April 2008 Archives

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Just got done testing/tasting a new sandwich, our Steak & Egg Sandwich which we created using our pasture-raised beef NY steak , a couple of fried pasture-raised eggs, and local arugula on an Acme sweet baguette slightly toasted with garlic butter.  Wow!

 

I've been wanting to put the steak sandwich back on the menu ever since we started using the wonderful beef from Estancia Beef- very consistent, tender, delicious, & healthy.  What to put in the sandwich along with the beef has been my dilemma.  Then came the idea of a simple fried egg.  The first time I was served a fried egg on top of a steak was in Rio de Janeiro, sitting on the patio of a restaurant in Leblon, after a fun day at the beach.  The menu called it "Bif a cavalo"- think cowboy steak.  It was years ago and I still remember it.

 

The resulting sandwich- the fried egg, once bitten into starts oozing yummy yolk all over the sandwich (and mouth and plate).  It lends the tender, beefy steak a sexy umaminess that makes your eyes roll to the back of your head while chewing.  The arugula lends the sandwich a crispy pepperiness that helps bring all the flavors and textures into a simple balance.

 

This sandwich is one of the most exciting things I've bitten into in years...

Where Did All the Salmon Go?

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Larry and Roz.jpgA couple weeks ago we served the last of our Smoked Wild King Salmon Pate.  This wasn't any ole salmon.  We were buying it from a wonderful, enlightened fisherman (Larry) and his wife (Roz).  Larry fishes out of San Francisco where he fishes just what he thinks he can sell at the Ferry Building Saturday Farmers' Market.  What doesn't sell gets deliciously smoked and ends up in our popular smoked salmon pate. 

As you might have read already, this year will likely not see a salmon season.  The returning Central Valley king salmon are at record lows (a 90% decline from only a few years ago).  No one is certain what happened to the salmon however the two likely causes are the poor river conditions (where the salmon spawn) related to diverting water to Southern California and poor ocean conditions (i.e. little or no crill/plankton which the tiny fingerlings eat when they go to the ocean) possibly due to global warming.

The disppearing salmon also means disappearing salmon fishermen.  Looking for other areas to fish isn't much of an option since Oregon will likely close its season, Washington's salmon quota is small, and Alaska is too far away, the waters too different, and the permits too expensive to be a real possibility.  The best anyone is hoping for is a quick return of the salmon next season and some Federal aid this year.  Larry & Roz are also powering up their fish retail business where they sell fresh fish (not just salmon) at the market to help make up for the lost income.

There won't be any California Smoked Salmon on the menu this year at Tucos- no farm-raised stuff either.  Hopefully next year we'll be able to welcome it back on the menu.  We'll make sure to throw a big bash when it does....

Tucos Art Creates a Buzz...

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Meghan Art.jpgOver the past three years, no art that we've hung on our walls have created the stir that this current collection has.  Ooos and ahhhs are heard throughout the day.  The work is by local artist (and Tucos server) Meghan Cox.  In her work, she's combined her love of color, food, wine, (and of course Tucos) and she's struck a cord with our extended Tucos family.  The colors, the distortion, the joy in her work seems to be what folks are reacting to.  Meghan invites you to come check it out (before they get sold).....
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We just ordered the first of the season aparagus from our local farm partner, Riverdog.  Big, thick, crunchy, sweet spears that we find only from a few gifted producers, like Riverdog.  If you're asking yourself what all the fuss is about, it means you haven't tried our Roasted Local Asparagus with Prosciutto, Melted Cheese, and Poached Egg (and a touch of Hollandaise Sauce) Salad.  I still vividly recall the last time I had it- it was last year, towards the end of the season.  I ordered it to see if it was time to change over to a new salad.    It was spiritual.  A sensual texture almost impossible to describe,  balanced flavors with an over-riding sexy umaminess.  I recall thinking that this is the best possible way I've ever experienced to eat asparagus and that this is the perfect dish for that very special, very expensive Champagne in the cellar.  I'm almost certain that if James Bond could get his hands on this salad he'd be ordering it too.  I know what you're thinking, he exaggerates...  come see for yourself.

Our Tucos Logo

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tucoslogo.JPGDid you know that our logo was created by David Lance Goines, most famous for the art he's created for Chez Panisse over the years?  His work always makes me feel great to be alive.  A funny thing happened the other day when one of our loyal customers came in to buy a special wine for a friend of the family.  They whispered to me that it was for the famous artist, David Lance Goines.  I told them the story, we selected the wine and I asked them to tell him how proud we are of the logo and that we hope he'll be proud of us.  They came back from the visit and told us he recognized the logo on the wine bag immediately.  He said to them, hey I did that.  They told him about Tucos and hopefully some day he'll come for a visit.  Take a visit to his web site.  It's a real treat.  www.goines.net

estancia_header.gifGlancing through our menu you quickly notice there seems to be pasture-raised (grass-fed) in front of most of the meats.  You also notice we use quite a bit of bison.  We're really proud of our pasture-raised beef and bison so we'll take a moment to walk you through how we ended up here.

First, on a purely emotional level, I spent most of my adult life travelling through Latin America, where they eat a lot of beef, all of it grass-fed. Believe me when I tell you, I never had a bad steak- whether I was in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, or Uruguay, delicious every time.  On top of my travel, I'm also a bit of an outdoorsman and have this admiration for Teddy Roosevelt and his adventures- which included American Bison.  As I built the menu at Tucos these emotional forces were at work.

What's with Pasture-Raised?  Beef (and bison) tends to go through a life-cycle in the states that start in beautiful pastures, but then are switched over to grain (grain-finished) which helps them pile on fat (flavor and tenderness). The feedlots used to grain-finish the cattle often have them in conditions so foul that they require a steady regiment of antibiotics to keep them from falling ill.  And the meat, while tender and tasty, may be antibiotic tainted, and has twice the fat and cholesterol of pasture-raised. 

The net is that pasture-raised beef and bison is healthier than grain-finished.  Think of it as a red meat alternative to skinless chicken breast and fish.  Here are some interesting facts:

Pasture-raised beef has half the fat and cholesterol of grain-finished beef and has more omega-3 fatty acids.  41% of the fat in pasture-raised beef is monounsaturated which is similar to olive oil.

Pasture-Raised Bison delivers even more of the health benefits including almost 70% less fat and 35% more protein than grain-fed beef, and believe it or not, less calories than skinless chicken.

Bison started out on the menu as our feature red meat entree (Bison Tenderloin) because of the health benefits and my obsession with Teddy Roosevelt.  Originally it was coming from a ranch in Great Falls, Montana, but recently we ran into supply problems and had to switch to Full Circle Ranch in Southern Oregon.  The bison tenderloin is probably the best steak I've every eaten- period.  It happens to be bison, not beef, and it happens to be pasture-raised and healthy.  A win-win. 

The pasture -raised beef is a recent addition to our program.  We've been interested in bringing it in for a long time, but the stuff we tried was tough and gamey, until we tried the beef from Estancia Beef in Uruguay.  Turns out Argentina and Uruguay have the best pasture-raised beef in the world.  It brought me right back to my days in Latin America.  Absolutely delicious beef that happens to be pasture-raised.  Another win-win.

One more interesting note is how the bison burger and bison stroganoff made it on the menu.  For a while, we were our producer's largest customer of bison tenderloins, but the bison produces a tiny amount of tenderloin.  They still have the rest of the animal to sell- thus the burger and stroganoff joined the menu...and they're best sellers...

Pasture-Raised Beef and Bison Items Currently on the Menu:

Arepas de Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Polenta Pockets with Braised Beef), Beef Empanadas, Bison Burger, Bison Stroganoff,  NY Beef Steak, Bison Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce.

Here's to Teddy Roosevelt, Latin America, and to our health!

 

 

Tucos Hats and T-Shirts Have Arrived!!

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hats n shirts.jpgCheck it out-  Our hats and t-shirts are in.  Here's the staff modeling the new hats and t-shirts.  We're planning to make them available to our customers at $15 for the hats and $20 for the t-shirts.  I've got my hat on as I write this- I'm feeling terrific in it...  Just the kind of stuff you want to pack when traveling overseas or some other adventurous destination....
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I was disappointed by Eric Asimov's article in today's (April 2, 2008) NY Times trashing California Pinot Noirs.  He starts off by confessing to us that he doesn't drink much California Pinot Noir with their "prevailing thick, fruit-and-oak-drenched style".  He explains that Pinot Noirs should be "light, elegant, graceful and refreshing".

 

Before responding, my disclaimers- I don't consider myself a wine expert in any way shape or form.  My credentials lay in having tasted thousands, and thousands of wines over the past few years as the owner of Tucos, including hundreds, if not thousands of Pinot Noirs from Burgundy, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Oregon, and California.  I don't consider myself a California-centric wine person- I love wines from all over the globe.

 

What a Pinot Noir Should Be-  Disclaimer out of the way, I'll begin with my view on a definition of "what Pinot Noir should be" (or any other wine for that matter).  Is there only one valid style of suit, sports car, coffee, wine, etc.?  Is a simple Bourgogne from the same producer, same vintage, the same as its Grand Cru sibling?  No.  The Grand Cru is always a bolder wine.  So which is it lighter or bolder?  Both, as long as they're both delicious.

 

California Pinots- Rich, Powerful Reds That Work Better as Cocktails-   Asimov is doing his readers a disservice describing California Pinot's as working better as cocktails.  Who's going to want to go out and explore any region's wine after having it described this way by such an important source as the NY Times ?  If Asimov were just another Joe writing his opinion about a wine, OK, but his article in the Times represents so much more.  In my tastings over the past few years I've seen a range of lighter to fuller styles in Pinot- but not just in California- in Burgundy too and by some of the biggest names (Leroy, Perrot-Minot).  I've also seen this range in styles, not just in Pinot's, but in Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and not just from California but from France, Italy, Oregon, Washington, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina- you get the picture.  There are different styles, some work, some don't work, but when they do they are delicious and wonderful contributions to our wine world.   Some pair better with certain foods others don't. Wine hopefully will never be a one-size-fits-all venture.

 

Representative Validation Tasting of California Pinot Noirs- To test his view Asimov puts together a tasting of California Pinot's with a group of "local experts".

 

-Asimov chooses to focus the tasting on only one of California's several premier (and distinct) Pinot Noir growing regions- the Russian River. While the Russian River produces some of my favorite Pinots on the planet, what about the wonderful, world-class, Pinots of the Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia, Santa Barbara, or Mendocino?  Each with different characteristics, but equally fun and delicious and together provide a better sample of California Pinot's.

 

-Next Asimov selects representative Pinot's of the region- De Loach, Mia's Playground, BearBoat, Lynmar, Porter Creek, Russian Hill, Freeman, Emeritus, David Bruce, and One Thousand One.  Nothing against these wines, I'm sure they're well made, worthy wines, but they are not the first names that would come up on my list to sample as representative wines of that region.  Asimov blames this on not having access to other highly-allocated Pinot's.  Hard to believe that the NY Times could not find willing producers to provide samples for the very important business of informing and educating their readers.

 

-The one producer that would be on my list was disqualified, Paul Hobbs Lindsay Estate 2005, $101 retail. Asimov found the wine "harsh and hot".  Before sentencing this wine as Asimov did with his written comments in the NY Times, I would have tried another bottle to eliminate the very real possibility of having a bad bottle.  Every producer in the world suffers from bottle variation.  We open and pour thousands of wines a year at Tucos and experience this bottle variation on a very regular basis.

 

In closing Asimov throws California Pinot's a bone by finding the wines exceptions to his "super-saturated fruit bomb" view, though he credits this to his selection of cooler vintages where "it is beyond human and technological control".  He finishes by categorizing them as possessing "tepid tameness", yum, let's run out and buy some. 

 

By the way, I'd like to think that I would have been equally disappointed and written this response had the article been written about wines from any other region of the world.  This type of unfair and untrue bashing of a region's products (wine or other products) does harm to us all- not just  the producers who lose revenue but us consumers too who miss out on such wonderful products.  I have no bones to pick with Asimov , the individual, sharing his opinions with friends, maybe after tasting a few too many wines, but a written article in the NY Times?  Sometimes, when one finds it difficult to create substantive content for one's newspaper it's better to just leave the space blank that week- a decision that should have been applied to today's California-bashing article which amounts to not much more than wine-discrimination.

 

 

We Wish You A Speedy Recovery Maria

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day1 007.jpgMaria has been doing a tremendous job for us, working as our prep cook for the day shift- until yesterday when she had to be rushed to the hospital. We miss you Maria and we're looking forward to having you back once you make a full and speedy recovery.

We're Online!!!

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day1 010.jpgI'm so excited!  We're blogging!!!!  I've always hated saturating our community's mailboxes with unsolicited emails.  Now I can write to you and you decide when and if you want to catch up on us.  There's so much I want to share with you- my recent trips to Northern California restaurants, wine tastings, new dishes, and on and on....  My heart is bursting with excitement!  Stay tuned..  Pru 

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