satisfied enough, the meal concluded with Chef John Fink's version of a Cheese platter with a well-selected treasure trove of nuts, dried fruits, and cheeses from Rogue Creamery.
If you ever get a chance to experience Chef John Fink in action, I highly recommend it. Your taste buds will thank you.
Find out more about Chef John Fink, HERE
Find out more about Qualia Wines, HERE