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February  2016

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Modern California Cuisine, foraging Southern California. Wild food. The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

Forest Fire – I like to experiment with dishes that represent our local wilderness and its bounty. Mountain rocks and burned manzanita twigs from a past mountain fire, flambéed with wild currant brandy. Pickled native walnuts, foraged cracked olives, pickled wild seeds (mustard-type condiments with over 16 edible native seeds including black sage, white sage, clarkia, tarweed, etc,.), roasted quail hearts. The hearts were marinated for 3 hours in homemade mugwort beer, chervil, chickweed, onion, garlic and lemon.

A quest for the true(?) flavors of Southern California.

 

While I was writing my book last year, I didn't update my news section much. Now that it is done, I have a bit more time to do updates. I'll probably redesign my web site soon too.  So be ready for some changes.

 

These days, I'm experimenting with creating a cuisine around the true flavors of Southern California. Granted, it is just one interpretation and anyone working on the same subject would create something different but it's still an interesting concept if you think about it.

 

When you ask a foodie, cook or chef "What is Southern California cuisine?" you get an incredible wide amount of opinions such as: A fusion of different cuisines, avocados and green salads, tacos, fresh and seasonal ingredients, fish based and even sushi.

 

Try asking: “How would you describe the flavors of Southern California?” and the answers are even more varied. Fresh, tender greens, limes, tomatoes, figs, olives, lemons, sweet, corn, avocados and so on.

 

Interestingly, the answers really don't take into account the actual ORIGINAL terroir. Aside from ocean products, people think of the local cuisine as a product of farming. But really, if you think about it, ingredients such as figs, olives, romaine lettuces, carrots, lemons, avocados and countless others are really non-native and yet they have somehow become a representation of the local cuisine.

 

From a forager/wildcrafter perspective, it's a bit baffling because there is an incredible array of native flavors that are completely unused and would be a true representation of the regional flavors.

 

For example: Acorns, originally the main staple of natives, are completely neglected in Southern California cuisine. Yet, prepared properly, they are absolutely delicious - nutty, creamy and can be used in countless interesting dishes.  We  also have an extremely large amount of fantastic local aromatic plants and herbs which are virtually absent from our cuisine. It seems as they've been simply forgotten.

 

When people come to my classes or workshops, they're often shocked when I point at the forest or the local mountains and tell them that around 70 percent of what they see can be used for culinary purposes. But it's actually true!  From edible greens to berries, seeds, roots, barks, insects, wild animals, tree leaves, aromatic herbs, spices, ingredients to make wild beers, delicious infusions, sauces, wines, gourmet vinegars, preserves and even utensils, we can probably find more ingredients in the wilderness than the whole Santa Monica farmer's market.

 

The new wildcrafted cuisine, California Cuisine, foraging, Pascal Baudar

 

Local trout cooked in it's own environment. Trout cooked in willow bark (soaked in wild beer) with local herbs found near the river - mugwort, yerba santa, black sage, forest grass, willow leaves, sweet white clover, rabbit tobacco, California bay and California sagebrush.  Bark tied in Yucca fibers. The skill is into creating the blend, too much of one herb can make it unpalatable. Done properly, it's delicious and a true representation of the flavors from that specific environment.

 

 

 

From a culinary perspective, Southern California is so generous in its offering that a hundred cooks or chefs could interpret the local terroir and create an infinite amount of innovative, yet vastly different, dishes representing the true flavors of the environment.

 

On my side, after 16 years of studying the possibilities and working with some of the best chefs in the country and my most talented life partner chef Mia Wasilevich (Transitional Gastronomy), I decided to experiment with what a true local cuisine (food and drinks) could be based on my experience and knowledge of our "wild" terroir. To some degree it's based on the notion that it's a worthwhile endeavor that should be done but mostly because it is a ton of fun.

 

Not considering myself a chef or even cook, it's really an enjoyable, experimental and fascinating project. My goal is to go deeply into creating a cuisine composed mostly, if not entirely, of what nature is offering us.  For example, some barks can be used as cooking utensils. Soak them in primitive beer before cooking and suddenly they became an integral part of the favor profile too. Roasted lemony ants can be part of savory spice blends, and the list goes on. The style is definitely "Refined-Primitive" but it's really based on what I have to play with.

 

So no rules or preconceived ideas aside from the fact that it should be somewhat enjoyable (or delicious) to eat, just the sheer fun of creating and experimenting with the hundreds of ingredients provided by my wild food market.

 

I plan to do some food tasting in future classes. Ultimately my goal would be to find an actual place with a kitchen where we can do workshops and private dinners. If you know someone or have the facilities, let me know.

 

Let the fun begin :)

Wild fermentation - Feral plums fermented in local raw honey (sweet clover honey), wild yeast from California juniper berries and mugwort leaves. Fantastic base for a cocktail or, once reduced, as a sauce.

Forager Pascal Baudar. The New Wildcrafted Cuisine. True flavors of Southern California.

Wild food salad in giant reed stem. mulefat chopsticks.  Chickweed, watercress, California speedwell, tepary beans, pickled wild seeds, acorn crumble, forest beer vinegar, quail eggs.

Pascal Baudar, forager Southern California. True flavors of Southern California. California Cuisine.

Pears cooked in Forest Floor - willow leaves, yarrow stems and flowers, California everlasting, mugwort, grass, black sage, water mint, California sagebrush.

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N/Naka Restaurant

 

Each year I choose a chef/restaurant to work with and this year I'm honored to work with super talented chefs Niki Nakayama and Carole Rika lida. You should watch Chef Niki on the netflix documentary "The Chef's Table".

 

I decided to work with her because her philosophy and work is very inspiring. Her cuisine is also very challenging, it is a exercise in subtle flavors.

 

I'm learning a lot in the process, for example how to tone down some of the strong flavors that nature is providing us and researching the right ingredients that would fit within her style of cuisine.

 

The last 2 years I worked with chef Ludo Lefebvre (Trois mec restaurant) and chef Chris Jacobson (Girasol) - I learned a great deal in the process as well. Very different chefs and cooking styles.

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