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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

At Stable Cafe, an Expanded Saison Gathers 'Round the Hearth

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 2:38 PM

click to enlarge Call it a work in progress. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Call it a work in progress.
Inside Scoop has been documenting the changes stirring Saison, chef Joshua Skenes' fine-dining installation at Stable Café. That includes the centerpiece (well, not counting the kitchen's new Molteni range, the gastro equivalent of the Escalade) cooking hearth, which Skenes plans to use nightly.

Yesterday, Skenes told us he'd be ready to fire it up for tonight's dinner. But this morning, Saison's hearth looked like a project only halfway completed, as masonry workers prepared to install its clay chimney. Starting this week, Saison is open five nights a week, with seating options Skenes described as three-tiered: the indoor dining room (prix fixe), the superluxe four-seat kitchen counter, and outdoors ― hearthside, on the terrace ― with its 20 seats and à la carte menu.

How does Skenes feel about the changes? "Fuckin' great. A lot of the cooking is going to be completely different," he said, describing a vision of cooking with embers that promises to be rather unlike Russell Moore's rustic fire-pit cooking at Camino in Oakland.

"We use the heat form the embers to gently and non-aggressively cook meats, fish, vegetables, roasting and gently cooking, the same way that we use the Molteni," the chef explained. The fuels: white oak, almond wood, and cooking vessels that include cazuelas and cast-iron cocottes. Skenes described a broth cooked in the embers, seaweed and dried bonito, used as a medium for braising little vegetables (again, in the embers): Japanese mountain potato, turnips, giant radish. The braising liquid becomes a gélée, turned all aromatic with olive oil steeped with young Douglas fir tips. Whew.

Meanwhile, back on Stable Café's terrace, a masonry worker with an Irish brogue was inspecting the pile of black ash on the half-finished hearth. "Looks like somebody used this last night," he scowled. "They shouldn'ta."

Saison's expanded, Tues.-Sat. service starts tonight.

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