Symphonic Cuisine

buffet prime rib roulade

I was catering a Mother’s day brunch today and in the midst of the mayhem of pre-showtime rush of last minute prep and heating I had an Ahha moment.

I was jamming out with ear buds in and a shuffle list of music on my mp3. That is when I had my moment, “why is it that chef’s, food, making of food and cuisine in general and music are so integrally intertwined?”  Then I wondered, “what modern musical wonders are going to be able to hold up through the hands of time?”  Can you with all honesty say that any Beaver hit is as timeless as Ray Charles, or as smooth as Roy Orbison? Which is like saying that “wonder bread” is as good, hearty, and healthy as home made bread.  And as food highlights go what is better then steamed asparagus with sauce hollandaise or a perfectly grilled ribeye with bleu cheese.

Long before I became a professional chef kitchens have been “rocking” and I am willing to bet that long after I am gone they will be “rocking”. There is just something about a wonderful combination of music and food that with the two you hit all of your senses and can send you to new places and take you back into time to a perfect place. So next time you direct a mini symphony in your kitchen using a steel as your baton and a chop on a board as the rhythm section create your own magical symphonic cuisine.


Riveredge Nature Center Mother’s Day Brunch Menu

Riveredge Nature Center

Mother’s Day Brunch


Fruit with toasted coconut yogurt dip

Huevos enchiladas salsa verde

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, peppers and scrambles eggs wrapped in flour tortillas baked with salsa verde and shredded mixed cheese

Parmesan herb potato

Roasted potatoes tossed with fine herbs, sea salt, black pepper and dusted with aged parmesan

Chicken and Mushroom stroganoff

White wine poached chicken simmered with caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted garlic and finished with sour cream

Chocolate-caramel bread pudding

Chocolate-banana bread swirled with caramel custard and dark chocolate ganache dusted with powdered sugar

Fruit-almond bar

Rolled oat and almond flour bar with fresh fruit topped with streusel

Second helping of utopia

Last night I created a dinner party for a few old friends and a few new ones. The wine, as the say was very fine, the food (if I do say so myself) was excellent but what stole the show was the friendship’s renewed, nurtured or started.  Last night was the very definition of why I love my job, my career and the joy I get out of it all.  It is great to get the “5 thumbs up” from a critic in the paper or the proverbial pat on the back of “that was great” but to hear and know that the unleashed laughter and excitement around a dinner table that was brought together by your food, that is a slice of utopia.  My I have a second slice please and thank you and good night Alice. 

A budding relationship

As I walk around our corner of the world nature is alive with energy, life and new growth. All of the apple trees have buds, the flowers are budding, the asparagus is emerging. Ok so not everything buds out, but all of the good things in spring that start to be created bud new flavors, tastes, smells and excitement. The anticipation of what kind of year will it be for the apples? How long with the strawberry season be? When will the morels peak? Can the asparagus grow any slower? So this is starting to sound like twenty questions, but in all reality you are going to be able to find all of your budding friends in do time, then they will be gone, so savor. 

April showers bring . . .

Flowers are nice, but give me a good bunch of pencil sized asparagus, morel mushrooms, ramps and all of the other wonderful spring forage items.  Some say that spring arrives when the daffodils bloom, me I like the edible crescendo that starts with maple syrup and keeps growing till all a sudden you can stop buying produce at the grocery store.  When the precipitation turns from flakes to April  showers they bring a ground swell of goodness. So get outside and taste the bounty to be had. DWC MOREL ASPARAGUS 003

If life where like maple syrup

With many things if everyone would experience other peoples lives you would probably treat others with more respect. When is the last time you tried to understand what a trash collector/sanitation worker aka garbage man’s day truly involve. Or the postal carrier, the high rise construction guy but what I think everyone should try being is the maple syrup making guy. You get to spend time outdoors, listening to the drip, drip of sap into buckets, tending to a fire, skim. strain and bottle. As the saying goes as slow as molasses well I think life needs to be more like maple syrup, slow, sweet and a little work. Which is the recipe for great syrup and in my humble opinion a pretty good way to live life. One drip at a time, savoring everyone. 

Pitchers and catchers which means tongs and spatulas

Spring must be right around the corner. We, as a strong/resilient/season loving group of northern Mid-westerners, can handle all that Mother Nature throws at us. But really?!  With a high of zero and no break in sight, it hardly seems like March. Hang on fellow mid-westerners; there is a ray of hope. The boys of summer are flocking to the training grounds, and the cracks of bats will be soon follow. I have my own “spring training.” I polish my tongs, spatula, and the grates in the grill and dry clean the “Kiss the King of the Grill” apron. Way before the first sighting of robins, the inaugural 2014 “Lighting of the Grill” will take place. And if you live in the northern climates too, remember to put your beverage in a cozy for the early season grilling—not to keep it cool, but to prevent it from freezing.

Hold on it might get bumpy

In a week, or less, but maybe more once again the great American day will be upon us.  .  . Super Bowl Sunday. Even if you don’t like sports or football there will be the weather, the food, the friendships and of course the commercials. But I personally think it will be wonderful to see the biggest game of the season played in what us everyday Wisconsinites and other mid-westerners have had to put up with everyday.  So if you are one of the 1.2 million families that are hosting a party get ready it might be a bumpy ride.  The NFL has said if “bad” weather is certain to happen they might move up or delay the game. Well, what about the chicken wings, artichoke dip and guacamole do they think things can be whipped up with no effort?

So raise a glass get the chips and get all your friends we are going to have a party tonight, or tomorrow or who knows? I say party  Friday to Sunday and have all the bases covered.

The equation of love, food, life

If food is made from ingredients and with love and memories are loving thought of the past it makes great sense to say memories are love of food.  When is the last time you made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and did not think of your mom, grandma, dad or a childhood friend?  What makes what better? The snack to bring back a memory or the memory that the snack brought back? That might be one of the unsolvable rhymes of life but at least this unsolvable comes with a wonderful aroma, taste and hopefully a shared smile.

Upcoming Places to see Chef James

Dinners with Class will be cooking it up at Riveredge Nature Center on October 5th at their Frothy Forage hope to see you all there walking through a prairie and tasting local craft beers and eating food, one word.  .  . AWESOME!